"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Test Your Knowledge of New Year's Eve History and Customs with this Fun Quiz


Happy New Year!

Here's a quiz to take to test your knowledge on New Year's Eve history and customs. The site suggests you read the history before you answer the questions. Feeling quite smart and thinking I knew quite a bit about history, I decided to take the quiz without studying the facts.

I would suggest you read the factual information first if you like to pass tests! A lesson for adults AND students: never go into a quiz unprepared. You will be surprised at how much you don't know.

Here's a quote for students in school and students of life for 2011:

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere" ~Chinese proverb

Best Wishes to you in the Year of the Rabbit and may you possess much treasure.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is Charter School Expansion REALLY the Answer to Public Education's Woes?

Missourians are not the only ones concerned about the educational reforms set forth by Arne Duncan and state legislators. A citizen group in Seattle has been following these reforms very closely and this is a blog you should read to understand the charter school push by some state legislatures.

Seattle Education 2010 is a wealth of information and should be followed if you are interested in the evolution of public education being provided by private investors. If this is the course the Missouri legislature is going to pursue, it is imperative citizens understand how charters are funded and who is in charge of each charter organization. If the information from Seattle Education 2010 is correct, Missourians should be asking these questions of Missouri legislators as the plan "Educated Citizenry 2020" calls for the growth of charter schools in the state:

  • Who is funding the charter schools?
  • Are any of the charters receiving money from the Broad or Gates Foundation?
  • Does the Legislature support monetary reward for parent signatures to provoke a "Trigger" option?
  • Does this move to charters create more local control?
  • Does this move to charters create more parental involvement?
  • Will the charters be under the same common core standards as traditional public schools?
  • Will the charters be staffed with inexperienced teachers?
  • Do current Board of Education members have ties to charter school companies?
  • Do any legislators have vested interests or contributions from charter school interests?

We believe these questions need to be asked and answered before public support can be given to the reforms mentioned in the current educational plan. When charters were first instituted, they were truly innovative. This is a partial description of charter schools from the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society:

Charter schools were founded to provide an alternative vision for schooling, to serve a special target population of students, or to gain flexibility and autonomy from local school districts. Charter developers maintained that charter schools could accomplish educational goals more effectively than traditional schools, if they were given the opportunity to operate free from restrictive regulations and had stable financing that could be tied directly to the attainment of educational goals. Waivers were requested for state and local testing mechanisms, personnel regulations, or state and local curriculum mandates; however, regulations for discrimination, health, or safety of children could not be waived.

Note the highlighted sentence in the charter school description. These waivers were what created the innovation in charter schools and set them apart from traditional public schools. However, with the common core standards implemented in traditional public AND charter schools, the only reasons to pursue the charter school route would be to diminish the teacher unions and put the decision making in the hands of private investors. Real reform of educational goals will not be accomplished by moving students from one building to another. The standards and testing and curriculum will stay the same if a student stays in a public traditional school or attends a charter.

I hope our legislators look closer at the plan they are expecting the citizens to accept. The expansion of charters does not address the underlying problems in public education today. If the curriculum is flawed and out of the hands of the state to develop and institute, it doesn't matter where a child is placed. If the mandates are flawed and not locally controlled, the placement of students is irrelevant.

We share the same concerns as the group in Seattle. Who is funding the charters and why is there such a move toward the privatization of schools that operate under the same mandates as the traditional public schools? Is this really a choice for better education or just moving the money around from one entity to another?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Conundrum for Missouri Legislators: There is No Money for Education "Reform". And it Just Got Worse.

Missouri legislators are unveiling their educational plans for students and they are aware those plans are far reaching and ambitious in this current financial condition:

  • "Educated Citizenry 2020" chairman David Pearson acknowledged there probably is no money to carry out some of the initiatives — at least not in the next few years. As the Missourian reports, federal stimulus money is about to run out. And tax revenues, though finally showing signs of growth, remain far below the levels of just a few years ago. Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is projecting a $500 million to $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a gap equal to almost 10 percent of the state's general revenues.
  • The reforms set forth by the legislators mirror Race to the Top: common core standards, the expansion of charter schools, the termination of teacher tenure and the introduction of merit pay. When these were proposed by DESE last year, these reforms were slated to cost $400 Million. We have questioned where this money was coming from to fund these "reforms" with the severe budget shortfall we are experiencing.
These reforms are educational theories initially set forth by the Federal Government and apparently adopted by the Missouri legislators. There is no plan set forth by the legislators (at least what we can glean at this time) on how it is to be paid for, or with an explanation of how these reforms:
  • promote smaller government;
  • promote more local control;
  • promote more parental rights and involvement;
  • consider charter schools a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools.
It seems another financial reality has been thrown into the legislators' plans. The News-Leader in Springfield reported Missouri gambling revenue for schools is falling this year. The revenues are expected to be $24 Million short because of the poor economy:

Gaming Commission director Roger Stottlemyre says casinos had been expected to produce about $372 million for education this year. That forecast assumed that a 2008 ballot measure removing gamblers' loss limits would result in more revenues.

But Stottlemyre says the slow economy continues to affect casinos, and they're now expected to generate about $348 million for education this year.

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says he will look for ways to fill that shortfall.

With all due respect to Governor Nixon, he will have to look for ways to fill that gaming shortfall for current expenses, and then he needs to figure out how to fund reforms with no current price tag. I would hazard to guess that by "looking for ways to fill a shortfall" is code talk for a tax increase.

Missouri Legislators were elected this year to be fiscally responsible in a cash-strapped economy. Citizens know the budget must be balanced and cuts will need to be made across the board for programs in all sectors. We understand education must be reformed. However, we deserve to know how much these reforms cost and if they adhere to the Missouri Constitution.

I have no idea on the total cost of these reforms (I don't believe a figure has been publicized), but I believe the stated goals are unconstitutional. How can legislators concerned with state sovereignty agree for Missouri to sign away the right to set its own educational standards? Is a data base which can be accessed by third parties to obtain social and emotional information on a student considered "good education"? How much money will it cost the local districts to provide assessment training that is mandated by the state?

Taxpayers must demand this information (cost of a program, how it is to be funded, and if it is constitutional) from their legislators. This Missouri reform sounds too much like Race to the Top for citizens to accept. The legislators need educational reform that will fit into the state budget and not raise constitutional issues.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will Students from Failing School Districts be Placed in the New Expanded Classrooms in the Kirkwood School District?


I was sent the following email by a Kirkwood resident concerning a bond proposal (Proposition 1) recently passed in the Kirkwood School District that provided for classroom expansion with a stagnant pupil enrollment:

Friends: Please see below. This law and the court action would allow the State Department of Education to put students from failing schools into school districts with the facilities to hold them.

Since Kirkwood School District has had a low indigenous growth for 10 years but will expand some facilities by 40% where do you think that the state will put the kids from failing school districts? What the voters did, without being told about this recent court decision, was to agree to continue to pay high taxes so that kids from other districts can fill those buildings. The resultant extra costs to educate students from failing districts will end up costing tax payers even more and impact the educational opportunities of Kirkwood kids. The potential for this occurrence was not disclosed by the school board during the last election cycle!

(The following has been pre-filed by Missouri Senator David Pearce):

SB-14: TRANSFER STUDENTS
SB-14 follows a Missouri Supreme Court case, Turner vs. Clayton School District. The case focused on a student who lived in the unaccredited St. Louis School District and wanted to attend school in the affluent Clayton suburb. The court allowed the student to attend the Clayton school; an appeal is pending.

"It would have a huge implication on some of the surrounding districts," Pearce said. The bill would give the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education authority to set rules under which one district could accept or reject students from another district.

Pearce said the idea is to prevent a sudden influx of students from one district affecting student-teacher ratios, classroom space and services in another district. Under Turner vs. Clayton, students in one county could attend school in an adjoining county. This means if a Jackson County school lost accreditation, students there could attend Johnson County schools, potentially, Pearce said.

Full article here:

http://dailystarjournal.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=13034

There are several issues raised in this action:


  • The question of who will pay for these unfunded state mandates (transfer and education of students who are not residents of Kirkwood School District);
  • The power (or no power) for school districts to set policy;
  • How will student test scores from non-accredited districts affect the testing data of KSD resident students? Test scores based on subgrouping (since No Child Left Behind was instituted) means KSD has failed to achieve Annual Yearly Progress educational goals for the past four years;
  • The inaction of the Kirkwood School District to inform citizens about ALL ramifications of its $33 Million expansion.
This is the same district that refuses to allow citizen comments to be part of a public record. When questioned about this practice, the Board responded that this was the method in which the Board chose to operate. When researching the surrounding school district "Board Docs" of school board meetings (Lindbergh, Ladue, Brentwood, Maplewood, Parkway, Rockwood and Clayton), I discovered ALL THESE DISTRICTS ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENT TO BE ON THE RECORD. In fact, the Ladue School District allows citizens to ask questions during the Board meetings.

Kirkwood City Council allows the comments to be on the record. Why don't Kirkwood School District citizens have a voice in the school board meetings? Why is this Board so afraid of transparency? The practice of the KSD Board does not meet industry practice; in fact, it is alone in its silencing of any real questioning or the raising of concerns by citizens.

Kirkwood School District allows public comment BEFORE the meeting is officially started. After public comments are finished, the meeting THEN officially begins which means the comments are NEVER recorded in the minutes. Citizens are NEVER allowed to talk during Board meetings, which ensures no questions are asked of members and placed on the record.

So, Kirkwood citizens, if you are concerned about a influx of non-resident students in your schools after the classroom expansion occurs and how this will be funded, you can ask your question at a Board meeting. You won't receive an answer that evening and the answer from the Board will never be publicized. Your tax dollars are being spent by a Board who doesn't care about your opinion or your concerns. You have effectively been silenced. It might be better to follow the progress of SB-14 through your state senator and representative. The School Board doesn't seem to be responsive to citizen concerns. I hope you receive a more thorough and thoughtful response from your legislator.

How does your local school board operate? Is your Board more transparent than the Kirkwood School District board? If you are in a district that may be impacted by this Missouri Supreme Court case, I would like to know what response you receive to any concerns you raise with your district.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kudzu and the Choking of Public Education


This is an interesting article on kudzu and its symbolic relationship with Big Government. Those from the South or familiar with Southern vegetation know the damage kudzu has done to the environment. I have seen kudzu's devastating qualities, but didn't know kudzu planting had been promoted by the government in the 1930's. This is a fascinating inference of government intrusion resulting in disastrous consequences.

This writer talks about the damage of Big Government and kudzu. Could this be happening in terms of education as well? Is the Federal Government instituting mandates that will subsequently choke the innovation and intellectual curiosity of students? Don't mandates just by their definition create rules and regulations which stifle autonomy?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Science Lesson on Eclipses

Driving down to Florida in the wee hours of the morning, we were fortunate to see Venus accompany us most of the way until the sunrise, and the moon was absolutely brilliant. It's good to get away from the cities and suburbs so you can remember what the night sky looks like.

I did not see the eclipse on December 21 (the winter solstice), but came across this clip from Open Culture you might enjoy. It is a time elapsed video of the eclipse...it's quite extraordinary. You might want to check out the pictures of the Milky Way included in this link.

Blessed Christmas wishes!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Economics Class Recipe: Florida Christmas Cookies

I'm in Florida for Christmas which is an awesome place to be in December. As a native Floridian, I believe the natives take for granted the beautiful weather here (usually) around Christmas. It was pushing 60 degrees here today with a light breeze and that is very cool in North Florida. We have a small fire in the stove right now which takes the December chill out of the house. Dinner was at a favorite neighborhood restaurant where the special was a dozen of oysters for $4.00. It was a fabulous day with family, perfect weather, and tasty food. (And to the delight of my UF alumn husband, he has his choice of all kind of Gator clothing and paraphernalia that is understandably impossible to find in Missouri).

It's been a pleasure putting Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and common core standards on the back shelf for a few days. To celebrate Christmas and the special cooking we do once a year, here's a recipe that captures the flavor of Florida.

Hope your Christmas plans are coming together!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The NEA, Arne Duncan, and Students Caught in the Middle of the Education Wars

I wanted to draw attention to an excellent post by Culture Vigilante regarding "Educated Citizenry 2020". This post does an excellent job detailing the NEA's involvement in promoting early childhood education.

I was particularly interested in the reporting on the NEA's position on charter schools. The NEA has detailed their "acceptable" charter and non-traditional public schools which they approve. Why should a teacher's union dictate to a govermental agency...or a state educational department or local school district...on what type of educational model it would "accept"? Just typing that sentence makes me think..."what"? Why are we, the taxpayers and legislators, allowing the union to tell us what THEY will accept to teach our children, and that THEY will have to power to review any systems outside of the traditional educational model? Does anyone else this is ludicrous?

I don't know how much of the NEA's recommendations to take to heart. This link was passed on to me by a watchdog about Arne Duncan's idea of charter schools. It doesn't seem as if he is too impressed with the NEA's resolutions. He insists that states must expand the number of charter schools to receive RTTT funding. It doesn't seem as if he is asking the NEA for permission to make that edict.

I have one particular observation on the NEA's position that I wanted to highlight. Look at the NEA's resolution "b" listed in the Culture Vigilante's article. The union asserts:

"Charter school programs must be qualitatively different from what is available in mainstream public schools and not just an avenue for parental choice".

That's an interesting sentence. The parental trigger option is supposedly for parents to use because they believe their public schools are failing. They want a school that will offer their children a true alternative. That's the original intention for charter school operations.

Arne Duncan loves charter schools....but what most people and legislators don't understand is the common core standards and Race to the Top mandate the same curriculum. Charter schools programs cannot be qualitiatively different from public school mandates...they are the same. This has been mandated by Race to the Top and common core standards.

We have a standoff then, between the unions wanting to keep their power and Arne Duncan who wants to expand taxpayer monetary disbursement to hedgefunds and investors.

When can children be excused from the crossfire of adults who just want power and/or financial gain?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chris Christie and the Missouri Legislature Discover the Bad News--There is No Money.


Chris Christie understands economic reality. Speaking about the rail project he had to cancel:

“We don’t have the money,” Christie explains, “we literally don’t have the money.”

Our state legislators may have realized we financially can't afford the goals set forth in the new educational plan "Educated Citizenry 2020". According to the Missourian, there is recognition from the committee these goals may be financially unattainable at this time:

On Friday, the Missouri Senate's Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee produced a report setting forth some ambitious goals to improve the quality of public education offered to Missouri residents. But the committee chairman acknowledged there probably is no money to carry out some of the initiatives — at least not in the next few years.

Pay raises, new programs and expanded government services all have become a rarity in recent years — replaced by layoffs and spending cuts as state officials have patched together budgets with federal economic stimulus funds and falling state sales and income taxes collections.

That federal stimulus money is about to run out. And tax revenues, though finally showing signs of growth, remain far below the levels of just a few years ago. Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is projecting a $500 million to $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a gap equal to almost 10 percent of the state's general revenues.

As we wrote about in our previous piece about these new proposals, citizens should be asking the following questions to the legislators:

  • What is the total cost of the program?
  • If there are unfunded/underfunded mandates in this program, how will these be addressed in this climate of budget cutting in the state?
  • How does this plan promote smaller government?
  • How does this plan promote more local control?
  • Does this plan promote more parental rights and involvement?
  • How are charter schools considered a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools?
If the goals are determined to be financially impossible at this time, perhaps the discussion should center around the validity of the goals themselves.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The BEST ABC Primer for Students on the Market Today. It's not "A" for Apple, "B" for Boy...


If our states are going to force Common Core curriculum in the schools, I would suggest this (via Hot Air) primer be taught in kindergarten so children can learn their ABCs. The name of the study material is entitled "A Child's First Book of Government Regulations".

They will also get an idea of how America is ruled (not governed) today. You might as well start the children at an early age to learn how government is control of their decisions...not their parents or themselves.

Do the people have any voice at all or have we been reduced to a nation of mandates set forth by Congress?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Humorous Classroom Learning Experience: A Day in the Life of a Sign Language Interpreter.

Here's a humorous clip about the education of a teacher from a sign language interpreter. Sign language interpreters are a wonderful group of people who work diligently for deaf students who require sign language for their primary mode of communication or utilize it for increased understanding. I have found them to be a dedicated group of professionals who must be flexible and "on" at all times in the classroom.

Regarding the flexibility issue of being an interpreter; did you know there is not "one" sign language used in the United States? There is American Sign Language (ASL) which is based on French grammatical structures, Signed Exact English (SEE), based on English grammar structure and Pidgin Signed English (PSE), a combination of ASL and SEE. The interpreter must interpret in the language preference of the student, so you can understand why flexibility is important.

Every country has its own sign language, just as every country has its own unique spoken language. And as in spoken language, different regions of the country have their own "sign slang". In spoken language, I would liken it to the "Coke" vs pop vs soda debate.

Big hugs to interpreter everywhere...especially to those in the St. Louis Special School District. You all are the best!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Unprecedented Look in What's Normally Hidden

I thought you all would enjoy this video from YouTube, a clip from "Discovery Showcase: Invisible Worlds in the Water".

We live in hectic and uncertain times today and when I watched this, it was comforting in a way. There is magic in what you are about to see. We often don't see the whole picture even though we think we are in situations with our eyes wide open.

Enjoy the educational experience in a drop of water. It may be explained by understanding hydrogen and oxygen atoms, but it sure looks like a dance to me...a "coalescence cascade".

Friday, December 17, 2010

Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee Reveals Education Goals for Missouri Students.

The Missouri State Senate Panel delivered its education report today entitled "Educated Citizenry 2020".

The St. Louis Beacon has a report on the meeting today in Jefferson City:

If a state Senate panel has its way, Missouri students 10 years from now will be better prepared for kindergarten, three-fourths of them will do well on state standardized tests and 60 percent of them will get college degrees and credentials.

Further, charter schools will expand throughout the state, not just in St. Louis or Kansas City, new lawmakers will have to take lessons to learn how public schools are funded and one agency will oversee education from pre-school through post-graduate degrees.

State Senator David Pearce, the chairman of the education panel said on the subject of teacher pay and tenure:

On specific issues, Pearce said that he has filed legislation to study how teachers are compensated. Specifically, he said, it might be time to ask teachers if they are willing to be paid on a merit basis if they would give up the protections of tenure at the same time.

"If we're going to do this," he said, "it would have to be voluntary for schools as well as for teachers. If teachers want to go on merit-based, performance-based reimbursement, they would have to give up tenure. We need to take a look at that, perhaps beginning with districts that are provisionally accredited or unaccredited.

"Tenure is something that for the most part doesn't resonate well in the state of Missouri. Education is the only place where people have tenure," continued Pearce. "People outside the system don't necessarily support it or appreciate it, and now may be a good time to do some trade offs, like tying it to merit pay."

If you are familiar with Race to the Top mandates, teacher tenure and merit pay was a cornerstone of the legislation, as well as the expansion of charter schools. Governor Nixon took out these items in Missouri's proposal to the Department of Education and the removal of these highly graded goals may have been one reason we did not receive funding from the Department of Education.

Missouri adopted Common Core standards in June 2010, a critical part of the Race to the Top. By adopting these standards, we have given up our state's right to write curriculum. We cannot set state or local standards for students and are under the mandates of a consortium.

If I am reading the Beacon article and Educated Citizenry report correctly, even though Missouri did not win Race to the Top funding, we will have the key important programs in this (RTTT) Department of Education's plan implemented: common core standards, the expansion of charter schools, the termination of teacher tenure and the introduction of merit pay. A difference is in the RTTT plan, the tenure and merit pay issue was mandated; the Missouri Senate's plan is apparently voluntary.

The original RTTT proposal was slated to cost $400 Million. The total we could have received from the Department of Education was $250 Million. This current plan doesn't mention how much money Educated Citizenry will cost. The goals appear to be very similar; the state has received $248 Million in other stimulus funding to begin implementing common core standards, so I am assuming the total will be close to the original $400 Million total cost. Taxpayers should know from the Legislature how much this plan is projected to cost as it will create unfunded mandates.

The Beacon reports:

In public hearings witnesses were asked to respond to these questions:

  • What will it mean to be an educated citizen in 2020?
  • What will employers need from their employees in 2020?
  • What principles will anchor our decisions about education -- flexibility, accessibility, affordability? How do we advance those principles?
  • How can the needs of all Missouri students best be balanced?
  • If you could change one things about education in Missouri, what would it be?

Questions taxpayers should be asking the legislators involved in this plan include the following:

  • What is the total cost of this program?
  • If there are unfunded/underfunded mandates in this program, how will these be addressed in this climate of budget cutting in the state?
  • How does this plan promote smaller government?
  • How does this plan promote more local control?
  • Does this plan promote more parental rights and involvement?
  • How are charter schools considered a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools?

Taxpayers and constitutionalists may want to study the committee's recommendations and ask questions regarding further involvement of the federal government in terms of setting mandates and providing funding for state programs.

This desire to turn over control of state education and accepting federal funds is in contrast with the 10th Amendment beliefs of many Missouri taxpayers. 71% of voters approved of Missouri not having to acquiesce to the Federal Government in health care legislation. Why has Missouri signed onto Common Core standards and agreed to unfunded mandates? Why is the state acquiescing to the Federal Government in the educational realm?








Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are All School District Boards a Microcosm of Congress?

My experience with my school board is that it doesn't take citizen concerns seriously and is dismissive of those who don't agree with district spending or policy. Kirkwood School District is operating in the same manner of our present Congress: it ridicules and marginalizes everyday citizens by not allowing their comments to the Board to be recorded. This current Congress has been accused of being tone deaf to citizen concerns and wishes, and many citizens in Kirkwood believe this Board mirrors Congress' behavior.

My district will allow public comment before the regularly scheduled Board meeting. When comments are finished, the meeting officially begins. By not taking comments after the official start of the meeting, comments are never published or addressed publicly.

When asked about this practice, I received a response from the superintendent which stated:

"As you know, District practice is not to include items other than regular Board agenda items in the minutes".

As the Board has to approve items to be placed on the agenda, citizen concerns that are in opposition to Board policy have no chance to become an agenda item. In effect, this Board controls the message and provides no record of public comment. Is this the way government is supposed to work?

Does your school board operate in this manner, that of not recording comments from the taxpayers who fund this entity? It's almost as if your opinions don't exist; and they officially do not exist as there is no record of your concerns.

Is your school board a microcosm of Congress?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rick Scott is Making a Splash in Florida Education Waters


Whether you agree with it or not, this is a radical move for the governor elect in Florida:

Newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott is making waves with his proposal that all children should receive education vouchers they can use to attend private, public or charter schools.

Many school choice advocates are pushing for school choice, but only as it pertains to charter schools which still must operate under federal mandates. Private schools are not under such mandates which make this proposal that much more intriguing. I would think this would also apply to homeschooling parents as Scott stated:

"The parent should figure out where the dollars for that student are spent," the Republican governor-elect told the St. Petersburg Times. "So if the parents want to spend it on virtual school, then spend it on virtual school. If they want to spend it on, you know, whatever education system they believe in, whether it's this public school or that public school or this private school or that private school, that's what ought to happen."

Read the article and let us know what you think.

Did you think the health care debate was heated? The original article regarding Scott's remarks was posted at 5:24 ET. By 8:44 PM ET, there were 232 reader comments. This tells me education is of high interest to many Americans and they are weary of failing systems. Readers have differing opinions, but everyone agrees something radical must occur in delivering education to our students.

The Educational Version of the Shell Game

Here is a link from the Washington Post featuring Marion Brady. Brady's analysis is spot on. The blind push for the "Trigger Option" or opening charters on every street corner is not the answer for US public educational problems. The underlying problem (that pesky white elephant in the room) with schools is HOW and WHAT they TEACH and TEST:

Consider as failing every school – public, charter, private, whatever – that assumes that corporately produced, standardized tests say something important about something important. Using test scores to guide education policy makes about as much sense as using the horoscope of whoever happens to be Secretary of State to guide US foreign policy.

That standardized tests are a useful tool for guiding education reform is a myth, pure and simple – a myth constructed from ignorance and perpetuated by misinformation, or conjured from hope and reinforced by cherry-picked data.

We believe you can't move the chess pieces (the students) around the educational board and expect a different outcome. It's the same game with the same mandates and inherent problems and it will result in the same outcome. The teachers' unions will be gone (perhaps), but will students really learn what they need to know from the mandated curriculum and testing? What benefit is there from having an excellent teacher when the material is faulty?

Standardized, subject-matter tests are worse than a waste. We’re spending billions of dollars and instructional hours on a tool that measures one thought process to the neglect of all others, wreaks havoc on the minds and emotions of teachers and learners, and diverts attention from a fundamental, ignored problem.

That problem? Longshoreman and college professor Eric Hoffer summed it up a lifetime ago. Because the world is dynamic, the future belongs not to the learned but to learners.

Read that sentence again. Then read it again. Even if standardized tests didn’t cost billions, even if they yielded something that teachers didn’t already know, even if they hadn’t narrowed the curriculum down to joke level, even if they weren’t the main generators of educational drivel, even if they weren’t driving the best teachers out of the profession, they should be abandoned because they measure the wrong thing.

America’s system of education is designed to clone the learned. And motivated either by ignorance or greed, the wealthy and powerful, using educationally na├»ve celebrities as fronts, are spending obscene amounts of money to convince politicians, pundits, policymakers, and the public that this is a good and necessary thing.

Brady has hit it on the nose. Legislators who are falling over all themselves to push school choice need to understand exactly what they are pushing. It is not necessarily about educational excellence. School choice with charters will operate under the same standardized testing and expectations as traditional schools. It will take power away from the public schools and give it to the private company.

I'm a capitalist and understand the beauty of private industry. But what makes a private company fail or succeed? The success of private industry depends on excellence and innovation which doesn't exist for the current and coming standards for charters. The government is funneling money from the unions to private industry. The actual testing and curriculum are the same for both public and charter schools. What is most important? Should our legislators continue to spend money on curriculum and testing that isn't relevant for a true education, or should they be discarding the mandates by which schools must operate? Wouldn't a true revolution in education concern the ability for districts to exercise authentic local control?

When all is said and done, it's not much of a choice at all. It very well could be the newest educational version of the shell game.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

UrbanFUTURE. A Lesson to Study and Understand How Education is Supposed to Work.


I'm trying to be optimistic in the midst of the takeover of public schools not only from the Federal Government but also special interests. When you are in the middle of information overload and the "crises" we are finding ourselves in continually according to this administration, sometimes you need to stop, take a deep breath and look for the positive aspects in the situation.

I recently had an opportunity to sit down and talk with two authentic education reformers from UrbanFUTURE. This is an privately funded organization that:

...is a “connector” of the Family, School and Community in impoverished urban areas. At the core of the model is the student whom we challenge to see and believe in his/her possibilities. At the apex is the family, the student’s primary educator, who is supported by representatives from the community and the school. UF staff brokers the connections and is housed within the school building making it the hub for family and community to convene. In this way we are addressing generational poverty at an individual and structural level.

This group provides one-on-one tutoring in elementary and middle schools and "a recent evaluation by St. Louis University shows that students read two to three grade levels higher after only one school year in UrbanFUTURE programming". What I found most interesting was UrbanFuture's philosophy:


The UrbanFUTURE mentors, staff and programs are committed to upholding the following core values: Individual Dignity, Character Formation, Family Commitment, and Academic Growth. This organization is an asset to these inner city students and it teaches them the core values which are ultimately most important in life: those of morals and values.

This is a dedicated group of administrators and teachers and it is trying to make a difference in young people's lives one at a time. It is in desperate need for more volunteers and/or mentors. If you are in the St. Louis area and could volunteer as little as two hours a week, please contact UrbanFUTURE.

Constitutionally minded education reformers are insistent that more governmental control and more mandates are not the answers for educational success; real education demands personal attention to the whole child.

Volunteering in UrbanFUTURE is an extension of this belief and truly helps children. It doesn't "teach to the test"; it provides authentic educational content.

UrbanFUTURE has been proven to help students...please consider helping children who desperately need assistance they will never obtain from the Department of Education. If you are not in the St. Louis area, seek out opportunities in your town to mentor a struggling student. These kids can't wait for the newest "miracle mandate" to free them from failure.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The "New " Math...Once Again. This Time, Japanese Style.


What do you teachers think about the Japanese method of solving multiplication problems? Since we're "going global", it might be something in the new common core assessments and important to have passing knowledge of this method!

It is a fascinating video. It's certainly different than how most American children learn multiplication tables...do they still teach those in school?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Sunshine State, An Albatross and Teenage Wasteland

We recently blogged about Governor Elect Rick Scott toying with the idea of providing educational vouchers to all Florida students. We wondered if he were one of the true revolutionaries in the public education arena.

He and the Florida Legislature may be partners in this educational revolution. Read this blog from The Pacific Research Institute comparing Florida's education rankings to those of California. Dr. Vicki Murray compares testing results from these two states and she details the disparities between them. She writes:

Florida pursued those reforms from the top down through state testing and from the bottom up through parental choice—and they did so with strong bipartisan support. Overall, Florida’s approach emphasized standards for schools, transparency for parents, and immediate options for students most at risk. That includes children trapped in chronically failing schools, from low-income families, from the foster-care system, and children with disabilities.

On the other coast, California has refused to adopt large scale reforms that would allow students to attend schools their parents—not bureaucrats or special interest groups—think are best. The time has come for change. California’s new crop of legislators should learn from Florida’s success and enact reforms based on equal access for all students to great teachers and high-performing schools.

Does it occur to you that it's not systems requiring more mandates, layers of bureaucracy, and billions of dollars that will allow students to truly learn? Instead of Dr. Murray's titling her piece "Lessons from Florida for California's New Legislators", I would suggest she rename it to "Lessons from Florida for California's New Legislators AND the Department of Education". If states cannot rid themselves of this albatross of an agency around their necks, at least the states should educate the Federal Government what works in their state, what type of education allows their students to succeed, and doesn't force the states into unfunded mandates that only promote more bureaucracy.

Free the students from the "Teenage Wasteland". Free the states from unfunded mandates and increasing federal control.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts from Some Heartlanders on Educational Flatlining and Enormous Federal Spending

I am going to link two EXCELLENT posts on education. Both links refer to the Cato Institute's study on educational spending during the last four decades and student scores. While spending has has increased 180%, scores have flatlined. These two bloggers theorize why this has happened and how (or if) it can be turned around.

Darin, one of the team members on Missouri Education Watchdog, wrote on his main blogsite, Reboot Congress, about the history of education, the enormous amount of money spent on education with no measurable improvement, and his thoughts on how he believes education will evolve in the future:

I think that the reason that we "turn our kids over to an institution" (schools) is that historically educational institutions had a high degree of quality. That past quality has translated into current pedigree and so we wind up with graduates who are credentialed, but not educated. The historic quality of education was derived from the fact that educators of yore were at the top of the yet-to-be-named knowledge worker pyramid. Today, they're basically at the bottom--no one fails out of an early education degree and decides to go into engineering. What's happened is that there are a lot more job opportunities for the smartest people so they go work for Google or whatever while the marginal college students tack on the courses necessary to become a teacher as a fall back position. Or, worse, they go into public policy or some other apprenticeship for bureaucrats/education administrators. A hundred years ago that education bureaucracy didn't really exist. A few people noticed that every time education issues were voted on, more money went to schools. Now, there are battalions of administrators studying everything in their school district except their own efficacy. The first rule of every bureaucracy is to spend your budget. The second rule of every bureaucracy is to fail. They're effective bureaucrats. And the response of parents (homeschooling or private school) has now become common. They've basically exited the system. In a perfect Hayekian world, a new educational order would emerge. I believe what homeschoolers are unintentionally doing is implementing, testing, and refining that new educational order. At some point, there will be a better and free alternative to public education and shortly there after, public education ceases to be a line item in government budgets.Well, that's how I think the education bubble will pop. In practice, what will happen is that a town or city facing a huge budget hole will notice a free alternative and implement it while firing their teachers and education administrators. That process will repeat, if the free alternative adequately meets the educational needs of the community, so maybe the bubble has a slow leak instead of just popping.

Van then chimed in from Blogodidact on his ideas of the problems in education today:

Look at the Cato chart of performance across the years… the lesson to learn from it is that no matter what ‘strategy’, format or ‘standards’ or tests are followed, or how the classroom is arranged or stocked with various electronic gadgets or graphically enhanced textbooks… the materials taught from, and the purposes of the lessons themselves, are uninteresting, unintegrated and entirely uninspiring. No matter how much money is thrown at whichever part of the modern educational process, so long as the purpose of education is taken to be to impart skills and responses, it will fail. Or as the more cynically minded have said, it has succeeded, succeeded in producing people who cannot hope to be self governing, and who therefore welcome the government stepping into their lives to fill the gap.

...When we find a way to enable real teachers to provide their services, and include parents in participation with them, and provide the materials in such a way that the teachers themselves can Teach as they see fit, where they wish, and how they wish, and Parents can send their kids to those ones who most reflect their values and wishes... then we'll see a revolutionary change in Education.

Both make excellent points. Read both posts and I believe you will understand why the mandates are educational nonsense cranked out by the Department of Education. Until we start really educating children instead of expecting rote answers to the "teaching to the test" teachers are forced to implement, we will have the flatlined scores so vividly portrayed by Cato. And, as long as the bureaucracy of education exists, students will not show improved test scores. As I have noted in my posts, I discovered many years ago, "the system protects the system, it does not exist to serve the student".

We wrote on the "Trigger Option" and why we believe it may not be the panacea some organizations and politicians believe it to be. Darin's and Van's insights support this theory. If you have a floor about to cave in on your house, do you replace the floor without fixing the foundation? If you fix the floor without addressing the underlying problem of what's holding up the floor, you still have the same problem! The new floor may last for a while, but eventually, the new floor will collapse as well. If the foundation is faulty, it won't matter how much you repair the floor or gloss it over by carpeting. It is still unstable and will fall.

I believe that's what the Cato diagram illustrates and what Van wrote-- No matter how much money is thrown at whichever part of the modern educational process, so long as the purpose of education is taken to be to impart skills and responses, it will fail. The Federal government can mandate away all it wants--if the content and process are faulty, real education will not occur and the flatlining will continue. How much more money will we keep pumping into a system that is not responsive to educational purposes? Our students have been flatlining for forty years and this system cannot be resuscitated.

Here was a response to our posting on Florida Governor Elect Rick Scott's rather revolutionary idea of providing vouchers for Florida families:

I am a public school teacher but believe it or not I am not against vouchers nor do I think that school choice would end public education.


Read the rest of the reader's comment...he is in the trenches and understands the problems of public education and has some good observations on how it should be addressed. None of his suggestions, nor Darin's or Van's, suggested schools need more federal dollars, Race to the Top, common core standards or other additional federal mandates.

Darin, Van and I are from the state of Missouri, the Show Me state. We've seen what four decades of increased mandates and federal spending have meant for students. We've seen enough. We want to see real education for students, not watered down instruction so students can pass assessment tests. I hope other citizens are becoming as concerned and frustrated as we are about the state of public education. It has become a huge expense for little results.

Educational policies are being written by lobbying groups. Is there ANYONE in the state of Missouri or on the national level that truly cares about students and understands why special interest groups should not be writing or implementing educational policies?

It's time for Missourians to insist on their state sovereignty and refuse to fund any of these underfunded Federal mandates. Legislators, are you listening?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Florida Governor Elect Rick Scott--Revolutionary in Disguise?

Now this is something to ponder.

Rick Scott, governor elect of Florida, "has the idea of giving vouchers to all students, essentially ending public education as it is known everywhere else in the country and the world."

Scott is putting forth a choice for taxpayers on how their tax dollars should be spent for their children. It is amazing and radical for a governor to go against the "status quo" of today's educational push...the rush to common core standards and Race to the Top funding.

Read the comments from this Politico piece. Readers have differing opinions on the use of public money for education.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The "Trigger Option"...on its Face, it's a Beauty. Look Deeper and You'll Find Bill Gates.

My emails have been exploding about the "Trigger Option". Have you heard about the newest educational tool to close underperforming schools? This was started in California; it is a way parents can force the closing of failing schools. Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal explaining how the trigger option works and the Journal is very supportive of placing the option in parents' hands.

On its face, this seems as if this is a fabulous idea on how to deal with underperforming schools. Parents can close schools that don't reach Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for four consecutive years. If at least 51% of the parents sign a petition, they can shut a school down, shake up its administration, or invite a charter operator to take over. Charters that open as a result of parent triggers must accept all students from the original school.

This sounds great, doesn't it? What would you think if I told you only 25% of Missouri school districts made the AYP goals this past year? You can access this link on the DESE website to check your own district's failing or passing grade. My district, Kirkwood VII District, has not met AYP goals for four years. Kirkwood VII has the highest paid superintendent in the state. Should I mount a campaign to ask my district to go to charters, scrap the administration and start over? Why are we paying a premium for an administrative head for a district that can't pass AYP goals?

The majority of Kirkwood students go on to college. So what's the disconnect between AYP and actual performance of the majority of the students? Here's a layman's definition of AYP. These goals are practically impossible for any school district to meet. High performing and high paying districts in my area very rarely can meet AYP goals. Why? Testing is broken down into subgroups (free lunch, minority, IEP student, etc.). A entire school can do well on the testing, but if one subgroup does not meet proficiency, the entire building fails on AYP for the year. This happened in one Missouri school last year; it had the highest math and reading scores in the district, but since the IEP students did NOT meet the AYP goals, the entire building failed. Entire districts fail based on the subgroup performance.

Be careful what you wish for. And ask yourself, who is behind the "parent trigger option"? Would it surprise you to discover that would be none other than Bill Gates? Read this article from "School Matters". It has not been a parent driven movement for the trigger option; it has been Bill Gates and his charter school buddies pushing this idea. If parents can become so enraged as to demand the closure of their school based on AYP data and demand charter schools, who immediately benefits? Those who are funding the charter schools will stand to make a fortune and this seems often to come back ultimately to Bill Gates.

Are there some schools who are performing badly? Absolutely. Should some be closed? Yes. But I get a bit uneasy when I see Gates' fingerprints all over this reform in terms of charters and common core standards. Read our blog on how Bill Gates is behind legislative writing of educational policy. It's not legislators driving legislation, it's special interest groups. No wonder I get concerned when Gates' name pops up in the Trigger Option as well.

As this administration has said, "Never waste a crisis". And a failing school is a crisis. It pits parents against teachers and teachers against parents. The teachers' unions finally get broken when it comes to disbanding a failing school and students are placed in charter schools. Just be sure before you celebrate this option you do your research and find out who is funding the charters and why.

And one more thought: if the charters are operating under the same standards as the public schools, and they are being graded in the same way (via subgroup testing protocol), will there be much difference in results? Instead of disbanding underperforming schools, perhaps more scrutiny should be given to the onerous mandates given to the states by the Federal Government and the way they are graded. Just wait for common core standards and assessments; they will be even worse and time consuming than No Child Left Behind. Claire McCaskill may be correct. Parents should get their pitchforks and demonstrate if their child is stuck in a failing school. But who are they demonstrating against? Are they demonstrating against failing teachers or a deeper systemic problem? Who is benefiting from all this unrest?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tales of Educational Nanny Legislators and Kindergarten Mandates--Coming Soon to your Community?

Missouri is in danger from the Democratic and Republican educational nanny legislators. Robyn Jones-Wright has pre-filed SB 21 which would lower compulsory school age and require mandatory full day kindergarten for students in public schools. This will fit it quite nicely with the educational agenda of the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA). It is in the legislative platform of these two lobbying groups to require full day kindergarten, and it is also an important goal in Race to the Top.


This is an attempt to control educational choices for parents. If this bill makes it into legislation, parents will have no choice whether or not to place their child into public kindergarten. What kind of choice is that?


Race to the Top makes no bones about it; it is a cradle to age 20 program. Even though Missouri did not receive Race to the Top funding, the intent is to mandate more and more educational rules for children and take away parental choice. We know that from our commissioner, Chris Nicastro, as she indicated she wants to implement the core goals of Race to the Top even though we have not received funding.


Here is a blog from "Culture Vigilante" which will give you more information about the background of the insistent yoke of control being introduced every year in Missouri restricting parental educational choices for their children. Not only should public school parents be concerned, so should homeschooling parents who currently have the right NOT to place their child into a public kindergarten classroom.


Two questions: Missouri is a state that is vehemently opposed to mandates (71% voted to reject Obamacare) so why would state Republicans join with the mandate happy Democrats for this educational bill as they have in the past (watch Culture Vigilante's video)...AND, if this would pass, how does the Legislature intend to fund all day kindergarten for the districts who cannot afford such a mandate? Isn't that part of the problem of federal mandates? Not only are they unconstitutional, they are also underfunded and will necessitate states to go into further debt (or raise taxes) to fulfill the mandates. Missouri is facing an $800 Million deficit this upcoming year and there is no money available for yet another mandated program.


The legislative nannies in this state are potentially placing their employers (the taxpayers) in serious constitutional and financial distress.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Seesaw of Educational Theories--Mandates vs Children Setting their Own Educational Agenda


How do some parents respond to the ever increasing standards control and financial expense of the Federal Government in public education? Some parents aren't aware of increasing mandates and spending, some believe more money and national standards mean better education, and still others are pulling their children from an increasing nationalized mode of education into systems with no standards at all.


Here is an article from The Sun Sentinel in Florida about a Sudbury school where curriculum doesn't exist. The students set their own agenda and learning style. It's an interesting concept and an alternative for parents who see a nanny state educational program for their child as stifling and inappropriate. It's a novel idea and is parent/student driven rather than government driven. This is a succinct quote from an article about this approach to learning:

The Sudbury approach appeals to people who reject what they see as "coerced" instruction that occurs when adults set the agenda. Supporters instead trust that children will choose to learn what they need to become successful adults. Detractors see it in much the same way as the inmates taking control of the asylum. Only time will tell.

I wonder if the Sudbury approach will ultimately succeed...after 40 years of the Department of Education's control and increased spending (180% increase during those four decades) and flat-lined scores, it is hardly surprising parents are searching for alternative educational models for their children.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What Mizzou Business Students Should Have Learned from Kenneth Feinberg on Determining Executive Pay

We wrote about Kenneth Feinberg's recent speech at the School of Business at the University of Missouri...it was announcing his appearance and his presentation, "Government Determination of Private Executive Pay: Opportunities and Challenges". We wondered if the speech focused solely on executive pay from bailed out companies, or if this idea would spread to all companies in certain industries, even if they had not received government assistance.

The Columbia Daily Tribune covered the speech and Mr. Feinberg focused mainly on the companies receiving assistance from the Troubled Relief Assistance Program:


To rein in excessive pay, Feinberg capped salaries at $500,000 a year and banned retention bonuses; tied an executive's compensation to company performance; paid executives in stock that couldn't be redeemed for a few years; and prevented executives from being reimbursed until the corporation has repaid the taxpayers 25 percent of what it owes.


"Overall, it was a worthwhile exercise," he said, but he cautioned, "It's not something that should be expanded."


It seems Mr. Feinberg, then, would not be anxious to set executive pay for those companies not needing taxpayer bailout funding. I read a Forbes piece about Mr. Feinberg's actions after the BP spill and was impressed most with the one comment from a reader:

The only thing that management owes to their stockholders is enough information to let them make a rational decision on investment potential. That includes: a. Honesty / Integrity / no "Cooking the Books".
b. A clear Vision and Strategy statement as to their intended course.
c. Transparency and openness, providing all relevant information at appropriate times.

Under this model, stockholders can pick their investments based on the level of risk or conservatism the company is expected to show. Companies with good plans and with a continuing sustainability over time will be sought out by long-term investors and a fair price paid. Consider this the Warren Buffet model of investing. If executives would consider first their legacy to employees, societies and communities, rather than themselves and a limited circle of similarly compensated friends, we would return the respected Executive Statesman to business, rather than the Hired Aristocracy that we have developed.


I highlighted the last sentence because I believe that is the most important point in the reader's comment. Read this article from American Thinker, "American Religion and Religious Morality" and tie it in with the Forbes' article. The government has been instituting more and more rules on businesses and education. This has allowed the government to mandate moral behavior, which government is not constitutionally allowed to do:

Liberals and conservatives both believe that as Americans, we should be moral people. The major difference is where their morality intersects with their politics. Most conservatives believe that our morality should come from religion, separate from government. Most progressives incorporate moral guidance as a function of government.

The humanistic tendencies of the political left assume that morality can be governed by state laws and dismiss religion as an origin and arbiter of moral law. Therefore, government must become a humanist's ultimate authority to address and regulate human nature.

Therein lies the problem with Mr. Feinberg's actions on behalf of the Obama administration and I wish he had pointed this out to the future business leaders at the University of Missouri (from American Thinker):

Governments cannot create and enforce morality -- only law. The more corrupt a government becomes (as our human nature predicts), the more laws are created for power rather than justice -- which is the reason why governments cannot be the arbiters of morality. In addition, when Americans stop taking responsibility for self-regulated morality, then the heavy hand of government must attempt to control human nature and suffocate our free will. If we lose the ability to know not only what is right and wrong, but why it is right or wrong, then we stop being moral. We become simply law-abiding, compliant.


This article explains the difficulty in knowing how to address executives' "excessive pay". If taxpayer money is used to bail out these businesses, the taxpayers should have a say in how the companies are restructured and the company accounts and practices should be scrutinized. But the problem really is deeper and can't be solved by government rules and laws. It IS a matter of morality that needs to be practiced by business leaders AND politicians. It is NOT a matter of new laws and regulations and mandates. THAT is a lesson for college students to understand and integrate into their future professions.

Do you think business students will find any required courses about morality in college today? I wasn't there, but I didn't see it reported in Mr. Feinberg's speech at Mizzou. We might have fewer problems requiring massive taxpayer bailouts if our leaders had adhered to a moral law rather than the law of unmitigated greed.

Do you remember the title of Mr. Feinberg's speech: "Government Determination of Private Executive Pay: Opportunities and Challenges"? The opportunity he had to challenge the business students to operating/managing businesses from moral beliefs vs legalistic solutions seems to have passed. That's a shame.





Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who Protects LSU Students from Bullying Attacks...from their Professor?

The current administration has made it an educational priority to eliminate bullying from public education. As the Washington-Post reported in October 2010:

The Obama administration is launching a campaign to prevent anti-gay bullying and other harassment at school, advising educators that federal law protects students from many forms of discrimination.

The advisory from the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, to be made public Tuesday, does not break new legal ground, officials said. But the officials described it as the federal government's most comprehensive guidance to date on how civil rights law applies to the sort of campus situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative.

"We've got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage," Obama said in a video posted last week on the White House Web site.

"Our goal here is to provide school districts, colleges and universities with details about when harassment can rise to the level of a civil rights violation and what they should be doing about it," Russlynn H. Ali, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said Monday.

The article talks about two kinds of bullying; those based on sexual orientation and religious beliefs. I think most people believe bullying is primarily perpetrated from one student (or students) to another student. Do these anti-bullying guidelines also apply to other types of bullying AND to teachers or college professors who bully certain students?

Consider this story about a college professor who bullies students in a Solar Systems Class at Louisiana State University. It is reminiscent of a previous posting on our site, "The Assassination of Children and Critical Thinking as Presented by Choice Architects":

Education in the K-12 grades is the perfect time to advance an agenda. Remember this video from the group 10:10? (Disclaimer: graphic content). Is this not a shining example of choice architects using fear to further their agenda? Take a different position and you are exterminated. This English reporter likened it to Eco Facism.

The video is a clear example of choice architecture and what we are facing in the re-shaping (aka "transformation") of our public education system. We are to go along with the choice architects or face extermination.

Do you remember that video? Children who did not agree with the teacher were literally "blown away". Fast forward the global warming agenda from elementary school to college and you have an actual example of a professor not tolerating differing opinions in a classroom in LSU. The video from this classroom exercise shows Dr. Bradley Schaefer exhibiting bullying tactics:

At the end of the class he has the students do a group exercise and gives each section different questions for which they must present an answer to the class. The group on the right side of the room (the group that believes the "US should do nothing" in regard to global warming) is given a piece of paper that says:
Your professed policies have a substantial likelihood of leading to the death of a billion people or more. (A) Estimate the probability that you personally will be killed in an ugly way because of your decision? (B) What is the probability that any children of yours will die in ugly ways due to your current decision.
Die in ugly ways? This professor has decided to try to weed out anyone who disagrees with him by using scare and guilt tactics. He sustains the violent imagery through the entire class, telling students, “Blood will be on your hands,” and pooh-poohing deaths from September 11th (“3,000? Whatever.”) in light of the toll global warming would take. Toward the end of his lecture he indicts the students who prefer no new legislation on climate change:

So, you see, the trouble here is the people on that corner [points at right side of room]. They’re wanting to do nothing. They’re wanting to let global warming take its toll. People decades from now will have deaths in the billions if we do nothing, and that will solve the problem.

Dr. Schaefer doesn't push a button and blow students up, but he intimidates and bullies them for their beliefs. Where is the legal protection for these college students from ridicule? They might want to obtain legal counsel for bullying relief as it doesn't seem as if the college administration will protect their interests:


What about Professor Schaefer? Will he be held accountable? Not likely. The LSU department chair told the Chronicle he did not think any action would be taken to punish or even reprimand Schaeffer. He did say that he would take seriously any student complaints if he hears any.

But why wait to hear from students, who may not complain if they want to preserve their grades, when all the evidence is in? The footage from this class is a smoking gun, and LSU is too deeply invested in maintaining the politically correct system to take responsibility and do the right thing.


Why have civil rights legislation that applies to a select group and not another?

I have two questions: Is there such a thing as critical thinking allowed in public education at ANY level today and why is this professor talking about global warming in "Astronomy 101: The Solar System"?


Friday, December 3, 2010

Federal Pay Czar at Mizzou Business School: "Government Determination of Private Executive Pay"

I hope the press covers this talk today by Kenneth Feinberg, the Federal Pay Czar. He will be speaking at the University of Missouri's Business School. Check out the title of his speech:

The lecture by Ken Feinberg is entitled "'Government Determination of Private Executive Pay: Opportunities and Challenges." He is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. December 3 at the University of Missouri's Trulaske School of Business.

I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to read the reports of Mr. Feinberg's determination on how the government has the legal authority to determine private executive pay. It will be interesting to discover if he speaks to regulating determination of executive pay solely to those companies receiving bailouts, or if he wants to see this applied to other private industries. Based on this NY Times piece from last year, this seems to be the underlying agenda of the administration and it will be carried out via the EPA method of doing business:

...the administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation.

One proposal could impose greater requirements on company boards to tie executive compensation more closely to corporate performance and to take other steps to ensure that compensation was aligned with the financial interest of the company.

If the Business School wants to educate their students on good business practices and how to grow an economy, perhaps the School should ask Donald Trump or some other successful entrepreneur how to actually contribute to an economy, rather than listening to how the government can set your pay rate when you are employed in private industry. I'm sure the business students will aspire to an executive position that includes a salary capped by the government. That will certainly inspire innovation and the quest for excellence, right?

I have an idea. To offer a fair and balanced discussion to the business students, the school should offer "Government Determination of Private Executive Pay: Opportunities and Challenges: Why This is Constitutionally Illegal".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Civics Lesson for the Day: Who Writes Legislation? (Hint: It's not the Legislators)

Who writes legislation? That would be a great civics lesson, wouldn't it? Do public schools even teach civics today? I searched the Internet for the answer to that question...who writes legislation?

The first answer that appeared was from govtrackinsider.com and came from ultra-liberal Pete Stark's office. (This is the official who stated the Federal Government could do most anything in this country. Congressman Stark seems to have little regard for the powers granted to the states via the Constitution). The office did a good job of going through the steps of how a bill is crafted, but the "short" answer from the Congressman's office is a bit obtuse for me:

If you want to know who ac­tu­al­ly puts pen to paper, it’s non­par­ti­san staff lawyers who work for Congress who know the ex­it­ing law they are af­fect­ing in­side out. They do that under the di­rec­tion of of­fice staff for Mem­bers of Congress and con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees, who vet the bill with out­side ex­perts and ad­vo­cates. Some­times those ad­vo­cates (i.e. lob­by­ists) pro­pose changes in the form of leg­isla­tive lan­guage. But did they write the bill? Prob­a­bly not.

Consider the Health Care Bill. How did a new administration roll out a bill more than 2000 pages long in a span of a few months? This blog (Romanticpoet's Weblog) does a thorough job showing the connection of the Apollo Alliance's influence and/or authorship of the bill. The Muckety maps linked in the blog are especially interesting showing how many interests were involved in the passage of the bill. It is common knowledge today and has been admitted by the Apollo Alliance that they did indeed write the Health Care bill AND the Cap and Trade bill. Pete Stark's office got this one wrong. Lobbyists' hands created this bill.

Children are not sacred in this grab for control and we have witnessed the staggering takeover of the educational industry by foundations interested in "helping the children". Bill and Melinda Gates' names keep surfacing while researching the forces behind the sweeping changes awaiting public education. This article in Inside Higher Ed questions why foundations such as Gates' are involved so closely with the Department of Education:

Michael S. McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, approached the same set of developments, but from the perspective of what he called a "professional skeptic," the natural outgrowth of an organization that takes as its mission the fostering of research about what works, and what doesn't, in education.

In a commentary that was polite yet pointed, McPherson expressed reservations about the change in philanthropic approach that Gates and Lumina have so eagerly embraced. "When we look at this movement" that the "outcomes-based" foundations have joined, "it's not just any old outcome -- it involves changes at the national level in ... government institutions' behavior," he said, referring to public schools and state-supported colleges.

Foundations are "not supposed to be involved in politics," McPherson said, and while he said specifically that he did not think that the charities' advocacy and efforts to "change federal policy" break the law, "it is in tension with the original spirit of what foundations are designed to do: go off and do their own thing," he said.

"This represents a shift from working at the edges to a concerted effort to change the core, working through political avenues," McPherson said. "These are people nobody has voted for.... They hold everybody else accountable but haven't been elected themselves."

Embedded in this article is a link from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). The reporter details the connections between Gates and The Department of Education:

“The Gates program and the Arne Duncan program are pretty much the same program,” Nancy C. Detert, chair of the Education Committee in the Florida Senate, told the New York Times (10/28/09). Mike Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, agrees, telling the Puget Sound Business Journal (5/15/09), “It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” The Business Journal noted that as of that date, the Fordham Institute itself had received nearly $3 million in Gates Foundation grants.

Technically, the lobbyists may not have written the bill, but the lobbyists certainly crafted what they wanted in the bill. We've informed readers on this blog who is setting educational policy in Missouri, known as "Vision for Missouri Public Education". It's not the State Board of Education, it's being driven by two educational lobbying groups, Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA). Heck, these groups don't even try to hide the fact they are the main groups writing the policy. This is from the "Vision" website:

The Missouri Association of School Administrators and the Missouri School Boards’ Association are undertaking a joint effort to develop a “Vision for Missouri Public Education.” This joint effort will involve school board members and school administrators across the state in developing a comprehensive vision for Missouri’s public schools.

MSBA and MASA represent those charged with legal responsibility for governance and executive leadership of Missouri public schools. The two groups each have developed positions for which we advocate each year, but the groups have not developed a comprehensive vision for public education. The shortfall of state and federal dollars has legislators and state leaders looking to our organizations for leadership and the financial support for public education likely will get worse before it gets better. In the absence of any vision and/or plan, proposals such as vouchers, open enrollment, tuition tax credits, etc. will be seen as alternatives.

While these two groups have been charged with the legal responsibility for governance and executive leadership of MO public schools, I question whether this also gives them the right to write legislation for our students. The goals of their policy is clear: to deny parents the use of vouchers, open enrollment, tuition tax credits or any other plans which would compete with the traditional public school model.

Read the vision plan for Missouri and research into Bill Gates' involvement with the Department of Education. The parallels between groups who dictated health care and cap and trade policies, and the groups who are attempting the takeover of the educational system are striking. They all require complete federal control, punitive measures to the states, individuals, and businesses.

Who writes the legislation in our country today? Groups with special interests with hidden agendas and deep pockets. Remember the quotation linking Gates to the Department of Education:

"This represents a shift from working at the edges to a concerted effort to change the core, working through political avenues," McPherson said."These are people nobody has voted for.... They hold everybody else accountable but haven't been elected themselves."

These are the people currently writing educational policy and legislation to make money off our children and the taxpayers. It's the educational version of the Health Care bill. And that's the sad civics lesson for today.





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