Sunday, July 21, 2019

Parents Threatened With Losing Children Over School Lunch

You can't make this stuff up. NYC is ahead of the curve for once, in that we simply serve lunch to every student who wants it. In at least PA community, they are less enlightened, and that's a gross understatement. They're talking about placing liens on people's homes over lunch money. In fact, they're threatening to take children away from parents for owing lunch money. They're not actually allowed to do that, but they seem to think this threat is a good idea.

In fairness, that makes them better than Donald Trump, who takes children away from their parents out of sheer cruelty, and then charges $800, from people who likely as not haven't got it, to reunite them. Here's the thing, though--being better than Donald Trump is nothing to brag about. It certainly doesn't rule out being morally bankrupt, which this school district most certainly is.

Once, when my daughter was in elementary school, she came home and told me she'd been eating peanut butter sandwiches all week. I asked her why, and she didn't know. I went to the school to find out. I'd given her ten bucks to pay for lunch for the week. The teacher had sent the kids to pay for lunch, and some kid who always paid weekly hadn't done so. She just assumed he did, and let my daughter eat peanut butter all week.

I was a little bit angry. I made a few calls. The school changed their policy and made the teacher record who paid rather than giving her best guess. Later in the year, at some school plant sale or something, the principal handed my daughter ten bucks. I felt pretty good about that, because no one had offered to pay us back. However, the policy of giving kids with no lunch money peanut butter sandwiches beats the hell out of threatening to take your kids away.

This school board needs to be fired. Though they don't quite rise to Trump levels, they are completely unfit to have anything to do with education. Extorting money from poor people by any means necessary may be a good con, but it's not what any kid should be getting in school. Actually, instead of providing tax cuts for people who least need them, our federal government ought to provide free lunch to all kids. I'd argue our kids need it more than our zillionaires.

I don't know what the laws are in PA, but this ought to be a violation. I'd argue that anyone involved in this miserable decision ought to pay a steep fine, at least enough to cover all the student lunch fees, and then spend a few months in jail, or at least cleaning the garbage on the highways.

I don't know how these people sleep at night. If it weren't for Trump and his goons, I'd call them the scum of the earth.

Friday, July 19, 2019

If You Don't Exercise Your Rights, You Haven't Got Any

I keep shaking my head over the racist and vitriolic attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar, not to mention the preposterous defenses of Trump's assertion she and others should go back where they came from. It's incredible how people are utilizing arguments of anti-Semitism to rationalize their racism, not to mention that of the President.

Even the Orange Man himself offered to backtrack after his crowd of racists shouted to send her back. He said he didn't say it. The thing is, though, he did say it, albeit in a tweet. He says he tried to stop the chant, though it's on video and he quite obviously did not. It's tough to defend yourself successfully when you're a pathological liar. It's even tougher when you make your lies so obvious a kindergartener could recognize them.


He's right about one thing. Three of the four came from America, and our government is now a complete and total catastrophe. That's not only due to Trump. You also need to credit Republican Senators, the biggest whores on planet earth. Look at Lindsay Graham, who basically says Trump isn't a racist. (However, in 2015, he called Trump a race-baiting bigot. Go figure. ) You see, according to Graham, only critics of Donald Trump need to be sent home, and therefore this isn't racism.  Let's take that at face value for a moment (and let's not do it for more than a moment, because it's an outrageous lie anyway). If, in fact, we are only deporting dissenters, we have essentially eliminated free speech. Criticize Trump and you have to leave the country. I kind of like what Jimmy Kimmel had to say about Graham:

Lindsay Graham is probably the closest Donald Trump will ever come to owning a dog.

Of course, that's a slur on dogs. Nonetheless, if you take Graham's position as acceptable, there goes the First Amendment. An unused right is just a bunch of words on paper. I see this played out at smaller levels as well. If you're a New York City teacher, you need to know that a lot of people from city agencies are not your friends. Lying is pretty much a way of life for them. If you don't believe me, become a chapter leader and listen to the blithering nonsense that comes from "legal."

That's why it's very important to avail yourself of the right to representation when the suits come to your school. I tell members to say, "Please give me your card. I'd be happy to speak with you as soon as I have representation." I also tell them to call me, even in my classroom, if they want me to say it for them. I'm amazed at some responses agency people give us.

Once, a guy from SCI came in. A member had called me down. He challenged me.

"Do you even know what this is about?"


"Do you care what it's about?"

"Protocol is the same regardless."

At this point, the member asked me to step out so she could tell me what it was about. The guy was right, in a way. It was something very disturbing. It didn't involve the member, except for her having knowledge of it. Still, I don't trust these guys any farther than I can throw them. Who's to say they wouldn't blame her for things that were out of her control? I told her to wait until we arranged representation.

I went back. I told the guy I now understood what the issue was. He asked if she was ready to talk.

"Please give us your card, and she'll be happy to speak with you as soon as she has representation."

The guy started screaming. I didn't care about kids. All I cared about was protecting teachers. Actually, I care a lot about protecting teachers. It's a big part of my job. I knew this guy didn't give a damn about my colleague, and his intent was bullying us into giving up her rights. Too bad for him. She didn't.

Even amongst ourselves we sometimes exercise this nonsense. I once ran successfully for UFT Executive Board with MORE. I agreed to back their priorities, which I thought I shared, and they agreed I'd voice my own. When I introduced a class size resolution, they were very upset. Why didn't I run it by steering? Who said it was okay? Then, of course, they tossed everyone out who they didn't like, just like Lindsay Graham wants to do.

Your voice is all you have. If you give it up, you may as well get used to being nobody. It's literally our job to set an example. We can't afford to be nobodies at work, and we can't afford to be nobodies in the United States either.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Racists Among Us

It's nothing new, you know. They've always been here. They are our neighbors, our colleagues and our families. They are everywhere.

What's different? Well, President Donald Trump is what's different. He doesn't talk about welfare queens. He doesn't only talk about criminals. He doesn't use the requisite buzz words. He cuts straight to the heart. With time, his filters, which barely existed anyway, have virtually disappeared. No more do you just hear about troubled cities, or whatever it is they were saying before he showed up on the scene.

Now it's, "Send her back." This is red meat for his racist target audience. Let's get rid of that woman. After all, not only is she a woman, but she's a woman of color. Not only is she a woman of color, but she's a Muslim. Not only is she a Muslim, but she wears a hijab. Not only is she a hijab-wearing Muslim woman of color, but she supports Al Quaeda. Also she's an anti-Semite. 

Actually, she doesn't support Al Quaeda. She's never claimed to, despite Trump's lies otherwise. And I've seen no evidence she's anti-Semitic either. She opposes the Israeli government and its policies. Actually, the Israeli government is the Israeli government. It's not Judaism. But Trump can make that leap of logic, tell lies, and get the racists all hyped up.

Here's the thing about racists, though. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood, surrounded by them. Racists tend not to like Jews either. I learned this the hard way. I don't believe for one moment that the Trump supporters in North Carolina would stand for me any more than they'd stand for Rep. Omar.

Some of Trump's supporters are Jewish. Maybe they don't understand the nature of racism and bigotry. Racism and bigotry is intolerant of The Other, and that's what Jews are. Maybe you're Jewish, and maybe you support Israel. That doesn't mean you have to hate Muslims, and it doesn't mean you have to support Trump. He would go after you in a New York minute. If you don't believe that, just take a look at how he treats New York. I don't suppose I'm the only one who noticed he's cut our tax deductions so we could send more money to the red states that support him, the ones in which he holds his odious rallies.

What's really dangerous here is Trump has as much as told his racist audience that their racism is acceptable. They don't need to hide it anymore. His campaign rallies are celebrations of bigotry and racism. Those who attend don't care about his outrageous and demonstrable lies. He's told them their racism is okay, and that's good enough for them. As long as they can be openly racist, it doesn't matter that he showers tax breaks on those who don't need them (at the expense of his rally-goers) and deprives Americans of health care.

This has been building in the United States for decades. It began with Reagan, or maybe Nixon. It accelerated when Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine and enabled Fox News. If you aren't watching The Loudest Voice on Showtime, about Roger Ailes and Fox, take a look. If you haven't got Showtime, make friends with someone who does.

America is at a turning point. Are we going to officially become an outright and openly racist nation, with pockets of tolerance? Are we going to allow blatant misogyny, bigotry and racism to be the unquestioned coin of the realm? Or are we going to fight and win against this would-be despot who rips families apart, places children in cages, and appeals to our very worst base instincts?

In little over a year, we'll find out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

On Elia's Exit--One Down, 17 to Go

It was surprising that MaryEllen Elia jumped ship for a better-paying gig somewhere else, but that's what people do sometimes. Elia was not as awful as Reformy John King, but she didn't substantively improve education in NY State. There are still the tests that so many residents have their kids boycott, and from all accounts I've seen, they're just as crappy as they ever were.

Of course, as a high school teacher, things look a little different. For all the years we read about the moratorium, nothing changed for us. Despite the fact that test scores couldn't be used to rate some teachers, they've consistently been used to rate us. Also, there's no opting out of Regents exams. As every teacher of ELLs knows, if you don't pass the English Regents exam, you don't graduate high school.

Thus, teachers like me have spent a lot of time teaching students how to pass these tests. In the past, there were a lot of writing tasks. I'd show kids how to satisfy them by writing formulaic essays. Now, I do the same thing, but there's a lot less writing and thinking involved. This is because the current test is an exercise in common coriness. I'm not clear on how that quality makes anyone college or career ready, but of course I'm not among the elite geniuses from Albany who make these decisions.

Now they're forming a committee to decide what graduation requirements will be. I hope there aren't any teachers on that committee, and I'm certainly glad none were interviewed for the article. Only the geniuses in Albany are qualified to make decisions of that magnitude. They believe that, you know. They sit around some building that looks like Hogwarts, go to gala luncheons and cocktail parties, and make arbitrary judgments about how to translate test scores into college and career readiness.

They don't waste time taking advice from those of us who actually do the job, because if we were so smart why would we be wasting time in classrooms? Why aren't we at the gala luncheons and cocktail parties where real decisions are made? Instead, we're just waking up each morning and going to work with kids.

The Regents are completely out of touch. Were that not the case, they'd never have allowed CR Part 154 to go forward. How are newly arrived high school students supposed to learn English with little or no English instruction? It's not a problem for these Regents, who simply move the cut scores so as to make it appear they're doing better. When they want teachers to look incompetent, they raise the cut scores. When they want Mike Bloomberg to look like a genius, they lower them.

Of course they pass rules to make sure teachers don't grade their own students on state tests. After all, since they themselves change the rules whenever they feel like, and since they themselves juke the stats to make things look however they wish them to at any given moment, they expect us to do the same. That's curious, because teacher grades are a better indicator of college readiness than standardized tests.

Who would think that those of us who spend our working days with actual students would know them better than some company that designed a multiple choice test? Actually, just about anyone with an iota of common sense would figure that. Not the Regents, though.

About a month ago, a group of teachers from my school, the largest in Queens and most overcrowded in the city, wrote to our local Regent to ask her to meet with us. We wanted to discuss Part 154, since it's got us at a disadvantage. Even though NY State doesn't think we need to teach newcomers English, we still kind of think it's important. Of course, we got no response, since Regents are doing Very Important Stuff.

I think we need Regents who are answerable to the people in NY State. I think we need Regents who talk to teachers and understand what it is we do. Since we don't have them, I think it's time we replaced them all.

What do you think? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Go Back to Where You Came From

It's remarkable to have a President of the United States who indulges in behavior so juvenile you'd be crestfallen to see it play out in your high school classroom. I can't believe the things that come out of his mouth, or his phone, or wherever it is the despicable tweets come from.

Go back where you came from is not a new thing. I've heard it from racists all my life. You are strange. You don't look like me. You don't go to my church. You eat food that smells funny. What the hell are you doing here?

In a way, if you live in an insular community, that might be a normal reaction if you're five years old and don't know any better. After all, it's possible that everyone you've met has been a certain way, and you've never seen anything or anyone like this. On the other hand, it's just as likely that you've been taught this. Maybe your peers are racist so you think it must be okay. And where did that come from? Could it be parents who've never learned any better?

It's hard to say. But if you live in a place like NYC, you have to be totally without perception not to see the wide variety in culture. It must be a misery to live as a racist here, hating almost everyone you see or meet. And yet there are a whole lot of people who carry around this hatred day to day.

My wife is from Colombia. She's the sister of a former college student I had. I used to think that if I lived a bad life, I'd spend eternity at Court St., going from floor to floor finding out my college transcripts had arrived on this floor but needed to be resent to that one. That, of course, was before I started visiting immigration services. The DOE has absolutely nothing on them.

I remember, to go to INS, I'd have to take a day off from work. One day, we went in and got there around 9 AM, you know, business hours. A woman asked me if I had an appointment. I said no, I thought we just had to come here. She said we needed an appointment, but if we got here around 6 AM (I think) it wouldn't be necessary. Whatever the exact hour was, it was very early.

I remember the next time we went in, it was maybe the coldest day of the year. I always go early to important appointments, and I distinctly recall standing around freezing our asses off for a long time. I don't know if it was hours but it sure felt like it. When we finally got in, I went right up to the same woman who told me to come in early. She said, "We changed that policy. Now you have to make an appointment."

I went crazy. I started screaming. Sometimes if you do that, people will give you what you want so you'll shut up. Not at INS. Two very large federal cops came over to me and offered to take me to jail if I didn't shut up. My wife insisted that I shut up, and I did.

A nearby white woman told me I should go back where I came from.

I told her that I came from here, and defied her to tell me where I should go. Because she was not quite as stupid as President Trump, she kind of slunk away.

She was, of course, a bigot, just like the President. She thought she was better than me because she was born here and I wasn't. Unlike the President, she knew she'd made a mistake when I called her on it.

It's very sad to have an ignorant, juvenile, recalcitrant bigot as President of the United States.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Double Whammy for ELLs in NY State

I've written quite frequently about CR Part 154, which the geniuses in Albany revised so that ELLs would get less direct instruction in English. MaryEllen Elia and the Regents decided it was discriminatory that ELLs were in classes by themselves learning English. What a waste of time, they thought, leaving them in classes with other language learners. So they cut direct langauge classes by a factor of 33-100%, and decided to take another approach.

The new NY approach is sit around, do nothing, and hope for the best. In a way, it works. For one thing, the most recent iteration of the NY State English Regents exam is a piece of crap. It measures neither reading nor writing. It isn't called a Common Core exam anymore, but that's what it is. In NY State, because Common Core exams were so unpopular, the geniuses in Albany removed the name Common Core. They just left the tests the same and hoped no one would notice.

They've accomplished several things here that benefit taxpayers. First, they cut services to the most vulnerable students in the state, saving districts a ton of money that may have been frittered away teaching newcomers English. After all, who needs English in the United States of America? There are plenty of jobs washing dishes and collecting aluminum cans that require no English at all. Second, they saved the taxpayers the unwanted expense of rewriting a test.

Now sure, you'll say, a teacher like me can write a test in ninety minutes. But what do I know? I'm just a teacher. We need to run tests by psychometricians and people with doctorates. We need to find out what people in offices think about them. Then we need to run all sorts of tests. We need to place questions on current tests to test the tests. Now sure, after we do that the tests may still be total crap, but we'll have spent millions of dollars developing them. So you see, NY State, by allowing the crappy tests to continue, has saved the taxpayers millions.

Now sure, counselors may look through college application letters and notice that even their very best scoring students can't write their way out of a paper bag, but what difference does that make? After all, they'll get accepted somewhere anyway. And if their college application letters are crap, at least the colleges will be 100% certain the students themselves wrote them.

Then we come to the test that ELLs take to demostrate their English level. This test is called the NYSESLAT. Here's what teachers I speak with have been noticing--our students are lower than they ever were before. I notice it too. Last year I taught an advanced class for the first time in ten years. This is because there were fewer beginners. Why?

The NYSESLAT says that students I used to teach as beginners are no longer beginners. That's no accident. NY State sets cut scores any way it golly goshdarn pleases and needs to show progress. So lo and behold, ELLs are scoring higher and doing better. My beginners, who often used to be false beginners with more background knowledge than we expected, are rank beginners. The false beginners, who truly need what I have to teach, have been placed higher.

In fact, I had a whole lot of beginners in my so-called advanced class. They couldn't produce a coherent sentence in English. This notwithstanding, they'd tested out of English instruction and passed the ridiculous English Regents exam. For those who didn't, it was my job to teach them how to pass the Regents exam. This came, of course, at the expense of learning reading, writing, or English, all of which they required.

I'm really baffled as to why educational activists statewide seem not to give a damn about ELLs. It mirrors the Trump administration's indifference to newcomers. Maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't care. Only time will tell.

Friday, July 12, 2019

AFT Teach in Washington DC--We Give President Trump a Lesson

Friday was a pretty full day at AFT Teach. I thought we were going to go to workshops but there was just a little more. That's the AFT crowd in the afternoon at US Customs and Border protection. New AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn de Jesus mostly ran the rally, as President Randi Weingarten was injured.

Evelyn had a prepared speech, which kind of surprised me. She usually speaks off the cuff. But she was very good, not happy at all about the atrocities Donald Trump commits on a daily basis.

I was moved by this group on the right, which had not only bilingual signs, but also a photo of children. The President of the United States is putting children in cages. I'd never have imagined such a thing happening back when I was a little kid studying civics. Of course, they don't teach civics anymore. That might at least partially explain why we have a President who's thoroughly uncivil, a President who behaves like a recalcitrant child, a President who takes credit for everything and responsibility for nothing.

I'm fond of this sign, and how the teacher made it so graphic. I suspect this is from an elementary teacher. They seem to have better eyes than we do. I have awful handwriting, so rather than make my own sign I just photographed everyone else's. We are horrified by this ongoing atrocity, and that's the only sane or reasonable response.

There was a lot of press there, English and Spanish. You can see Evelyn speaking to the press on the right
here. I have no idea what language they were speaking, but this event was planned very well and there were people with cameras and mikes all over the place. I know because I was taking photos right along with them.

Washington Governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee showed up. He spoke very well and displayed precisely the sort of outrage the situation calls for. He bemoaned this shameful episode of our history and told us we were going to make Donald Trump history in 2020.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

They can't wait either.

This is later on. In the evening, AFT marched to a park just next to the White House. We had a police escort, and it was incredible. We marched, chanting, "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here." I thought a lot about my students who, along with their families, are living in fear of the xenophobic lunatic boy-man in the White House.

People applauded as we went by. 

 We were walking under a
tunnel, and a reporter photographing us told us they've never let anyone walk through it before, and that the only way she'd ever gone through was in a car.

Above us, we could see people on the bridge applauding us. It was a remarkable moment.

All along the route people had great messages for us and we invited them to join us.

I couldn't get a clear photo of this group, but it's a bunch of people holding letters that say, "UNCAGE KIDS." It was pretty powerful if you saw it, and I'm sorry you can see so little of it.

There was a huge crowd at the candlelight vigil when we finally arrived. We heard from a lot of immigrants. One from Sri Lanka said, "The diversity of this crowd is the beauty of this nation. It is not our weakness. It is our strength." AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke as well. She was injured and in a wheelchair, but said this was too important to miss. From where I was, I couldn't see her at all, so alas, no photo.

What I could see, and what all Americans need to see, is that this is an atrocity. We have a country moving backward into the very bad old days, and we have to use every means within our power to set it right.

2020 is just around the corner.

Meanwhile, AFT has a message for the President, who thinks democracy is him doing what he wants, how he wants, when he wants, to whoever he wants.

Teachers see democracy just a little differently--speaking truth to Trump. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Crossing the Line

We all have lines. We make lines and we respect them. Some lines you just don't cross. Now if you're Daffy Duck, or Donald Trump, you just draw arbitrary lines and tell people not to cross them This is the line of death, you say. Cross this line and you die. Then, when they cross it, you draw a new one and say this is the line of death. Cross this line and you die.

Most of us have different lines, and we don't rewrite them over and over. If we did, we'd have no character, and we'd be Daffy Duck, or worse. Some lines are necessary. Some are stupid. Judging which are which is a challenge.

I crossed a lot of lines this year. When MORE unceremoniously booted my friends from the caucus, they crossed a line. I was never going back there again, and I'm sure if I'd only been attending their meetings they'd have kicked me out too. I crossed another when people from Unity invited us to run with them. I'd never envisioned doing anything like that, but it seemed like the best decision. I want to be active beyond writing things on a blog.

Of course there are consequences for crossing lines. For me, I suffered a few nasty comments online. Some people are funny with me now, and not in that ha-ha sense. For MORE, there went 80% of their vote. But they're happy with that, because winning was never the goal for them. They considered it a disaster. Fortunately for them, having redefined themselves as losers, they will remain exactly where they wish to be. I'm in DC right now at AFT Teach, and I'm spending time with people a lot more interesting than most I encountered in MORE.

I crossed another line when I trashed the geniuses in Albany last week. I'm getting a little blowback from that. Oh, they may double down on bad policy because they're offended. What does it say of ostensible educators that they'd double down on bad policy that hurts thousands of children because they don't like what someone says about them?

Regardless, I hope they're offended, because it was my express intention to offend. Their actions, depriving children of vital basic English instruction, makes life harder for kids whose lives are hard enough already.

Yesterday I got to hear an Albany rationale for the changes to Part 154. You see, by giving students classes with other ELLs, we were segregating them. They weren't getting the chance to meet other people. Therefore, dumping them into general classes with less English instruction was a bold step, a definite improvement.

Okay. Let's take that a step further. Why are we dumping only the kids who want to learn French in French classes? Isn't that segregation? Why don't we just dump everyone in French classes? That's absurd, isn't it? Would you want to be the French teacher after that happened?

Actually, I'm all for having ELLs attend classes with speakers of English, as well as other languages. I just want to give them the opportunity to prepare for it. Not only that, but the only people who need explicit language instruction in English are ELLs. So no, I'm not placing them in a linguistic ghetto. I'm placing them in a group with people who share their needs, people who empathize with them and can mutually support one another.

I wrote that NY State, by depriving learners of the instruction they desperately need, but pulling away the only safe place they had to practice English, was practicing an awful kind of discrimination. Someone told me that was not their intent, and that they were rather trying to make up for something. I believe that. But why, I asked, did they place such an awful, stupid program in its place? I anticipated every single negative consequence that would occur. Why didn't they?

"Because they aren't teachers," the person answered.

Now here's the thing--the very first time I read about Part 154, I knew what the consequences would be. Of course, I don't attend the meetings of the geniuses in Albany, and being geniuses, they don't need teacher input.

So they had good intentions. But most if not all of the students they hurt are students of color. So they're practicing discrimination. Is discrimination any better if the intentions are good?

For my students, the results are exactly the same. So no, it isn't any better. Not even a little. I'd like to see a whole lot of people stand up and tell the geniuses in Albany this is outrageous. You must fix it.

But a whole lot of them won't. They don't want to cross that line. You have to be nice to the geniuses in Albany, they say, because they have good intentions.

I don't care. I'm over the line. If they fix Part 154, I'll sincerely apologize and tell them how much I appreciate it. If not, I couldn't care less just how many good intentions they've used to pave their shiny new road to hell.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Saga of the Rainbow Bridge

Last month was Pride month. Someone decided it would be a good idea to paint the bridge at Silver Lake in Baldwin. I don't live in Baldwin, but my sister in law does. I'm there a lot and I walk my dog there a lot. To my eye, that's a distinct upgrade. It's also a celebration of a nationally recognized observance.

A lot of people in Baldwin didn't see it the way I did. I won't post social media without permission, but they argued it was graffiti, that graffiti was bad, and that it therefore must be removed.

Not only that, but it was removed, and quite quickly. Within days the town had covered over the offending rainbow and it was no more.

The next look is on the right. It was very quickly painted over. You'd think they'd at least let it last the month, but you'd be wrong. This happened after only a few days.

A lot of people said that yes, sure, it had been a good look, but graffiti is graffiti. It didn't matter what its purpose was. There was a statement, referred to in the photo, from Legislator Debra Mule in the photo. It pretty much said the same, and that if she were to tolerate this painting, she would have to tolerate other less well-meaning statements on public property. I'm not accusing her of bad intent, but I'm not pleased with her position either.

I wondered why they couldn't have just left it up for the month of June at least. Actually, the new neutral look did not last long, and you can see what looks like now.

I have to agree with that caption on the left. Now it really is graffiti. As far as I know, that's how it looks now. Or perhaps there's a renewed urgency. Maybe town officials are jumping up and down to remove that seditious message, "Live, laugh, love." After all, who knows where they'll be living, what they'll be laughing at, or who they'll be loving?

It looks to me like people just got all bent out of shape over that little rainbow and it had to go. I understand we don't want swastikas painted on public bridges, but I hardly see how a symbol of hate can be conflated with one of tolerance.

I find myself really disappointed in the alacrity with which the rainbow bridge went away. It bothered people. They can say all day long that they're just concerned with the graffiti issue, but it's more than that. We're an intolerant country with a bigoted xenophobe ostensibly in charge, and little things mean a lot.

In one respect, it's amazing they couldn't look the other way on a little rainbow bridge. In another, it's no surprise at all, and there's just no painting over that.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

When Principals Embrace Alternative Facts

What can you say about holocaust deniers? In this era of "alternative facts," you might say they're par for the course. We have a President who can't even open his mouth without lying. He can say any goshdarn thing that enters his head and almost half the country will cheer wildly. He can separate children from their families, place them in cages, deny them basic necessities and call it patriotism.

After all, we all need someone to hate. It makes us feel better about ourselves somehow. I was born here, and am therefore better than you are. My parents had more money than you did, so I have more money than you do, and I'm therefore better than you are. My skin is this color and yours is that. I speak this language and you speak that.

The thing is that we as educators have a mission. What is it? It depends a lot who you ask. If you ask the geniuses in Albany they'll say our mission is to make kids pass tests. Actually they may say something else, but their actions suggest testing is the only thing they care about. I have a different idea entirely.

I'd say our mission is to fight stupidity and ignorance. Our mission is to encourage questioning and thought. I'd also say that it goes beyond figuring out whether a, b, c or d is the proper response to a question. That's what sets me apart from the geniuses in Albany. That, and you won't see me posing as a genius anytime soon. I don't know everything and I don't pretend to.

I know that it's idiotic, at best, to say the history of the holocaust is open to interpretation. I know it's idiotic, at best, to say the same about slavery. This Florida principal seemed to say it about both. There are people on both sides. Well, there are people on both sides of science too. Donald Trump can stand up and oppose it as many times as he likes, but it won't change anything.

Someone has to help kids understand what's true and what isn't. It's positively Orwellian that we have school principals who refuse to take sides between reality and alternative fact. How on earth are children supposed to learn anything from people who feel it's only fair to give equal time to birthers and flat earthers?

As always, there are reasons for this. There's racism. There's bigotry. There's xenophobia. There's homophobia. There's good old, old-fashioned stupidity. Any of them can explain why you'd take history and deny it. But anyone who suffers from any or all of the above ought not to be an educator, let alone a principal. That's why it's great to read that this principal is now seeking other work. Whatever it is, I hope it doesn't involve people. 

A teacher's job is to help students think for themselves, not to justify ignorance of any kind. In these times we are needed more than ever. You know who should lead schools? The best teachers, the ones who are willing to share their craft with the new teachers. Instead, look what we have.

Too bad the geniuses in Albany are so obsessed with test scores, because school leaders like these are most definitely not limited to Florida.