Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Long Discredited, Merit Pay Dies in Newark

I'll leave it to Jersey Jazzman, who's followed this far more closely than I have, to fill you in on chapter and verse. He does mention, though, that only 20% of those with a choice opted into the system, and that highly rated teachers were mostly found in the opt-out pool. I'd argue well-informed, smart people make the best teachers. Diane Ravitch has written extensively on merit pay, and states it's been around for over a hundred years, and has never worked anywhere.

Why on earth does it keep bouncing back? In a world looking for quick fixes and quick answers, it makes sense. If you're good, you should earn more money. The question then becomes how you measure who is good. The answer, usually, is via test scores. When I first started this blog, I assumed that test scores measured something. I've since evolved. I think it was Alfie Kohn who suggested what they actually measured was zip code.

I'm in a funny position. Someone told me recently that my students had very good test scores. Assuming that's true, it has very little to do with me and everything to do with the test. I'm rated on the NYSESLAT, and it appears that everyone is advanced, even if they know little to no English. Can't form present tense? Advanced. Can't write a coherent sentence? Advanced. Can't make basic conversation? Advanced.

So I'm a frigging genius, and all my students will go to the advanced class. Therefore, I deserve merit pay. However, the tests give, and the tests taketh away. Next year, NY State could decide that teachers all suck and it needs to be scientifically established. So they'll raise the pass scores and I will suck. Once I suck, there goes all my merit, there goes all my pay, and I'll have to forgo my much-anticipated chateau in the Ozarks.

Merit pay is like Forest Gump's box of candy--you never know what you're going to get. This can be problematic if you're planning on, oh, having a life, living somewhere, supporting children, buying the occasional toy for your dog, etc. I guess if you're young and indoctrinated by TFA or something, you can believe you're a superstar even though you've got no experience whatsoever. But I know better.

When I think about merit pay, I always think about what a former principal of mine said. "Hey, I don't want merit pay. If you're waiting for merit pay, and you aren't giving me your very best right now, I want to fire your ass."

I'm not generally sympathetic to principals talking about firing teachers. They often do so for ridiculous reasons. But hey, if you have a job it kind of behooves you to do the best you can. Teaching is complicated. Every year there are different students, and every year they have different needs. (Sometimes it seems like by the time you really know them well enough to make a difference they're moving on. ) He was right, though. If you're waiting on more money to do your best, you need another job. I have no idea what that job is, but that's your problem.

Teachers ought not to have to worry about money. They ought to worry about their jobs. I had to work a second job for at least twenty years to be able to get by. A whole lot of my colleagues do all kinds of extra things. Teachers need a salary, not a tip.

I'm glad to see merit pay go away in New Jersey. It's a terrible idea, it's always been a terrible idea, and it's part and parcel of the Blame Teachers for Everything movement.

We can do better.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Yubbler Business Model (and Why PS 333 May Toss Perfectly Good Materials)

There's a recent piece in the NY Post about the incredible waste in some NYC schools, including PS 333. While the photo at left is supposedly from PS 166, I'm gonna suppose the Post does not make daily visits to the building dumpster. Who knows how much waste there is?

I'm told the principal of 333 is obsessive about throwing things out, and will toss student projects rather than have them linger, however temporarily, in hallway cubbies. If students are left weeping because all their hard work has literally been tossed into the trash, well, too bad for them.

PS 333 has a preferred vendor called yubbler.com, which claims to give 50% of the profits back to the school. It's hard to say how much profits are. I know Costco gives consumers wholesale plus 14%, and I've seen things sell at CVS for almost double what they cost in Costco. What possible motivation would a company giving half profits to someone else have to be consumer-friendly?

Nonetheless, a particularly ethically-challenged principal might see this as a golden opportunity. Literally, it's money, and what's better than that? You could use it for whatever you like. Does the DOE even care how you spend found money? Who knows?

Since this is the preferred vendor for PS 333, it must be an approved vendor. (Correction--It is NOT an approved vendor on Shop DOE and PS 333 uses it anyway.) That being the case, it's clearly a corrupting influence. How do they allow principals to manipulate parents like this? Who knows how much Yubbler jacks up prices in order to make enough to share half the profits? Has the DOE looked into that? Do they even care? Who knows if the so-called base prices are above and beyond the price they actually pay? Who knows whether or not they exaggerate the wholesale price so as to minimize these so-called profits?

More importantly, who knows how much extra cash hard-working parents piss away by shopping on this site? My first choice for school supplies was always Costco, which has consistently low prices, is at least partially unionized, and treats its employees well. When I couldn't find what my kid needed, I'd start looking elsewhere. If I had to worry about sending money to principal Claire Lowenstein things would be different. It's abhorrent that parents have to even think in passing about making an impression on the school principal while shopping for supplies.

I've spoken to multiple parents of PS 333 students. Every single one was terrified that Lowenstein would find out who they were, and would retaliate against their children. When a principal like that says shop here, and actually has the capacity to check on whether or not you've done so, that's a terrible burden. There ought not to be any "preferred vendor" for working parents. If they want to shop at the 99-cent store, that's none of the principal's business. It's none of the principal's business who buys Crayola crayons, who buys generic ones, who shops at Yubbler, and who pays their likely inflated prices.

Yubbler allows schools like PS 333 to create their own pages. In fact, here's their page. It's easy-peasy. Parents of second graders buy 76 bucks worth of school supplies, exactly what the school asks for. Plus, Principal Claire Lowenstein gets a kickback. What could be more ideal than that if you're Principal Claire Lowenstein?
A business like that of Yubbler could explain why perfectly good supplies are tossed. Why keep them around when you can simply have parents buy them again, and send profits to your school budget at the same time? It's a WIN-WIN.

I don't know if Yubbler is the root of all evil, but it's certainly the root of some. This is a dirty little business model. If teachers are not allowed to take gifts of significant value from students, principals ought not to be allowed to take significant bribes from businesses. In a locale as expensive as NYC, parents trying to make ends meet ought not to have to worry about the budget, let alone the personal inclinations of someone like Principal Claire Lowenstein. 

It's very hard for me to see how this business model isn't tantamount to bribery. If you have any notion why it isn't, please share in the comments.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

What's Left of MORE

I was in Texas, heading toward a detention center when someone emailed me this piece from Politico. The headline blares, "Democratic Socialists look to take over New York's powerful labor unions." I found that pretty interesting. I'm not all that familiar with Democratic Socialists, but I know quite a bit about MORE, having run twice and won once with their backing.

The first time was all about making connections. People I respected wanted to make inroads into the state union,  None of those people are any longer affiliated with MORE, but they were then. While teaching in Queens five days a week, I ran around the whole state like a bloody lunatic trying to become Executive VP of NYSUT.

I got a lot of guidance and support from small locals in Long Island, but almost none whatsoever from what's now left of MORE. In fact, they argued against even trying, saying that winning brought a possibility of corruption. I can't really argue with that, but not trying to win brings a 100% likelihood of getting nothing done.

It was a few years later that a bunch of us, none of whom are now affiliated with MORE, decided we would make a run to win the UFT HIgh School Executive Board seats. It seemed less quixotic than the NYSUT run, perhaps even viable, so I was all in. We published and distributed a newsletter, at our own expense. (After the election, current MORE leadership appropriated the newsletter and rapidly allowed it to drop dead. Writing and distributing newsletters citywide is, you know, work.)

I was beyond thrilled when New Action offered to run with us. This was the element, I thought, that would bring us over the edge. The people currently associated with MORE argued against it. Would we compromise our principals by running with them? There was a vote, they lost, so we ran together and won the seats.

For the last three years I've been going to Executive Board meetings twice a month. A prominent member of what's left of MORE told me she'd be at every meeting. Actually, she showed up twice in three years, and didn't stay long either time. Others showed once, twice, but mostly not at all. One of our Executive Board members, who may or may not be in what's left of MORE, showed up two or three times, made an impassioned speech that failed to persuade the Executive Board majority, and never showed again.

I'd be driving to school early in the morning and I'd get calls from the people left in MORE.

"We want to support you. Can you come to a meeting on Saturday to discuss the E-Board?" (They call it the E-board. Being very busy, they haven't got time to enunciate long words.)

"Why don't you come before the meeting on Monday? We're always there a couple of hours early, and we meet with everyone."

But they were busy on Mondays. I know how that is. Not only am I busy on Mondays, but I now go to UFT Executive board two Monday nights a month. I teach five days a week, I'm chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded in the city, I write this blog, I walk my dog, and I do five million other things.

"We want to meet with the guy who never comes and see what he thinks."

"What does it matter what he thinks?" I asked. "If he doesn't come, he's nobody."

"We want to see how we can involve him if he doesn't go."

Ludicrous, I thought. I declined to go, but Mike Schirtzer attended. He told them we'd like to work on expanding our victory by winning the middle school seats. He spoke for both of us, as I was probably walking my dog, or drinking coffee, or watching cartoons, or doing whatever working teachers do on Saturdays.

What's left of MORE did not lift a finger to help us move ahead. Instead, in an effort to antagonize and alienate us, they decided to pick idiotic fights. Their grand plan was to take charge of the organization, which they figured would flourish in our absence.

Ostensibly because I'd promoted a resolution to lower class sizes without approval of their steering committee, a committee whose existence I was not aware of, they voted that every resolution we proposed would have to be run by said committee 24 hours in advance. (Evidently demanding smaller class sizes was a controversial issue among this committee.) This was after Unity resolved we give them one hour's notice.

Because they are so clever, MORE did this on a day I was working as a volunteer at a UFT event for ELLs  If I'm not mistaken, it passed by one or two votes. I'd have voted against it if I were there, and I'd have gone if I hadn't had a commitment to be elsewhere. Nonetheless, I'd run under an agreement that I'd support MORE's priorities, but was free to bring up my own. They broke that agreement. I don't know about you, but I've got little regard for people I can't trust.

A few months later, their cleverness failed to bear fruit. The vital steering committee had to be elected again, and was term-limited. Those people, the ones whose approval I ought to have begged for, all lost their positions. A new committee was elected. This was intolerable.

 No remedy would do but a mass purge. It included Mike Schirtzer, who sat with me on the Executive Board. (As far as I can tell, the only reason I wasn't expelled was that I'd stopped coming to their meetings, but I would have stood by Mike regardless.) They also dumped the entire steering committee, you know, the one it was so important to run things by. Evidently, if they weren't on it, it was of no importance whatsoever.

What's left of MORE did not give a golly gosh darn about any of its bylaws. It did whatever it wanted. It followed no rules whatsoever. In internal documents I've seen, they referred to us as "right-wingers." That, evidently, is what you are if you support Bernie Sanders for President as opposed to, well, whoever they support. In writing, that's how they rationalized doing what they did.

Here's what the writers at Politico see fit to quote:

“UFT is the largest local of one of the largest unions in the country. It has the potential to be extremely influential in electoral politics,” the group wrote. “It is extremely internally undemocratic, but there is a reform caucus, MORE, which has many active DSA members.”

This is absurd, and the reporters have not bothered to look any deeper. The myopic jackasses who run MORE are among the least democratic individuals I've met in my entire life. They want what they want, and have no scruples about lying or cheating to get it. Furthermore, they have urgent priorities that somehow preclude supporting those of us actually out here doing the work.

Their antics caused them to lose 80% of the vote they got last time and irreparably fractured opposition in the UFT.  Not only that, but they frittered away a name it took years to build. To suggest that MORE leadership is on the verge of anything but having another meeting where they discuss how cool and elite they fancy themselves is outlandish. Their appeal is sorely limited and none of them have the energy to lead anything beyond a patty cake session.

LeRoy Barr told Mike Schirtzer and me that they, leadership, wanted to keep us on the UFT Executive Board. He asked us to our faces to keep challenging them because they thought it was healthy. That was a whole lot different from what we heard from MORE.

MORE blew their chance to be a big tent, a viable entity to help all teachers, and just to make sure, it canceled the alliance with New Action. I'm chapter leader of a large school, and I represent 300 people. I don't have the luxury of examining whether they are left wing, right wing, or dual-winged, I represent absolutely every member, regardless of political inclination. That's what a union does, but that's not what MORE does.

What's left of MORE prides itself on being intolerant and insular. It does not wish to deal with viewpoints that vary one iota from theirs. As for what that viewpoint may be, I have no clue. I only know that whatever it is shuts me out as a "right-winger."

If I'm a right-winger, so is a good 95-99% of UFT membership. What's left of MORE represents what's left of MORE, and little else. One of their members, not satisfied with having her ass kicked by Michael Mulgrew in a UFT election, ran for Lieutenant Governor with Howie Hawkins and managed to lose by an even more spectacular margin. This seems to reflect the current vision of MORE.

What's left of MORE is the ghost of Teachers for a Just Contract, a union caucus that disappeared in 2012, having never gotten anywhere or won anything. MORE has small shoes to fill and they fit right in. Too bad Politico doesn't ask more questions of more people. Nonetheless when MORE sets its eye on losing, it does so in a big way.

MORE is a house of cards, propped up by disingenuousness and gross intolerance. That may fly on a national level, bolstered by well-financed Fox News, but I don't see it catching fire on a shoestring anytime soon in New York City.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Blogger's Day Off...

...but you can read a version of the blog I posted yesterday at AFT Voices, edited by someone who is, you know, an editor, as opposed to me. They're certainly better at formatting than I am (but my version had more pictures). Also AFT added a last line that I stole and added to my blog post.

Friday, August 16, 2019

AFT in Texas

Last Tuesday I went with a UFT contingent to McAllen Texas. AFT had requested entry to the detention facility there. The US government, in its infinite wisdom, not only denied us, but also waited until the day we arrived to do so. They said we had no reason to be there. When you think about it, what possible interest could teachers have in children? AFT kept reaching out and trying to change that, but our time was very limited.

The following morning, we assembled in front of the facility and held a vigil. We were filmed by several people, including someone from Telemundo, who produced this segment.  There's nothing quite like a Wednesday morning rally on a 103 degree day. Members spoke of the unconscionable treatment of children in that facility. Several offered prayers. AFT Executive VP Evelyn De Jesus, among her hundred other titles, is an ordained minister and was in her element.

After a while, a uniformed agent with a gun came out and asked us to move to the sidewalk. After all, who the hell did we think we were, American citizens standing on the grounds of a facility that our tax dollars pay for? We didn't move. A while later he came out with three colleagues, and explained that we'd be arrested if we didn't move. They had called the police.  I thought we were going to be arrested, and wondered how the hell I would call the DOE. (I haven't been arrested since I was 19. I was hitchhiking in Syracuse. The cop fined me five dollars and told me if I didn't show up for trial my five bucks would be subject to forfeit. I had a feeling a Texas jail would be a little tougher than that.)

At that point though, we moved, along with the cameras. We were still standing with the backdrop of the government building, and it really made little difference. There were questions. How could we treat children like this? What were they doing back there? Were they being fed? Were they being taught? Were they getting adequate care? There were more prayers. We were winding up when our buddies from customs appeared again and told us we would now have to walk all the way across the street. It was kind of odd because I thought sidewalks, kind of like government buildings, were public property.

To underline their determination, the agents had not only summoned the police, but had brought their
own tow trucks. Who'd have thought that the Border Patrol actually needed their own tow trucks and kept them handy at their facility? We had three vans that they threatened to tow who knows where. AFT President Randi Weingarten told us all to get in the vans and waited until everyone was in before she stepped off the grounds. She told me if anyone got arrested it was going to be her.

We met with some high school students from an organization called Beyond Borders. They go to a Catholic Charities facility several times a week to meet with and support newcomers, largely from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These people have typically walked thousands of miles to get here. Many end up in New York, and I've had some in my classes. I've had students who've told me stories of fleeing after family members were murdered, kidnapped, or both. (Despite what you may hear from Donald Trump, you don't give up your home and walk thousands of miles just for fun.  As a matter of fact, it is not illegal to seek asylum.)

On the left is a bus station in McAllen, Texas. This is where newcomers who have a place to go are sent. Hopefully they have money for a bus ticket, or a plane ticket, or some way to meet whatever family or friends they have in the United States. In any case, the US just drops them off there pending hearings.

Catholic Charities made it a point to move right across the street from this building, so now Customs actually coordinates with them to let them know when newcomers are arriving. (The people in Customs are very busy doing things like trying to arrest teachers and tow their vehicles, so they haven't got time to give these people showers, clothing, food or any other such trivial nonsense.)

Catholic Charities feels it's their duty to step up where the
government falls short, and we met a bunch of volunteers there, many college students who've devoted their summer break to helping these people. One of them gave us a tour of the facility.They rely completely on donations.

Our guide told us that when newcomers arrive, Customs takes away their belts and shoelaces, so they are particularly in demand.  (You have to wonder why they maintain facilities so miserable that people there, after having sacrificed everything to come here, would contemplate suicide.) We got to speak with some newcomers. One was a woman along with her 16-year-old son. Her husband was in Houston and she hadn't seen him in fifteen years. Her son had no memory of his father.

We brought boxes of belts and shoelaces, among other things. They're doing great work there and we will continue to support it as long as they have need. If you'd like to contribute, you may do so right here.

It was pretty gratifying, as we left, to see a bunch
of children playing with teddy bears we'd provided. Our guide told us children could be pretty
resilient, and often looked almost brand new after just a shower. Nonetheless, their needs are the same as all children and don't end there. This is just one aspect of a humanitarian catastrophe that we've created.

The next time someone tells you that teachers are selfish, and that all we think about is ourselves, remember who was out in the 103 degree Texas heat looking out for America's children. We did this on our own time (and we didn't do it just for fun).  And we’ll continue to work toward a more humane immigration policy in the United States.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Till Your Well Runs Dry

I'm in McAllen, Texas right now with AFT. We've been meeting some local union leaders here, and I've been hearing things that kind of blow my mind. I should've known these things before. I have a friend from Florida who described working conditions there, and they're quite similar here. The reason they have things like one year renewable contracts is they don't do that whole collective bargaining thing. We pay you what we want, and if you don't like it, go screw yourself.

Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of what union does where we come from. Whatever you may think about the most recent contract, or those that preceded them, at least they're contracts. Without them, your negotiating stances are sorely limited. There are always things you can do. For example, several red states went out on strikes recently. With conditions like those, it's pretty easy to understand why.

There are some highly unattractive disadvantages to this system. As in Florida, tenure is doled out in contracts that last somewhere between one and five years. Should they fire you just because they feel like it while your contract is in force, the union can help you. However, whenever your tenure, or contract, or whatever you want to call it is up, they can simply choose not to renew. That's one way to discourage activism. On the other hand, turnover can be massive in places with these systems. It all depends one whether or not your local Board of Ed. gives a crap about educational quality.

There are other drawbacks to this system as well. For example, say you start on a contract and beginning pay is 30K a year. Let's say the board votes to give all teachers an across the board raise of $760. So year two, you make 30,760. Each year you made an extra $760. Let's say five years later, starting pay goes up to 40K. This means that a new teacher makes more than you do. I suppose you could quit and hope they'd hire you back. On the other hand, once you come back they could give you credit for time served and therefore award you a lower salary.

Sometimes there are consultations. The board will decide that they will make agreements under consultation. They will pay you this much. They will give you this benefit. They will agree to A, B, and C. What if they determine the next day they don't want to follow through with this? Too bad for you. The agreement isn't worth the ink on the contract it isn't written on.

Union? I've met a whole bunch of people from AFT locals, and from what I see and hear, these folks are the real thing, working hard to do their best for their members. But here's the thing--without contracts, there may be one union, or there may be five. Maybe your friend Bob decides to start Bob's union, for the betterment of Bob. That won't likely draw many people beyond Bob.

On the other hand, Bob could charge less in dues than the local AFT. Sure, Bob doesn't actually do any work, but membership is free to Bob. And when AFT actually accomplishes something, Bob can certainly walk around and boast that all benefits are due to his diligence. Now I have not actually heard about anyone named Bob doing that. What I have heard about is organizations that are "professional" and don't want to get all dirty asking for money. Instead, they'll, I don't know, sit around and wear ties all day. So they look good, but a gorgeous silk tie will not always impress your landlord sufficiently that he won't move all your stuff to the curb.

One thing that a whole lot of teachers may find familiar is the old bait and switch--We'll give you a $5,000 raise, but we'll also raise your health premium by $5,000.  It's a WIN-WIN! Of course it's no such thing. It's you funding your own raise and they pay you the same.

There are several ways to fight back. You can use social media. Maybe a better solution I've heard is to try to run for office. Find people who actually give a crap about education and have them run for school board.

Maybe an even better solution is to raise public awareness. Once you do that, you can elect politicians who, you know, actually care about working people. Unfortunately, such work is not exclusively the province of Texas. Does anyone think Andrew Cuomo wouldn't come to our homes and place stakes through our hearts if he thought it would win him public support?

More to the point, while Texas and other states move to better their lots, we have to do the same for ourselves. Make no doubt about it, those people who just passed Janus would like nothing better than to impose every crazy Texas rule on the entirety of these United States. That's bad for us, it's bad for our children, and it's bad for all the students we serve.

We all need to appreciate what we have, understand its fragility, and work to move things forward.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Chancellor and the Post

 That's NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on the left. If you're a city teacher, you can see he's in a school building, because those ugly tan bricks are unmistakable. The Post feigns outrage and claims to be standing up for our students,  but when's the last time you saw a NY Post editor in a real school? Don't all jump up at once.

This are strange times indeed. As the chancellor tries to move forward with culturally relevant and sustaining education, a notion which appears to have been mandated by the state anyway, he finds himself under fire. The editorial board at the NY Post is apoplectic. How dare he? Instead of spending 30 million to repair a school, he should snap his fingers and make a new building appear out of thin air. (It was idiotic to forget Chinese translators at a recent PEP meeting, but I'd bet dimes to dollars that idiocy came from some leftover appointee who should've been gone with Emperor Bloomberg.)

I'd like that building to magically appear nonetheless. I'd like a new magic building to replace Francis Lewis High School too, please. (Through UFT-initiated efforts, we're getting an annex, but we still won't have enough space. We won't even be able to retire some woefully inadequate classrooms.)  We work in a chronically overcrowded building. Though it's one of the best schools in the city, physical conditions are deplorable. As custodial employees retire, they aren't replaced. It's kind of like what Bloomberg did as teachers retired, resulting in an epidemic of oversized classes. 34 is more the norm than the exception these days. Where's the NY Post editorial board on that? Where were they when Joel Klein spent every spare moment kowtowing to Eva Moskowitz and as much as told public schools to go to hell?

As for school conditions, I've been teaching in the city system since 1984. Anyone who mistakes an NYC school for the Hilton is lacking at least several senses. And anyone who maintains these conditions originate with Carranza is either highly ignorant or willfully delusional. I'd conjecture the Post editorial board to be the latter (along with several other local editorial boards). Sometimes I think the editorial boards of the News and the Post don't read their own education coverage. I'd say the same of the Times if they bothered to cover education.

While the school in question may have been particularly awful, awful is par for the course in Fun City. Bloomberg closed schools left and right in a particularly hurtful game of musical chairs. Though Francis Lewis High School was sorely overcrowded, he sent letters to incoming freshmen at then embattled, now closed Jamaica High School that their school sucked and they ought to go to Lewis instead.

We survived not because Bloomberg supported us, but rather in spite of his utter indifference. He'd have been more than delighted to close us and make our staff into 300 ATRs. Instead, he overcrowded us as much as he possibly could, and responded to us only when some noisy teacher or other moved us into the pages of the News, the Times, and yes, even the Post (and more than once).

Chancellor Carranza walked into a minefield sustained and enabled by Bloomberg, and ignored by Carmen "It's a beautiful day" FariƱa. As he tries to give a voice to long neglected students of color (not to mention everyone else), he's relentlessly attacked by a tabloid owned by the guy who brought us Roger Ailes and Fox News, which brought us President Donald Trump. Though I often like the education reporting in the Post, I don't recall a single op-ed in support of public education, ever. As for the editorial board, forget it.

I understand how some people would want to hold on to the SHSAT. If it works for them, it works for them. A colleague of mine, one for whom I have great respect, is as upset as anyone. She has her elementary age daughter already prepping for that test, and her plan is to send her to a specialized school. I understand that, but it's sad to see some people being manipulated to align with the Post.

There are certainly people with more simple anti-Carranza agendas. Anyone who aligns with President Trump's xenophobic vision will resist anything culturally sensitive to kids like those I serve. They're invaders, running an invasion, trying to undermine our white values, or something to that effect. And despite what they may be saying or doing this week, they don't love Asian students any more than they love black or Latino students.

In fact I teach mostly Asian students. None of the students I teach are going to Stuyvesant. My school takes everyone, and I am much more concerned with everyone than I am with students attending highly selective schools. Here's the problem students like mine are having--not only are they not attending Stuyvesant, but the geniuses in Albany have sorely cut the English instruction they vitally need.

The story of cutting instruction to ELLs is not as sexy as that of protesters mad as hell at Carranza. However, there are a whole lot more Asian students affected by that than by whether or not they're getting into Bronx Science. I'll sit while I wait for the Post editorial board to take a stand for my kids. As usual, I'll have to do it myself. I'll see them in September, and I will seek and get help for them, one way or another. The Post editorial board, despite their prominent crocodile tears, won't be lifting a finger to support them.

So much for their passion for our kids.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

NYC DOE Puts the "Rat" in "Educrat"

There's a nasty gene somewhere--some people have it and some don't. I've got it, but I use it selectively. My first go-to is courtesy. I'm never nasty with kids. Sometimes I'm sarcastic, but only with the ones I know will give it back to me. They're delighted to oblige, for the most part. I will always speak calmly and quietly with sensitive kids. I'm much more tolerant of kids than adults. We ought to know better.

The DOE has a whole lot of nasty sitting there at Tweed. I notice it sometimes when supervisors tell me what they're going through with one piece of red tape or another. I know some supervisors who are born for this stuff. You bite my head off, and I'll bite yours off twice. It's a skill. Maybe it's an art. Of course it's a shame that anyone would need to exercise such an art. It's one reason I'm glad I never went into supervision. Nonetheless, I absolutely see its value in dealing with the DOE.

Then, of course, there are the supervisors who use this nasty gene as a matter of course. Sure, it's good to use with the evil empire that is the NYC Department of Education. In fact, there may be no better way. Using it with people who wake up every morning with the express intent of teaching children is inappropriate. To take it a step further, using it with actual children is as bad or worse. I've seen and met supervisors who do one, both, or all, and none belong at their jobs.

I had a job one year as LAB-BESIS coordinator. There were a number of factors that led me to apply for it. One was the fact that I'd have an office. For most of my ten years as chapter leader I haven't had one, and sometimes people come to me quite upset. I didn't much like the job. It was a whole lot of tedious data entry. I quit at the end of the year, and lost the office.

It wasn't only the job that led me to quit. It was also dealing with the educrats at Tweed, Sometimes I would have incomplete information because they failed to send me things, or, you know, do their jobs. Invariably, when things like that happened, they would ignore my repeated emails. Once there was some issue that actually hurt a student somehow. I believe it was a native speaker of English whose paper registered wrong, or got lost or something. When I complained, I got this threatening response. I was going to go through hell, or be fired, or maybe worse, be forced to work with the nasty people at the DOE.

As chapter leader, I sometimes have to deal with people from city agencies. They're the most inept bunch of boobs you've ever encountered in your life. They've never met a deadline they could meet. Not only that, but their decision-making skills are almost nonexistent. I will never forget when some bully or other screamed at a member and me because she wouldn't talk without representation. You only care about protecting yourselves, he shouted. You don't care about children.

I foolishly started to argue with him. You don't know what I think, I said. That's a straw man. He didn't know what a straw man was, so he said I was using one. Some of these people are so twisted, incompetent, and fanatical there's no point even talking to them. These are the people Bloomberg put in place, and these are the people de Blasio left in power.

It seems so unnecessary. Nonetheless, it's the coin of the realm over there. Threaten loudly about whatever rather than take responsibility for anything. You even get hints of it from the people they send to do PD, or just talk with teachers. I recall some endless stupid meeting with some woman who said if we didn't include Common Core goals in our lesson plans, our school would close. I pointed out that we had a contract, and that it specified lesson plans were for the use of the teacher. It also specified that neither she nor any other administrator had the right to dictate how our plans were written. Several teachers told me they were grateful for my presence.

How many times had that presenter spouted the same idiocy in front of teachers who either didn't know, or didn't feel comfortable challenging the information? How many times did she do it after my having corrected her? Who knows?

Last summer I was on a committee tasked with negotiating the contract. I described in detail what it was like to teach oversized classes, as well as why classes that met contractual limits were already too large. The DOE reps didn't give a flying hoot. They weren't interested. They aren't interested.

It's odd. We teachers are forever criticized for being indifferent about the students it's our job to serve. Bill Gates and his clueless minions toss money everywhere to enable our enemies. Here's the thing--cruelty and indifference abound among the people he enables. MSM can paint targets on our backs in perpetuity. It won't change the fact that we're the ones concerned with serving these kids.

Educrats can scream bloody murder all they like. The fact is a whole lot of them are parasites. They draw salary and offer nothing but negativity. It's ironic that these people sit around Tweed, doing whatever they do, while those of us who actually served children are routinely vilified.

Only in America.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Socialist Menace

It's right up there. Fox News graciously created the graphic to inform their viewers about AOC's terrifying program. You can see, right there, how it starts. There it is, that Medicare for All. That means every American would have health care. No more will people with chest pains have to decide between going to the ER and dropping dead of a massive coronary.

This is an unmitigated disaster. Not only will we have to give up our precious co-pays, but Americans will no longer have their God-given right to face bankruptcy due to catastrophic medical emergency. They haven't got that right in awful places like France and the United Kingdom, probably because they hate our freedom.

As if that weren't enough, they're going to take the right of pharma companies to charge many times what they do everywhere else in the world. Americans will be able to buy insulin, epi-pens, and who knows what else without taking out second mortgages. Socialist bastards.

Then they want everyone to have housing and a job. How is that fair? Who's gonna buy loosies at the bodega once that happens? Not only that, but Fox somehow missed the fact that the socialists want to raise the minimum wage and make sure everyone makes enough to, you know, live. How the hell is business supposed to flourish in an environment like that, even though it manages to do so in just about every country in Europe?

Of course, they're coming for our guns, just because a few schools got shot up. And no, they don't want to arm teachers to dissuade the miscreants or mentally ill, the ones who Trump now says he wants to keep guns away from, after moving to make it easier for mentally ill people to get them. If we let the socialists take over, who's going to fight for the right for mentally ill people to have guns, while concurrently paying valuable lip service to opposing their having guns? Answer me that, socialists.

Then you move down the list, and they want to end private prisons. How the hell are people going to profit off the misery of others if we do that? Then the government will be back in the prison business, giving health care to sick prisoners whether it's cost-effective or not. They'll have to serve prisoners real food instead of whatever they're getting now, and that will cut into the profit margin. How's anyone supposed to make a buck when we run things like that?

They want to abolish ICE and stop terrorizing immigrants who are trying to work. Just yesterday, there was  a raid and ICE rounded up hundreds of undocumented immigrants. So what if they separated a mother from her children? The law is the law, and we ought not to bend if for anyone, no matter how cruelly we wield it. Unless, of course, it's someone important like President Donald Trump, blatantly profiting and pouring federal money into his own businesses. Or foreign nationals interfering with our election, if they're doing it the right way.

Solidarity with Puerto Rico? Please. Didn't we already throw them those paper towels? Mobilizing against climate change? Does that mean we aren't gonna use coal anymore? How do they expect us to heat NYC schools? Let's put coal furnaces in every school in the country, and send our children down to the mines to support America.

Another outrage is clean campaign finance. How's someone like Michael Bloomberg supposed to buy elections anymore? How's a self-respecting billionaire supposed to buy an exemption to term limits, one-time only for himself and his cronies, just to extend his grip on power, a grip he'd bought fair and square? How will billionaires like Bloomberg be able to defy the twice-voiced will of the people via ballot? And what is this higher education for all? You mean everyone will have access to college, even people who can't scrape together the cash for exorbitant tuition?

And then there are those women's rights. This is an old, old story, and the socialists have been pressuring us to give women rights ever since suffrage. Women have already brought down great American heroes like Roger Ailes and Bill O' Reilly, and who's gonna be left on Fox to give us the no-spin zone if we keep doing this? Also, if we pay women as much as men, then what will we have to brag to women about?

And it's not only women those bastard socialists want us to support. We have to support LGBTQA, which means people will get to use any bathroom they want! Do you let people use any bathroom they want in your house? Can you imagine the consequences of such nonsense? And then they want us to support seniors.

Finally, they want us to curb Wall St. gambling. What's up with that? It's the American way. And what's the risk? The fact is, if they screw up on Wall St., we have the entire American treasury at their disposal to bail them out. Everyone knows they're too big to fail. If we fritter away our money paying for health care for ordinary Americans, making sure people have jobs and college, how are we going to help banks when they screw up by gambling all their money on bad deals?

Those damn socialists must be stopped at any cost.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Orange Is the New Black Takes on Immigration

I was pretty surprised to see the last season of this Netflix show to focus on Trump's horrific treatment of newcomers. The series managed to put human faces on something we usually just read about. It began when several inmates were fortunate enough to get early release, only to be immediately intercepted by ICE.

One of the first things you notice is that ICE detainees have fewer rights than prisoners. No one wants to work in their kitchen because, unlike prisoners, the detainees aren't paid. Their access to phones is limited as well, Whereas we frequently see collect calls going out from the prison, the ICE detainees need to buy phone cards, and that's only possible when the vending machine works.

When are they going to be released? Five to seven? No one knows. Whenever the so-called wheels of justice are ready to move. We see babies going to trial. We see young children without lawyers, without awareness of what's even going on around them facing judges. How these judges mange to sleep at night is a mystery. 

It's one thing, in my view at least, to deport dangerous criminals. It's quite another to break up families because one or more members aren't documented. In the show, a boyfriend goes to visit a detainee, ICE surreptitiously checks his credentials as he visits, and when they deem them lacking they send the guy back to Honduras. So the woman in prison loses one more all too precious means of support.

You also get a look into private prisons, always focused on the profit motive. Hey, let's close the psych ward because it's costing us too much money. We'll simply drug them. Let's take a look at which drugs get us volume discounts, and that's what we'll use. Is it good for the patients? It doesn't remotely matter as long as it's good for the bottom line.

Let's expand. We'll build an ICE holding facility. We'll collect by the day for each person we hold on to. In the show, they get like $150 per day per person. That's a pretty good profit when you simply run a dormitory where people are literally on top of one another. I'm not sure when they wrote this show, or where they did their research, but it actually costs around $775 a day to keep immigrants in detention. For that price, we could put them all up at the Hilton and let them eat room service. It's kind of remarkable that Trump, who passes himself off as an astute businessman because he stiffs everyone who works for him, would agree to such outrageous price-gouging. Of course it isn't his money, and who knows if he even pays taxes, so why the hell should he care?

This is the kind of system that spreads corruption like a virus. Of course the employees of the privatized prison are underqualified, probably so they can be underpaid, and need to find other ways to supplement their income. They could drive Ubers after work, but with a thriving market for drugs inside the actual prison, why bother? I suppose ICE employees are better paid, but they're on a mission. Their mission seems to preclude actual concern for their fellow humans, so they're treated with the same contempt that emanates from the mouth of Donald Trump.

We see the story of a young woman cruelly separated from her young children. She's very smart, and works like hell to fight the machine that's crushing her, but the odds are way against her. The theme of unfairness pervades the show, and hits not only immigrants, but also those caught in the penal system. We also see how prisoners are tossed aside and subject to all sorts of nonsense that makes returning as productive citizens challenging, to say the least.

I'm going to Texas in a week to actually see what these places are like, and I'm sure I'll be writing about it right here. Meanwhile, if you want to see how Donald Trump's anti-immigrant machine treats humans it finds inconvenient, I highly recommend this show. If you're a teacher with a few days available for binge-watching, this is more than worth your time.

It's not all bad. There are stories of redemption, of growth, of inspiration. There is some great acting. You're left, though, with a portrait of a heavily flawed system, one that rewards corruption, and profits handsomely off human misery. You're left with a clarion call that it's high time for a change. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Lesser of Two Evils

I spend a lot of time walking my dog. In fact, with summer, when I'm not working it's become my primary occupation. As it happens, my dog is a lot more charming and friendly than I'll ever be. Thus, I've met a whole lot more people walking my dog than I would have if I'd been alone.

One of my dog-walking buddies is a young man who works as a security guard. He's got this big dog named Roxie. She's on the older side, but she's one of very few large dogs my dog likes. They usually freak him out.

The other day the young man started lecturing me about politics. His father is a lifelong Republican, but has dropped out because he hates Trump. My friend says he's a committed independent because both parties suck. I agree with him, to a great extent, but I've maintained my registration as a Democrat so I can vote in the primaries.

He said voter suppression is a huge issue, and I agree. If you watch this film, it will give you chapter and verse on the GOP's unconscionable voter suppression tactics. My friend agreed that was happening, but said it was just the tip of the iceberg. I was doubtful he'd be able to back that up.

What he said, actually was, "Well, if they give you a choice between mud and shit, which do you choose?" This brought me back to 2016, where I eventually voted for Hillary against Trump, despite having enormous reservations. In fact, I tried to swap out my meaningless NY State Hillary vote with a PA blogger who went for Stein, but he wasn't having it. Well, I tried.

Still, wouldn't it be better if we could go out and vote for someone? Wouldn't it be great to vote for someone who actually inspired us? Hillary's best calling card was being not Trump. That, of course, is a great quality, a quality I very much want in our next President.

Biden is running way ahead of his rivals right now, despite debate performances that are lackluster at best. Kamala Harris hit him with some of his history and he didn't fare well with his response. In round 2, everyone seemed to gang up on him. While he didn't respond particularly well, he wasn't as abysmal as expected, and pundits called that a win.

Biden's got other weaknesses, though, including some questionable dealings from his family. While Rudy Giuliani looked so ridiculous and unethical investigating Hunter Biden that he had to back away, there's a 100% chance that someone else will go do Rudy's dirty work for him. I would hate to see that happen while Biden is head to head against Trump. Ethics seem to mean nothing to Trump or his voters, who overlook payments to porn stars and outrageous behavior and comments toward women.

The discussion on bankruptcy is going to be very difficult for Biden, particularly if he finally goes head to head with Elizabeth Warren. Warren has long stood for struggling Americans against credit card companies, Hillary Clinton was a far better speaker and debater on her worst day than Biden will be on his best, and the story didn't do her any good either. It's pretty clear whose side "middle class Joe" took when it came to credit card companies vs. consumers, and it's going to look bad if someone challenges him on it. He will not fare well if Warren or Bernie hits him, and perish forbid we wait until he's one to one with Trump.

Now it's true that Biden's state, Delaware, holds a whole lot of players in banking. Nonetheless, bankers are not precisely the populous. Biden has a PAC with no reservations about taking money from special interests. He's pulling in a whole lot of cash, but not from small contributors like Bernie is.

Now I like Bernie, but I'm not Bernie or bust. However, Bernie inspires people. That's his draw. Other candidates do the same, albeit to a lesser extent. I don't think anyone is jumping up and down waiting to vote for Biden. As of now, I'll vote for him against Trump if I have to. However, I won't do it with any particular enthusiasm. I don't have high expectations that Biden will address the ongoing issues that plague the middle-class Americans for whom he purports to speak.

Make no mistake, Trump is President because a whole lot of Americans who voted for Obama didn't get off their asses and vote. We can't let that happen again. Americans need someone to vote for, not only a demagogue to oppose. It's painfully challenging to imagine that candidate is Joseph Biden, whose best years, now past him, were not that great. Think of what Biden did to Anita Hill. You'll then envision maybe 5% of what Donald Trump and Fox will do to Biden.

Americans need someone they can support, someone who stands for what we do. Voting against Trump, repulsive though he is, is simply not good enough. 

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Trump Supporters Are Tired of Being Called Racist

I don't blame them. It's no fun to be called racist. Who likes it when people call you derogatory names? Who revels in personal abuse? I don't know anyone who likes it. I've been called names since I was a little kid and I've never really liked it. I don't like it now. Now, though, I can look at who's saying it and why and decide exactly how or why it's right or wrong. You need to reach a certain point before you can do that.

I've also learned a lot by being a teacher of ELLs. My students come from different places. They speak different languages. And every day they disprove stereotypes, be they good, bad, or otherwise. I once had a very smart young man in my class. He was horrified because every time there was a test, he'd do well but a young woman would do better. He had a very strong notion that people from her country were not as smart as people from his. Yet she outperformed him by every measure. I hope he learned something. You never know, though. Some people still wallow in stereotypes.

Here's Donald Trump Jr., for example, as quoted in the article:

“It’s sad,” he continued, “that using ‘racism’ has become the easy button of left-wing politics. All right? Because guess what? It still is an issue … But by making a mockery of it by saying every time you can’t win a fight—‘Oh! We’re just gonna push the button! It’s racist’—you hurt those that are actually afflicted by it. People hear it, they roll their eyes, and they walk on. And that’s a disgrace, and that’s what you’ve been given in the identity politics of the left.”

It's "the left." It's what they do. And they're all the same, evidently. So I must do it too. Every time there's an issue I can't win, evidently, I call someone a racist. That's how simple my mind must be. I'm incapable of producing any other argument when I'm losing, according to Junior, so I push "the easy button." It's pretty easy to define huge swaths of people when you indulge in stereotypes. But guess what people who indulge stereotypes are more likely to be? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say racist.

Then you have the President of the United States, Donald Trump. You know, the guy who thinks four Congresswomen of color should go back where they came from. The fact that three of four of them were born here is neither here nor there. That his BFFs provide over an electoral system that systematically disenfranchises voters of color means nothing. The guy who talks about shithole countries, who makes jokes about murdering immigrants, who stereotypes immigrants as rapists, gang members and murderers. The guy who wants to enact a Muslim ban, despite the fact that most domestic terrorism is committed by white men. The guy who vilifies the city of a Congressman of color for the egregious offense of investigating Donald Trump.

What exactly is it that makes people idolize a pathological liar? Why would people look up to anyone who took credit for everything and responsibility for nothing? How does anyone overlook a failure to have grown up? Do we want our children to be like that?

The only answer I can come up with is that Trump represents something people like. He represents saying whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. He has no self-control, no education, and he ended up President of the United States. Maybe, then, we can all do whatever we want too. Here are a few words from a Trump supporter who doesn't like being called a racist:

When I asked Roseanna and Amy whether they would join in a “Send her back!” chant were it to take place that night, both women said no, but out of deference to Trump. “He apologized for that, so I think us as Trump supporters will respect him for that,” Roseanna said. She then shared her thoughts on the chant’s target, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who came to America as a refugee from Somalia.
“Look, but she is gonna get—you know, I don’t want her stinkin’ Muslim crap in my country,” Roseanna said.
Maybe she likes feeling like white people are better than Muslims, or Somalians, or people of color, or whatever it is. Therefore she's a racist. Certainly not everyone who supports Trump and objects to being called racist makes such idiotic utterances. Nonetheless, it's getting harder and harder for me to understand how people can continue to support Trump without endorsing his overt racism.

In any case, I have a small suggestion for people who are tired of being called racist. Maybe you should stop supporting this President. Maybe you should stop bending over backwards to rationalize each and every despicable thing he tweets and says. Maybe you should reassess exactly what, "Make America great again" implies.

Most of all, if you don't want to be called racist, stop being a frigging racist. Start to actively oppose racism. Stop looking the other way when lunatics, empowered by the insane rhetoric of Donald Trump, shoot up public places targeting people of color. It's gonna take a whole lot more than thoughts and prayers.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Tales from the Half Room

It's interesting to read about how there's still lead paint in 900 classrooms. Of course, that's ridiculous and disgraceful in 2019. I don't think a lot of people understand what city schools are really like. When did we get rid of the last coal furnace? Aren't we still burning oil that's unhealthy, oil that you wouldn't have in your home?

I work in one of the very best schools in the city. If I'm not mistaken, we're the most-requested school as well. (This, of course, is because we have the smartest and best-looking ESL teachers.) That has a good side and bad. While I'd send my own kid there, it's the most overcrowded school I know of. The facility could certainly be cleaner. It used to be, in fact. I believe we now have a reduced custodial staff, and that explains part of it.

A by-product of being the most overcrowded school in the city is that few, if any, of us have our own classrooms. Another is, in administration's zeal to create new space, they create classrooms that are inadequate. For me, the half classrooms are awful. I requested the trailers for 12 years to avoid them. My supervisor took me out one year when I told her I'd spend the rest of my career there. She has this perverse streak of needing to prove me wrong when I make pessimistic or cynical statements. Nonetheless, three years later I was back where I never wanted to be again.

This time, we had tables. Kids sat four to a table. That's good as far as Danielson goes. Kids tend to chat with one another. It also can provide opportunities for them to practice English, assuming I can seat them cleverly enough. But it makes testing a challenge. To face that challenge, my supervisor bought big cardboard dividers.  They aren't perfect, but they reduce the challenge of having cheating as a veritable national pastime.

The message above comes from a custodial employee tasked with cleaning that half classroom. It was the second such message I'd seen. The first, I erased. I'm not subordinate to custodians, and my students aren't either. I don't think my students left a whole lot of garbage lying around, and I have no idea what went on with the three of four teachers who followed me.

This custodian bemoaned the chocolate milk that spilled on the floor. He said he needed to throw out all my dividers because they were covered with it. However, in order to fulfill his promise that we would be overrun by vermin, he did not bother cleaning the chocolate milk on the floor. I ran down to the principal's office at 7 AM screaming bloody murder. I had, in fact, a quiz planned for that morning, and without the dividers I was screwed. The principal was very accommodating, locating other dividers for me.

I tell my students to throw away their garbage, always, and if they don't, there are consequences. But every teacher has seen a message like this from someone. Maybe there's a sign in the bathroom saying you abused the paper towels so you won't be getting any more. Maybe there's a note, as condescending as this one, bemoaning the condition in which you left something. Maybe there are thousands of other people who resent having to do their jobs, and don't understand if kids stopped making messes, no one would need to hire them to clean up after them.

This is a small picture of the mountain of absurdities that every teacher climbs each and every day. Our students are right there, forging that mountain with us. Bill de Blasio runs around the country asking to be President, but he's barely lifted a finger to address it.

I'm not at all surprised we still have 900 classrooms with lead paint. What would surprise me would be if anyone at City Hall had the remotest notion of the nonsense we plow our way through each and every day of our working lives.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Watching the Debates

For two nights I've dutifully watched the Democratic debates. I'm lucky to have a dog who will hang with me. My friend has two, and she told me both walked out on her while she sat there.

It was a pretty painful process, particularly during the second night. Joe Biden, the frontrunner, performed better last night than he did last month. It would've been difficult for him not to do that. Last month, he seemed to phone it in. He didn't care if he got cut off. It wasn't important for him to speak. He seemed like he wanted to get this thing over with so he could go home and watch TV.

This time, presumably after his staff told him just how badly he did last time, Joe tried to defend himself, and behaved as though he cared about what he was doing. I believe last night we saw him at his best. While it was a whole lot better than last month, it isn't good enough. He seems not to have read his own health plan. CNN says Harris is right. There's a hole in Joe's bucket, resulting in ten million uncovered Americans, and it kind of behooves him to know about it.

Biden seems not to be a bad guy, but this year he's a stand-in for Hillary, who failed to mobilize enough voters to stop Trump. Trump is now the incumbent, as opposed to a punch line. We need someone stronger than Biden. We need someone who will inspire the American people to get up off their asses and go to the polls. This is particularly true because Moscow Mitch and his goons are not going to do jack squat to improve voting accuracy or fight manipulation. In Florida the Trump-supporting governor and his pals have very cutely blocked a measure approved directly by voters to restore voting rights to felons.

It's discouraging to hear people like Warren and Sanders dismissed as far left. What exactly does it mean to be far left? In 2019, it means you support health care for all Americans. It means you want college to be affordable to all. It means you no longer want Americans to go bankrupt due to catastrophic medical emergency. It means you don't want young people entering the workforce with crushing student debt, and you no longer want them contemplating or committing suicide over it before their young lives even begin. It means you want Americans to have a living wage and the right to form union, as opposed to ineffectual rules that Walmart can easily sidestep. What a horror.

Of course, we've got Fox News and the GOP protecting us against any and all of the above, which they refer to as "socialism." There's a great limited series on Sbowtime called The Loudest Voice, which shows Roger Ailes forming Fox and gives you a great view of the thought process behind it. It's a very effective noise machine that's got a good portion of the country eating propaganda as though it were popcorn. You too can be part of the club to save America from the horrors of the "socialism" enumerated above. Better, evidently, to direct our money toward huge tax cuts for those who least need them.

I can't stand Cory Booker. His education positions are abhorrent, identical to those of Betsy DeVos, but last night he acquitted himself well, placing a human veneer over his corporate soul. Others whose numbers are as poor as his shined as well. I'm thinking of Insleee and Gillebrand. Gillebrand attacked Biden for his opposition to a tax credit for child care, which Biden claimed subsidized the  deterioration of the family. I haven't got a link, but there's an image of the piece that I've posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Kamala Harris was not as sharp as she was last time. Tulsi Gabbard bought herself some attention by attacking Harris's prosecutorial record, and the CNN hosts repeatedly pointed to Gabbard as the only person on the stage who'd served in the military, eliciting her opinion on this or that.  Harris needs to be a little sharper next time. I'm pretty sure she will. Someone is going to need to eviscerate Donald Trump in front of America. I'm not sure who that person will be, but I hope it isn't Biden. I don't think he's up for the task.

There were also a few candidates trotting out Hillary's old canard that we can't subsidize college because then gazillionaires would use it. That's ridiculous. For one thing, as long as there are gazillionaires, and as long as there is an Ivy League, the elite will patronize the elite. For another, it's like saying we need to keep rich people out of public K-12. The fact is a whole lot of them keep their kids out. That's why we've got a separate and unequal system of private schools. Do you think we'd have oversized classes if Mike Bloomberg had to send his kids to public schools? I don't.

It's important we trim the herd somehow. It's ridiculous to imagine we'll get substantive debates when we present the nation with a veritable clown car.

I don't think Trump would fare well against Warren, Sanders or Harris. There may be others, but they've yet to show themselves capable of much more than sound bytes. The election is a long way from now, but we still need at least half of these candidates to go away and stop wasting our time.