North Carolina’s Playbook to Dismantle Public Education

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth exploring.

Specifically, the last five year period in North Carolina has been a calculated attempt at undermining public schools with over twenty different actions that have been deliberately crafted and executed along three different fronts: actions against teachers, actions against public schools, and actions to deceive the public.

Actions Against Teachers

  1. Teacher Pay – A recent WRAL report and documentary highlighted that in NC, teacher pay has dropped 13% in the past 15 years when adjusted for inflation (http://www.wral.com/after-inflation-nc-teacher-pay-has-dropped-13-in-past-15-years/15624302/). That is astounding when one considers that we are supposedly rebounding from the Great Recession. Yes, this 15 year period started with democrats in place, but it has been exacerbated by GOP control. Salary schedules were frozen and then revamped to isolate raises to increments of five+ years. As surrounding states have continued to increase pay for teachers, NC has stagnated into the bottom tier in regards to teacher pay.
  2. Removal of due-process rights – One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Thanks to NCAE, the courts decided that it would be a breach of contract for veteran teachers who had already obtained career-status. But that did not cover newer teachers who will not have the chance to gain career status and receive due process rights.

What gets lost in the conversation with the public is that due-process rights are a protective measure for students and schools. Teachers need to know that they can speak up against harsh conditions or bad policies without repercussions. Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.

  1. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. It also cripples graduate programs in the state university system because obtaining a graduate degree for new teachers would place not only more debt on teachers, but there is no monetary reward to actually getting it.
  2. The Top 25% to receive bonus – One measure that was eventually taken off the table was that each district was to choose 25% of its teachers to be eligible to receive a bonus if they were willing to give up their career status which is commonly known as tenure. Simply put, it was hush money to keep veteran teachers from speaking out when schools and students needed it. To remove “tenure” is to remove the ability for a teacher to fight wrongful termination. In a Right-To-Work state, due process rights are the only protection against wrongful termination when teachers advocate for schools, like the teacher who is writing this very piece.
  3. Standard 6 – In North Carolina, we have a teacher evaluation system that has an unproven record of accurately measuring a teacher’s effectiveness. The amorphous Standard 6 for many teachers includes a VAM called Assessment of Student Work.

I personally teach multiple sections of AP English Language and Composition and am subject to the Assessment of Student Work (ASW). I go through a process in which I submit student samples that must prove whether those students are showing ample growth.

In June of 2015, I uploaded my documents in the state’s system and had to wait until November to get results. The less than specific comments from the unknown assessor(s) were contradictory at best. They included:

Alignment

Al 1 The evidence does not align to the chosen objective.

Al 4 All of the Timelapse Artifacts in this Evidence Collection align to the chosen objectives.

Growth

Gr 1 Student growth is apparent in all Timelapse Artifacts.

Gr 2 Student growth is apparent between two points in time.

Gr 3 Student growth is not apparent between two points in time.

Gr 4 Student growth samples show achievement but not growth.

Gr 9 Evidence is clear/easily accessible

Gr 10 Evidence is not clear/not easily accessible

Narrative Context

NC 1 Narrative Context addresses all of the key questions and supports understanding of the evidence.

NC 4 Narrative Context does not address one or more of the key questions.

 

And these comments did not correspond to any specific part of my submission. In fact, I am more confused about the process than ever before. It took over five months for someone who may not have one-fifth of my experience in the classroom to communicate this to me. If this is supposed to supply me with the tools to help guide my future teaching, then I would have to say that this would be highly insufficient, maybe even “unbest.”

  1. Push for Merit Pay – The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. That is antithetical to the premise of public education. Not only does it force teachers to work against each other, it fosters an atmosphere of exclusivity and disrespect. What could be more detrimental to our students?

Those legislators who push for merit pay do not see effective public schools as collaborative communities, but as buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick.

  1. “Average” Raises – In the long session of 2014, the NC General Assembly raised salaries for teachers in certain experience brackets that allowed them to say that an “average” salary for teachers was increased by over 7%. They called it a “historic raise.” However, if you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably amount to about $270 per teacher.

That historic raise was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees in North Carolina — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise. That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift.

  1. Health Insurance and Benefits – Simply put, health benefits are requiring more out-of-pocket expenditures, higher deductibles, and fewer benefits. There is also talk of pushing legislation that will take away retirement health benefits for those who enter the profession now.

 

 

  1. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) – Seen as a union and therefore must be destroyed, the North Carolina Association of Educators has been incredibly instrumental in bringing unconstitutional legislation to light and carrying out legal battles to help public schools. In the last few years, the automatic deduction of paychecks to pay dues to NCAE was disallowed by the General Assembly, creating a logistical hurdle for people and the NCAE to properly transfer funds for membership.
  2. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – Like other states, we have too many. In my years as a North Carolina teacher (1997-1999, 2005-2015), I have endured the Standard Course of Study, the NC ABC’s, AYP’s, and Common Core. Each initiative has been replaced by a supposedly better curricular path that allegedly makes all previous curriculum standards inferior and obsolete. And with each of these initiatives comes new tests that are graded differently than previous ones and are “converted” into data points to rank student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Such a revolving door makes the ability to measure data historically absolutely ridiculous.

Actions Against Schools

  1. Less Money Spent per Pupil – The argument that Gov. McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly have made repeatedly is that they are spending more on public education now than ever before. And they are correct. We do spend more total money now than before the recession hit. But that is a simplified and spun claim because North Carolina has had a tremendous population increase and the need to educate more students.

Let me use an analogy. Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2015, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to Raleigh’s claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23percent.

  1. Remove Caps on Class Sizes – There is a suggested formula in allotting teachers to schools based on the number of students per class, but that cap was removed. House Bill 112 allowed the state to remove class size requirements while still allowing monies from the state to be allocated based on the suggested formula.

Some districts have taken to move away from the 6/7 period day to block scheduling. Take my own district for example, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools. When I started ten years ago, I taught five classes with a cap of 30 students. With the block system in place, I now teach six classes in a school year with no cap. The math is simple: more students per teacher.

  1. Amorphous Terms – North Carolina uses a lot of amorphous terms like “student test scores”, “student achievement”, and “graduation rates”, all of which are amongf the most nebulous terms in public education today.

When speaking of “test scores”, we need to agree about which test scores we are referring to and if they have relevance to the actual curriculum. Since the early 2000’s we have endured No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top initiatives that have flooded our public schools with mandatory testing that never really precisely showed how “students achieved.” It almost boggles the mind to see how much instructional time is lost just administering local tests to see how students may perform on state tests that may be declared invalid with new education initiatives. Even as I write, most states are debating on how they may or may not leave behind the Common Core Standards and replace them with their own. Know what that means? Yep. More tests.

“Graduation rate” might be one of the most constantly redefined terms in public schools. Does it mean how many students graduate in four years? Five years? At least finish a GED program or a diploma in a community college? Actually, it depends on whom you ask and when you ask. But with the NC State Board of Education’s decision to go to a ten-point grading scale in all high schools instead of the seven-point scale used in many districts, the odds of students passing courses dramatically increased because the bar to pass was set lower.

  1. Jeb Bush School Grading System – This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement. What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help — not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health-care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact that lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.
  2. Cutting Teacher Assistants – Sen. Tom Apodaca said when this legislation was introduced, “We always believe that having a classroom teacher in a classroom is the most important thing we can do. Reducing class sizes, we feel, will give us better results for the students.” The irony in this statement is glaring. Fewer teacher assistants for early grades especially limit what can be accomplished when teachers are facing more cuts in resources and more students in each classroom.

 

Actions To Deceive The Public

  1. Opportunity Grants – Opportunity Grant legislation is like the trophy in the case for the GOP establishment in Raleigh. It is a symbol of “their” commitment to school choice for low-income families. But that claim is nothing but a red-herring.

Simply put, it is a voucher system that actually leaves low-income families without many choices because most private schools which have good track records have too-high tuition rates and do not bus students. Furthermore, the number of private schools receiving monies from the Opportunity Grants who identify themselves as religiously affiliated is well over 80 percent according to the NC State Educational Assistance Authority. Those religious schools are not tested the way public schools are and do not have the oversight that public schools have. Furthermore, it allows tax dollars to go to entities that already receive monetary benefits because they are tax free churches.

  1. Charter Schools – Charter school growth in North Carolina has been aided by the fact that many of the legislators who have created a favorable environment for charter benefit somehow, someway from them. Many charters abuse the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and simply do not benefit students.

Especially in rural areas, uncontrolled charter school growth has been detrimental to local public schools. When small school districts lose numbers of students to charter schools, they also lose the ability to petition for adequate funds in the system that NC uses to finance schools ; the financial impact can be overwhelming. In Haywood County, Central Elementary School was closed because of enrollment loss to a charter school that is now on a list to be recommended for closing.

  1. Virtual Schools – There are two virtual academies in NC. Both are run by for-profit entities based out of state. While this approach may work for some students who need such avenues, the withdrawal rates of students in privately-run virtual schools in NC are staggering according to the Department of Public Instruction.
  2. Achievement School Districts – Teach For America Alumnus Rep. Rob Bryan has crafted a piece of legislation that has been rammed through the General Assembly which will create ASD’s in NC. Most egregious is that it was crafted secretly. Rather than having a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources, Rep. Bryan chose to surreptitiously strategize and plan a takeover of schools. ASD’s have not worked in Tennessee. They will not work in North Carolina except for those who make money from them.
  3. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – At last report, teaching candidate percentages in undergraduate programs in the UNC system has fallen by over 30% in the last five years. This is just an indication of the damage done to secure a future generation of teachers here in North Carolina.
  4. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Once regarded as a model to recruit the best and brightest to become teachers and stay in North Carolina was abolished because of “cost”.

Overall, this has been North Carolina’s playbook. And those in power in Raleigh have used it effectively. However, there are some outcomes that do bode well for public school advocates for now and the future.

  • Teachers are beginning to “stay and fight” rather than find other employment.
  • NCAE has been able to win many decisions in the court system.
  • North Carolina is in the middle of a huge election year and teachers as well as public school advocates will surely vote.
  • The national spotlight placed on North Carolina in response to the voter-ID laws and HB2 are only adding pressure to the powers that be to reconsider what they have done.
  • Veteran teachers who still have due-process rights are using them to advocate for schools.

I only hope that the game changes so that a playbook for returning our public schools back to the public will be implemented.

 

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School

He’s Back! Open Letter to Sen. David Curtis – Why do you not support public schools?

Many of you remember from 2014 a letter that Sen. David Curtis wrote to a young teacher that admonished her for even asking politicians to help public education. I wrote him back. You can revisit that exchange here if you would like – https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

He’s back. Better than ever. So…

I wrote him again. As pen pals do.

 

Dear Sen. Curtis,

I have written to you in the past regarding your actions and statements concerning public education here in North Carolina.

In May of 2014 you wrote your infamous open missive to a teacher named Sarah Wiles in which you attempted to shame her for even asking politicians like yourself to help advocate more for teachers. In that letter, you perpetuated many egregious myths surrounding the teaching profession circulating in the General Assembly such as the “two-month vacation,” the “low cost of living in North Carolina” offsetting the low salary, and the evil “teacher union” prevalent in our state. That particular exchange (your letter and my reply) can be found here – https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

Almost a year later you helped sponsor legislation that according to a report from Julie Ball, the education reporter from the Citizen-Times in Asheville, would “shift the cost of remediation classes at community colleges to the counties where the students who need them graduated from high school.” When asked about the idea of the proposed bill, you replied, “If they (students) graduate from high school, I think we as taxpayers have a right to think they are prepared to do college level work” (http://www.13newsnow.com/story/news/local/north-carolina/2015/04/01/if-students-cant-do-college-work-nc-counties-would-pay/70764104/).

And now we have another example of your consistent barrage against public schools and those who teach in them.

This month the Lincoln Times-News reported that the local school system will have to cut over 30 teachers and 8 teacher assistants from next year’s budget (“School system to lay off 34 teachers”). As recounted by staff writer Adam Lawson, Lincoln County Schools have seen “a reduction of $3.7 million in state educational funding since 2008,” as well as a “decrease in K-12 enrollment, despite a steady rise in approved residential developments on the eastern end of the county.”

Senator Curtis, this county is in your district. And this reduction of funds has occurred mostly on your watch. But considering that your allegiance to public schools has been flaky at best, it is not surprising that your lack of supporting public schools has been a hallmark of your tenure in office.

In fact, that very lack of support for the public schools in your district corresponds to the growing number of public displays of affection for the profit-minded charter school industry that continues to compromise the very schools you are constitutionally bound to protect.

In the Oct. 6, 2013 issue of  the Mooresville Tribune, Jessica Osbourne reported on the opening of Langtree Charter Academy where you joined “guests speakers including Dave Ferguson, chairman of the North Carolina Charter Education Foundation Board; Jonathan Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA.” That’s the same Jonathan Hage who has poured money into the campaigns for elected officials who work on behalf of for-profit charter schools that take away state money to fund privately-run and selective charter schools, the same money that is helping contribute to the reduction of funds for the school system you supposedly represent.

One just needs to look at his profile on www.followthemoney.org to see that Hage has a lot of interests in North Carolina. It reveals contributions to Gov. Pat McCrory, Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Jason Saine, and another enabler of charter schools in the General Assembly, Sen. Jerry Tillman.

While hobnobbing with Mr. Hage at the Langtree celebration, you were quoted as saying,

“Parents should be able to decide where their children go to school and not forced to attend a district because of where they live. My next concern is about money. I don’t understand the difference in how a charter school can do a great job on what little money they get, but public schools are still struggling to get by when they receive much more money. I’ll be working on legislation more with that.”

You specifically stated that you would introduce legislation to take money from public schools to help finance a private industry with tax payer money that will only “benefit” a few students. And why are those schools struggling? The reason is because you have helped push through legislation that weakens public schools in North Carolina. Furthermore, the standards by which charter schools are measured are not the same as public schools have. What would really be the strength of charter schools if they had to take all of the same local, state, and national assessments public school did and had to educate every student who walked into the doors?

Your voting record according to www.votesmart.org is a long list of partisan kowtowing to the GOP establishment in Raleigh. Whatever people like Sen. Berger, now Sen. Tillis, Rep. Moore, and Sen. Tillman have proposed for the public schools and the charter schools, you have simply echoed with your votes.

You have voted to eliminate due process rights for educators as well as professional development opportunities, teacher academies, longevity pay and salary increases for advanced degrees. You have eliminated spaces for students in pre-k classrooms, teacher assistant positions, and class size caps. You have created obstacles for textbook funding and digital rollout efforts.

You have voted to extend vouchers which take away resources and money from traditional public schools. You supported a nonsensical A-F grading system of public schools as well as helped eliminate caps on the number of charter schools in North Carolina. You even helped to outsource virtual high schools to companies outside of North Carolina.

And you want to blame public schools for not doing an adequate job?

Furthermore, you voted for HB2, which actually discriminates against some of the very people you claim to represent.

Your growing disdain for public schools has even prompted your own party members to endorse other candidates for your seat. Adam Lawson in a report entitled “School board member Cathy Davis endorses Carney for state senate” related a statement by Ms. Davis that seems to sum up your commitment to public education. She said,

“I’ll just go on record as saying I’ve been gravely disappointed in his (Sen. Curtis) lack of support and understanding of public education. I think it’s been evident during his tenure that he’s been more supportive of charter schools, and that’s fine as long as we’re not taking away from the public school system. I’m going to be voting for Chris Carney.”

Senator Curtis, you seem to have been taking away from the public school system in an attempt to weaken them to create a climate that allows for-profit charter schools to embed themselves in our state. This is totally antithetical to your role as a member of the Appropriations on Education/Higher Education Committee and a co-chair of the Education/Higher Education Committee in North Carolina. You are supposed to protect public schools and their roles in communities like Lincoln County.

Simply put, you are harming many students’ ability to access a good education when you allow schools like those in your district to lose teachers and resources because of underfunding and a blind allegiance to a for-profit charter industry.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School

What McCrory sent a friend of mine. Take a look.

A colleague of mine received the following entreaty from the governor today. I thought it worth posting and looking at.

Here it is.

 

pat

What can I say? Only that I’m deeply disappointed by what the ACLU, Roy Cooper and President Obama have done to force schools to allow boys and girls to share restrooms and locker rooms. That’s essentially what happened when a federal court ruled in their favor over North Carolina children and families.

Is there any common sense left in this country?

I need you now more than ever. With this latest court ruling, the special interests will only be emboldened and who knows where they will stop. Add your name and fight back against these left-wing groups!

Pat

contribute

 

SO…

I came up with one to send back to McCrory.

 

people

 

 

 

 

What can we say? Only that we are really deeply disappointed that you do not listen to the ACLU, Roy Cooper, (notice the Oxford comma) and President Obama. You can in no  way defend the merits of HB2 by claiming it would allow boys and girls to share restrooms and locker rooms. That’s not even close to essentially what happened when a federal court ruled in favor of a transgender student in Virginia. HB2 is in no way protecting North Carolina children and families. Actually, it is harming them. Furthermore, Roy Cooper, President Obama, and staff at the ACLU have law degrees. You don’t.

Is there any common sense left in your cranium?

We need you to actually do your job. With this latest court ruling, the GOP powers in the General Assembly will only dig in further and become more obstinate and who knows when they will come to their senses. Repeal this piece of legislation before it gets overturned in the courts and costs us taxpayers millions in defending it because of your ego. That’s common sense.

Us

 

repeal

Open Letter to Sen. Buck Newton – Damn Straight!

Dear Sen. Newton,

I read with great disappointment reports of your anti-gay sentiments at a pro-HB2 rally in Raleigh on April 26th.

According to an Associated Press release in the Winston-Salem Journal you were quoted as inciting a crowd with the following words: “Tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight.”

As the Republican nominee for Attorney General of North Carolina, it seems odd that you would say statements that contradict the very national and state constitutions that you would vow to protect if elected and claim to abide by now as a lawyer and public servant.

In case you forgot in your passionate defense of an unlawful piece of legislature, citizens are considered equal in the eyes of the law whether they are straight, gay, or transgender.

You should best know that your words were discriminatory. In fact, they could be considered homophobic.

As an elected official from District 11, your duty is to all of the citizens who either voted for you, against you, or refrained from voting in the past three elections for your seat. For that matter, you are accountable to all North Carolinians no matter their orientation, creed, race, or religion. That’s because you hold a state office and are seeking another.

Would you say that you only served the “straight” people in your district? Would you say that you would only serve the “straight” people of North Carolina? Do you as a potential Attorney General of North Carolina really view HB2 as a constitutionally sound law? Do you not see the recent ruling in Virginia concerning a transgender teen as a sign of the demise of HB2? These are not rhetorical questions. They deserve an answer, one that is not clouded with campaign talk and vitriolic rhetoric.

A viable candidate for Attorney General does not run on a platform that is discriminatory. That is antithetical to the very principles of equality in the eyes of the law.

I myself am a government employee, a traditional public high school teacher to be exact. No matter who walks into my classroom, no matter who is on my roll or asks me for support with their academics, I am bound to help them. It’s my job. If a student is gay, straight, transgender, black, white, Christian, Muslim, or atheist, my job does not change.

Nor should yours. And you took a vow.

My commitment to do my job is not limited by someone else’s constitutionally protected sense of self.

Nor should yours. Because you took a vow.

Ironically, when confronted about your words concerning the “straightness” of North Carolina, you backtracked saying:

“It means keep men out of the ladies’ room…. I think the silly season is upon us and I think this whole effort by the Democratic Party is to be expected. I never mentioned gays or anyone. So I’m not quite sure how they made that leap. Maybe they’re being a little sensitive.”

Well, it’s not a leap. One of the definitions of the word “straight” on sites like vocabulary.com or thefreedictionary.com refers to sexual orientation. To say with a “straight face” that the word “straight” is not connoted with sexual orientation is just “straight up” wrong. So while you thought you “set the record straight” by looking “straight into” the eyes of reporters, you simply did not “get your facts straight”.

What North Carolinians need is “straight talk” and not someone who can’t “shoot straight”.

Besides, our state borders are not straight. Our highways are not straight. Out mountains do not point straight up into the air. Our coastlines are not straight. Our rivers do not flow straight.

In fact, they are curvy and have their own shapes and paths. They are diverse, like the very people you claim to want to represent.

And that’s the “straight truth.”

Hyperbole, North Carolina – On the Corner of Exaggeration Avenue and Understatement Boulevard

The North Carolina General Assembly began the 2016 short session today and there were many North Carolinians who were in our capitol to meet them.

No doubt much of the rhetoric coming from those in power will be full of double-speak, subtle or severe spin, and void of straight-forward talk about real issues at hand like HB2, Religious Freedom, Opportunity Grants, etc.

Attempting to defend their actions, people like Sen. Berger and other GOP stalwarts have employed the wonderful power of figurative language to paint their exploits in hyperbole, understatements, and absolutes – all in an attempt to convince the rest of NC that they are right because their moral compass points straight to true north.

The following is a list of the top ten quotes from our state leaders in the last three years that display not great rhetorical skill but an oratorical mastery that only the great debaters of ancient Greece could match. (Hyperbole – get it?)

So welcome to Hyperbole, North Carolina – specifically the corner of Exaggeration Avenue and Understatement Boulevard.

  1. Sen. Bob Rucho – “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then the swords of the Nazis,Soviets, & terrorists combined.” – via Twitter in December of 2013.

Wow! That’s hyperbolic twittering if ever, never mind the major errors of subject/verb disagreement, wrongly used apostrophe, and the use of swords.  Even more egregious is that Rucho was a main proponent of denying expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, a state that has as many as 25% of children in poverty. Talk about damage.

  1. Gov. Pat McCrory on Meet the Press – “Not with — but I’ve met with transgender people in the past, and I’ve met with them since, and have had very positive conversations. Now the conversation with a very powerful group called the Human Relations, uh, Human Rights Council, my gosh, they’re more powerful than the N.R.A., and they have millions of dollars, which makes me want to overturn United, ’cause I don’t know who their donors are either.”

Holy hyperbolics Batman! The “Human Relations, uh” group is more powerful than the NRA – so powerful are they that the governor did not remember their name. And if they have so much money, will they be able to reimburse North Carolina all the money it has lost due to business boycotts in the wake of HB2?

  1. Gov Pat McCrory at a recent Sheriffs Association Meeting when he referred to the HB2 issue as “the elephant in the room.”

Understatement of the year! It is one thing to talk about the real issue at hand when you have been evading it for weeks because you can’t actually defend HB2. But it’ s another to actually go up to that elephant in the room and do a visual gender check on it to see what bathroom it needs to go to.

No sir, that’s its trunk. They all have one.

  1. Sen. Tom Apodaca on the special session called to repeal Charlotte’s ordinance that gave way to HB2. “Charlotte brought this all upon themselves.”

Did someone play “blame game”? When elections for governor and others to replace legislators go in favor of democrats, others may just look back on this past session and say of the very GOP members who championed HB2, “they brought it all upon themselves.”

  1. Sen. Jerry Tillman in a conversation with Sen. Josh Stein about not having to talk about charter school legislation because “he said so”.

“I’m not going to give you the details. A good lawyer would never do that (in a meeting). No, we don’t air dirty laundry here.”

Well, just the fact that a non-lawyer explained what good lawyers do to a lawyer who may be the next state’s attorney general is enough to qualify this as bullshit. And if that bullshit is as thick as it is in this conversation, Sen. Tillman needs to go ahead and clean his pants and air his laundry or it will leave a mark.

  1. Sen. Phil Berger on the teacher pay raises given in 2014. He labeled them as “the largest in state history.”

This is exaggeration using the “Average Bear” technique. If you need an explanation for that, just ask any veteran public school teacher in the state. Note, that it was a ‘’average” raise.

Bill Gates moving to my neighborhood raises the average income per household significantly, but I may have never seen a raise.

  1. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on PayPal’s announcement to not expand in Charlotte due to HB2 – “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.”

This is the red herring of the year.

Oddly, the law already states that men cannot do this. And if the life of a child is so precious, then expand Medicaid, fund public schools properly, and do something about the poverty rate. If the life of a woman is so valuable, fight for equal pay for equal work. But if the Lt. Gov. thinks that taking away citizens’ rights to file discrimination suits in state court is protecting people, then this above statement make sense.

  1. Sen. Skip Stam – “LGBT discrimination is OK because pedophilia and bestiality are ‘sexual orientations’ too.”

Stone Age here we come! And that happened before we evolved into a society that burned witches.

  1. Sen. Tommy Tucker – “I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

This misinterpretation of his role is analogous to an employee telling his employer, “Shutup! I am the boss here. You just sign my checks and have the ability to fire me in this right to work state.”

In a country where elected officials are supposed to carry the will of the people they represent and be their mouthpiece in government, isn’t it refreshing to know that one of them can think this highly of himself to tell is constituents that they are too stupid to talk?

  1. Sen. Phil Berger on the Religious Freedom Bill that would allow magistrates to not perform same-sex marriages in NC – “Complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should not require our state employees to compromise their core religious beliefs and First Amendment rights in order to protect their livelihoods.”

No matter what the constitution says or what the Supreme Court rules, I should have the First Amendment right to protect my livelihood against other people’s constitutionally given right to happiness because I can use God as a political crutch to make a futile argument.

I have no idea what I said, but I do know that I have the right to say it.

So, when someone like Rep. Tim Moore exclaims, “We’re not up here just sitting around doing whatever” (about the long session of 2015) remember that he is right. It takes a lot of time to craft statements in the General Assembly that smell like the ones just mentioned.

 

 

 

NCGA Should Reinstall Pay Bumps For Teachers, Dammit

The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education here in the Old North State.
I confess there exist numerous studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. Even John Hood’s October 2015 op-Ed “Not a matter of degrees” on EdNC.org makes note of these studies. He states:
Since 1990, scholars have published more than 100 studies in academic journals that tested the relationship between teachers having graduate degrees and some measure of educational success, such as test-score gains or increases in graduation rates. In more than 80 percent of the studies, there was no statistically significant relationship. A few of the studies actually found a negative effect. Only 15 percent produced a positive association.

 
Yet, those words do not convince this teacher that having advanced degrees is not beneficial for teachers, students, and schools.
Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama; we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.
The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.
However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.
If the North Carolina General Assembly thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then it needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refuses to give pay bumps for graduate degrees, then the state just ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.
Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when teachers here in NC still make salaries that rate near the bottom of the national scale. Even Governor McCrory called the recent budget’s influence on teacher salaries “chicken feed” in an episode of NC Spin.
In a report published in Education Week in March, 2015 entitled “New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”, Stephen Sawchuck recounted findings by Brown University scholars saying:

 

The notion that teachers improve over their first three or so years in the classroom and plateau thereafter is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, coming up in debate after debate about pay, professional development, and teacher seniority, among other topics.

 

But findings from a handful of recently released studies are raising questions about that proposition. In fact, they suggest the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.

 

Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.

 

Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can’t or don’t improve much after their first few years on the job.

 

“For some reason, you hear this all the time, from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down,” said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. “But teacher quality is not something that’s fixed. It does develop, and if you’re making a decision about a teacher’s career, you should be looking at that dynamic.”

 

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

 

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. In fact, the salary schedule for public school teachers ensures that a teacher who enters the profession today will never make over fifty thousand dollars ever in a year throughout his/her career. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina.
Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.
Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.
But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.
Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.
Stuart Egan

Experienced Teacher

West Forsyth High School

Week in Review for April 18-24 – Legivangilists, Kissing Butt, Summer Reads, and Meet The Press

It’s been a productive week as far as writing. In case you did not get a chance to read or were ignoring my posts, or you were under a heavy rock for the wee, here are some links.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/23/kicking-and-kissing-butt-taking-names-and-saving-face/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/21/mccrorys-visit-with-chuck-todd-the-art-of-the-non-answer-and-meeting-the-reality/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/20/literature-assignment-for-the-general-assembly-you-cant-use-sparknotes-to-learn-about-others/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/18/legivangelists-and-others-who-praise-the-lard/

I also had a piece posted on EdNC.org. Check it out and go back to this site often as they report on all things education in North Carolina.

https://www.ednc.org/2016/04/22/why-teachers-believe-advanced-degrees-matter/

 

Kicking or Kissing Butt, Taking Names, and Saving Face

Yes. This teacher wants a raise.

I think that we deserve more compensation for the job that we as public school teachers do, especially in light that we rank very low in teacher pay compared to the surrounding states (or even the nation).

Ever since the great recession hit and our pay scale was frozen by Raleigh, many teachers have had to reconsider staying in the profession or had to add another job to the fray to keep a standard of living that allowed us to raise families the way we wanted to. Some teachers have even moved to other states.

But more than a raise, I would say that what I really want as a veteran teacher is respect from the very state government that controls the very salary that I make. That’s because if a profession is respected, then those who seek its services are willing to pay a competitive market value to keep those services.

And North Carolina is not paying a competitive salary for its teachers. In fact, with the removal of graduate degree pay, frozen salary schedules, the implementation of a grading system that will always cast a negative light on public schools, and a reduction of money spent per pupil, the idea of gaining respect for the teaching profession from Raleigh is a wish I can only make to Santa Claus.

So when I hear the governor speak of raising salaries and offering bonuses, my ears become acutely sensitive. But then I realize the context of the remarks he made about his budget proposal and I see a clear motive for the governor’s pay plan.

HB2 has definitely take a toll on both North Carolina and the governor’s reputation. It is his face the rest of the nation sees in a press conference not defending his signing of the law. No one else in the General Assembly has really even publicly defended the law, except Sen. Phil Berger, and that really wasn’t a defense but rather a digging of his heels into the ground about his stance. No defense has even been heard from the primary sponsors of the bill: Representatives Bishop, Howard, Stam, and Bishop.

When the governor finally talked about HB2 on Meet the Press, he made mention that he has stood up against his GOP legislature when needed. He gave that air of someone who could “kick butt and take names” when it mattered most for the state of North Carolina.

Yet, his handful of vetoes in the last three years, an ability to kowtow to the state legislature and its GOP leadership, a refusal to answer questions publicly to our own state’s press, and his dropping poll numbers really show that he is not a “kick butt and take names” person, but more of a “kiss butt and save face” person.

Gov. McCrory needs teachers to vote for him because teachers are very hypervigilant when it comes to educational issues. And I believe teachers will show up to the polls in November. Everybody will. Look what’s happening in the presidential race. Who wouldn’t want to go to the conventions with all that is transpiring now?

When over 90 percent of the counties in North Carolina have the local school system as the largest or second largest employer, the need to reach teachers and convey sincerity is crucial in a reelection campaign. And the governor saying that he will propose raises and bonuses may seem more like a red herring to draw attention away from the HB2 fallout and his shabby handling of it.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported the governor’s brief outline for amending teacher pay. In the April 23, 2016 edition it ran an AP report that stated:

All current teachers with up to 24 years of experience — or 84 percent of the workforce — would get permanent raises next school year from $500 to $5,000. Teachers also would reach the top-scale salary of $50,000 sooner — in their 20th year, compared to 25 years today.

 

McCrory also wants to return to the previous expectation that most teachers will get a slight salary increase with each additional year on the job. Legislators changed the salary schedule in 2014 so experienced-based increases come every five years or so. School superintendents and administrators asked McCrory to seek annual step raises again for teachers, according to McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis.

 

Teachers currently at the top scale wouldn’t get a permanent raise but $5,000 bonuses, with $1,100 bonuses for the less experienced teachers. Previously, McCrory’s office said the permanent pay raises would cost $247 million annually and the bonuses would have a one-time cost of $165 million. The state’s projected $237 million surplus should help pay for these increases.

 

This veteran teacher’s wallet likes hearing that, but my gut says something different will actually happen. Why?

First, this is a governor whose administration has allowed the following to happen without a fight:

  • The removal of the Teacher Fellows Program.
  • The financing of failing charter schools.
  • The implementation of Opportunity Grants.
  • The implementation of a Jeb Bush public school grading system.
  • The removal of longevity pay.
  • The removal of a respected leader in Tom Ross and the hiring of Margaret Spellings, the architect of No Child Left Behind (No Child Left Untested).
  • The refusal to expand Medicaid.
  • The removal of tax deductions that many people used in order to make tax cuts affordable.

In other words, Gov. McCrory didn’t go against his own party and take a “kick butt and take names” attitude.

Secondly, that tax surplus that he intends to help pay for these raises should evaporate quickly considering the amount of money being lost from the state and local economies from national HB2 backlash.

If there was respect for the teaching profession in Raleigh throughout the governor’s administration, this conversation would never take place. But it has become a sort of shield for McCrory amidst the HB2 debacle. And now he seems to be mollifying teachers like a dead-beat dad who neglects his kids and tries buy their love with wonderful Christmas presents.

That’s just “kissing butt to save face” for a reelection bid.

And my ass doesn’t need to be kicked or kissed. It needs to be valued.

Now, back to Santa. I did ask him about getting some respect from our state legislature. And true to his nature, he did say that we can get this present earlier than December 25th.

It comes on November 8th when we are allowed to vote.

McCrory’s Visit With Chuck Todd – The Art of the “Non-Answer” and Meeting the Reality

Gov. Pat McCrory finally tried to answer some questions on the HB2 bill on Sunday with Chuck Todd on NBC. Ironic that a man who has evaded all questions from the press concerning the HB2 bill actually went on a national show called Meet The Press.

 

However, when asked the very questions that many media outlets wanted to ask in his home state he evaded them. It seemed that McCrory took time this week to learn how to respond to Todd’s probing inquiries with prepared “non-answers” and “logical fallacies” that show not only an unwillingness to identify the true motive behind the HB2 bill, but an absolute inability to defend it in front of the very audience that is viewing North Carolina as a backward state.

 

Here are ten responses to Chuck Todd questions that beg more questions.

 

  1. “I’m going to, as governor, as I did with mayor, I will always call out government overreach. And this example, the city of Charlotte, where I was mayor for 14 years, did government overreach. And what your pre-clip didn’t mention was it was the left that brought about the bathroom bill, not the right in the city of Charlotte, like the city of Houston tried to do and was rejected by 61 percent of the vote.”

 

When the governor announced that this is the work of the left and not the right he seems to be throwing out some glittering generalities. He simply made it political. That’s fine. It’s expected. But it is odd that he refers to government overreach and the use of a vote.

 

When a state government decides to implement new laws over all cities and municipalities in North Carolina over one city’s ordinance, I would probably call that a government overreach considering that the governor belongs to a party that preaches less government.

 

Also, there was a vote in Houston by Houston citizens on their ordinance. There was never a vote in North Carolina on HB2.

 

  1. “Actually, Charlotte’s vote was a very little debate. They just had a lot of public speakers speaking for and against—“

 

Interestingly that governor talks of public debate at all. That’s because with HB2 THERE WAS NONE.

 

  1. “You know, I was in Hamlet, North Carolina, a small town that can be at any town in the United States of America. I walked into a buffet restaurant, African American buffet restaurant, and the people just welcomed me with open arms and said, “Thanks for protecting us.” I got back in my car, and I got a call from someone in corporate America going, “Man, you’ve got to change this. We’re getting killed.”

 

First, it would have been more convincing if the governor actually went to a restaurant in Charlotte and was able to claim the same outcome. But Hamlet, NC and Charlotte are not alike. One is “anytown” and the other is the largest city in the state. Because they are different probably explains why each has their own elected officials to conduct each city/town’s business. Charlotte’s ordinance is in no way stepping on Hamlet.

 

That would be overreaching.

 

  1. “However, in government, and I’m not going to tell the private sector any manufacturing plan, any bank can have their own policies. NBC can have their own policy in Charlotte, North Carolina, or anywhere in North Carolina. (and businesses can also choose not to do this – name one business that has backed HB2) But I do believe in our high schools, in our middle schools, in our universities, we should continue to have the tradition that we’ve been having in this country for years. And we have a women’s facility and a men’s facility –You know, it’s worked out pretty well. And I don’t think we need any further government interference.”

 

The governor makes it sound like transgender people now have just decided to start using public facilities. I believe they have been using them just as long as others. So why is it a problem now?

 

Also speaking of tradition, was being able to sue employers who dismiss based on discrimination in state court a tradition for decades?

 

  1. “And this is that fine line between how much does government tell the private sector in a regulatory way what to do, and in this case, a city which I still proudly call home, I think overstepped. And, you know, I’ve called out my own Republican legislature in the past, with magistrates and I’ve said no the magistrates need to marry after the Supreme Court case, and what the Supreme Court said.”

 

Exactly how many vetoes has the governor issued to this Republican legislature that he supposedly “call out?”

 

  1. CHUCK TODD:
    “It’s dealing with that same privacy. I mean, do you want somebody who identifies as a woman, born on their birth certificate as a man, may look like a woman, going into a men’s bathroom?”
    PAT MCCRORY:
    “All I’d say is we have 27 states”—
    CHUCK TODD:
    “Is that fair to them?”
    GOV. PAT MCCRORY:
    “We have 27 states, not just — this is not just a North Carolina This is a national debate that’s just come on in literally the last three months. No one had heard of this debate until the Houston ordinance was defeated by the people of Houston. We have 27 to 29 states that also don’t have this type of mandate on private business, including the state of New York.”

 

I wish that he just answered the question. But here the governor gave a non-answer. And there is that word again – “debate”. Where is the debate in a ten hour special session that creates a bill that has so much overreach in it?

 

  1. Not with — but I’ve met with transgender people in the past, and I’ve met with them since, and have had very positive conversations.

 

I would have loved to hear more about these conversations. “Positive” can be very subjective, especially when saying that he had “negative” conversations would have a negative thing to say. Also, who were “they” and whom did they represent? What viewpoints did they offer? Did they talk about HB2?

 

I have problems believing the positive nature of these conversations because even when the governor claimed that there were businesses that were for HB2, he conveniently was not able to identify them.

 

  1. “Now the conversation with a very powerful group called the Human Relations, uh, Human Rights Council, my gosh, they’re more powerful than the N.R.A., and they have millions of dollars, which makes me want to overturn United, ’cause I don’t know who their donors are either.”

 

So powerful is the Human Relations UH, that the governor could not remember the name of the group. That’s potent power.

 

This is the most lucicrous hyperbolic statement I think I have ever heard the governor say (this week at least). Besides if the Human Rights Council had one-tenth the power of the N.R.A., then this law would have never even made the floor.

 

  1. “This is basically a restroom privacy issue, versus equality. And these things need to be discussed, not threatened by Hollywood or anyone…This is not like an issue of bathroom privacy or restroom privacy in North Carolina. And let’s have this dialogue and I welcome that dialogue.”

 

Then why was it not discussed before the special session of the General Assembly? Besides the words “dialogue” and “special session called by the GOP” do not collide in this political environment.

 

  1. “You know, Hollywood, with all due respects to the Hollywood, the new Batman and Robin movie is playing in China, which has anti-gay, terrible, terrible human rights violations.”

 

First, it was a Batman and SUPERMAN movie, which I actually enjoyed. But this reference to China? If China has such terrible human rights records that should prevent us from doing business with them in any way, then why has the governor hosted Chinese business leaders just this year?

 

The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai even met the governor and they both had glowing things to say about the visit. Here are a couple of quotes from the ChinaDaily USA.com website (http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/us/2016-01/28/content_23297791.htm) reporting on the event:

“The governor and I talked about multiple issues in the collaborations between China and North Carolina. He mentioned there are a lot of opportunities moving forward,” Cui told China Daily.

“We had a wonderful discussion about the current opportunities and the successes we have already had regarding the relationship between the two countries,” McCrory said.

 

It was probably beneficial that the governor and the Chinese ambassador didn’t see that actual Batman and Robin movie that starred George Clooney that evening.

 

That movie really sucked.

Literature Assignment for the General Assembly – You Can’t Use Sparknotes to Learn About Others

In a day and age where STEM-linked educational initiatives are heavily marketed in the educational and political arenas, it is sometimes hard for this English teacher to not want to reiterate that a study of literature is just as vital. Furthermore, looking and reflecting on great works of literature is a genuine way to study our own being.

There is a reason that we read serious works of literature. And others can say why much better than I can.

  • “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “We read to know we are not alone.”— William Nicholson
  • “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.“—Mark Twain
  • “Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. “– Mortimer Adler
  • “I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Don’t Join the book burners. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles W. Eliot
  • “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” – John Naisbitt

 

When I teach AP English Literature and Composition, I attempt to put together a syllabus that offers students exposure to a wide variety of literary styles, but also a wide variety of experiences that show students that the lives led by characters often mimic the lives and trials that real people have faced or will encounter. Think of it as an archeological dig into history where we can actually feel, experience, struggle, and rejoice in life events that shape humanity and then use others experiences to guide our own actions and choices.

And we can learn from literature as well about what can work for our society and what has not.

Therefore, I put together a syllabus for the long session of the North Carolina Assembly this summer in the hopes that those elected officials would possibly see how others see the same world through a lens that these legislators and politicians may have never considered.

Because if anything, literature has taught me that I have no monopoly on how life should be lived simply because my viewpoint is narrow.

Many of these titles I would never put on a high school reading list, but if you are an elected official, you should be mature enough to read these works knowing that carry weight, gravitas, and meaning.

Happy reading!

  • Most all of the plays of Shakespeare. I’ll just get that out of the way.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville – to learn how a maniacal, egotistical pursuit to something could very well lead to one’s downfall.
  • Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky – to learn that while some believe they are above the law of man, they are not above the law of God (or kharma).
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – to learn that the fear of free thought is the fear of other people’s gifts and views of the world.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – to learn that the role of women in society should be fashioned not by traditional standards but by their own standards.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – to remember a time when racial dividse ruled our land and still has its grips on our state.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – to learn that the American Dream is really elusive and that no matter what you do to obtain it, it is out of reach for some because so many variables are out of control.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – to learn how many in society are relegated to stay in a socio-economic class because social mobility is harder than we really admit. Also, we should always remember that those who have developmental delays are as deserving as any other person.
  • The Lorax by Seuss – to remind ourselves that fracking is really bad for the environment.
  • Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole – to learn that heroes come in all sizes and shapes and from all backgrounds.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – to learn that some who align themselves with the church or the teachings of Christ do so for personal profit and social gain.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce – to learn that one day can last a very long time.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – to learn that people can learn about others and change their views about race and creed.
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – to see that multiple people can see the same event in so many different ways and have different versions of the truth. Oh, and Addie’s chapter is the best chapter in all of American literature according to my erudite uncle and lets us know that the dead still speak.
  • Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – to learn that nature is more powerful than man, but that man is part of nature.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – to gain perspective on what it is to be of a different race in this country or be brave enough to hear someone talk about it.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – to see where we could be headed if we do not change our ways, and a reminder of what we would do for our children if we had to.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel – to realize that religion does not always define spirituality.
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – to learn that war is hell.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – to learn that when objectively look at government we oftentimes see a true confederacy of dunces.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon – to learn that those who seem different are not really disabled, but rather differently-abled.
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – to learn that being transgender is not about an outward appearance, but rather an inner realization.

The test for all of these is in how you conduct yourselves afterwards. Your grade will be given in the fall, probably around the late hours of November 8th.