Heaven to Betsy (DeVos) – “Take Your Money And Buy An IDEA Because You Got Schooled”

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education was a disaster. For public school advocates it might foreshadow a growing storm for many reasons.

Betsy DeVos is a divisive figure who showed that she not only has no background in education, she seems oblivious to the idea that there are federal statutes that are involved in education.

  1. She did not know what IDEA was – the Individuals With Disablilties Edcuation Act – and that it was a federal mandate that covers all schools.
  2. She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency when it came to student achievement.
  3. She would not commit to keeping from privatizing public schools.
  4. She talked about needing guns to defend schools from bears but would not back up “gun-free” zones in schools. Bears killed exactly zero students last year. She said that to Sen. Murphy from Connecticut, home of Sandy Hook
  5. She never really admitted to the fact that she and her family have contributed tens of millions of dollars to efforts to privatize public schools.
  6. She has not given over all documents for the ethics committee.
  7. 10 of the 12 Republicans on the HELP committee have received financial contributions from her.
  8. She smiled to damn much. It simply looked manufactured.

devoshearing

Below is a link to a Washington Post video entitled “6 head-scratching moments from Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing” which summarizes some of the more poignant moments of the hearing.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/5-head-scratching-moments-from-betsey-devoss-confirmation-hearing/2017/01/18/0df60b18-dd5e-11e6-8902-610fe486791c_video.html

Take a look. And before you say that things were taken out of context and that they were all spurred by Democrats, remember that Sen. Lamar Alexander limited the time that questions could be asked. Sen. Lamar Alexander also gets contributions from DeVos. He as well as Sen. Lieberman couldn’t blow more manufactured sunshine or pile anymore manure on their words in praising DeVos.

Valerie Strauss, who runs the “Answer Sheet” blog for the Washington Post, had a very good posting today entitled “Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/18/six-astonishing-things-betsy-devos-said-and-refused-to-say-at-her-confirmation-hearing/?utm_term=.5149055709b1).

I regularly go to this blog. It is worth the read, and I admire the job Valerie Strauss does with it.

Strauss summarized with the following:

  • “DeVos refused to agree with a Democrat that schools are no place for guns, citing one school that needs one to protect against grizzly bears. (She really said this.)
  • DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.
  • DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability.
  • DeVos said she would review gainful employment regulations without committing to enforce them.
  • DeVos appeared to have no idea what Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth.
  • DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education.
  • And here’s a bonus: DeVos said her name should not have been included on tax forms for her mother’s foundation, which has contributed to controversial causes. The forms say that she was vice president and a member of the board.”

Those who may play devil’s advocate here may say that even presidents like Obama appointed people to posts who were cronies and or donors. And that is true. And Obama really didn’t help public education with Race To The Top or the selection of Duncan or King for the post; however, those people shine in comparison to DeVos.

DeVos doesn’t even speak the language of public schools. Arne Duncan and John King at least knew about public education.

DeVos seems to be completely removed from public education and she is to lead our public school system?

The irony here is too thick to even digest in a 180 day school year, but there is no doubt that DeVos simply got schooled yesterday at the hearing.

And learned absolutely nothing because you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the horse drink it.

Even if it is smiling the whole time.

 

In the “God I Wish This Was True” Category -Inaugural Poem for Donald J. Trump

Earlier today, the British newspaper The Independent published a copy of a poem that “pays tribute to his Scottish ancestry and attacks Barack Obama” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-inauguration-poem-barack-obama-tyrant-scottish-heritage-a7530506.html).

And then it went from there.

“The President-elect’s mother, Mary Anne Macleod, is a Scot and grew up on the Hebridean island of Lewis.

The poem, which was not commissioned by Mr Trump or his transition team, refers to snatching power from “a tyrant” who has “ill-gotten power”.

 It was written by celebrated American poet Joseph Charles McKenzie of the Society of Classical Poets.”
Celebrated? I had never heard of him. Maybe I have overlooked him. Maybe that’s why they missplled his name.
There are many living poets out there in America who have certainly been celebrated – Billy Collins, Natasha Trethaway, Mary Oliver to name just a few, but I had not heard of MacKenzie.
I have an English degree. Took a few poetry classes. Taught a lot of poetry to freshmen all the way to AP Lit students. Written bad poetry myself. I have never run into a poem by MacKenzie.
But I have heard of a Charlie MacKenzie. He’s a fictional character in the movie So I Married An Axe-Murderer and he’s played by Michael Myers of SNL fame. In it he plays not only Charlie, but his cantankerous father, Stuart MacKenzie, who is Scottish. Myers’s actual parents are Scottish, so he does the accent extremely well.
myers1
The parts where Stuart talks about the size of his son’s head and the “pentavirate” and the wedding reception singing Rod Stewart are hilarious.
You should see it. You will hear the Shrek voice for the first time.
But that’s the wrong MacKenzie.
So I read the poem and all of its introductory glory on the website for The Society of Classical Poets.
I am glad I did. I feel better about my own poetry.

Pibroch of the Domhnall

By Joseph Charles MacKenzie

Author’s Notes:

§ The refrains at the end of each stanza are to be recited by the Inaugural crowd.
§ A Pibroch is a rallying bagpipe tune and is pronounced like “PEA-brohgh.”
§ Domhnall, the Scottish form of the name Donald, is pronounced like “TONE-all”
§ Torquil was the royal progenitor of the MacLeods of Lewis, the outer hebridean island and birthplace of President Trump’s immigrant mother, Mary Anne MacLeod.

Come out for the Domhnall, ye brave men and proud,
The scion of Torquil and best of MacLeod!
With purpose and strength he came down from his tower
To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power.
Now the cry has gone up with a cheer from the crowd:
“Come out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!”

When freedom is threatened by slavery’s chains
And voices are silenced as misery reigns,
We’ll come out for a leader whose courage is true
Whose virtues are solid and long overdue.
For, he’ll never forget us, we men of the crowd
Who elected the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

When crippling corruption polluted our nation
And plunged our economy into stagnation,
As self-righteous rogues took the opulent office
And plump politicians reneged on their promise,
The forgotten continued to form a great crowd
That defended the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

The Domhnall’s a giver whilst others just take,
Ne’er gaining from that which his hands did not make.
A builder of buildings, employing good men,
He’s enriched many cities by factors of ten.
The honest and true gladly march with the crowd
Standing up for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

True friend of the migrant from both far and near,
He welcomes the worthy, but guards our frontier,
Lest a murderous horde, for whom hell is the norm,
Should threaten our lives and our nation deform.
We immigrants hasten to swell the great crowd
Coming out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

Academe now lies dead, the old order rots,
No longer policing our words and our thoughts;
Its ignorant hirelings pretending to teach
Are backward in vision, sophomoric in speech.
Now we learnèd of mind add ourselves to the crowd
That cheers on the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

The black man, forgotten, in poverty dying,
The poor man, the sick man, with young children crying,
The soldier abroad and the mother who waits,
The young without work or behind prison gates,
The veterans, wounded, all welcome the crowd
That fights for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

Whilst hapless old harridans flapping their traps
Teach women to look and behave like us chaps,
The Domhnall defends the defenseless forlorn;
For, a woman’s first right is the right to be born.
Now the bonnie young lassies that fly to the crowd
Have a champion in Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

But for all his great wisdom, the braw gallant man
Is matched by his children, the handsome Trump clan,
And the flower of Europe, Melania the fair,
Adds a luster and grace with her long flowing hair.
May they flourish and prosper to form a great crowd
Around the good Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

Is there man left in Scotland, without base alloy,
Who remembers the Wallace, the Bruce, or Rob Roy?
Or have five hundred years of a blasphemous lie
Robbed your manhood of might that you lay down and die?
Get up and walk free, all ye brave men and proud!
Long life to the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

 
 Please remember that there is a part of me that really thinks this might actually be connected to the 45th president. The rest of me is thinking that this ha to be a parody of some sorts.
Why? Well I thought after reading it that the corpse of Robert Burns would literally come out of his grave, drink a fifth of scotch, and piss on a copy of this poem, not to mention that when I hear “MacLeod!” shouted repeatedly I think of the original Highlander movie (which kicked ass by the way).
So then I started reading the comments from the “Comments” section.
Priceless.
So then, I had to go and read up on one Joseph Charles McKenzie because in one of the responses to his comments, he lovingly shared his website – https://mackenziepoet.com.

Just go to his website. Big on lyrical poetry. BIG ON HIS LYRICAL POETRY.

And he even compares himself to the likes of Shakespeare and W. B. Yeats. I have heard of those two guys.

“One of my professors, an Oxonian named Charles Bell, indicated that some of my sonnets surpassed many of Shakespeare’s.”

“The only solution to the crisis is the triumphant appearance of Joseph Charles MacKenzie’s Sonnets for Christ the King, the first significant body of traditional lyric verse produced since the poems of W.B. Yeats and Charles Péguy.”

And then the magic was taken away as Snopes.com reported that the poem was not really the true inauguration poem (http://www.snopes.com/trumps-inauguration-poem/).

It reported,

Although this article was published under the headline “Poem celebrating Donald Trump inauguration describes Barack Obama as a ‘tyrant,'” The Independent used a more sensational (and less factual) title when they shared this item on social media — “Donald Trump to pay tribute to British heritage at inauguration with poem about Scotland”:

trump inauguration poem

Several other publications also shared this poem in articles claiming that it was “Donald Trump’s inauguration poem,” misleading readers into believing that this poem would actually be read at the inaugural event. Paper Magazine, for instance, reported that this was the “official poem for President-elect Trump’s inauguration:”

The official poem for President-elect Trump’s inauguration celebrates the Trump clan’s Scottish roots (his mother, Mary Anne Macleod was born and raised in Scotland till she was 18) while taking time to exalt Trump to Christ status, and call President Obama a “tyrant.”

However, this poem is not an “official” selection for Trump’s inauguration, nor was it commissioned by the president-elect. The text of the The Independent‘s article explained that this poem was merely inspired by Trump’s election:

The poem, which was not commissioned by Mr Trump or his transition team, refers to snatching power from “a tyrant” who has “ill-gotten power”.

It was written by celebrated American poet Joseph Charles McKenzie of the Society of Classical Poets.

The group said the inspiration behind the poem is “to touch on the classical poetry existing throughout American history, and the inauguration poem marks important moments in US political history”.

This “inauguration” poem was first published by the web site ClassicPoets.org on 15 January 2017. The group did not claim that the poem would be read at the inauguration, but their version of the poem was accompanied by instructions for how the it would theoretically be presented if it were used at the inauguration:

§ The refrains at the end of each stanza are to be recited by the Inaugural crowd.
§ A Pibroch is a rallying bagpipe tune and is pronounced like “PEA-brohgh.”
§ Domhnall, the Scottish form of the name Donald, is pronounced like “TONE-all”
§ Torquil was the royal progenitor of the MacLeods of Lewis, the outer hebridean island and birthplace of President Trump’s immigrant mother, Mary Anne MacLeod.

When the group shared the poem on Facebook, the lyric was accompanied by a message imploring Trump to include the poem, making it clear that this poem had not been selected for this purpose in the first place:

No Republican has had an inaugural poem. Trump should be the first…

This poem is not listed in the schedule of events planned for the inauguration. 

We’ve reached out to both Joseph Charles McKenzie, the poem’s author, and the Society of Classic Poets for more information. “

Still think I might just slip this poem in a class one day and see what happens, and if I ever meet one Joseph Charles MacKenzie I will have to thank him for the time well spent reading and researching this posting. I will also have to ask him what he thinks of his poems.

U2, MLK, John Lewis, Donald Trump, and W.B. Yeats – Forever On The Same Soundtrack

This past weekend served as a reminder that there is an ever-growing soundtrack of songs that not only keeps playing in the back of my mind at all times but that keeps growing because the story of my life as it becomes wrapped up in the story of others becomes bigger. And greater.

And the songs that played in my head this weekend more than the others came from one group: U2.

Not many bands have stayed together for thirty years with all of the original members. Not all bands in the liner notes of each album credit the just the group with songwriting.

Today is the day that our country honors the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy for the fight for civil rights. And I am reminded of the first U2 album that I ever owned.

On cassette tape.

The Unforgettable Fire.

the_unforgettable_fire

Track #2 is “Pride: In the Name of Love.” It is a song written about King. And while some critics in the 1980’s may have not received the song as highly as the charts did, it is probably one of the most enduring songs of U2’s career. Take away the fact that King did not die “Early morn, April 4,” but rather that evening, I find the lyrics to stirringly austere.

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One man come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed up on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

 

And there’s that reference to the Judas kiss – the betrayal of betrayals. And to think that MLK was a man of God.

Words like “pride” can have so many connotations – some negative, some positive. But in this song about this man it wonderfully collides with the word “love.” And “love” is such an active word. Love should take energy to give, to show. Also, it gives energy if you allow yourself to receive it.

However, that is not the only U2 song that came about this weekend to the music box in my head.

Last Friday, the Freedom Fighter Rep. John Lewis, a 30-year representative of Georgia’s 5th district, said in an interview on NBC what he thought of Donald Trump’s election as president.

From nbcnews.com (http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/john-lewis-leads-charge-against-donald-trump-u-s-marks-n707156),

Lewis said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, that he doesn’t believe Trump is a “legitimate president” and that he wouldn’t be attending the presidential inauguration for the first time in his 30-year political career, citing the intelligence community’s explosive findings over Russian hacking of the presidential election.

“I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people, but it’s going to be very difficult,” Lewis said in the interview, which was recorded Friday. “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” the Georgia Democrat added.

Rep. Lewis can say that. First Amendment rights. God knows Trump uses them plentifully. Trump in his news conference earlier last week even admitted to the Russians hacking, but not to what extent its effects may have been.

Trump quickly shot back through Twitter:

trumplewistweet

All talk?

No action?

Don’t think I have lost the U2 connection because it’s deep here.

selma

The picture above is from the march in 1965 in Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That’s John Lewis in the front. He was often with MLK as one of his closest allies, friends, and confidantes.

On Sunday, Rep. Lewis responded to Trump on NBC’s Meet the Press,

Rep. John Lewis said he would not invite President-elect Donald Trump to visit Selma, Alabama, with him, though he also would not “do anything to prevent him from coming.”

On what became known as “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, Lewis was badly beaten by Alabama state troopers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during a march for voting rights.

Bloody Sunday.

Lewis had his skull fractured that day.

alabama_state_troopers_attack_john_lewis_at_the_edmund_pettus_bridge__public_domain_

That’s actually a picture of it.

So, the song, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” began to resonate in my head.

From U2’s album War, the song remembers the January 30th, 1972 massacre in Northern Ireland when British troops opened fire on unarmed protesters. Fourteen people were killed – seven were teenagers.

Yes…

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long…
How long must we sing this song
How long, how long…
’cause tonight…we can be as one
Tonight…

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

How long…
How long must we sing this song
How long, how long…
’cause tonight…we can be as one
Tonight…tonight…

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Wipe the tears from your eyes
Wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away
Oh, wipe your tears away
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
Oh, wipe your blood shot eyes
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die

(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

The real battle just begun
To claim the victory Jesus won
On…

Sunday Bloody Sunday
Sunday Bloody Sunday…

 

  1. A conflict over who controlled whom with religious interpretations as part of the division.

And every time I think of U2, I think of the fact that they are from Ireland which is the homeland of my last name as the only son of an only son of an only son in an Irish Roman Catholic family.

And I think of the fact that I am a native Georgian, having lived in the Atlanta area two different times in my life, who just happened to be born in Selma, Alabama in 1970 as my Irish Catholic father was stationed at an Air Force base there for a brief time.

And I think of the only time that I ever saw U2 live in concert at Philips Arena in 2002. My wife was pregnant at the time with our daughter who still has her red hair and looks as Irish as a Yeats poem. She knows a U2 song when she hears it.

Phillips Arena is in Atlanta.

Specifically, the 5th district.

Represented at that time in the House of Representatives by John Lewis.

Still is.

There’s This Post I Read Entitled “That retarded kid that was kidnapped, probably didn’t even understand what was going on…”

special-needs

And it struck me in many ways.

I read it Sunday afternoon after I took the little man to get his hair cut at his favorite place – the Great Clips on Robinhood. The ladies there know him. He’s comfortable there. Lots of mirrors and when you are cute, why not look at something cute like yourself?

Actually, looking at himself and watching him look at himself is really a neat exercise. Simply seeing him experiment with facial expressions and respond to them is self-actualization. That, and he can keep an eye on me.

That’s after we go to the grocery store. The one he’s so familiar with. Knows the people. They know him. Drinks coffee. Says hello to the ladies in Aisle 3.

Then to that playground at the local Moravian church. And in the parking lot while finishing a song (because Malcolm is flat out rocking it!), I read the attached posting from a father of a child with Down Syndrome who wrote in reaction to hearing a radio listener calling in a radio talk show saying,

“That retarded kid that was kidnapped, probably didn’t even understand what was going on…”

I will be honest with you. I hear many words in the halls of a high school come from the mouths of teenagers. I have been called many things by teenagers (and parents) simply because if you teach long enough, you will encounter that.

But it’s not the word “RETARD” that upset me the most – that viscerally moved me in reading this.

I remember the episode in the movie theater where that young man was killed.

That episode in Chicago last week flashed on my news feed and I sunk.

How defenseless is my child with special needs?

I don’t know.

And it scares me.

If I tried to list every precaution that has ever been made to ensure his safety while trying to allow him to grow in a world that I want him to fit in then I would need many blogs.

But I will make sure that he knows the world that I am in.

I invite you to take a look a the posting. I am not asking for a response, but a sincere read.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retarded-kid-kidnapped-probably-didnt-even-understand-mark-raff

 

Best Minor League Baseball Mascots According to Me – Just Because

When you are balding you tend to think about the sun on your scalp.

When you are a baseball fan you own baseball hats.

When you are a public school teacher you can really only afford to go to minor league baseball games on a regular basis.

Put all of those together and you get someone who owns a lot of minor league baseball hats with really cool logos on them, so I thought I would share my top ten favorite logos. And good logos are unique for minor league teams because they usually refect local flavor and local color.

And you can tell that I am partial to the Carolina League.

10. Everett Aqua Sox

It’s a frog. Catches baseballs with its tongue. Cool.

9. Carolina Mudcats

Noodlin’ anyone? Catfish will grow to the size the environment will allow them to. And this one smiles.

8.Vermont Lake Monsters

They have changed their logo in the last couple of years, but it still has a lot of appeal. Maybe a little bit of a nod to Nessie over in Loch Ness, the monster in the lake idea just sneaks up on you.

7. Asheville Tourists

Another North Carolina Team makes this list. The tourists used to have an older logo, but they changed schemes and adopted Mr. Moon not long ago. If you get a hat, it might be have either Mr. Moon swinging a bat or eating a rack of ribs or an “A” with stars. Most of them will glow in the dark. Neat place to see a ball game as they have the famous Blue Wall.

6. Omaha Storm Chasers

The Triple A Affiliate of the Royals has an iconic logo for a geographical nod to the people who study the dangerous storms through Tornado Alley.

5. Richmond Flying Squirrels

It’s a flying squirrel. Enough said. His name is Nutsy. Pretty damn cool.

4. Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Pelicans are my favorite birds. Don’t argue with me. Get to see them when they come through Winston-Salem as they are in the Carolina League.

3. Albuquerque Isotopes

Colorado’s Triple A affiliate used to call the Dukes but change their name to the Isotopes as a nod to The Simpson’s show when the fictitious Springfield baseball team that played near the nuclear plant moved to Albuquerque. All science teachers should have this hat. And Breaking Bad fans.

2. Montgomery Biscuits

It’s a damn biscuit. It smiles. And has a butter pat for a tongue.

 

And when you get called up from the Biscuits in the Rays organization you make a stop in Durham, North Carolina home of the

Number 1. Durham Bulls

The Greatest Show on Dirt. It is my favorite logo of all minor league baseball. Hit Bull, Win Steak.

 

Now those are logos. Names might be a little different as there are many names that really sound pretty cool, some are just coming into existence in the last year or two.

  • Akron Rubberducks
  • Down East Wood Ducks
  • Great Lakes Loons
  • Daytona Tortugas
  • Binghamton Rumble Ponies
  • New Orleans Baby Cakes
  • Hartford Yard Goats
  • El Paso Chihuahuas
  • Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
  • Biloxi Shuckers
  • Florida Fire Frogs
  • Columbia Firelfies

 

And then there are the classic standbys whose very names and logos are ageless:

  • Toledo Mudhens
  • Chattanooga Lookouts
  • Lakeland Flying Tigers
  • Portland Sea Dogs
  • Pawtucket Red Sox

I Love My Wife To Death – Even Got It On A Birthday Cake

Behold the Rafflesia arnoldii which is also the largest known flower in the world.

corpse-flower

It is also known for its distinctive smell which resembles that of a rotting corpse. That is why it is also known as the “Stinking Corpse Lily” or one of the “Corpse Flowers.”

So, back up a couple of days.

My wife’s birthday was yesterday and she loves cake, especially if it has a lot of icing. As she is being careful with what she eats, she has looked forward to her birthday as a time to lightly slurge on cake and icing.

On Monday, I ask what she might want on her cake through a text message. Jokingly, I said that I would put a large icing flower on the cake just for her.

She responds,

“It can be the size of the Rafflesia arnoldii but not the scent or taste, please.”

What the hell is she talking about?

Then I look it up.

Wow! Big. I get it. Large icing flower. But it’s a corpse flower, but we were married on Halloween weekend and it is her favorite holiday and she does like scary movies and weird sci-fi shows like Stranger Things and such.

So, I go with it.

Off to Lowe’s Foods and the bakery department and a nice young lady says she is willing to add something on top of a cake for me. And I explain that I need this flower on top of the cake for my wife’s birthday.

“Sure! A rose?”

“No. Not exactly.”

So, I show her a picture. From Wikipedia usin gthe scientific name.

“It’s her favorite flower.”

“I think I can do that.”

“It needs to cover the whole top of the cake.” The cake really isn’t that big, but go with me. “With a gaping hole in the middle.”

Pause as she reflects on the image.

“What color is that?”

“Pale flesh, maybe?”

“Give me fifteen minutes.”

So, I go shopping for another fifteen minutes and come back. It’s done. It’s beautiful.

And then I explain that it’s a corpse flower.

“For her birthday?”

“Yep. And she is going to love it thanks to you.”

“Cool.”

“Yes. Very cool.”

Cue Addams Family music …

cake

That’s right. She loved it. Smelled wonderful and tasted even better.

And it proves that I love my wife to death.

Happy Birthday to my best friend.

 

 

Mitt Romney’s Very Misguided Op-ed Endorsing Betsy DeVos

Mitt Romney’s op-ed appearing in the Washington Post (and other national papers including my hometown Winston-Salem Journal) praising the selection of Betsy DeVos as the presumptive Secretary of Education is a stunning display of ignorance on the part of a man who almost became the leader of the free world “Mitt Romney: Trump has made a smart choice for education secretary” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mitt-romney-trump-has-made-a-smart-choice-for-education-secretary/2017/01/06/627550e0-d421-11e6-9cb0-54ab630851e8_story.html?utm_term=.18000721c941).

And while his intentions may be noble, what the former governor of Massachusetts and the former republican candidate for president forgets is that it is people like him who have actually disrupted the very “status-quo” he claims that Betsy DeVos can change.

Romney alleges that DeVos’s nomination “reignites” and “age-old battle over education policy.” He states,

“The heat is already intense not just because it involves the future of our children but also because a lot of money is at stake. Essentially, it’s a debate between those in the education establishment who support the status quo because they have a financial stake in the system and those who seek to challenge the status quo because it’s not serving kids well.”

Before he even begins to list his reasons for endorsing DeVos, he already shows that he has misinterpreted the situation of public education because there really has been no status quo in public education. If anything, the terrain of public education has been in a state of constant flux for the past thirty years. With the “Nation at Risk” report to “No Child Left Behind” to the advent of high stakes testing to the innumerable business models infused into education to “Race to the Top” to Common Core to charter school movement to vouchers, the thought of even calling what we have had in our country “status quo” is not just wrong –

It’s ignorant.

And all of those causes in the change to the “status quo” were not necessarily brought by educators as much as by politicians and business leaders, two titles that Romney wears. And the very actions that have caused the “status quo” are allowing politicians to blame public education for failing to hit targets that are constantly moving or in many cases invisible so that “leaders” and reformers can come and claim to save the day.

Romney then offers a couple of points to back up his endorsement, or as he calls it, “my take.”

“First, it’s important to have someone who isn’t financially biased shaping education. As a highly successful businesswoman, DeVos doesn’t need the job now, nor will she be looking for an education job later.”

If the former governor really believed this, then I need him to explain the following quote from DeVos and how it is not being “financially biased.”

In 1997, in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos said that she had “decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections.”

Betsy DeVos spends a lot of money on educational issues that are counteractive to traditional public schools. And she said that she expects something in return for her money. That does not sound like someone who is financially unbiased. Romney then states,

“She founded two of the nation’s leading education reform organizations and helped open the door to charter schools in her home state of Michigan.”

If Mr. Romney wants to offer up Michigan as a beacon of educational prosperity because of her opening the door to charter schools in Michigan, then he may want to look closer. Betsy DeVos’s record in Michigan as an educational reformer is not impressive. At all.

As with many people who laud reform efforts, Romney then cites studies whose very funding and existence are centered on improving the image of the reform measures. He states,

“But recent studies show that choice and competition are having a positive impact on kids’ learning in the state. A recent analysis by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies found that students in Detroit charters are performing better than their counterparts in traditional public schools in every subject tested by the state’s annual assessment. Meanwhile, recent studies by Stanford University found children in Detroit charters showing stronger academic improvement, gaining an extra two months’ learning in math and reading per year, as compared with the typical public school student in the city.”

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies is actually a charter school organization. Of course, they will say positive things about charter schools. The website for the study is http://www.charterschools.org/blog/2016/12/09/taking-look-detroit-what-does-data-really-say. And when the title of the “study” says “What the data really says” then it might be easy to see how others may not interpret it the same way.

But it is Romney’s citing of the study at Stanford that actually is a little more misleading. Simply clicking on the link, you will find that he is referring to a story by the Detroit Free Press entitled “Detroit charter schools show gains, but lag behind state.” While the title of the article takes some of the power away from Romney’s initial claims, he is actually citing a study by CREDO, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes which is housed at Stanford University but is funded by the likes of the Hoover Foundation and the Walton Foundation. There is even a relationship with Pearson. Simply Google CREDO and their relationship with the charter industry and those who wish to reform public education through charter schools is apparent.

If Romney really wants to quote the breadth and width of the studies produced by Stanford University, then maybe he could go to The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) which just released “Privatization or Public Investment in Education?” Its brief report (overall summary) from Dr. Frank Adamson, the Senior Policy and Research Analyst states,

“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom.” (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-germ-brief-final.pdf)

Dr. Adamson’s further explains,

“…mechanisms such as vouchers, charters, and markets allow for private firms to compete in the education market, under the argument that increased competition will provide consumers (students and families) with a greater choice, thus increasing quality. However, in practice, public education contains different constraints than business markets, most notably the obligation of providing every child with a high-quality education…privatizing education has accompanied lower and/or more disparate student performance, likely because markets operate with different principles than the requirements of public sectors.”

Did the former governor consider the findings of the SCOPE study to be of any value in reference to the CREDO study? Probably not, because it does not fit his narrative.

The two paragraphs that begin with “When I became governor of my state, I wanted to improve our schools” and “Massachusetts has consistently ranked No. 1 among all 50 states on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress exams” were rather contradictory as if the need to fit everything in a prescribed mold for presentation trumped the need for logic.

In the “When I became governor” paragraph, Romney talks about debunking the “preconceived” ideas that reducing class sizes and increasing funding are the keys to success in public education. But in the next paragraph he contradicts himself when he talks about what really matters are teacher driven curricula standards and school choices among “standard public schools, charter schools, public exam schools, private schools, Catholic schools and cyber schools.” And of course there had to be great people involved – teachers, parents, etc.

Ironic isn’t it that most charter, private, parochial, and cyber schools can boast of smaller student to teacher ratios and in many of those cases be able to boast of greater use of resources per student. That sounds a lot like what decreasing class size and spending more per student might do in traditional public schools. Of all the options that Romney discusses possible in Massachusetts during his gubernatorial tenure, it is probably safe to say that the traditional public schools were the biggest schools with the largest school populations and the most diversity as far as socio-economics, learning styles, and race were concerned.

And ten years after he finished his term as governor, Romney’s state of Massachusetts actually overwhelmingly voted NO to Question 2 in expanding charter school growth in the state. How would Romney explain that?

Finally, Romney makes reference to a McKinsey & Co. analysis that studies the most successful education systems in the world. Romney lightly sums up the analysis with, “It’s the teachers that make the difference.” What Romney does not mention is that the study is ten years old and most of the reform measures that have taken place in the current terrain of constant flux that he calls the “status quo” have actually caused the teaching profession to be somewhat “deprofessionalized.”

Go to any state where reform measures have taken place – charters in New Orleans, school choice and vouchers in Milwaukee and you will see fewer and fewer veteran teachers.

Go to states where teacher wages and benefits have been compromised like North Carolina and you will see fewer and fewer teacher candidates.

Go to any place where “school choice” is a motto and you will see many who have no choices at all.

Ironically Romney is the same person who unceremoniously talked about the 47% of Americans who live off the government in a fundraising dinner while running for president in 2012. He said,

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. …These are people who pay no income tax. …and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Well over 80% (nearly 90%) of students in America attend public schools. That’s a lot more than 47%. Good public schools everywhere help people be empowered to take personal responsibility.

But students in the country have a right to a good public education. It is not a privilege. And school choice with other reforms like vouchers and charters actually promote more privilege.

The Mitt Romney who was a governor ten years ago certainly did not think that health care was a privilege for people in Massachusetts. His program was a model for the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.

But the Mitt Romney in this misguided op-ed seems to want only a few to have the very best.

 

Betsy DeVos Literally Has Paid Her Way Into Becoming Confirmed As The Most Unqualified Secretary Of Education Ever

An article appeared this morning in my hometown newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal, that highlights the call by two left-leaning organizations for Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina to recuse himself from confirming Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Secretary of Education.

Bertrand Gutierrez in “Critics call for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr to recuse himself in vote for education secretary, cite campaign donation” reports,

“Two Democratic-leaning organizations said Friday that U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., should recuse himself from voting on Betsy DeVos as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary because she and relatives contributed money to his campaign.

DeVos and relatives contributed a combined $43,200 during the 2016 election cycle, according to a review by the Winston-Salem Journal of reports filed by the Burr campaign with the Federal Election Commission” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/critics-call-for-u-s-sen-richard-burr-to-recuse/article_6d9b6f53-b677-5a1d-a68b-1c0961b1aa7f.html).

Sen. Burr is on the high ranking U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Edcuation, Labor and Pensions, ironically called help. Its members are from both parties. The following are the members of the committee.

help

Now look at the following graphic that was forwarded to me and I have since found it on mothercrusader.blogspot.com. Her piece on the DeVos is fantastic.

devos-image

Eight of the twelve republicans on the committee have received financial contributions from DeVos. Cassidy makes most all the others look insignificant. But look at Young!

And those political actions committees (PACS) associated with DeVos and her family are rather numerous, and PACS were allowed through the actios of the Supreme Court through the Citizens United decision.

The following is a now-common, but verified, table of the DeVos family connections to PACS.

devos_familytree-960

Makes you think a little about Citizens United and the Supreme Court?

Now before you talk about the fact that in the past there have been appointees from both parties who have been major donors or fundraisers, then consider this quote that Gutierrez includes in his story.

“In 1997, in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos said that she had “decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence.

“Now, I simply concede the point.

“We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections,” DeVos said.

Will that be in a civics textbook?

Why Shakespeare Matters To People Who Don’t Think Shakespeare Matters

The following is courtesy of the venerable Bill Bryson in his book Shakespeare: The World as Stage. I share it in the beginning of the school year with my students in my Shakespeare 101 elective class. Some think it rather trivial, but as the class progresses, many begin to see that the scope of Shakespeare’s work is rather incredible.

shakespeare

  • Left 1 million words of text
  • Never signed his name the same way twice
  • 38 (some say 39) plays Shakespeare
  • 154 sonnets
  • 138,198 commas
  • 26794 colons
  • 15,785 question marks
  • 884, 647 words
  • 31,959 speeches
  • 118, 406 lines
  • 7000 works on Shakespeare alone in Library of Congress – it would take 20 continuous years of reading to finish
  • 1100 films
  • His average play was 2,700 lines – 2.5 hours
  • Comedy of Errors is shortest at 1800 lines
  • Hamlet is longest at 4000 plus lines
  • 70% of his plays are blank verse
  • 5% of plays arerhymed meter
  • 25% are prose
  • There are anatopisms (look it up) and anachronisms and horrible geography
  • 29,066 different words used in his works – 20,000 if you remove different forms (average person knows 50k words with all of the new nouns)
  • Coined 2,035 words (suffixes, prefixes) – over 1700 exclusive words

 

And then I share with them the theories that the man known as William Shakespeare may not have actually been the person who wrote the plays. Considering that only 14 words exist in his own hand and a will (no pun intended) that bequeaths to his wife the second best bed of the household, there is not much concrete evidence to ensure that the Bard is who we think is a man from Stratford-Upon-the river Avon is the writer of the world’s most well-known plays.

People like Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and modern “Oxfordians” have offered theories that Shakespeare’s work is actually the product of one Edward deVere, the Earl of Oxford. It is a story shown in the rather recent movie Anonymous, which is entertaining and does provide some insight into Elizabethan culture.

anonymous

I show that movie to the Shakespeare class for perspective.

Others theorize that maybe Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s plays after his “murder” or that Francis Bacon wrote them in between his philosophical excursions.

But a recent article from The Guardian may just have set this whole thing to rest and let The Bard be The Bard.

It is entitled “How ‘Sherlock of the library’ cracked the case of Shakespeare’s identity.”  Here is the link – https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/08/sherlock-holmes-of-the-library-cracks-shakespeare-identity.

For those of you who are Shakespeare enthusiasts, it is worth the read because it is worth the read. If you’ve read some James Shapiro or Stephen Greenblatt or Harold Bloom or even some Bill Bryson in addition to actual Shakespeare, then you can understand that there is a fascination with knowing a connection with the man and the creations for the stage.

But for those of you who do not like Shakespeare, then this article is just as important if not more. Because it shows us something that we all need to know.

Everyone has possibilities.

How can a country boy with an eight-grade education literally come to London and become the greatest writer the English speaking world would come to know? There are those who refused to believe that someone who could have not been of high breeding or have attended the best university (or even graduated high school) could go on and do great things in spite of those challenges.

Apparently Shakespeare did.

We need to know that there can be leaders, pioneers, inventors, voices, revolutionaries, and artists whose backgrounds defy the very logic of society and help us define how we see ourselves.

Literature is filled with them.

And the lists of people who write literature is filled with them as well.

Plus, I like country kids who revere books and words and dream fairly big.

 

DaddyStu and MalcolmSon – When Your Kid Calls You By Your First Name

Not everyone gets to have a moniker that pretty much states that he is the “daddy” of something.

There’s Puff Daddy.

puff-daddy

Trick Daddy.

trick-daddy

Daddy Yankee.

daddy-yankee

That Dad Rapper on You Tube

rapping-daddy

Mac Daddy and Daddy Mack who make you wanta jump, jump!

criss-cross

Big Daddy Kane.

daddy-kane

And then there’s DaddyStu.

daddystu1

Doesn’t get any more original than that. And how it was earned makes it even better and more prestigious.

If your child recognizes that a simple “Dad” or a “Daddy” or a “DADDY!” does not get your attention, then maybe calling you what others call you just might. In this case, it is a shortened version of my given name – Stu.

But what makes it even more special is that it has the title attached to it as only someone like Malcolm can.

Makes it personal. Makes it loving. Makes me mindful that I have to listen because I do not always listen. And I need to always listen.

Many children with Down Syndrome have a hard time verbalizing what they want to communicate. Part of that is because of the developmental delays. Part of it might be because of hypotonia, or lack of muscle tone, and muscles control your ability to alter your vocal chords.

It is not uncommon for many children with Down Syndrome to learn sign language before they can verbalize as a means to communicate. Malcolm still uses some signs. And there are some signs that he uses that he just simply made his own. “Malcolm slang.”

It works.

When your kid operates with fewer social filters, he gets straight to the point. When he needs your attention, he lets you know. When he needs you, he calls you by your name. My “Malcolm name” just happens to be rather cool.

This kid is the spitting image of his stunning-looking mother. The hair, the eyes, the smile – all from her.

But he knows who his daddy is. And I know when he needs my attention he will let me know.

003-dsc_0162-l