The NC General Assembly Should Cap Class Sizes and Fund For Arts and PE – Jesus and Churchill Would. It’s About Investing In Our Kids, Not Using Them As Pawns.

Arika Herron’s recent Winston-Salem Journal column this past Sunday entitled “Too big to learn? Schools seeking waivers for exceeding class-size limits” brought to mind the ongoing disconnect that legislative leaders in our state have with reality when it comes to curbing class sizes in public schools.

As reported last fall in a variety of media outlets, NC General Assembly leaders were pushing to limit class sizes in early grades (k-3) to a prescribed number. The problem with the original bills associated with such an endeavor was that there would be no additional funding to really alleviate the need for extra classrooms and teachers because fewer students per classroom would mean more required classes and more space.

Well… actually, there was a solution to that in the eyes of many a lawmaker – cut “non-core” classes, specifically physical education, art, music, and other specialties. If certain classes cannot be tested by state tests for “student achievement,” then they may not be as important.

At least to some.

And with Herron’s report came the stark realization that many in Raleigh still choose to ignore the reality in schools for what appears to be purposeful reasons. And when they do finally witness what happens in public schools, these lawmakers feign surprise.

For instance from Herron,

In a recent visit to Jefferson Elementary School, which has six classrooms with more than 24 students, Rep. Debra Conrad, R­-Forsyth, said she was surprised to see such large classes.

“We allot based on a ratio,” she said. “We’re trying to find out what (school districts) have been doing with the money.”

School officials said the district doesn’t fill classrooms with just 18 students — as the state allots — because it uses some of its allotted teaching positions to hire for special classes like art, music and physical education. There is not a specific state allotment to hire those special teachers and because they don’t have a dedicated class assigned to them, they do not affect a school’s teacher­-to-­student ratio.

Jefferson Elementary is one of the highest rated schools in the district and has been for quite a while, and Debra Conrad has been a representative for Forsyth County for at least three terms.

Further on in Herron’s report it states,

The flexibility that currently allows districts to do that and fill classes above their allotted ratio is in jeopardy. A provision of the budget bill would hold schools to strict class sizes starting with the 2017­18 school year.

However, lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would give back the flexibility after school districts across the state said they would have to cut art, music and gym classes in order to comply. Some districts, like Forsyth County, have said they’re also already facing a teacher shortage and struggling to fill the elementary positions they have now — let alone dozens more. Many districts would need additional classroom spaces, too.

What they do not see must not exist. And what does not exist must not need money.

This is not just by accident. And it is not simple ignorance.

It’s intentional. And until they receive lots of feedback from lots of angry parents and citizens, they will not reverse course. That’s why it is incumbent to call lawmakers. That’s why our journalists must be fearless in reporting what is true.

Remember, this is the very same General Assembly that ramrodded vouchers (Opportunity Grants) down the throats of tax payers to allow people to send their children to private schools because of the thought that public schools were not doing their job.

The recent Duke Law School Children’s Law Center’s report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS (https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.) has some rather enlightening summations about the NC voucher program established by the same people who want the very class size restrictions in public schools, yet who also claim ignorance to what happens in overcrowded schools. One of the most damning conclusions states,

“The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.”

While these lawmakers applaud the structure of the private schools for their small class size, unique approaches to teaching, and their well-rounded curriculum, they seem to admonish traditional public schools in their quest to have the same resources.

Ironic that over 93% of vouchers go to private religious schools that are overwhelmingly Christian in affiliation, and while traditional public schools are having to worry about cutting arts, music, dance, and physical education just to fit students within limited resources, voucher-enabled religious schools get to teach their students in reduced-sized classrooms verses like,

“Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.” – Psalm 149:3.

 “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” – First Timothy 4:14-15.

“Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” – 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Those verses talk about music, dance, creative talents, and physical fitness. And those are being sacrificed by our General Assembly within traditional public schools under a ruse of fiscal responsibility when in actuality it is nothing but ignorance and neglect.

When so many of our lawmakers who tout the very “reforms” that have actually hurt traditional public schools profess such a love of Jesus Christ, then would it not make sense for them to invest in all schools?

And when lawmakers like the aforementioned Rep. Conrad support school choice and vouchers they are actually supporting using tax payer money to help fund schools that service far fewer students than traditional public schools.

Consider another observation from the SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS report.

“The participating schools range in size from very small to large. As the following chart shows, six of the participating schools enroll more than 1,000 students. The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students” (p.8).

The “most typical size for a voucher accepting school is between 100 and 250 students?” That’s fairly eye-opening when you consider that many public high school teachers are teaching six out of eight slots in a block schedule without a cap on students per class. That means that many high school teachers in typical public schools are teaching as many students in their classes (150-200) as there are total in the “typical” school that participates in the voucher program here in North Carolina.

And yet lawmakers have measured the merit of teachers and graded our public schools without regard to class sizes in the past few years, but when they decide to alleviate the “class size” issue they create a “bait-and-switch” scenario that further weakens how public schools can service the majority of school aged-children.

It was a little encouraging to hear Rep. Craig Horn quoted last November in NC Policy Watch acknowledging that the NCGA’s original ideas to “curb” class sizes were not very clearly thought out.

How things play out is not always how you expect them to play out,” Horn told Policy Watch this week. “I mean, we obviously intended to make class changes. Did we fully understand all of the implications? Quite frankly, hell no” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).

Ironic that Rep. Horn is a huge admirer of Winston Churchill. He often quotes him and makes reference to him on his website, craighorn.com.

Craig is often called “Representative Churchill” by his legislative colleagues owing to his close association with the Churchill Centre. Craig is president of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on the Board of Governors of the International Churchill Society and the Churchill Centre.

So he may know of this quote that is falsely attributed to Winston Churchill.

winston-churchill-arts

It would be fantastic for this essay if that quote was actually Churchill’s. Yet, alas.

But Churchill did say this.

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

That works well enough.

What would work even better is for the North Carolina General Assembly to take measures to cap all class sizes and keep the arts and physical education classes alive and vibrant.

It’s money well spent. Rather, it’s money well invested.

Open Letter to Rep. Virginia Foxx Concerning Genetic Testing

Dear Rep. Foxx,

I read with great interest and increasing dread the report in today’s Winston-Salem Journal concerning workplace genetic testing.

The report entitled “Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill” gives a brief outline of a bill that you have introduced as HR1313 that would

“undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.”

It goes on to further state,

“Congress passed GINA to prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes. There is an exception that allows for employees to provide that information as part of voluntary wellness programs. But the law states that employee participation must be entirely voluntary, with no incentives to provide it, or penalties for not providing it (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/employees-who-decline-genetic-testing-could-face-penalties-under-proposed/article_ec4136ca-650a-5ecd-9963-f5fb91acf1d4.html) .”

And now in a dystopian encore to the recently introduced “Trumpcare” bill that Paul Ryan has even defended as a means of taxing the poor more and giving the rich expanded tax cuts, you seem to be further proving that you are out of touch with the very constituency you represent.

You have said many controversial statements in the past and voted against the waves of common sense and decency. For instance:

  • You voted against relief for Hurricane Katrina in Sept. of 2005.
  • You defended Roger Clemens’s against steroid use by showing viewers on The Daily Show posters of the former Cy Young Award winner in an attempt to educate others on physique.
  • You co-sponsored a bill to make Jesus part of Christmas in 2008.
  • You have been quoted as saying, “Democrats have a tar baby on their hands,” that Matthew Shepherd’s death was a “hoax,” and that, “we have more to fear from the potential of the Affordable Care Act passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”

Those are just a few examples. But this recent episode, I believe, might be the most egregious. Why? Because for someone who espouses such a strong public persona of faith in God and Jesus Christ, you are literally allowing for-profit companies to discriminate against people based on their genetics.

Simply put, you are proposing that people be discriminated against because of the way GOD MADE THEM!

Genetic testing can be a very scary experience. My wife and I experienced it when as older parents-to-be we received a prenatal diagnosis that our son had Down Syndrome. Extra chromosome aside, we have been blessed to raise our son just as God made him, but he does have a condition that can manifest itself in a variety of health-related obstacles.

You said in your comments concerning H.R. 3504, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, “These tiny, vulnerable lives deserve the protection afforded all other persons under the law, and this bill ensures that their lives are protected.” Did that mean you would as a law maker and a Christian would help ensure that their lives would be protected even after they reached adulthood and became part of the tax-paying workforce who votes as well?

Your introduction of HR1313 seems to contradict that very notion.

Not only am I a parent of a child with special genetics, a voter in your district, but I am also a public school teacher. In fact, I teach high school English and I do actively read, not just for pleasure, but to keep learning how others view the world. A recent perusal of Amazon.com yielded a possible “next-read.”

god is in the house

The description reads as follows:

“A very inspired and original compilation for this election year, ”God Is in the House” is a collection of essays by members of Congress who reflect on their deep faith and how it guides them as legislators. The book was compiled by Representative Virginia Foxx who personally asked congressional colleagues who are devout in their faith to contribute, coworkers who are in Bible study with her, and colleagues she knows on a personal level.”

It’s the “how it (deep faith) guides them as legislators” part of the description that confuses me because HR1313 does not seem to be honoring your faith in God, but rather honors your faith in profits.

And is it not ironic that the foreword is written by Paul Ryan, the architect of the current version of “Trumpcare” that actually takes more from the poor and gives it to the rich? Now that’s “God in the House!”

Yes, I understand that this does not mean that HR1313 would allow any employer to force all their workers to submit to genetic testing. But what it does mean is that employers can control how wellness benefits can be applied to employees based on whether they do or do not voluntarily give into genetic testing. What is to keep a particular employer from defining what can and cannot be covered under a “wellness” program.

In fact, an employer under your bill would be able to keep employees from being able to get premium rebates if they chose not to submit genetic testing. That’s allowing companies to control rates for insurance and what coverage they can extend – pure and simple.

What if one of your own children or grandchildren was subjected to such a test and was denied critical coverage or had to pay a steep penalty or higher premiums that could financially hinder family finances because of some unforeseen genetic “malady” or predisposition beyond his/her control? Would you tell that loved one that a “legal certainty” for someone else’s bottom line was more important than making sure that people could get the best health care they could?

I have an idea what Jesus would say.

However, before you even consider pressing this bill any further in Congress, I suggest that you be willing to subject yourself (along with others who support this bill) to a genetic test.

Maybe, we would then discover the very gene that predisposes one to obey the influence of large insurance company lobbyists rather than the very people that person is supposed to serve.

Musings With Malcolm – You Play The Game With What You Have (And With What You Can)

Once again, my little man and I went to another event to cheer on some students except this tie it was not an athletic event, but rather an intellectual one.

The Piedmont Environmental Alliance and the Wake Forest University Debate Team helped to stage their annual debate tournament. West sent three teams.

Malcolm is not much on debate. When he argues, he usually lets it all out at once.

Red hair gets redder. Teenage angst comes a few years early. But he hung in there for a bit and helped cheer on some great students who went and did some rather great things. In fact, hardware was won, respect gained, and hard work rewarded.

Then Malcolm and I got some ice cream.

But as soon as we got home he went to his room (and apparently mine), got changed, and proceeded to prepare for his afternoon baseball/basketball practice.

You have to. There’s still daylight and we are supposed to get a blizzard tomorrow.

Bat, ball, glove, bases, baggy shorts, old hat, baseball shirt, and water shoes.

Why?

Don’t ask why. Just do it!

So here we go.

Again, notice the deliberate approach to hitting the ball. Then the bat flip, but it gets better. Because…

those pants that he stole from my drawer are some of my water shorts that I use for swimming and not matter how tightly I tie them, they fall.

But, no worries, he won’t let his butt hang out.

Decorum is still important.

Yet, while running, he senses that there might be other things to see. And behold, he comes out with…

a BIGGER bat!

So we hit some more. And then I notice that he has surfboards on his underwear.

And that makes the whole ensemble seem complete.

The ability to mesh swimming, baseball, basketball, baggy shorts, multiple bats, old hats, and water shoes into one fluid activity is not just imagination and creativity.

It’s beautiful.

Enjoy the snow, or lack thereof.

If You Ever Wanted to Know About the Unwise Use of the Opportunity Grants Then Read This Report on NC School Vouchers by The Children’s Law Center at Duke Law School Of Law

The always vital voice of Lindsay Wagner of the Fletcher Foundation tweeted about this earlier today by posting the following table found in the Children’s Law Center’s recent March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS.

Duke study

Let those blank spaces sink in for a minute. The lack of oversight by itself compared to other states listed should be shocking. But this entire report is full of rather stunning observations of a program that will take almost 1 billion dollars of tax payer money after the next decade into what many outside of our state consider the most lax and enabled brand of privatization of public schools.

The entire report can be found here:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

But just to give you a flavor of what the Opportunity Grants have done according to one of the more respected research universities in the nation, consider the following excerpted observations:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (3).
  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. In contrast, similar public school students in NC are scoring above the national average (3).
  • The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so (3).
  • Previous research on North Carolina private schools in general showed that more than 30% of private schools in North Carolina are highly segregated (more than 90% of students of one race) and 80% enroll more than half of the same race.10 Without data on racial enrollments in voucher schools, it is not clear whether vouchers contribute to school segregation. Because of the overall data on private schools, however, the voucher program may well be contributing to increasing school segregation (7).
  • Of the participating schools, less than 20% were secular schools; more than 80% were religious schools. This does not line up exactly with the percentages of vouchers used at religious schools versus secular schools (93% at religious schools), because several religious schools enrolled large numbers of students (8).
  • The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students (8).
  • Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. North Carolina’s limited oversight reflects a policy decision to leave the quality control function primarily to individual families. Under North Carolina law, private schools are permitted to make their own decisions regarding curriculum, graduation requirements, teacher qualifications, number of hours/days of operation, and, for the most part, testing. No accreditation is required of private schools (13).
  • Unlike some laws, the law creating the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program does not set out its purpose (15).
  • In fact, there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality. Thus, to the extent that the program was established to provide options for better academic outcomes for children, nothing in the program’s design assures or even promotes that outcome (15-16).
  • THE LEGISLATIVE DECISION TO EXEMPT VOUCHER STUDENTS FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE STANDARD STATE END-OF-GRADE TESTS MEANS THAT NO RESEARCHER WILL EVER BE ABLE TO MAKE AN “APPLES-TO-APPLES” COMPARISON BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOL AND VOUCHER STUDENTS (18).
  • The North Carolina program allows for participation in the program by children who are not in failing schools and by private schools that do not offer a more academically promising education (19).

Betsy DeVos, Free Lunches, and the HUA Complex

“I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the ‘wonderful’ things the mainstream media has called me lately. I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

In yet another example of not just “Foot In Mouth” Syndrome but “Head Up Ass Complex,” our new secretary of education proves that the need to be knowledgeable in the area she is leader of is not really a necessity in today’s political landscape.

Apparently, having any familiarity with whom you serve is of no importance either.

Forget the lack of control over standard conventions of the English language and the unwillingness to own her own mistakes.

devos-correction

Forget the complete ignorance in discerning “proficiency” from “growth” as it pertains to the very occupation that you are considered the nation’s leader of.

“I think, if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would correlate it to competency and mastery, so each student is measured according to the advancements they are making in each subject area.”

Forget the complete disconnect from what teachers experience in the classroom of our public schools.

devos-tweet

Forget the mind-blowing misrepresentation of HBCU’s as institutions that were created for school choice advocacy.

devos-statement

This one hits the kids. Betsy DeVos is supposed to be an advocate for all public school children.

Yes, you could say, “Well, she was just saying that the government can’t just give out stuff to people for free. There’s a price for everything.” She was, after all, talking to the Conservative Political Action Conference attendees. What else would she say?

And you would be right. There is a price for the food that feeds a lot of poverty-stricken children who attend public schools.

And there’s a price to pay for buying influence in the political world.

There’s also a price to pay for buying an office on a presidential cabinet.

There’s even a price to pay for having so many of our children walking around hungry.

Ironically, public school students, teachers, parents, and supporters are paying a price for having a politically motivated secretary of education who seems more interested in buying ways of not having to pay a price for others to have the basic needs in life so that she can continue to promote policy that favors a few rather than many.

No matter who provides the lunch or the utensils or the tray it comes on, when the person who is supposed to fight tooth and nail for the very kids she references in an ill-conceived comment that reveals the total disconnect she has with her duties as a public servant, then we all pay a huge price: you, me, even Bernie Sanders.

But perhaps what might be the hallmark of DeVos’s ignorance is the last part of her comment concerning Bernie Sanders. She said,

“…and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

I highly doubt that. There’s no telling what Sanders has encountered in his life that DeVos could not even conceive of.

I highly doubt that a man born to Jewish immigrants in New York City whose direct ancestors were lost in the Holocaust, who attended public schools as well as Hebrew school, lived a life not of privilege but of sacrifice, lost his parents at an early age, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., actually taught in a Head Start program for a time, and has led a life of public service needs to be told by a lifelong heiress who has never held a job, never taught in or attended a public school, or ever faced life without being one of the richest people in the country that there is no such thing as a “free lunch.”

Besides, I don’t even think Betsy DeVos can even make a lunch.

Musings With Malcolm – Next Season Started Yesterday, Games at West

One of the most endearing attributes that defines Malcolm is his ability to live in the moment. He can shake off a bad episode in no time flat and savor the good out of any situation.

And I am jealous of that. So what do I do about it?

Be a part of it.

In the past week and a half he has been to basketball, baseball, and softball games at his adopted high school – West Forsyth, The Home of the Titans – watching others do the very things he tries to do at home.

Of course, I am biased toward the school where I teach and where my daughter attends, and I will attend as many sporting events as possible because I believe that teachers support students outside of the classroom.

I also believe that athletics can be a fantastic outlet for students. In fact, I would wager that most of the athletes that I have in class do better academically when they are in season than out of season. The focus, the time management, the motivation all factor into success in the classroom. Plus, there are some phenomenal teams and coaches at West.

But there is another reason that I appreciate being able to attend so many sporting events: I get to take Malcolm and let him roam. And watch. And emulate. And socialize. And be a part of. And savor. And just be in the moment.

If you ever wanted to see how inclusion really works, go to an event with a child with special needs where people do not see that child as having special needs.

That happens each time Malcolm goes with me to watch a game at West.

If you are not too familiar with Down Syndrome, you may not know that most all people who have that extra 21st chromosome experience hypotonia, or low muscle tone. It can manifest itself in so many ways because muscles help control almost every action in the body like swallowing, digesting, breathing, even speaking. Any parent of a child with Trisomy 21 can tell you that keeping the child active is imperative.

So back to Malcolm. His ability to savor the moment, and his love of sports, and his ease at being with others at West has done something for him and me that money cannot buy – he wants to play sports which means he wants to move and use his muscles.

The very students who grace the hallways of the school where I work have been teaching Malcolm how to move and play ball.

And he lets me play with him.

What people do not see at home is a kid who goes in the back yard and plays basketball and baseball for long periods of time trying to do the very things he sees athletes do on television or in person at West Forsyth. In fact, he will put on his shoes and go outside in the middle of the night if he can because when he gets an idea, he goes.

You want to talk about the kid who shoots baskets well into the night to perfect his shot? Yep, I got one of those.

So, I thought I could give you some ocular proof.

This first video is Malcolm pitching. Notice the intense concentration. The presentation of the glove from the windup. And then like Fernando Valenzuela, he delivers the ball without even looking at the plate. That adds at last 5-10 mph. By the way, his headband is one of those stretch resistance bands. Only great athletes can make that look good.

This next video is of Malcolm pitching to his mother. She does happen to hit the ball, but an error is committed by the invisible second baseman. Damn him.

Notice the presentation. The looking the runners back to the bases. The hat. Man, what a great hat.

In this video, Malcolm rips a double into the gap and then stops to admire it. In fact, he starts to lead the clapping of the crowd. Also, notice the running from home plate to second base which is under the basketball goal. Who needs first base? Again, notice the hat and the bat flip.

This was earlier in the day at batting practice. Headband on. Game on.

And, of course we have basketball. Get your own rebound. Pump fake. And the put back.

Shakespeare and “That” Billboard

shakepeare-winkingbillboard

In the second installment of the mystery that is the I-40 billboard, another pseudo-cryptic message was given by our anonymous source.

Apparently the source is making fun of the backlash that the original billboard received. And I am glad that the source gave us an explanation that requires yet another explanation.

If anything, it gives me another opportunity to come to the defense of one person who would surely be offended by the seond billboard. And that person is William Shakespeare.

If someone uses the idiom/phrase “much ado about nothing,” then most people would surely think of the title of one of the more famous comedies created by the Bard.

Some linguists think that the phrase originated in the 1500’s and the meaning of the idiom seems rather universal:

“a lot of trouble and excitement about something which is not important”Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.

Making the idiom the title of the billboard would further verify that it is a direct reference to the Shakespeare play.

But if you’re going to use Shakespeare’s title, should you not at least try and use his style and language? It doesn’t have to be in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote a lot of his dialogue in prose.

Here’s the text of the original new billboard as seen now on I-40.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts”

Imagine that in Shakespearean English. You could try one of many “Shakespeare Translation” websites. Schmoop has one that is used here.

Magically what is created is not only a reference to Shakespeare, but keeps the spirit of Shakespeare. It makes you feel moere intelligent for reading it as if you were above a social experiment.

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that hath brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror those gents could only see an fell victim of their incorrect interpretation of a fartuous billboard — Bless their hearts ”

But a man of Shakespeare’s wit and ability to pinpoint human nature as well as inject humor and social satire in the same words may have actually said something different in reference to the first billboard.

Consider:

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath spent wage anonymously to maketh a provocative billboard to stir up a little controversy so that we could findeth a reason to bless thy hearts “

Or,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We hath made a billboard so that those who comment on news articles can maketh excit’ment of others who art offended by t by telling those folk that those gents should just receiveth ov’r t while those gents themselves wenteth out of their way to giveth longer comments about how those gents wast not affected by the billboard”

Maybe,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We bethought twas comical that so many wast offended by the sexist message of the first one that we referenced a playeth that would not has’t originally allowed women to beest cast in female roles”

Possibly,

“Much Ado About Nothing
We actually didst not bethink that people would readeth this billboard because if ‘t be true hath too much text and no graphics and trying to readeth ti while driving would maketh either a wreck or a phantom traffic jam, or both”

Perhaps,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about not using proper grammar should only beest hath followed by a longer billboard message that doesn’t useth proper mechanics of English convention”

Even this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment about showing how so many people art immersed in their own insecurities conducted by people who art too insecure to identify themselves”

And maybe this,

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that should has’t shown the creators that if ‘t be true those gents hath taken incredible backlash from the original message tis not incorrect interpretation as much as tis incorrect presentation”

But definitely Shakespeare was a man who loved free speech and would fight to the death so that others may speak freely, even if what was said is, well you know:

“Much Ado About Nothing
A social experiment that showeth we all has’t freedom of speech coequal if ‘t be true what we sayeth is asinine”

As I Lay Dying (Taking This Standardized Test) – A Faulknerian, Stream-of-Unconsciousness Summary of Five Sections of the ACT

aild

Darl

Jewel and I come down the hall and although I am a few feet head of him, anyone watching us from the end of the hall can see Jewel’s frayed trucker hat a full head above my own.

Cora

So I got out fresh batteries and checked my TI-84 calculator today. We depend a lot on our calculators. They are good machines considering they use batteries. Dead batteries can break u a math section of the ACT quicker than anything.

Darl

The administrator and the proctor are standing at the door. The administrator is tilting his clipboard holding it outdrawn between thumb and finger. They look across the hall and put their coffee cups to their lips and drink. “Where’s all the students?”

Jewel

It’s because he stands there, right next to his locker, combing his hair and letting all the girls droll over him saying See. See how cool my hair looks. I told him to go somewhere else.

Darl

We watch the administrator look around the hallway. He does not look at us. “You ready?” he says. “If you’re ready,” I say. I say “Wait.” He stops looking at the proctor. He pulls a sip of coffee with decorous and deliberate precision into his mouth. The proctor rubs his balding head. He is gazing out beyond the window of the building beyond the football field, out across the campus. Jewel watches him a moment, then he goes on to the water fountain and drinks.

Cora

It was the sweetest thing I ever saw. He was texting his mother, I think. I always said Darl was different from those others. I always said he was the only one of them who had his mother’s nature.

Dewey Dell

The first time me and Lafe took the test in another building. Pa dassent read books because he just watches TV. And I usually just make weird observations cause no one believes that I can be smart.

Tull

Anse keeps on rubbing his knees. What the hell is wrong with his knees? “No one mislikes tests more than me,” he says. “A fellows got to guess on so many questions,” I say. “But it will all be over sometime in the afternoon.”

Anse

Durn this test. And lunch is been pushed out for another hour. I can sit here and same as see my lunch with a second sight. I do the best I can, much as I can get my mind on anything, but durn I’m hungry already.

Darl

He has been hanging out with that girl: the back of his neck is trimmed close, with some of that gel in his hair like a frozen wave. He has not once looked at anyone. “Jewel,” I say. Back straightened between the two rows of desks placed exactly four feet apart per ACT instruction manual. “Do you know you are going to bomb this test, Jewel?”

Peabody

When the principal finally sent for me to proctor, I said “He has wore out all the other PTSA volunteers.” And I said that is a blessed shame.

Darl

Someone’s Pa stands beside the water fountain. Why the hell is his Pa here at school? Oh, Vardaman peers from behind him. He forgot to get on the bus. Dewey sees him; all her failing grades appear to drain into her eyes, urgent, irremediable. “I need lunch money,” Dewey Dell says.

Vardaman

The I begin to run to the testing room. I run toward the end of the hall and come to the door and stop. Then I begin to sweat. I can feel my hands like clammy fish and the blood is rushing to my head.

Dewey Dell

This test could do so much for me if it just would. It could do everything for me. It’s like everything in the world for me is inside the pages of a standardized test. I am about to throw up my guts.

Vardaman

When we finish the test they are going to make us sit here for a long time. I saw Cash stand up and go whirling away to his bookbag. “Do you have an extra soft lead No. 2 pencil, Cash? Cash? Cash?” I got up. I said, “Do you have an extra pencil, Cash?”

Tull

It was already five minutes into first period before we could even think about starting to pass out the materials. It has been a misdoubtful morning. Buses were late. What does “misdoubtful” mean? I have hours of staring at kids to think about that.

Darl

The eraser sits on the desk. Rugged, used, its cracked side smeared on one side with a soaring smudge of graphite, it sheds a feeble and sultry glare upon the pencil and the adjacent extra pencil. Upon the dark desk, the grains of fake wood look like random smears of wrong answers on past standardized tests. The math portion is first. Seal torn. Calculator ready. Thirty-five minutes to complete.

Cash

I look at the problem. 1. There are more variables than I realized. 2. There is twice the nuber of integers on one side of equation. 3. I could use a drink of water. 4. In an equation, there has to be a solution that you can come by if you do the math correctly and go in the proper order. 5. People like math. 6. Except. 7. Me 8. Animal magnetism. 9. Animal magnetism is not helping me with this math problem. 10. Someone can do math and show how the earth sinks on a bevel. 11. What the hell is a bevel? 12. So I multiplied each side by zero. 13. Problem solved.

Vardaman

The sandwich in my lunch bag is tuna fish.

Tull

It was ten o’clock when I got back from my first bathroom break, and the classroom was in the middle of the math section. They were still using their calculators and I found one solitary eraser on the floor next to the first desk on the third row. The anxiety in the room was rising like a swelled river after a large thunderstorm.

Darl

“It’s not your brain that’s dead, Jewel,” I say. He sits erect in his seat, leaning a little forward, wooden-backed. His head is beading with sweat and dripping down his wooden face. I hope I didn’t say that out loud. It would mean a misadministration.

Cash

It won’t balance. If you want the equation to work out and be balanced, I have to – “Multiply each side by zero! Dammit!” “I’m telling you it won’t balance unless.” “Multiply! Multiply! Damn your thin-nosed soul to hell, multiply!” I am speaking to myself. Hopefully not out loud.

Darl

Cash looks weird. Almost reminds me of that quote in a Faulkner novel that talks about that guy’s face when “the blood goes in waves. In between them his flesh is greenish looking, about that smooth, thick, pale green of cow’s cud; his face suffocated, furious, his lip lifted upon his teeth.” “Multiply! You thin-nosed soul!” Does Cash know we can hear him? And why does he think that multiplying each side by zero solves everything in math? He better shut up or we’ll have a misadministration.

Vardaman

We are going on a break after this section. Dewey Dell says that it won’t get easier. Even Santa Claus failed the ACT. And I will have to take it again next Christmas.

Darl

He goes on toward the bathroom during the break. Dewey Dell carries something in one hand. It’s a twinkie. They still make those? In the other is her bottle of water. Her face is calm and sullen, her eyes brooding and alert. Makes me wish I brought a snack for break.

Anse

I told those guys not to talk during the test. My ma would not like me talking when I wasn’t supposed to talk. Makes it sound like they don’t care. Now we are on break and they are prancing along like circus animals and Darl is even laughing. And he’s all alone. How many times I told him if he’s doing such things as that that makes folks talk about him.

Darl

He goes back into the class room real fast, yet we have five more minutes of break time. That makes me laugh out loud. Why is Anse looking at me like that?

Anse

This is a hard test for a guy who hates school. It’s hard. Five hours of mind sweat. And I hate sweating.

Samson

Why am I in the room with these people? Why can my last name not begin with “B” like the Bundren boys?

Dewey Dell

The administrator said there was five minutes left in this section. That’s five minutes closer to the writing section of the test. And I write good. Now it’s less than five minutes.

Tull

After they began the writing section, I began to walk about and looped up the rows of desks. That’s what a proctor does. They was all sitting all antsy in their desks. Anse Bundren was sitting there looking out the window just day dreaming. Probably about not doing any work since he never did any class work either from what I can tell.

Darl

He sits in his desk, glaring at that other kid who makes really good grades, his lean face crinkled up to and beyond the cold frigidity of his eyes. Last school year when he was a sophomore, he took to sleeping in class. One morning when we were doing our journal entries, I heard the teacher go to his desk and call his name. When he woke up he looked at the teacher, grimaced, and then put his head down again.

Tull

So we finally got Anse that newly sharpened #2 soft lead pencil, and he is now starting to write a response to the writing prompt. If he keeps putting off his school work, he will find himself back here again next year. As for me, I am waiting to keel over because I know that I will be back here in two months proctoring the EOC’s.

Darl

Before me the thick dark current of thought runs. It talks to me in a murmur become endless and whispery, the great ideas rumbling gigantically into swirls of sentences along the surface of the paper, the pencil mapping my every thought, profound and significant, as if everything that runs through my mind was pure stream of unconscious literature. I think I am talking out loud.

Vardaman

Cash tried to tell Darl to shutup and Darl just mumbling aloud and I trying to tell Darl in his mind to shutup and Deewey Dell doing the same thing and then looking at me Vardaman, you Vardaman you Vardaman and the administrator passed me because he was seeing that she was looking at me weird and she stated to write again.

Tull

When I told Vernon how Darl was talking out loud during the writing portion of the test and Cash trying to tell him to not let his inner monologue come out of his mouth, and Jewel almost leaving his seat to smack both of them for disturbing his thought process while outlining a response for the prompt, I thought, “Why am I here?”

Darl

Cash is mouthing something to me, his head raised like a meerkat. His eyes are semi-closed, his face is red, his hair plastered with gel in a smooth smear across his forehead as though he was hiding an already receding hairline. His face appears depressed a little. He’s still probably trying to work out some math problem.

Cash

Damn math equation didn’t balance on both sides.

Cora

One day we were talking. She had always been the smartest in the class, but my grades were better, even after last school year. Mr. Whitfield kept telling her she should apply herself, singled her out and pushed her to take more AP classes, and I said to her many a time, “God gave you brains to overcome your plain looks and for a token of His own suffering and love you conceived and bore them.” I said that because she didn’t apply herself like she should have, but I still wanted to be the one with the highest grades in class.

Addie

God, I am so glad that I didn’t go to school today and take that test with all of those dirty snuffling nosed dorks. Instead of going to school I went down to the river where I could sit and be quiet and hate them. I could just remember how my father used to say the reason to take a standardized test is to get ready to take another one.

Whitfield

When the attendance report said that she was absent, all that morning I wrestled with anger, and I emerged victorious. I woke to the enormity of my fault; I saw the true light at last, and I went on about my day and told myself that if Addie doesn’t want a chance to get a national scholarship then it was her deal. But standardized tests are very important to me as the principal. That’s how I am measured.

Darl

Cash looks like he is about to vomit. He always does when he takes long tests.

Armstid

When is lunch? Someone has tuna. I smell it.

Vardaman

Now there are five sections to this test, all taking over thirty minutes. “Look, Darl,” I say; “see?” He looks up with an inquisitive yet constipated look. “I thought there were only four sections.”

Moseley

I happened to look up, and saw that she was looking toward me. Not really at me, and not looking at anything in particular; just looking there with her turned this way and her eyes full on something and kind of blank too, like she was waiting for something. When I looked up again she was writing in her answer booklet.

Darl

Here’s a good place for a transition in my written response. We could ass some more adjectives here and lots of commas. I am speaking out loud again, aren’t I?

Vardaman

Darl and Jewel and Dewey Dell and I are taking a standardized test, in school. Jewel went to the bathroom. He came back and go tin his seat. He was still working. Jewel doesn’t have any eraser left on his pencil. Jewel is my classmate. Cash is my classmate. Cash vomits during long tests. Smells like Vardaman’s lunch bag.

Darl

“Jewel,” I say, “You done with your written response?” The other people in the classroom look up. Is it because I am speaking out loud again?

Vardaman

She as sitting at her desk and Darl looks up and seems to ask her something. I put my ear close and I can hear her speaking back. Only I can’t tell what she is saying.

Darl

Against the dark doorway the test administrator seems to materialize out of the darkness, lean as a feral cat surprised by a possum. He steps toward me with an expression of furious unbelief. He may have heard me talking and his eyes swim with a glare of two small torches. I should probably shutup.

Vardaman

When some of the others start to put their heads down on the desk, I see that Darl is still trying to get someone else’s attention. He has started to tear apart his answer booklet, the markings of graphite on the paper will not be scanned now.

Darl

We have been testing for some time now: the math problems, the reading passages, the writing prompt, the science questions, and the grammar, and my mind is fried, becoming more starkly unstable. Three minutes. Two minutes. Until we get to stop, but the administrator is coming over toward me and taking my answer sheet and booklet from me. Something about a misadministration because of talking too loud.

Cash

It wasn’t nothing else to do. It was either send him to ISS or let him keep on talking out loud during a test. How did he not know that we could all hear him? Even Vardaman was like, “Shut up, man!”

Peabody

I had to do something to shut him up. I be damned if he causes all of these kids to retake the ACT. That would mean that I would have to administer it again.

MacGowan

I wonder if Dewey Dell will go to prom with me?

Vardaman

Now the test is over, but my tuna sandwich doesn’t look as good anymore and the lunch room has already closed. Darl has been taken out to go to in-school suspension. Darl is my friend. He won’t be alone because he can talk to himself.

Darl

Darl has gone to ISS. They put him in Trailer 10, laughing, down the pathway laughing, the heads of the other students turning like the heads of owls when he passed. “What are you looking at?” I said. “Damn right I’m talking about myself in the third person.”

Dewey Dell

When he saw my lunch bag I said, “Thi is not my lunch, it doesn’t belong to me.” “Whose is it, then?” “It’s Vardaman’s. Smells awful. Don’t you touch it. It’s not mine.”

Cash

So when we stopped taking the test we returned all of the borrowed pencils and heard the announcement over the speakers in the classroom. So when everything was done, Anse says, “I reckon I better go get some lunch.” We thought he was going straight to the cafeteria.

“It’s a chicken biscuit and some fries and a pepsi and a candy bar,” Anse says when he gets back from Bojangles after sneaking off campus to get some food. “And no, I ain’t sharing,” he said smiling and showing his teeth.

Real Men Don’t Use Billboards To Tell Any Woman What They Should Do

Coming home from an afternoon trip to Greensboro, NC to visit the Nature Center, we encountered the following billboard on I-40 between Kernersville and Winston-Salem.

real-men

That’s right. It says “Real men provide Real women appreciate it.”

Of course, it made news. Even a news channel in Chicago reported on it.

When I first saw it, I thought it was a misprint, but alas, it was not. And I was driving a car with my wife in the front passenger seat and my teenage daughter in the back seat.

The smart ass within me wanted to ask out loud, “Provide what?”

  • Money?
  • Stability?
  • Diamonds?
  • Flowers?
  • Lessons in grammar because that was a blatant run-on sentence that does not even incorporate a period to end the independent clause that really does not allow women to be independent but dependent upon a man to do the “providing?”

And how should women show their appreciation? And that’s when I realized that whoever put this sign up on a busy interstate lived in an archaic, patriarchal version of unreality that I know my wife does not subscribe to and I would never want my daughter to think was appropriate.

Literally a month ago, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington D.C. for the Women’s  March to bring awareness to gender issues, many of which came to light with Donald Trump’s rise to power. The fact that the number of people who marched far outweighed the number of people at Trump’s inauguration spoke volumes about how many people in our country view gender-bias as another form of prejudice.

Then there was that embarrassing tweet from Sen. Joyce Kraweic concerning grease, brains, and lard that occurred right after the march ended.

But the single women who raised me taught me that what real men should provide is respect for women and that real men did not seek appreciation for just being men.

In a country that still does not equally pay women for equal work, a billboard like the one above simply reinforces the very negative constructs that hold our country back.

In a country whose laws do not adequately protect women from sexual abuse and that allows submissive stereotypes to define how younger people view women and young girls, a billboard like the one above simply does nothing but advertise ignorance.

Bill Whiteheart, whose company owns the billboard and leases its space, has been asked who sponsored the sign, but he declines to identify the people behind the message. He says that they can express free speech.

He’s absolutely right. And I am using free speech to say that its a bad use of speech (and grammar).

America affords us the right to do a lot of things.

One of those rights is the right to be wrong.

 

 

Betsy DeVos’s Historically Bad Civic Understanding – Or, What The Hell Did She Just Say?

devos-statement

If you ever needed reminding that the person who was confirmed by our U.S. Senate as secretary of education possesses no working knowledge of public education and the history of segregation in our society, look no further than the following:

Statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Following Listening Session with Historically Black College and University Leaders

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement after meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the White House:

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.

Their counsel and guidance will be crucial in addressing the current inequities we face in education. I look forward to working with the White House to elevate the role of HBCUs in this administration and to solve the problems we face in education today.

Betsy DeVos just today talked about how segregation and Jim Crow laws had nothing to do with the establishment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Betsy DeVos was born in 1958.

By that time around 100 HBCU’s had been founded that are still in existence today – schools like:

  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Florida A & M
  • Grambling State University
  • Hampton University
  • Howard University
  • Morehouse College
  • North Carolina A&T
  • Spelman College
  • Tuskegee Institute
  • Winston-Salem State University

And the reason those schools existed in the first place was because African-American students had no choice when it came to higher education. They were formed in a culture that was not inclusive but exclusive, yet HBCU’s are not exclusive in their admissions process. To my knowledge, they are open to members of all races.

These institutes that were created because of exclusivity may be the most inclusive of all schools, and yet more reports including DPI’s last two on charter schools show that charters actually help to promote more segregated student populations. Betsy DeVos is a devoted advocate of charter schools.