If Anyone is in “Receive Mode,” It’s Betsy DeVos

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“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

That’s how Betsy DeVos explained the use of “receive mode” when describing the teachers at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington D.C. last week.

Interesting that D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson had a totally different observation while actually accompanying DeVos on that visit.

“I’ve worked in schools for my entire professional life — as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. I have learned from much experience what it takes to prepare students for college success. The teaching and learning at Jefferson will put our students on a path to college, successful careers, and beyond. I see that. Our teachers see that. Our students see that. And our parents see that. Defying expectations takes experience and a lifelong dedication to all students. DCPS is rich with educators who have this experience” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2017/02/18/devos-criticized-teachers-at-d-c-school-she-visited-and-they-are-not-having-it/?utm_term=.abb19e34b678).

While the shock of such a blunt and apparent show of uninformed observation may sting many, it should not be that surprising that our new secretary of education would make such an observation. Why?

Because DeVos doesn’t know what the hell to look for. And privilege has clouded the lens through which she sees things.

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When it comes to “receiving” and “giving,” DeVos is used to receiving the benefit of the doubt because of all the influence she buys by giving so much to those who gladly receive her “gifts” and give back to her a sense of power that she gladly receives in return so she can give stupid, vague observations like “receive mode” and expect people not to take that negatively.

DeVos’s nomination to her present post probably received the greatest public pushback of a cabinet appointee seen in quite a while. Part of that stems from the fact that she gives so much money to entities that support endeavors which receive taxpayer money like private and religious schools while the public receives no transparency. Part of that stems from the fact that she has been a big proponent of giving taxpayer money to build charter schools that don’t receive special needs students or other students based on vague requirements.

Part of that stems from the fact that DeVos simply is used to receiving what she wants because she gives (rather buys) so much money to those who gladly give her what she wants. And she wants influence and power. The following quote says it all:

“My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right.” -Betsy DeVos, 1997 op-ed

People heard that answers she gave at her confirmation hearing.

People knew that most of the republicans on the committee had received financial contributions from DeVos and her family.

People knew that the democrats on the HELP committee were not given much time to give questions to receive more glaring answers from a lady who does not give a damn about public schools.

So if anybody is in “receive mode,” it is Betsy DeVos.

She certainly gave a lot to receive her office.

What she should be willing to receive is an education about how public schools have been doing despite the obvious pressures that influence academic outcomes that schools have no control over like poverty. But that takes willingness, honesty, integrity, and humility.

And Betsy DeVos has not given much of that.

 

 

 

The NC GOP Wants to Meet Betsy DeVos To “Share” Agendas and Give Her A Pencil

News that the North Carolina GOP has invited newly and (barely) confirmed U.S. Education secretary Betsy DeVos to come and “share ideas” with lawmakers concerning school choice is rather humorous.

As reported in the News & Observer yesterday (2/9) in an article entitled “Republicans invite DeVos to North Carolina for advice on expanding school choice,” Lynn Bonner quoted NC GOP state chairperson, Robin Hayes, as stating,

As leaders in the school choice movement, we would be thrilled to host Secretary DeVos at the earliest possible time. We look forward to showing her North Carolina’s success, and examine ways how we can expand school choice with a now willing federal government” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article131486504.html).

However, DeVos’s history is not one of sharing ideas as it is pushing an agenda, one that seems to be detrimental to the public schools.

Remember that her confirmation hearing was one that revealed a great many concerns that her real agenda was not to support public schools, but to support the always changing dynamics that weaken public schools to give validation to “reform” them.

From the confirmation hearing about funding:

“Can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?” asked Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington.

“I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students,” DeVos said. “We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them. I’m hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”

“I take that as not being willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education,” Murray said.

“I guess I wouldn’t characterize it in that way,” DeVos said.

In an expose for Mother Jones (yep, it’s liberal, but still cites quotes correctly) it was shared that:

However, in a 2001 interview for The Gathering, a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on giving—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom” (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary).

Those are not the words of someone who is looking to strengthen public education; those are the words of someone who wants to dismantle public education. (Funny, c to think of it, those seem to be words that have emanated from the NC GOP the last four years.)

The NC GOP wants to “share ideas” about public education with a woman whose resume in public education looks like:

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They to “share ideas” about public education with someone who:

  • has no degree in education meaning she is not even educated in how to educate.
  • has no teaching experience
  • has never attended a public school or state supported university
  • has never sent any of her children to public schools.
  • has distributed monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations conservatively estimated at $200 million.
  • has shown that she is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much.
  • has supported vouchers like no other.

The NC GOP wants to “share ideas” with someone who has no idea about public education but is supposed to lead the public school system.

The NC GOP wants to “share ideas” with someone who doesn’t even know have an idea about IDEA.

Call it for what it is – this exchange of ideas is really a meeting of like minds who have a similar agenda that has nothing to do with strengthening public schools.

But when DeVos does come to North Carolina, it will be interesting to see if she will visit any public schools. If any visit goes anything like what happened today in Washington, D.C. at Jefferson Middle School Academy, then DeVos will come face to face with the very majority of people who voiced opposition to her appointment.

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Yet, I will extend her an invitation to come to my school and my classroom. For all of the time and effort she has put in to show how public schools are failing, I would love to show her where public schools are succeeding despite efforts to dismantle them.

She can sit in on one of my classes, participate, talk to students, and experience a wonderful environment.

And I’ll even let her borrow a pencil.

That I bought.

With my money.

For my students to use.

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Dr. Seuss And The Age of Trump

Donald Trump’s first three weeks in office have been rather tumultuous, yet surreal at the same time, and the references by many to dystopian novels have been plentiful.

1984 is the bestselling book of the past few weeks as the articles making comparisons between Trump’s tenure as president and Orwell’s “fictional” world immediately began to circulate when he took office and began to decree his executive orders.

References to other books like Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World have also been made numerous times.

But there may be another writer who has eerily framed the present with past works.

That is Theodor Seuss Geisel. He is known to most people as Dr. Seuss.

In February of 2009, the eclectic magazine Mental Floss, published an article written by Stacy Conradt entitled “10 Stories Behind Dr. Seuss Stories” that provided background content for some of Theodor Seuss Geisel most well-known stories (http://mentalfloss.com/article/28843/10-stories-behind-dr-seuss-stories).

If you have never read a copy of Mental Floss, then treat yourself. It’s a rather nerdy respite from the world and highly engaging. We have subscribed to it for years.

When that article came out, I printed it and posted it to the peg board in my room at school. Occasionally, the need to reference Seuss still comes up in class.

Known for his ability to weave issues that surrounded the current political and social landscape of his time, Dr. Seuss was able to craft complex allegorical stories in such a way that it was palpable to the imagination of a child and the intellect of an aware adult.

However, while the stories themselves have reached an age that spans decades, their applicability and messages still have power and may be more relevant to the present than ever before.

Conradt specifically named 10 of Suess’s stories. While I will not refer to all of them, I will put in bold her descriptions of the texts she lists and then follow with my own observations.

  1. “The Lorax is widely recognized as Dr. Seuss’ take on environmentalism and how humans are destroying nature.”

Think of the executive orders that Trump signed in the first week that restarted the Keystone Pipeline construction and his move to take us out of the Paris Agreement. Add to that the freezing of grant programs for the EPA, the appointment of a controversial individual to head the EPA, and the shutting down the twitter accounts of the National Parks, and one can see how Trump has not really been the president that the Sierra Club would have wanted.

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  1. “Green Eggs and Ham. Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’ editor, bet him that he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and it used 225 words. Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Geisel started writing and came up with Green Eggs and Ham—which uses exactly 50 words.”

Have you ever looked at the comments made by linguists who have studied the rhetoric of Trump on the campaign trail? They talk about the preponderance of one-syllable words and the repetition he uses. The only “Script” that I know of that uses more one-syllable words is the movie 300, but it had much better visuals.

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  1. “Horton Hears a Who! The line from the book, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” has been used as a slogan for pro-life organizations for years. It’s often questioned whether that was Seuss’ intent in the first place, but when he was still alive, he threatened to sue a pro-life group unless they removed his words from their letterhead.”

Trump’s stance on abortion at one time was pro-choice, but it changed rather swiftly when he converted to the GOP and began to court the evangelical vote. However, while there may be a pro-life argument to be made with the text of Horton, it is the fact that Trump wanted to represent the average American that makes this book applicable – he wanted to let all “Whos” be heard.

Maybe that is why he has the most homogeneous cabinet in recent history and appointed more people from Wall Street to his cabinet than from Main Street.

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  1. “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!It’s often alleged that this book was written specifically about Richard Nixon, but the book came out only two months after the whole Watergate scandal. It’s unlikely that the book could have been conceived of, written, edited, and mass produced in such a short time; also, Seuss never admitted that the story was originally about Nixon.”

But the Trump – Nixon parallel has been made by many. In fact, Nixon seems rather fond of Trump.

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  1. “Yertle the Turtle= Hitler? Yep. If you haven’t read the story, here’s a little overview: Yertle is the king of the pond, but he wants more. He demands that other turtles stack themselves up so he can sit on top of them to survey the land. Mack, the turtle at the bottom, is exhausted. He asks Yertle for a rest; Yertle ignores him and demands more turtles for a better view. Eventually, Yertle notices the moon and is furious that anything dare be higher than himself, and is about ready to call for more turtles when Mack burps. This sudden movement topples the whole stack, sends Yertle flying into the mud, and frees the rest of the turtles from their stacking duty.”

I am going to stay away from this one. Saturday Night Live has touched a little on this one.

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  1. “Butter Battle Book was pulled from the shelves of libraries for a while because of the reference to the Cold War and the arms race. Yooks and Zooks are societies who do everything differently. …The book concludes with each side ready to drop their ultimate bombs on each other, but the reader doesn’t know how it actually turns out.”

Trump / Putin? Check. Nuclear Arms race about to start again? Check.

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  1. “Oh The Places You’ll Go is Dr. Seuss’ final book, published in 1990. It sells about 300,000 copies every year because so many people give it to college and high school grads.”

With Betsy DeVos as the new secretary of education and revelations about the actions of Trump University, it seems that many of those future graduates are meant to come from schools that were once public but now “reformed” into privatized entities.

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  1. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! In the Dr. Seuss-sanctioned cartoon, Frankenstein’s Monster himself, Boris Karloff, provided the voice of the Grinch and the narration. Seuss was a little wary of casting him because he thought his voice would be too scary for kids.”

I actually thought more of Steve Bannon with this one.

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  1. And I will add two others myself starting with The Sneetches. “Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.”

If you have never read The Sneetches then do so because you will see the obvious parallels to the Jewish nation when they had to be identified with a yellow star of David. With the recent debacle of not mentioning the Jews in reference to the Holocaust Remembrance Day, it seems this story would make all of us remember who was truly victimized.

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  1. And then there is The Big Brag.
  • “It’s gonna be huge.”
  • “It’s gonna be great.”
  • “We’re going to make America great again.”
  • “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Enough said.

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Melissa McCarthy and Acting the Truth

Donald Trump has literally revitalized Saturday Night Live.

Not because he hosted an episode in 2015, but because of the fodder he is giving the show. Alec Baldwin’s impression of the new president might just win him an Emmy Award, but what Melissa McCarthy pulled off this past weekend might be the best political satire of this television season.

When SNL spoofs the press secretary as the basis of a skit, then you know that the Trump administration is under an incredible self-created microscope. The more the president has attacked NBC and SNL (and Hollywood for that matter) through Twitter and other comments, the more the public tunes into shows like SNL to see if there is any response to him.

And Melissa McCarthy delivered as a Sean Spicer. The link is below:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/sean-spicer-press-conference/3465162?snl=1

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With references to how Spicer began his stint as press secretary – gum chewing, claims of standing ovations for Trump and crowd sizes, a red Herring with Finding Dory, the word “ban,” blasting the New York Times and CNN, not remembering people’s names, and just confrontational – was not only hilarious, but painfully realistic.

And to add to this fantastic skit was Kate McKinnon’s spoof of Betsy DeVos and DeVos’s inability to articulate educational issues. From her growth versus proficiency bungle, to shooting grizzly bears, to her evangelical motivations, McKinnon summed up DeVos’s non-qualifications to lead public schools in a matter of seconds.

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When has a nominee for secretary of education ever been spoofed on Saturday Night Live? And they wouldn’t do it unless they knew that the viewing public had already been apprised of DeVos’s disastrous confirmation hearing.

But McCarthy was not done for the weekend.

Her starring role in the environmentally-conscious ad for Kia won the USA TODAY ad meter contest for best ad during the Super Bowl.

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And don’t think that Donald Trump’s current leanings as far as the environment were not part of the “clean” fuel for many commercials. For that matter, immigration became a central theme in the commercials of this year. Just look at the Budweiser commercial about its beginnings with Adolphus Busch, or even the 84Lumber commercial that was “banned” from the television because it so provocatively commented on immigration.

And a WALL.

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McCarthy’s specific ad showed her trying to save whales, icecaps, trees, and rhinos while hilariously failing each time – but at least she stays intact and drives a hybrid car that is environmentally friendly.

And in a new presidency where the Keystone Pipeline has been put back into action, a removal of the US from the Paris Agreement, and an anti-environmentalist chosen to head the EPA (which has now gone rogue with its own “alt” twitter account) McCarthy’s presence not only helped to keep those issues in the view of the Super Bowl audience; it challenged Trump and his administration on their nebulous policies. Ironic considering that Kia is a South Korean company.

And manufactures their cars in Georgia, home of the Falcons who just lost an epic game in epic fashion.

A good weekend for Melissa McCarthy, but a better one for those who got to see her in action doing what we need to keep all presidents and politicians somewhat honest, or at least cognizant that their alternative truths are still false  – satirical insight.

Because that insight can help us find doors in those walls.

 

A Thank You Letter From Betsy DeVos to Sen. Richard Burr

Oddly enough, I found this fake letter absolutely nowhere on the internet, but if it did exist it might sound like…

 

 

Dear Richard,

I cannot thank you enough for your confirmation vote this past week as I strive to continue my quest of taking public money from taxpayers and finance more unregulated charter schools and blindly give out vouchers for religious schools.

Thank you for looking past my lack of experience and confusion that became so evident in the hearing in front of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Your help with the H.E.L.P. was really helpful.

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Thank you for understanding that my lack of skills with grammar and usage directly corresponds to my ability to run a branch of government.

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Thank you for overlooking the fact that I forgot that the Individual with Disabilities Education Act was a federal mandate because as you know I tend to prefer to help children who only worship God as I see him.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Thank you for supporting me in my quest to arm schools against grizzly bears because I know that your state is just like Utah and has lots of bears who commonly roam classrooms to seek another meal like Satan seeks another soul.

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Thank you for understanding that my financial support of groups that believe in conversion therapy for LGBT people is very important to me. I mean look at that bathroom law you have in North Carolina.

“Foundations run by her parents and her husband’s parents have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family, a group that’s promoted damaging gay ‘conversion therapy’ and called homosexuality ‘preventable and treatable.'”

“A foundation run by her husband’s brother and sister-in-law donated $500,000 to the antigay National Organization for Marriage, and a foundation run by DeVos and her husband has donated more than $100,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. DeVos’s late father, Edgar Prince, helped found the Family Research Council; her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, sits on the boards of the FRC and the Acton Institute, which sponsored a conference held by an antigay hate group.” – Randi Weingarten.

But most of all, thank you for taking my maximum contributions to your reelection campaign and proving that you can be bought.

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Because when I said,

“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,”

I meant it!

I hope the Senate is as easily fooled and as weak as you when it comes to standing up for public schools.

 

Love,
Betsy

The Tautology of Betsy DeVos – Or, Why I Don’t Want Her Teaching or Instructing An English Class

Forget the agony.

Forget the use of the wrong word to describe something that is not even a proper noun!

Forget the wrong preposition!

Forget the incorrect capitalization (if you are a journalist)!

But oh, the tautology! That is the dagger.

What the hell is “tautology?”

Alrighty then, just google it.

Noun: the saying of the same thing twice in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style (e.g., they arrived one after the other in succession ).

“Tautology.” A word that my students forget but come across examples of all of the time.

That’s what really burns my ass in this instance. Or should I say, that really burns and sets fire to my ass.

Several people have sent this to me today and I do find it hilarious, especially since it is so steeped with irony that it drips like Velveeta. Sorry, drips like Velveeta and processed cheese product melted in a microwave.

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I understand that the written word and the spoken word are two different languages, but if you are someone who is looking to be the secretary of education, then you might want to obey the conventions of the English language and the rules of grammar in a more careful manner.

Oh crap! I just did it myself.

And yes, the “p” in President should not be capitalized unless it is in front of an actual person’s name according to some style manuals, especially the Chicago Style. But some style manuals may say that it is already a specific person, so it should be capitalized. Maybe put the red pen up for that one, but the other stuff is just wet sand in the underwear of grammar police and those who hold language rules near and close to the heart.

Dammit.

If there is a lesson and moral to be learned and studied here, then it is that people in highly visible and observable positions and stations in society and humanity should pay close attention and consideration to how they may “come across” and allow others to see and view them.

I know.

I’ve caught it myself and contracted it.

Stop reading this post, because tautology, pleonasm, repetition, reiteration, redundancy, superfluity, and duplication of words and phrases is highly contagious.

And infectious.

Taking Dolorous Umbrage at Betsy DeVos With No Apologies to Dolores Umbridge, But I Miss Alan Rickman

When you teach a number of years coupled with the fact that social media has become such a mainstay in our culture, you have the opportunity to stay connected with former students much more easily.

It is rather a humbling that these younger people (younger than I) would want to tell you about how their lives are progressing: their victories, their obstacles, their journeys.

And they also share with you their observations of the world and its changes.

And then there are the memes. One of my more outgoing former students who happens to be a fantastic dramatist as well sent me the following meme in response to Betsy DeVos’s recent appointment and hearing in front of the HELP committee.

It’s rather brilliant.

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(Credit:?)

And funny. I do not know who the credit should go to, but if you find out, then let me know.

Here are two women who have no real experience with public education (or the education of wizards) and no IDEA of what growth is versus proficiency. Entitled with the power of a ministry, both women have a certain agenda to force into schools that seems more in line with their own personal ideologies rather than the public benefit.

And then there are the standards that each strives to put in place within the schools.

For Dolores Umbridge it was the use of Educational Decrees. Defined by the Harry Potter Wiki website (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Educational_Decree), these decrees are,

“The Educational Decrees are laws created by the Ministry of Magic to set or modify standards at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

…the Ministry (spearheaded by Dolores Umbridge) created new educational decrees to suppress and outlaw behaviour of which the Ministry did not approve, some of which would outright expel the students found to be in transgression of. In truth, however, is just an excuse to strip Albus Dumbledore of his headship of the school and give it to Umbridge.”

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In the book the Educational Decrees were as follows (thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-four: All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-five: The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-six: Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven: Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight: Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as the Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

And in the movie where so many got to meet Dolores Umbridge in a more personal way, these decrees were more numerous and amended somewhat. (Again, thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number 22 – In the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
  • Educational Decree Number 23 – Dolores Jane Umbridge has been appointed to the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
  • Educational Decree Number 24 – NO MUSIC IS TO BE PLAYED DURING Study Hours.
  • Educational Decree Number 25 – The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number 26 – Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number 27 – Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 29 – Although never actually passed, it was mentioned by Argus Filch, and would have presumably allowed Filch to torture the students as a punishment.
  • Educational Decree Number 30 – ALL WEASLEY PRODUCTS WILL BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY.
  • Educational Decree Number 45 – PROPER DRESS & DECORUM IS TO BE maintained AT ALL TIMES.
  • Educational Decree Number 68 – All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 82 – ALL STUDENTS WILL SUBMIT TO QUESTIONING ABOUT Suspected ILLICIT Activities.
  • Educational Decree Number 98 – THOSE WISHING TO JOIN THE INQUISITORIAL SQUAD for Extra Credit May sign up in the High Inquisitor’s OFFICE.

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While I cannot confirm if DeVos has an affinity for cats or for the color pink or office décor centered on putting plates on the wall, it is this adherence to the wishes of the “ministry” where she and Umbridge have a magical connection.

Since Cornelius Fudge is the Minister For Magic who places Umbridge in her educational post, he directs what Hogwarts can and cannot do in the classrooms. In fact, Umbridge on many occasions simply talks about herself as an extension of Fudge within Hogwarts.

“I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty.”

“Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?”

“It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.”

Now that’s loyalty.

Betsy DeVos in her confirmation hearing stated her allegiance with her own Cornelius Fudge, Donald Trump, as she would back up his policies, especially when she was pressed in her conversation about guns at schools.

And when you talk about advancing the wishes of a “ministry,” then DeVos certainly is a proud disciple of that. The Mother Jones magazine article (yep, it’s liberal) entitled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’” is rather eye-opening and it includes some rather zealous statements about DeVos’s devotion to another cause that may be rather cloudy according to the separation of church and state (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary).

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2.4 million to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.

Makes the word “ministry” take an even more celestial meaning.

Imagine the new guidelines for finding effective teachers after DeVos’s Common Core issues are finally politically cemented and then implemented (if she is confirmed). Umbridge went after many of Hogwarts’s most established professors with the acumen of an educational novice, but with the authority derived from being granted undeserved powers by a man bent on profit, there’s no telling how DeVos will measure effectiveness or growth or proficiency once she looks those words up in her dictionary.

In the books, during a round of standardized testing, Fred and George Weasley literally “drop out,” probably hum some Pink Floyd quietly and make a rather stunning display of civil disobedience that ends with Umbridge being “swallowed” by a dragon-shaped firework. And dragons are appropriate for this because – well, just read this post – “Teachers, Winter Is Coming, So Get Your Dragons!” – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/01/07/teachers-winter-is-coming-so-get-your-dragons/.

decree3

So the meme that puts both Umbridge and DeVos together is quite appropriate and shows that the magical world and the real world might not be that far apart.

At least in some people’s minds.

However, the meme does say that “we needed centaurs to get rid of” Umbridge.

Well considering that DeVos and her family have given heavily to organizations that are blatantly anti-LGBT, centaurs may not be the best choice of helping us rid ourselves of the “deforms” of Betsy DeVos.

So I suggest,

decree4

And after they are done taking away DeVos, they can go to Raleigh and get rid of HB2.

But, just in case DeVos is confirmed it might be time to go ahead and put Defense Against the Dark Arts on the registration list.

In fact, it should be a prerequisite.

decree6

 

For Alan Rickman – “Always”

Bear This In Mind, Grizzlies Are Not Preying on Public Schools – Even Dwight Shrute Would Agree, but watch out for Beets and Battlestar Galactica

First there was The Office.

Jim Halpert: [imitating Dwight] “Fact: bears eat beets. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.” (From “Product Recall episode 2007).

bears-beets

Then there was Sarah Palin.

“This mama grizzly … has more reason than ever to protect our young” – Sarah Palin, 2008.

bears-palin

There’s always been the references to Russia as a bear.

Don’t poke bear.” – Commonly referred to when talking about Russia.

bears-dont-poke

Then there’s that great presidential campaign commercial from Ronald Reagan in 1984. Entitled “Bear” it makes its point to a country in the midst of the Cold War.

“There’s a bear in the woods.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpwdcmjBgNA

And now, bears are forcing us to put guns in public schools. At least according to Betsy DeVos.

“I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he is talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Betsy DeVos said those now famous words during her confirmation hearing on January 17th, 2017 in response to questioning about guns on school campuses.

In an exhausting search to find the number of public school students killed by grizzlies or other bears, no number besides ZERO has shown up. On the other hand, the number of students killed with guns rises each year at alarming rates.

And honestly, who will stand up for bears and grizzlies in this case of absolute discrimination? In an attempt at a red herring on avoiding the question about guns on school properties, DeVos showed a distinct hatred of mammals that were probably here well before humans were, and in doing so directly offended many icons who are of the family Ursidae.

She certainly is saying that bears have no place in schools. And that just hurts people like Grizzly Adams in the old grizzly groin.

That means these American icons can no longer grace the hallways of any school.

Winnie the Pooh will now have to go by “Mr. Sanders.”

bears-pooh

Baloo the Bear will definitely need to stay away from the man villages.

bears-baloo

Yogi Bear? Yep, and Boo-Boo too. At least kids will keep their lunches.

bears-yogi

Fozzie Bear? You wacka-wacka betcha.

bears-fozzie

Ted? I know he’s foul-mouthed, but still.

bears-ted

Little Bear? Yep. Even him and his first grade self. Maurice Sendak is rolling in his grave where the wild things are.

bears-little-bear

Paddington Bear? Yep. Gentle Ben? Yep. Even the Coca-Cola Bears who want to wish you Happy Holidays?

bears-coca-cola

Even them.

And what about all of the schools that have “bears,” “grizzlies,” or even “bruins” as mascots? According to mascotdb.com, over 390 high schools, colleges, and professional teams have “bears” as a mascot. Over 100 have “bruins.” Over 104 have “grizzlies.” We’re talking about incredible schools like:

  • University of California at Berkley
  • UCLA
  • Baylor
  • University of Maine
  • Oakland University
  • Brown University
  • Cornell (uses a bear as mascot)
  • Mercer
  • University of Montana.

Even Bowdoin College has the bear as a mascot and it educated Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Franklin Pierce, and Nathaniel Hawthorne at one time!

Think of the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Bruins, and the Memphis Grizzlies.

And as if the line had not already been crossed and defecated upon (because bears do that kind of stuff in the woods),

bears-poop

there’s the Bad News Bears.

bears-bad-news

They’re literally just cubs! Look at them. And the law says that kids must go to school, but Betsy DeVos says it’s alright to have guns in schools to protect against these “grizzlies-to-be.”

Now who is breaking the law?

The weird thing here is that DeVos says she will uphold Trump’s policies when it comes to his stance on gun-free zones in schools. She’s worried about grizzlies and bears attacking our kids.

Ironic then that Trump already has poked a bear.

bear-russia

And “Heavens to Betsy” we’ll need more than what DeVos offers.

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.

 

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.