About Betsy DeVos’s Op-Ed in USA Today

Not only does she speak incoherently in confirmation hearings.

Not only does she tweet her own platitudes.

She now writes op-eds full of glittering claims without any data with a hint of some outlier data with simply no analysis bookended with enough bullshit to leave a stench in your nose to make you blame it on the dog.

In fact, here it is straight from the March 2, 2017 edition of USA Today’s online edition. Note: It did have to be corrected because she misidentified the very grant she was praising in the op-ed (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/03/02/betsy-devos-trump-delivers-education-promises-column/98594982/) .

I have taken the liberty to add a few thoughts as they presented themselves in my mind while reading as I am an educator in public schools, a parent of public school students, a voter, and a tax-payer. I am also one of about 200 million Americans who are more qualified to be secretary of education than Betsy DeVos.

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Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this column misidentified a Department of Education program called “School Improvement Grants.” 

President Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress was clear: promises made, promises kept. The president promised to shake up the status quo in Washington, and he has. He also promised to release his tax returns and to present evidence of wiretapping. From keeping Carrier in the United States (you might want to see how many jobs are still going to Mexico and how much tax breaks Carrier was able to leverage from Trump and Pence since iot was Pence’s home state) to nominating the highly qualified Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (who is getting a little flack from conservatives for his religious background) , our president continues to follow through on his word (like getting Mexico to pay for the wall).

He’s also delivering on his promises for education (by presenting a budget that slashes federal money to public education).

The president made a point during the campaign to highlight the problems low-income families face in accessing a quality education (so he is backing an insurance plan that will make poorer people pay more to be insured and cut more programs that benefit poorer families while granting rich people and corporations tax breaks). We cannot hope to get America back on track if we do nothing to improve education for the poorest among us (just like you did in Michigan? Wait, like you didn’t do in Michigan?).

The achievement gaps in education result in hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic potential every year and looking at the amount of segregation that occurs in the privatization efforts you have led in Michigan through your efforts, that is not surprising. And these gaps disproportionately harm minority students. Currently, more than 40% of African-American male students do not graduate high school. And achievement gaps are symptomatic of opportunity gaps and income gaps. You know anything about that? Of course you do!

These are more than just stats. They are the product of long-term trends.

For too long, Washington has focused on issuing edicts from its bubble, rather than empowering and amplifying solutions found at the grassroots level. Mrs. DeVos, I would not consider you someone who is starting a grassroots effort. You are ditating your will from a pedestal above others that you bought. We need to retire Washington’s top-down approach and instead empower answers from the bottom up. That’s rich coming from someone who literally paid her way into office and has given tens of millions of dollars to influence the very policies that benefit herself and her family.

But we also know the answer is not simply an increase in funding But an increase in contributions to those who can confirm you and then divert monies to charters and vouchers that benefit you and those who associate with you. As we saw under the Obama administration, one of its main initiatives was the “School Improvement Grants,” which pumped $7 billion into some of our most underserved schools. The only problem was that as the administration was walking out the door, it released a report showing that the grants had zero impact in improving test scores, graduation rates or college preparedness. Is that proficiency or growth?

We cannot rely on throwing money at this problem like administrations past (Ma’am, you throw more money than anyone). Instead, we need to enact serious, substantive reforms that go to the source of the problem. Are those the reforms you were talking about during your conformation hearings?

This work has already begun. On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order that elevates the initiative on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), giving them greater access to policymaking in the White House.

Their history was born not out of mere choice Actually, what you said about HBCU’s was that they were about choice. Maybe you need to reread your words)but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War. HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had been unjustly closed to so many you might want to look at the segregating trends of religious and charter schools. They made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.

We must follow their lead and apply that same thinking to our K-12 system because the same reality exists: Too many students live without access to quality schools. These children and teenagers are assigned to failing schools based solely on the ZIP code in which they live. If they don’t have the means to move to a better school district, then they’re trapped. They’re trapped also when they do not have access to food, medical care, mental health, safety, jobs, a lot of things that Trump’s budget seems to ignore.

This is not only unfair, it is also unjust. That’s the first things you have said that’s right.

The left Why is public education political? continues to say they have a monopoly on compassion for our country’s poor, yet they consistently oppose the very reforms that can do the most good to close the education gap. The numbers continue to show that increasing school options has a positive effect on students generally, and an even greater impact on poor and minority students. SHOW ME!!! If we truly want to provide better education to underserved communities, then it must start with giving parents and students school choice. Actually if want to provide a better education to people in poorer communities you create conditions where they are not poorer.

Trump has delivered on his promise to support school choice and offer students access to quality options. No child, regardless of her ZIP code or family income, should be denied access to quality education. Then support  public schools – all of them.

Together, we can help our nation’s students: those trapped in underperforming schools and those slipping through the cracks. One of those students was Denisha Merriweather, a guest of the first lady at Tuesday’s address. Denisha is living proof that school choice can break the cycle of poverty and provide transformative change. As a result of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Denisha became the first in her family to graduate high school, college and, later this May, with a master’s degree in social work. Denisha’s story is but one example of the opportunity we should afford to millions of students across our country. You have not been in many public school have you Mrs. DeVos?

Kids are 100% of our future. It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure they each have an equal opportunity to a school where they can learn and thrive. The next generation deserves no less. Then let someone who knows something about education sit at your desk.

Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. In title only.

 

 

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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.

betsy

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.

grizzly-in-classroom

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.

tautology

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/.

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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.

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For Alan Rickman – “Always”