We can close Guantanamo, but some things can’t be undone…

And, yes, this post was motivated in part by the fact that the newly crowned Miss USA was one of only two contestants who believe in evolution. I’m just really tired of living in a country full of stupid people.

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  1. Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s hard to make comparisons, but I can’t help but think that the defunding of public education is the biggest thing we’re dealing with today, from a big picture perspective. The other stuff, as terrible as it is, can be undone. What we’re allowing to happen to our public education system, however, will take generations and generations to fix. I know it didn’t start with Obama, but I don’t see him doing anything to stop it, and I’m afraid that it’s going to be his legacy. He could have stepped up, demanded that the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans be allowed to expire, and invest in schools. Instead he sat by and allowed the charter school bandwagon to keep gaining steam. I think this, more than anything else, has sealed our fate as a nation…. I’m depressed tonight.

  2. Tom
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s hard to deal with the disappointment. For me, in a moment like that it sometimes helps to step back for a minute to examine my basic assumptions and priorities, and carve out a better understanding of what it is ‘hope’ and ‘change’ could have indicated.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    These days, I’m beginning to think that my views on the public education crisis are clouded by a kind of nostalgia for the way things were when I was growing up in a small town, where there were few other options beyond the local public schools.

    Since most everyone there attended the same schools — including kids from poor and middle class families, as well as from few relatively well-off families — everyone seemed to have a stake in their (our) success. Many parents who had the means (and spare time) to help out were active in the School Board, and in PTA’s, and almost without exception, we had great teachers who were there for us, and actually cared about helping us succeed.

    The schools where I grew up weren’t “model” schools, and I’m sure they never won any state or national awards — but they provided a solid foundation that made it possible, if a student were motivated, and their parents supportive, to get a quality, basic education that would make additional training or college a real possibiity.

    So, although, I don’t have children of my own, I have always supported public education, and always voted to support education millages, etc. — based on the idea that, since somebody paid for me to have a free, public education, it was now my responsibility (as an adult) to to do the same for the kids in my community. Call me naive, or perhaps idealistic, but I can think of few things I’d rather support with my tax dollars than to help educate the next generation.

    That said, I’m truly confused by what I see going on today with the “crisis” in public education. I don’t understand why so many schools (and their students) seem to be “failing.” I don’t understand the reluctance on the part of so many to support taxes to pay for public education … nor why there suddenly seems to be so much anger and disgust directed at teachers. I know part of the problem must surely be related to the rising inequality we’re seeing everywhere around us, and which is particularly pronounced among public school districts — and between public and private schools. And, I’m sure there is an element of this that goes well beyond the schools — to the breakdown of many families, to changing values, and/or perhaps the corrosive influences of too much television, video games, etc.

    In short, I feel like I’m happy to advocate (and pay) for a public education system that will do for today’s kids what my small-town public schools did for me back in the day … but to be honest, with all the talk of “crisis” and “failing schools,” and “education reform,” I don’t even know what that is anymore.

    Honest question: Beyond a few exceptionally bad schools or districts, is there really an education “crisis” that requires the dismantling of a more-than-century-old system of free, public education in this country? Would we not be better off pouring our efforts (and dollars) into helping to rebuild and re-energize the schools we already have — including working to equalize funding and, where necessary, launching an intensive effort to provide support services for the families of school-age children, as well?

  4. Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    It dawned on me as I fell asleep that I left meaningful campaign finance reform off the list of disappointments. I think that probably still comes second to the collapse of public education, though. And I do realize that, to some extent, what happens relative to public education is out of Obama’s hands, as it’s something managed at the state level. I still wish that he’d address it, though, and champion the cause. Once public education goes, in my opinion, it’s game-over. I feel like I’m approaching the end of a novel.

  5. wobblie
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    an educated public gets in the way of the plutocracy. No Child left behind combined with the Bush/Obama tax cuts have gutted the country. 3rd world serfs need to be uneducated-the plutocrats and their sycophants hate anything that looks like equality. Are children are screwed. We’re going to turn teaching into another high turn over low pay job–unless you get a job at private schools like the ones our Supreme Court Justices attended (since they are catholic, they probably don’t pay that well, but you get to diddle the kids). Roberts attended Notre Dame Elementary School, a Roman Catholic grade school in Long Beach, and then La Lumiere School, a Roman Catholic boarding school in LaPorte, Indiana…http://www.lalumiere.org/
    These are the people who are defining the future of our country–and equality is not part of their lexicon

  6. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Glen, I have a great nostalgia too…I don’t remember any really “bad” kids in any of my classrooms. The only “special needs” were the reallllly severe cases and they were in a separate room (not necessarily right, of course). I want to know what became of the kids who couldn’t read, who couldn’t learn the same way, who just didn’t fit into school? Seriously, can any older teachers tell me? I just remember an idyllic elementary school where my biggest problem was when those BITCHES Diane Dres and Samantha Glowinski up and decided they didn’t want to be my friend any more…they were just jealous. But I digress.

    This is just my opinion but I think that we had a “perfect storm” of things happening that have led to what some call a crisis. First, the breakdown of the community. I absolutely think women need jobs…I did legal aid for 7 years and saw what happened to women who depended on their husbands for money. Not pretty. Having said that though, there is something to be said for having grown folks around the neighborhood. Now that problem could be solved by having parents work but having extended family (i.e. retired grandparents) around to mind the ‘hood. There would also be folks around to babysit so that parents could get out by themselves and not take kids to my favorite brewpub where they make too much noise and irritate me. (not your kid, Mark :)). It’s also a shame that most communities don’t have “corner stores” where you see everyone you know. We didn’t necessarily have those in Troy, but we did have places where “everyone” went. Also, we had enough places of worship that united folks and of course the school was right in the ‘hood so we had parks and rec there in the summer, ice cream socials and so on.

    Next, and here is where I get my ass reamed but I’ma say it anyway…the breakdown of the family. I really don’t care if you have 3 dads or 2 moms or 2 moms & 2 dads…you need an intact family unit. I see waaaay too many unwed women squirting out kids like they’re a Dairy Queen. I am not saying that unwed mothers will never do good–of course they do! But I am saying that having kids when you are not ready makes everything you want to do 500 times harder. Really, how will you make it through college, the job market, unless you have significant family support? I realize that people do this all the time, and kudos to them, but from where I sit (SW Detroit), it isn’t pretty. And I have to say that having kids at age 14 is never a good idea, unless it’s the Middle Ages and the life expectancy is 24.

    The breakdown of the family leads to children being “grown” and not “raised”. Too many kids, as I’ve said before, enter school having no prior knowledge about the world. We’d almost have to start schooling at age 18 months to get them to where I was when I started school. Too many kids on my caseload have illiterate families and know that they will get a check for the rest of their lives…where’s the incentive?

    The only “solution” I have (other than mass amounts of birth control) is smaller classes and teachers having “caseloads” of students for whom they are responsible. I think the Catherine Ferguson school does that. I have to “push in” to regular ed classes with my special ed kids and so many classes are just nightmares, for me and for them. When classes are large, the goof offs have free reign to do as they please b/c the teacher is busy with other things. Having me in there helped quite a bit…and I am happy to say that more schools are going to a “co-teaching” model of having two teachers in classrooms, one special ed and on regular ed. But for that to truly happen at my school, you’d need 5 more of me, and they aren’t going to hire 5 more mes.

    It sickens me the way that Obama has happily let for profit charters take over things. I have no problem with true private schools–tuition paid by parents and no public monies–but what he and Duncan are doing makes me ill. Who wants to bet that when they are out of office, they end up on the “boards” for the National Heritage Academy or one of those and rake in the dough?

  7. Bob
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I think the real foundation of all these problems, including education funding, is lack of quality jobs. People are so overextended, in debt, and stressed about their shrinking or vanished paycheck, they can’t think straight. If they were more financially secure they would value education more. All they can think about is saving a few dollars anywhere they can, any tax cut they can get. The GOP realizes this and can take advantage of working peoples stress to break another entitlement, free education. I feel for people who think this way, to a degree. It’s just short sighted and will ultimately contribute to the further erosion of the country.

  8. Posted June 21, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I went to the worst school system in the worst state for education: Mississippi public schools.

    I also went to a ritzy Catholic school on a scholarship, until they kicked me out for having a white trash family.

    The difference was immense. My three years at the expensive private school would turn out to be the best three years of academic education I could have asked for.

    My 9 years in the Mississippi educational system would turn out to be an incredible experience. It taught me that policy makers and tax payers consider public schools to be a dumping ground for the poor and a first step on the way other government funded holding areas such as prisons and mental health facilities. I know that sounds paranoiac, but that’s the attitude in Mississippi. I started public schools in 1975, just 7 years after official segregation ended in Mississippi.

    Until we change attitudes as to the function of public schools and make people understand that public schools can provide a vital role in cementing communities and creating skilled, productive and thinking citizens, nothing will change.

    There is nothing wrong with private schools, but charters aren’t privates like the religious school I went to. It was expensive, but the goal was to educate. Charters are public schools run by private contractors whose only motivation is profit.

  9. Bob
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The real untold story of charter schools and home schooled kids is the quality of what they actually learn. Ask high school teachers who get these poor dopes filtered in to their classrooms after their “alternative” educations have been applied. They are usually pretty dumb, not to mention socially challenged.

  10. Posted June 21, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    It would really be more efficient to just require that poor people home school their children.

  11. Maria
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    A big problem I see in public schools is that quite a bit of material is presented to the kids, and checking to see if they actually have acquired is a bit a of game.
    Honest to God, in my kid’s class, a general ed class, the teacher aimed for 80% understanding of material.
    Now, that sounds reasonable, sort of, but 80% of what? If the remaining 20% wasn’t understood, it wasn’t an issue. But it is an issue, of course.That kind of teaching adds up to big problems,later, next month, and even more so next year, and this person was considered a good teacher.
    I went to a small Catholic elementary school, and it was good, but no great shakes either. But we had to learn the material. All of us. It was simpler, far simpler, but it was real.
    I went to a public high school, and there it was okay. It was still very possible to get a decent educational basis for college. And I didn’t go to a high end school, just your basic every day school, and went to U of M with no trouble, and that’s what is reasonable to expect, a relatively level educational experience where people without hiring Kumon or Sylvan can get a kid through to their achievement potential.

  12. Maria
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    As far as charters, I have said before, they are scandalous, and they are wildly unregulated. The idea that you can hand your kid to people who stand to make a profit on going cheap to educate your kid is frightening, and the results do play themselves out. Check out Great School. net and check out the reviews and evaluations on them, it’s pretty crazy stuff.

  13. Mr. X
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that a third party is practical in the United States, at least not in the short term. I do, however, think that the parties are capable of evolving. I think, if nothing else, the Tea Party has shown us that. I think liberals need to start flexing their muscles within the Democratic party, and demanding change. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of liberals with the deep pockets of the Koch brothers, who funded and orchestrated the launch of the Tea Party movement, or access to “news” channels like Fox, who legitimized it. Still, I think movement can happen, if those in power sense they might be in jeopardy. I’m not calling for blood in the streets, but, at the same time, I don’t Martin Luther King would have been anywhere near as successful without Malcolm X.

  14. Mr. X
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    The whole concept of education has changed. By and large, kids learn facts now. They learn things that can be measured. They don’t learn how to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and innovate. And that’s the death knell for America.

  15. Posted June 21, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The whole concept of standardized tests is ludicrous. Educational attainment is a lifelong process, and often has more to do with where and how a child was previously educated than the school/teacher the student is with presently.

    My public high school was atrocious. However, I consistently scored in the 99th percentile on standardized tests simply due to the fact that I went to a good private school for junior high school and because my parents taught me to read at an early age.

    I suspect that the poor performance of kids in my high school (or any other high school in an impoverished district) has more to do with what happened in early child hood, than with anything taught at the high school.

    Kids can’t be brought in and magically transformed into academic powerhouses simply by spending a few months in any high school. We should stop hanging on to this tired metric and just try to make our schools the best they can possibly be.

  16. Glen S.
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    @ Mr. X.

    I agree. I’m tired of being blackmailed by Democrats who claim that if we (on the left) don’t automatically support any candidate with a “D” after their name — regardless of whether they actually support, defend and FIGHT FOR core Democratic values — that we are effectively voting for the Republicans.

    As I’ve said before in other posts, I plan to continue to support (financially and with my vote) individual candidates who stand up for what I think is right, but my days of voting a straight ticket and/or being forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils” are definitely over.

  17. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Bob & all, I AM that teacher…one girl that we got was in the 3rd grade and had been “homeschooled” up until then. She literally could not sit in a chair and was hanging underneath the desk. Another was pulled out of school and when she returned 2 years later, she was a 16 year old in the 8th grade with skills at about the 3rd grade level.

    And I’m sure I’ve told you that MI is probably the most lenient state in regards to homeschooling regulations….

  18. Posted June 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    It is more efficient, and would save the tax payer billions of dollars. Plus, the children can learn about important things like Jesus and the programming schedule on Nickelodeon.

  19. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ll split my vote and have all along…but in the realm of presidential politics it is trickier. 3rd parties have made huge differences in our country but I am not talking tea nor will I throw things to the right, been down that road too long and too many times.

  20. Alan
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?

    The Underground History of American Education

    Gatto archive:

  21. Meta
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    This seems pertinent.

    (From NPR.)

    The American public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago. Yet, paradoxically, scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is real and caused largely by human activities.

    Something a bit strange is happening with public opinion and climate change.

    Anthony Leiserowitz, who directs the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, delved into this in a recent poll. He not only asked citizens what they thought of climate change, he also asked them to estimate how climate scientists feel about global warming.

    “Only 13 percent of Americans got the correct answer, which is that in fact about 97 percent of American scientists say that climate change is happening, and about a third of Americans just simply say they don’t know,” he said.


  22. imatuckytoo
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to write what I feel about this subject for 30 minutes – and I can’t even get it started. How disappointing for our future generations and our nation as a whole. We really are our own worst enemies and we do not learn from our mistakes. We will reap what we sow. I’m sorry, kids.

  23. EOS
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    So what has changed with the American Educational System? In the 1600’s, the schools were operated by the churches, beginning with the Puritans. For the next 200 years, private religious education was predominate. It wasn’t until the 1850’s that public education for the masses was instituted. Still, by 1900, only 6% graduated from high school. By the end of the 20th century, H.S. graduation rates rose to 85%. College attendance rose from 2% to 60% during the same time frame.

    My guess is we probably peaked in this country in the 40’s and 50’s by educating the largest numbers to the highest levels of achievement. Studies in the 80’s showed very low academic achievement for the vast majority. In the interim between the 50’s and the 80’s we kicked God out of the schools completely and we moved Mom from the home to the workplace. In the 50’s, swearing and chewing gum were the biggest offenses regularly occurring in schools. Now, it’s drug sales and gang related shootings. We became more concerned with equality of outcomes rather than challenging each student to achieve their full potential. Schools have become the place where social skills are gained rather than intellectual abilities nurtured. In a single generation educational standards plummeted.

    And consider how our kids are socialized. The biggest offense for an American student today is to be respectful towards teachers, to study hard and try to obtain the highest grades possible. Teachers don’t put the best exams up on the bulletin boards today, because they grade on a curve and the kid will get his ass kicked on the way home from school. In our schools, the dumb jock is held in the highest esteem. In other cultures, the best students names are published in the paper, and everyone in the community applauds their achievement.

    If we want higher levels of academic achievement, we should reward those who achieve it. Most blue collar union jobs pay more than most white collar professional positions. A skilled tradesman on the factory floor at Ford’s makes three times the salary of an engineer working in the Glass House. It’s good work if you can find it, but today, both the factory workers and the engineers are likely to be living in another country where the wages of both are substantially lower. The elite have determined that high levels of education are not necessary for the service economy that exists in America today.

  24. LisaD
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    In Michigan I think a lot of it has to do with school choice. In theory it seems like nothing but a good idea – every parent can choose to send their kid to a better school. The downside is that it has completely eroded the idea of a neighborhood school. Parents who care and who have resources in bad neighborhoods send their kids elsewhere. Why get involved in the school and make it better when you can just transfer your kid? Somehow it has made schools that were failing and/or segregated schools even more so.

  25. wobblie
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    EOS, please go read the Ordinance for the Governance of the Territories North and West of the Ohio River–banned slavery in Michigan, and established the basis for universal public education. One section of every township was dedicated to support the education of our children. The very foundation of our Republic. Besides creating the basis of socialist education, we also took care of our Veterans, see the Western Reserve. Building on this American socialist tradition, Abe Lincoln established the land grant college system.
    EOS, your ignorance of history is only matched by your ignorance of economics,”Most blue collar union jobs pay more than most white collar professional positions.” Today’s starting pay at a UAW represented assembly plant $1400/hr. State jobs in union positions pay between 16.00 and 23.oo. Every state NERE (ie. non union position) requires at least a bachelors degree with starting pay of at least 36,ooo/year up to Synder giving his new people 103,000′

  26. wobblie
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    EOS, please go read the Ordinance for the Governance of the Territories North and West of the Ohio River–banned slavery in Michigan, and established the basis for universal public education. One section of every township was dedicated to support the education of our children (the proverbial country school house). The very foundation of our Republic. Besides creating the basis of public/socialist education, we also took care of our Veterans, see the Western Reserve. Building on this American socialist tradition, Abe Lincoln established the land grant college system.
    EOS, your ignorance of history is only matched by your ignorance of economics,”Most blue collar union jobs pay more than most white collar professional positions.” Today’s starting pay at a UAW represented assembly plant under $15.00/hr. State jobs in union positions pay between 16.00 and 23.oo. State NERE (ie. non union position) requires at least a bachelors degree with starting pay with no experience of at least 36,ooo/year. Of course Synder is giving his new people 103,000 or more with new cherry wood paneling and mahogany desks in their offices (been watching them replace the old Granholm standard government issue cloth and press board in the exec offices this last month). They hate anything that looks like equality. Thus the need to gut our public education system.

  27. Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The states were to encourage education, but the Northwest Ordinance did not require states to provide public education.

    “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

    What kind of schools are we talking about here? Religious schools? You call that section of the Northwest Ordinance “laying the basis for universal education,” but someone else could call it “laying the basis for theocracy,” or “laying the basis for religious charter schools.”

    It wasn’t “laying the basis” for either (in the sense that the authors intended it to turn into what we’ve turned it into), anymore than a ruined ancient city was laying the basis for a city that was built on top of it a hundred years later.

  28. Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    There was no peak in educational quality in the 40’s and 50’s either. Much of the Civil Rights struggle had to do with substandard educational opportunities for minorities.

    Unless, of course, you don’t consider black people to be citizens.

    Even so, judging from the writing skills of old guys in Southeast Michigan who would have gone to school at that time, I doubt that schools at that time were very good at all.

  29. Mr. X
    Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I think it’s an interesting exercise to go back to the founding documents, but the reality is that we no longer live in the late 1800’s, and there are new realities to be dealt with. Regardless of why public schools were established, we need them now, and we should be willing to support them with our tax dollars. And I’d be of the same opinion even if the founding fathers hated public education.

  30. Posted June 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with you Blake. Abe Lincoln specifically looked to the NWO when designing the Land grant colleges (building new educational opportunities on the back of 80 year old ideas). We didn’t create compulsory public education till much later, true. But our first laws as the United States, under the Articles of Confederacy provided public financing for public education. So in the free soil states of the mid-west notions like equality became important concepts-a notion totally devoid in the plutocrat/slave owning south where there was no corresponding basis for building public education. It might be part of the reasons why a million Michiganders , Illinoisans, Ohioans and Hoosiers marched south to free the slaves. It is because our public schools are the incubators of notions of equality in our society that they have been under attack since Brown v. Board of Education The fear that we have to treat gays equally, has been central to the rights divide and fear strategy. If you get disciplined at the public school for gay bashing–we are teaching lessons about equality. If you ban teaching of sexual differences, and teach that homosexuality is a sin, you are anti-egalitarian. The attack on public schools is anti-american in a very deep way.

  31. Posted June 24, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Firstly, you’re probably thinking of the Land Ordinance of 1785 (which set aside a 1 square mile section of each 36 square mile township for a public school in the Northwest Territory), rather than the Northwest Ordinance (which encouraged eventual states in the Northwest Territories to promote religious/moral schools, among other things). Secondly, I have no idea why you’re bringing up homosexuality and bullying, but you’re projecting your modern views of politics and morality onto history in a way that clashes with the political and moral views of the time. There probably wasn’t much bullying of homosexuals in school back then, since Sodomy was a crime.

    “In 1778 Thomas Jefferson wrote a law in Virginia which contained a punishment of castration for men who engage in sodomy,[1] however, what was intended by Jefferson as a liberalization of the sodomy laws in Virginia at that time was rejected by the Virginia Legislature, which continued to prescribe death as the maximum penalty for the crime of sodomy in that state.”

    You might also want to read what the Northwest Ordinance says about who can vote and who can’t, and who can serve as elected officials and who can’t, if you really think it was designed to promote egalitarianism and fight plutocracy. I’ll be happy to post them if you don’t feel up to a quick google search.

  32. Mark
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    You are quit right about the Land Ordinance. It combined with the NWO defined the political geography of the mid-west. That included the Jeffersonian notions of equality. Our notions of equality and who is a citizen have expanded over time. the contradictions between the ideology and the reality of america are exposed most glaringly in our public schools as well as within our military. The example of gay bashing, or earlier slave owning, was to show how actions which once upon a time were acceptable or legal, once the inequality is legally broken, are not acceptable in our public institutions. The destruction of our public institutions are part of the generalized attack upon equality.

  33. Edward
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a great video spoof of that Miss America evolution interview that was linked to in this post.

    Miss USA 2011 — Should Math Be Taught In Schools?

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