Progress and The Power of a Plan

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Inherent within each of us is conflict.  Generally speaking, we think growth is good.  Progress is a sign of achievement.  As George Bernard Shaw so aptly articulated, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Indeed, politically, at one time or another, persons within each Party have embraced the label, “Progressives.”  Even the most entrepreneurial embolden the idea of Progress. Goldman-Sachs boldly bolsters, Progress is everyone’s business.”  However, while we glorify growth, we disdain it.  Most of us look back and think, “Those were the days.”

The good ole days are commonly defined as “when we were young.” It might have been the 1930s, 1940s; the fifties were fine!  In earlier eras, schools were vehicles for success.  Now, these same institutions are seen and scored as failures.  Teachers were principled. Today, throughout the news we read, educators are perverse.  Our children come home and tell tales that affirm what adults have come to believe is true; teachers are bad! Public education is worse.  Students and parents surmise, home schools or private learning centers would better serve their needs. Cyber classes too must be an option.  Online learning tailors a lesson, much more so than a unionized teacher would. The people want Choice!

There is one consensus; tests are good. Accountability is the gold standard.  Current conventional wisdom counters what was thought to be exceptional, in the nineteen sixties.  Decades ago, those under thirty and even their elders changed the world for the “greater good.”  The baby boomers were beautiful or were they bad…bad for the country and worse for businesses?  

Whatever the point of view, it is clear the revolutionaries transformed the conversation in ways that irrevocably challenged conventions.  Even our nation’s President, in those years pursued policies that reeked of progress. “The Great Society” brought with it the Elementary and Secondary Act.  There was a War on Poverty” underway.  However, some at the top thought such a battle might topple Free Enterprise.

Big Businesses did not necessarily embrace the evolution.  People in power particularly, took note.  Tycoons and their corporate attorneys saw the “60s revolution” as a threat.  One brave company soldier devised a plan to take the country back.  His name? Lewis F. Powell. His resolve, Infiltrate America’s campuses.  

The man soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court saw the dichotomy that exists within us all.  Change?  Is growth good or bad? Is “Progress everyone’s business” or is advancement only favorable when it serves the few?  Do we characterize change in innocuous ways, and simply say, “The times they are a changin'” or do we take action?  Lewis F. Powell put pen to paper; he presented what he envisioned as a better plan, and perhaps it was.  If better is defined by policy and principles that endure and become deeply ingrained in the fabric of society, then The Powell Memo is phenomenal. Justice Powell found the keys that open all hearts, “freedom and choice.”

As Lewis Powell observed, few among us could argue against the right to choose. Prominent Democrats, disconnected from the damage done to public education, advocate for Charter schools. Vociferous Republicans vote for vouchers.  Independents invest in home schools.  Parents persuaded by corporate campaigns frequently succumb.  Moms and Dads pull the parent-trigger.  Only belatedly do people learn that Charters, which pass for public schools, are not.  Vouchers validate separate, but equal. While several do, some home-schools may not satisfy a child’s need for socialization.  Most significantly, regardless of which of these paths we choose, there is a chance that democratization will be lost.  

The question we each must ask ourselves is which is more important to us, personal freedom or the freedom we share as a nation?  When we think only of our own offspring what do we reap and what will society sow? Thomas Jefferson offered his assessment…

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Might freedom and choice present another conundrum, an inner conflict of sorts?  America’s foundation is found in freedom.  The three most significant documents in our history are often referred to as the “Freedom Documents -the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  The question is what freedoms we choose, or how we choose to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Is our personal freedom more important to us than the freedoms we share as a nation?  

Not surprisingly, in the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson thought it best to provide freedoms for the common good, the commonweal, and common citizens, rich and poor.  With his entrance into the Oval Office the vision of “The Great Society” was born. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as part of the “War on Poverty” brought together what can be a conflict within us, our love for the past and desire to progress. As President Johnson reflected as he signed the Bill into law, “I felt a very strong desire to go back to the beginnings of my own education-to be reminded and to remind others of that magic time when the world of learning began to open before our eyes.

The assertion was an affirmation. Growth is good.  We can progress and still preserve what we loved in the past.  Problem arises when powerful people, Philanthropists, people with the ear of politicians, policymakers, and pundits disagree with this declaration.

That is what occurred in 1971.  Industrialist and Attorney,Powell was outraged.  He thought the laws and the logic as liberal poppycock. More so, the Barrister saw the changes as an attack, an affront. An assault on Free enterprise. Lewis Powell communicated his concerns and composed his clarion call, a blueprint for marketers.  He titled it, A Confidential Memorandum, Attack on Free Enterprise System.  Powell purported…

Dimensions of Attack

“…what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack


The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.”

Chief Executive Officers, and the esteemed fellows within the United States Chamber of Commerce, all agreed.  Each Entrepreneur saw the source of our evolutionary evils as respectable, but wrong.  

Academics teach. Clergy preach.  Intellectuals invoke.  Artists, Journalists, and Scientist evoke.  The Media is the Message. These influential individuals whom, according to the then corporate Attorney, Powell changed the conversation for the worse, needed to be stopped.  To convert the perceived Attack on Free Enterprise; images needed to be changed.

An honorable profession, teaching, needed to be seen as subversive, if the marketers were to be successful.  To convert the conversation, Conservatives had to be seen as intellectuals. Traditional theories need to be floated and substantiated.  Research would be done in the College of Right Thought.  The clergy and cultural elite too must see the light.  Conservative dictums must dominate.  After all, Powell proclaimed.

“…Those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in…

‘We, the US Chamber of Commerce, companies and corporations  must make believers out of detractors, convert our critics, win over naysayers and we will’  Tycoons had the power to move masses. Powell only told them that they needed to use what was at their disposal.  US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Columbia Broadcasting Services (CBS) had easily access to the people.  Moms, Dads, and the young ones invited these industries in daily..indeed, in every minute of the day.

We turn on  “Televisions.” Tune into the radio. Read periodicals. “The Scholarly Journals.” “Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets.” “Paid Advertisements.” Lewis Powell explained, these are our tools.  Our techniques need only be honed.  Professional public relations firms were already employed by the agencies.  Change emphasis within a message and audiences will be moved.

Repeat the results of partisan reseacrh often enough and the pubic too will recite the claims.  Teachers are bad. Public schools are failures.  Intellectusls comprise a “socialist cadre.” “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries…would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed.”  Revolutionaries are educated in public schools.

Thus it is so.  For four plus decades now, the American people see no conflict.  We, the people were changed as was the way in which we speak.  Growth for  Free Enterprise is good.  Public Education and Educators are perverse. Progress is a sign of achievement. Businesses and Lewis F. Powell proved this.  If we have a plan and plod away patiently, we can realize a success that lasts longer than a decade.  Perhaps, we, the people can revive The Great Society, Rebuild the American Dream, Restore the principles within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Today, the question is, do we, each one of us feel the strong desire Lyndon B. Johnson did…“to go back to the beginnings of [our]  own education-to be reminded and to remind others of that magic time when the world of learning began to open before our eyes.”

Please let us Save Our Schools!  Let us be On the March to preserve and Transform Public Education.

Dump Duncan. The Power of a Plan versus Petition

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Move the Masses. Money is less Meaningful than a Mission that Gives Voice to a Shared Vision.

What does a memorandum scribed more than a two score ago have to do with a present-day petition?  Everything!  Granted, on the surface there are few if any similarities beyond the veracity that each addresses education.   One is an archaic collection of suggestions.  The other is a contemporary polemic petition.  The latter has an immediate punch.  The language is forceful.  The sentiments are fervent.  Signers of the Dump Duncan supplication submit, we “wish to express our extreme displeasure,” followed by a threat. “It is unlikely that you will receive continued support unless…”  The plea is addressed solely to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  The former, known as The Powell Memo, while a quiet communiqué, became a catalyst for lasting and profound change.    The latter “Dump Duncan!” document, however, will likely die a quiet death.  Why might this be?

A word; which has a wide appeal, propagates the Powell dossier. “Freedom.” The stance silently stated and shared with many was “the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible.” Indeed, even those who wish to Dump Duncan might agree.  After all, endorsers of Duncan initiative seek also emancipation.  Signatories seek freedom from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top mandates and the man who enforces such unyielding legislation.

Freedom is a concept that resonates within us all.  However liberty from this particular Secretary of Education does little to excite most Americans.  In truth, despite a devotion to Party or position innumerable individuals think Arne Duncan is doing a fine job.  Thus the reason the Dump Duncan dictum did little to move the masses.  Meanwhile, the Powell Manifesto moved and moves us all, like a ghost never gone with the wind.

Readers respond to what is relatable, the Powell proclamation.  The “views expressed…tentative and suggestive” sparked a flame. Insidiously, the intensity of the fire grew and grew.  Today, the nation is ablaze.  Intent on privatization, a select few ultimately persuaded a nation.  Millions of individual men, women, and children, acceded to the need to transform our schools.  

Once the initial mission was accomplished the quest did not end.   It was never meant to as is evident in the statement; “Recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival – survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.”  It is essential to realize as the Writer, an Industrialist highly involved in multiple Boards of Education did.  Even Educators fight for survival.  Teachers, parents too, want the right to choose.  Everyone does.  In America, few are ready or willing to reject what is prized, the Entrepreneurial spirit.  Citizens, and those who flock to the States, celebrate what Capitalism symbolizes.  We cherish independence and the possibility that as an individual we too can succeed.

Thus as it has been for decades; society and the world, followed the lead first fashioned in the subdued Powell epistle.  Indeed, were it not for the effectiveness of this treatise, there would be no Dump Duncan plea.  The Powell Memo or at least what some consider a transformative version of it, would have been but a whisper, lost in the past.

The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Money is far less Meaningful.  Convince the people that what they want is what they need and can have and the world, education and equity reform will be your oysters.

Beyond a Broad Appeal.  Saper  Vedere. To know how to see.”

Justice Powell had sight, hindsight, foresight, and insight.  Lewis F. Powell had a vision, a message to impart.  He mapped out the elements that comprise the essence of an effective campaign.  The Corporate Lawyer understood the core of a fine argument.  It is vital to gain people’s confidence, utilize any and all available medium, and the case is yours.  Mister Powell’s thoughts can be summarized in a phrase, as Marshall McLuhan articulated before him, “The Medium is the message!” This truism translates to ‘Market to the masses.’  Do not miss a moment.  Broad appeal is the aim.  “Public relations” equates to relate to the public. Meet their needs and wants, one individual at a time.  

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.  “Television.” Radio. Periodicals. “The Scholarly Journals.” “Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets.” “Paid Advertisements.” Pronouncements are powerful; that is if a presenter or presentation is profound and present in every conversation.  The essential elements need be pervasive and persuasive.  Expression matters more than what is expressed.  However, these fundamentals alone may not be enough to sway the people.  The ultimate strength is found in “freedom.”

People need to feel as though whatever their thoughts, these were arrived at independently, and after much analysis.  Thus, the message must appear on every avenue, in each forum and discussion.  Omnipresence affords infinite opportunities.  In time, ideas are internalized.

For Powell and his pals the hope was the public might see and surmise that it was time for a change.  Surely, the average America was aware, or would be with a little help from free-market friends, there had been a triumphant broad-based “Attack on the American Enterprise System.” In his personal assessment of the past, Lewis Powell penned what his business partners also believed.  He outlined the dimension, sources, and tone of the assault on entrepreneurship.  The eventual Supreme Court Justice also gave voice to “The Apathy and Default of Business.”  Much as a frustrated Teacher might say at present.  Colleagues frequently feel that coworkers are overly compliant, unconcerned, or just too comfortable with what is.

All those decades ago, Barrister Powell, advanced a societal shift…a move from a perceived attack on American Free Enterprise to an engineered assault on public opinion, especially as it relates to education and equity.  Perhaps, we can best understand how this played out by way of an analogy.  Contemporary anecdotes may offer just the “saper vedere” we need.  

Medium Builds a Movement Beyond Magnates or Mentors

On the Surface, Seen in the Cinema

We can see the contrast and consequences of a vision acted upon when we observe what occurs in our theatres.  The regard for films such as Waiting For Superman versus ‘American Teacher, narrated by Matt Damon tell a part of the tale.

Actor, Director, and Author, Matt Damon has a name and fame.  Millions express an interest in the man, his career, and subscribe to the quests Damon undertakes.  His work sells.  However, the movie American Teacher was never a box-office success.  The motion picture was barely a blip on the national radar.  It is as the Dump Duncan appeal, only acknowledged by academics, classroom teachers and their allies.

The American Teacher is not alone in the film world.  Other productions have attempted to tell a tale about education, just as  Waiting For Superman does.  Several flicks evoke sniffles a technique used effectively in the Guggenheim creation.   Race To Nowhere, and August To June, bring audiences into the lives of little ones, as does Superman.  In each production, viewers can and do relate to real-life “characters.”  Thus, the theory that the  much-acclaimed movie was a tearjerker, and therefore, a success does not hold.  

Through each production, we feel the pain in pupils and parents.  School life offers stress as well as success.  The circumstances in one or the others are all too familiar.  Any of us who has yearned to learn, especially as children, fears being told that we, or our work is a failure. Empathy is a strong emotion evoked as we watch the stories unfold on a silver screen. People relate to what mothers and fathers feel.  When a young one stumbles, falls, and pick them selves up again we bleed then believe.  Then, why might it be that one of the movies has a mammoth following?  Why is Waiting For Superman present in the public’s collective mind?

Obviously, we cannot surmise that documentaries do less well; Waiting is of this genre.  It is a “factual” film, dependent on your personal perspective.  Yet, it has received awards, accolades, and is much appreciated. The essential difference came in the form of backers.  Not only did the message speak to the magnitude of the desire for freedom, Free-Enterprise proponents promoted the production.  Any policy or presentation that appeals to marketers is as a Muse.  Inspired Industrialists will happily be advance-persons and advertise programs that push an agenda of “Choice.”

In actuality, frame after frame of Waiting for Superman circulated in Corporate Board rooms. Audiences of Chief Executives gathered to assess the much-acclaimed film.  Staffers were called to view.  Won over by the medium, and the message, word spread.  Ah, the wildfire that today is ablaze.  Soon audiences attended screenings in droves.  Showings were held not solely in theatres, but in homes, town halls, and youth centers.  Clubs used the film as fundraiser draws.

Behind the Scenes. In the Streets and In Corporate Suites

Money. Money. Money! Does not a Movement Make

Such was the fate of the Powell Memo and its mantra as well.  Interestingly enough, the two [Which two?]share the same message; privatize! Each was sponsored by big businesses.  

In the case of the push for the Powell Plan, there were many movers and shakers.  US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Columbia Broadcasting Services (CBS) were actors of note.  

The latter two of these enterprises could and did weave a tapestry that told the tale of privatization in all its glory.  Lights, cameras, action mixed with a bit of adversity, adventure, triumph, and special effects, surely tell this American  folkloric story successfully.  

Witness Waiting For Superman.  It too had and has phenomenal partners.  Glance at a revered registry, Organizations Making a Difference for Waiting For Superman.  The Gates, Broad and Walton Family Foundations are primary partners in the popular plots.   (Please explore their areas of interest and influence.  Click on the stack of dollars in Under the Influence; Big Education Spenders to see behind the scenes.)

Consider Merit Pay and Charter Schools.  Powerful privatization promoters subsidize vouchers too, just as they did the movie.  All fall are under the influence of the influential.  

Perchance unexpected, although equally compatible with the Entrepreneurial agenda are federally “funded” programs such as Race To the Top, and No Child Left Behind.  These donors, and more benefactors sponsored the film and were intimately involved in Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 Chicago School Miracle Story.  

The marriage between moneyed and governement bureacracies is a long and enduring, mutually beneficial engagement, one Lewis F. Powell proposed.  Plese recall, Mister Powell, unlike Dump Duncaneers, saw the pertinence of no left stone unturned.

Corporations fund alliances such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),”the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.  This organization, as many other conservative collectives, was born of the inspirational ideology found in Powell’s prose. Corporate-controlled task forces within ALEC address issues from education to health policy. Legislation introduced by this dominion in recent sessions complements the agenda voiced in theePowell doctrine and in the documentary, “Waiting For Superman.” Privatize education. Break unions, such as the Teacher’s.  Deregulate major industries, inclusive of the institution known as public schools.

As many might be aware, in 2011, in 2012, and as is expected to be in the future, America’s public education system has evolved.  For-profit venture Capitalist sought and found homes in America’s “public” schools.  The key to schoolhouse doors was opened with the turn of a phrase, the one found throughout the Powell Memo.  “Freedom!”  

Independence and individual choice.  The music from Powell’s Manifesto prospered

While the immediate response might be “Follow the money.”  Frequently we find funds are not enough to advance a message.  Money does not buy love or a movement.  Consider recent political races and grass-roots actions.

Occupiers grow without gardens of green-backers.  Please ponder a list of abundantly affluent “losers.” Meg Whitman, spent $160 million on her failed bid for Governor of California.  Linda McMahon depleted her bank account with a $47 million withdraw.  Her belief was she could purchase a Connecticut Senatorial seat.  Microsoft Vice President Suzan DelBene tried to procure a position in the Washington House.  Well over two million dollars later, the candidate   was defeated.  In the 2012 Grand Old Party Presidential races we have often seen that dollars do not get the job done. Thus, we must wonder; as Lewis Powell did, what is it about a film or a philosophy that allows it to spread?  It is the meduim and the essence of the message.  “Freedom!”

Does it have a beat that harmonizes with that of an individual’s heart.  “Liberty!”  Sing it loud!  “Choice.” Chime in.  People on the Left, Right, Middle and Independent spirits do.

Melodic Messages Move the Masses.  The Choir. The Chorus and Choice

Free Enterprize! Freedom. Individual Choice. “Education  and Equity,” as envisioned and eloquently expressed by entreprenuerial edification deformers, is areality embraced by the public.  Yes, please, the people say, we must put Students First.   Educator need to Teach For America.

The opportunity to choose the best school for our offspring is one any, every, and  likely all mothers and fathers covet.  Our President understands this.  Mister Obama often cites his own circumstance when he speaks of the issue. Just as persons who actively advocate for “School Choice” Barack Obama wants to provide his progengy with the finest education he can.  The variance comes only in how this might be achieved politically through policy.

No one can deny that consistently, Barack Obama, just as Arne Duncan, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Michelle Rhee, the American Legislators Executive Council (ALEC) and a majority of “we the people” hold dear the prospect of Charter Schools.  Vouchers are the aspect of School Choice that the Administration rejects.  Only Dump Duncaneers and/or persons who support an authentic preservation and transformation of public education object to owner operated Education Management Organization Charter Schools and Vouchers.

We might surmise the  intial bipartisan hug over No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top was born out of a love for accountability.  Indeed, even today, Teachers, their Unions, those who see the woes of high-stakes testing, and some who acknowledge the abundant stress these bring, justify a need for “accountability.”  “Sophistication” of the standards appears to be the point of contention.  As a whole, very few believe that education and equity can be sustained without some sort of quantifiable measure.  Perhaps, those who do never sat in the pews occupied by the broader population.

Barack Obama, alongside his friend, Arne Duncan did.  The two hummed the hymn as the High Priests and Priestess, sang.  Affluent families attended the church and stood with common parishioners as they  kneeled and prayed.  As the Good Book says, Moms and Dads must have the prerogative to choose what is best for their children.

Thus, there is reason to believe.  The Powell Plan understood what the Dump Duncan advocates seem to have missed.  “The Medium is the Message.”  Melodic Messages such as “Freedom” and “Individual Choice” Move the Masses. Money is less Meaningful than a Mission that Gives Voice to a Shared Vision.

References and Readings…

Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Representative . . .

My answer to your survey question, “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” is No.  In truth, for me it is not that simple.   I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the “data” collected.  I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency.  Therefore, I write.  I will present support for my opinion.  The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President’s speech.  However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do.  Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked “Yes,” “No,” or “I do not have an opinion” on your and other surveys.  I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.

The President proposed many ideas that I believe relate to our economic health.    He spoke of taxes, the energy policy that has taxed our nation.  As a father, he addressed what I know concerns you too, education.  Indeed, I thank you once again Congressman for your active support of public education.   Enrolling your children in our local community schools speak volumes.  I believe to be one with the people is to live amongst us.  Sadly, few in Congress chose the life of the common man.  

In regards to health care, which Mister Obama also touched on in the State of the Union speech, last evening, the Congress’s separation from society-at-large is evident in policies passed and again in the President’s speech.  Possibly, he too has forgotten how the real people live.  

The President did propose one plan I endorse I think The Buffet Rule enacted would be beautiful.  I believe this might help to more fully embody an actual Democratic Progressive tax structure.

Indeed, I actually think an increased tax rate for all is the ultimate in wisdom.  Even Conservatives such as Commentator-Columnist Ben Stein and former Reagan Economic Advisor, David Stockman are in favor of this more realistic plan. President Eisenhower too would applaud this way of doing taxes.  You likely recall under Ike, the tax rate for wealthiest Americans was ninety-one percent.  Republicans are not alone in their support of a Buffet Rule.  Progressive policy wonks, such as Robert Reich, advocate for higher taxes over all.  Right, Left, and Middle, we might have a consensus.  I sincerely endorse such mutual sagacity.  

Many Economists regardless of political affiliation see the correlation…Services require salaries, supplies, and a tax structure that supports all that are needed to sustain the health of a nation.

However, this aspect of the State of the Union speech was, for the most part, the only point I applauded.  The Buffet Rule aside, overall the ways in which the President proposes we build a nation, for me, only furthers the folly.

I have long been troubled by the belief that we can eat cake endlessly; yet never buy the ingredients to make it let alone bake it.  Some may ask, “Where is the beef?” I yearn to learn where are the eggs needed to bring the cake into being.  For that matter, do we have any butter, flour, or milk?  As the President does, I ponder what is spilled.   It seems all our society thinks it takes to make batter, is sugar.

We want gas to power our cars.  However, we want the price to be low.  I loathe the idea that we might invest in more fossil fuels!  The process is quick for it is familiar.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dirty.  Quick and dirty is not as I desire.  Mother Nature tells us daily that she believes as I do.  Climate change costs us dearly; still, the President’s energy related positions push for more oil and gas.  Please allow me to offer a portion of a comprehensive Cornell University study.

The Economic Consequences of Shale Gas Extraction

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Shale Gas Extraction Economies. The extraction of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas is characterized by a “boom-bust” cycle, in which a rapid increase in economic activity is followed by a rapid decrease. The rapid increase occurs when drilling crews and other gas-related businesses move into a region to extract the resource. During this period, the local population grows and jobs in construction, retail and services increase, though because the natural gas extraction industry is capital rather than labor intensive, drilling activity itself will produce relatively few jobs for locals. Costs to communities also rise significantly, for everything from road maintenance and public safety to schools. When drilling ceases because the commercially recoverable resource is depleted, there is an economic “bust” — population and jobs depart the region, and fewer people are left to support the boomtown infrastructure.

Congressman, as I listened to and read the State of the Union text, I cringed.  George W. Bush was all I saw and heard.  Mister Obama spoke of our energy policy and how investments in “clean power” would improve our economy.  I believe our continued investment in fossil fuels, foreign and/or domestic hurts us.  Be it income distribution, equal access to goods and services, or more importantly to me, the harm done to the planet, our continued commitments to natural gas, petroleum, “Clean coal,” and nuclear energy are anathema, as is the President’s education agenda.  

As energy does, education relates to the economy.  You may recall this an issue near and dear to me.  For as long as he has been in office, in respect to schools and learning Barack Obama baffles me.  He speaks of the need for creativity and curiosity in the classroom, and then quashes the possibility!  Often, Mister Obama refers to how teaching to the test is counterproductive to learning.  Yet, all that he and the DOE put in place are Race to the Top and Waivers. Programs.  Each encourages more and more examinations and commercialization!  

While the public is led to belief that the President understands why programs established under President Bush failed, it seems, in deed, this Head of State has only furthered the stress felt in schools.

In truth, I never understood why President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, a man whose work the business community and the Grand Old Party admired.  Again I think of George W. Bush and Jeb!  Economically we move further away from a Democratic Progressive system and closer to the regressive realities of privatization.  Public Schools are closed in favor of “Choice” Learning Centers.  Charters, while labeled public, more often drain dollars from the more egalitarian school system.  These institutions rarely provide the performance statistics promised.  Many, in reality, are privately run management firms.   Education is not their mission; earnings are!

We need only look at who is invited to the White House Education Round Tables.  Pedagogues are not welcome.  Their voices are intentionally absent from the conversation.  Influential “investors” sit with the President and his Secretary of Education.  These same persons now occupy our public schools.  Thus, economically speaking, education is now a growth industry!  

The President said in his speech, “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning, the first time that’s happened in a generation.”  I inquire Congressman, how do we evaluate the minimal cost to the federal government and the so-called rise?   Hmm?

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States:

By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.

Yet, the President and Arne Duncan have persuaded the public and policymakers that the invisibles, learning and the effect a mentor has on our offspring, can be measured in a day, an hour, or on one single assessment.   I know not of you; however, in my life, even when I scored well on a test, the results did not reflect my learning.  Guesstimates, short-term memory, the fluke that is a coincidence, these are not calculated in our high-stakes assessments.  However if it were possible to accurately evaluate these, then perhaps the reliance on test scores might make some sense, although still very little.

I am reminded of a statement President Obama made in his speech last evening that I do agree with. “Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.” I think every individual outside the Hall can also point to a Professor or Academic who transformed what would be. Yet, we punish our mentors when their students do not perform on command.

I cry for the young and the old.  In truth, tears flow for every American.  The reason, in a society such as ours, there is no reverence for humanity, nay-human health.  Congressman, please indulge me as I reflect on health care coverage.  President Obama stated, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Oh, my.  Once more regression is our nation’s reality.  May I present a bit to ponder…This quote is taken from an Economic Policy Institute Report.

Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale

The private plans are only competitive because they play on a tilted playing field. When that is not enough, they resort to hard-sell tactics that take advantage of vulnerable seniors-practices that prompted an ongoing congressional investigation. They also create road blocks and traps that prevent seniors from being fully reimbursed for care.

Medicare privatizers spend a lot of taxpayer money lobbying Congress, and their story keeps changing. The original rationale for private plans was that competition would lower costs, so payments were capped at 95% of the average Medicare cost for each county. The plans still prospered by cherry-picking healthy seniors, a problem that was only partly abated through risk adjusting. Since it is now established that these plans are actually less efficient than the public one, the current claim is that they help minorities and other underserved groups, an argument that also has little merit, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Oh Representative, I lived in California when Proposition 13 and the “No New Taxes” hymn were born.  Today, I realize through President Obama’s speech, this tune grows louder.  The nation, and our democracy die.  Free Enterprise thrives.

Having read to the end, I hope you will understand.  All the information I offer in my missive to you and so much more influenced my answer to your survey question Congressman.  “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” No, I did not.  I wonder; did you?

I look forward to future conversations.  May we discuss what for me is the greatest dilemma; The State of the Union divides us as do the plans the President proposed.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

January 25, 2012

The Luxury of Learning is Lost



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copyright © 2004, 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

This treatise was written in 2004, only two years after the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The No Child Left Behind Act, requires annual assessment of students in grades 3 through 8. It further requires states and schools to meet “adequate yearly progress” by increasing test scores (NASP, 2002).  Labels, based solely on the results of high-stakes assessments, began a history of hurts.

The words said were, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”  The speaker stated that she loved the bliss. The extravagance that she was speaking of is that of teaching in a manner that enlivens learning, engages, and ensures that students internalize information. She was referring to her joy for teaching in a style that creates wisdom, the learning that lasts for a lifetime. Is it true that teaching in this way is an indulgence; and that she is no longer able to partake in this possibility?  If this is true, it is sadness.  The greater sorrow is that this Educator’s testimony is not an anomaly.  

To believe that teaching in this fashion is a “luxury” and that it is lost, never to return is a concept that I cannot, or more accurately, wish not to consider. Yet, I cannot help but wonder; why does she feel that she no longer has this?  When, why, or how, did she lose what was once the objective in education?  How could this Instructor consider taking the time to guide learning, to give students an opportunity to truly acquire knowledge as a lavish pursuit?  As much as I wondered; I knew.

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

~  Jacques Barzun

Days have past and the words still haunt me. I can no longer ignore what occurs in many, if not most classrooms.  Regardless of the how I might teach or experience students and their studies, my truth is not universal. I must acknowledge, the painful reality, that exists each and everyday. I read of it in the newspapers, in editorials, in professional journals, and in books. I hear of it from friends, from family, from any, and many that have even the smallest sense of what is going on in our nation’s schools. I speak with instructors, and others who are familiar with the current crush in “education.”  There are reasons for the angst, for apprehension.

Indeed, the policies and practices in our schools, throughout this Nation, cause much trepidation. Teachers are told, “Teach to the tests!”  Even when the words are not articulated aloud, it is well known “achievement is the one and only agenda” that matters. Policymakers, Principals, and even the public-at-large have placed America’s Teachers on trial.  Perform or punishments will follow.  Students too stand before judges and juries. The young, just as their schools, are rewarded for excellence.  Dollars are delivered for good grades. Moms, Dads, and the Federal Government come bearing gifts when children succeed, chastised when they fail. Each presumes that the Teacher is the catalyst.  She or he makes great things happen. If an Instructor does not . . . damn and hell fire will be their just reward.  Please may I share the story that forced me to face a stark veracity . . .

I begin with a bit of background.  Currently, I am employed as a substitute teacher, what some so sweetly call a “Guest Teacher.”  I have a Master of Arts degree in Education, with a focus on Instructional Systems. I am credentialed in Psychology, Social Science, English, Art, Computer Concepts, and Computer Applications. I taught at the University level, instructing in the Teacher Credentialing programs. While I received my degrees, my own formal education continues. Therefore, you might guess that education is important to me. It is!

As an Educator, one who has had her own classroom, created her own curriculums, taught those who were training to become Teachers, and who recently “visits” classrooms that are not hers, I recognize what might be characterized as an “uncommon core standard,” be sensitive to authentic learning,

Young children long to learn.  Tweens and teens crave abiding knowledge.  Those just broaching adulthood are bursting at the seams; “Teach me” is the tune frequently hummed. Wisdom is the want.  We each wish to reach higher intellectual heights and pass on what we have learned.  More so than “scholastic success,” a love of learning is what I wish to facilitate.  True love remains alive through eternity. A fondness for the act of acquiring knowledge becomes habit easily retained.  

Today, and I mean that literally, education is governed by rigid regulations. There are ample frustrations throughout learning and teaching. It seems that for many, it is just as Einstein expressed, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

It is for this reason that I am sharing an account of a day in the life of an Educator. I wish to advance awareness and to open a discussion for what many experience daily. I ask each of us to consider what occurs when we concentrate on the concrete. I believe that when we do, we all lose. The luxury of learning, teaching, and being is lost.  Students no longer have the opportunity to truly understand what teachers are attempting to teach.  Nor do our offspring love their growth. We have also lessened the opportunities for instructors to connect with the students and for students to connect to a subject.

From my own life history, I believe that if we do not love learning, then we do not choose to develop the habits that create a deep desire to investigate, innovate, or imagine, especially on our own. I believe that if we focus on creating a devotion for erudition, a curriculum that demonstrates care for the student, for the subject, and one that is sensitive to the nuances of the process of progression, then and only then will true success will be guaranteed.

If you think this but an unproven theory, please consider the analogy.  You did not exit the warmth of the womb walking and talking.  Indeed, the shock of your entrance into an Earthly existence likely caused you to cry.  Someone might have stroked your head before you felt calm.  Days, weeks, and months went by before what adults would label an intelligible peep was heard from your mouth.  It may have been longer before you stood up and took your first step.  

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson [American Lecturer, Poet, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism]

It is with this thought in mind I say, adults must trust that change in a brain and a being comes from within.  Evolution, edification, is slow and subtle.  Transition arrives without fanfare.   Teachers teach. Students, just as sponges absorb lessons.  The two talk with each other.  All are challenged to learn anew, or at least that is what I thought would occur in schools.  On occasion, it did, does, and will; however, from my experience the likelihood lessens each day.

The other day I was teaching in a Social Science classroom. I was working with students who I have worked with often over the last two years. Frequently, their teacher requests that I assist in her absences. She has shared that she values my desire and ability to facilitate understanding. Jennifer Mellon has had many an occasion to observe me teach. Often, she is involved with Committee work and therefore, is on campus running in and out of the classroom when I am there.  Actually, her daughter was once a student of mine.  Hence, Jenn also knows of my pedagogy from a parent’s perspective.  Our familiarity is vast and all good.

On this day, Mrs Mellon asked that I have the class read and discuss seven to ten pages. I was told not to go farther for she, the contracted teacher, would prefer to save the next lesson for another day.

As we read and discussed, I asked the students to reference a portion and then share, in their own words, the meaning of what they just read. I know for myself and I have verified that this is true for others, many can read aloud and then not know what was read. Therefore, I always invite students to take the time to breathe and begin to internalize the words that they recite aloud.

Many in prosperous and professional communities, such as the one in which I work, can and do this well or so it seems. I realize that appearances can be deceiving. Often, when asked if they comprehend the ideas and the concepts, the meaning behind the words, students repeatedly admit that they do not understand these. They cannot offer similar concepts; they are unable to relate the material to their own life experiences, nor do they truly grasp the greater significance. Many, most, and often all confess that they can recite and regurgitate as expected or as needed to appear knowledgeable, yet they do not truly understand or internalize the information.

Therefore, I discuss the readings further, present parallels, share stories that suggest similarities between the lives of the students and the lives of those that they, or we, are studying. These enliven the essence of the lesson. As I do, and did on this day, as I ask questions that assist them in sensing the similarities between themselves and the text, I discovered a captive audience, one that cares to learn, asks questions, offers comments, and is engaged. I discover students no longer feel lost. Learning looms large when I take the time to stimulate the student’s thinking and reflecting.

Today, as on many others, each of us, the students and I, feel enriched and enlightened. These exchanges are educational; they create a joy in learning. Students often tell me that these discussions, the drawing of parallels, are not only memorable, they help them to truly learn.

Then it happened, and I learned again, what I would rather forget. In reviewing the day, I mentioned to the students’ teacher, Jennifer, that we as a class were energized, the text was meaningful, and the discussion exhilarating. However, we did not finish all of the pages she assigned. She sighed deeply. She expressed her dread for falling behind; the need to complete the curriculum as the calendar dictates, and then she said it, teaching in a manner that stimulates students so that they truly understand, well, “We do not have that luxury anymore.”

Sadly, the lesson learned is that what I do, what I did, what many educators do, and would prefer to do again, evoking authentic learning through deeper discussions, facilitating learning that lasts a lifetime, creating curriculums that are energizing and enjoyable for all, is a luxury, one that is lost. I wonder what have we created.

Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own.

– Confucian text


I do not wonder why this Teacher, or why so many Educators throughout this nation no longer have, or feel that they have, the opportunity to truly teach. I do reflect on why it is that now, capital and careers are more important than learning. I contemplate and I inquire of those who profess, propose, and then impose policies that stress schedules, simplistic, narrow and naive standards.  Please explain this to me.  Why are our loves, learning and inspirational instruction lost?  What of our offspring, their education, and their Teachers? What will the future bring?

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Mitt, My Good Man





Romney: Rivals’ attacks a ‘good warm-up’

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Mitt . . .

I am unsure if we have had the pleasure of an in-person exchange.  I too travel in political circles.  However, I do not recall.  Perhaps we met in the past.  I trust I have done business with you and your firm, Bain Capital.  Bravo on your successes.

Please allow me to introduce myself by way of this letter.  This morning, I caught a glimpse of your Today Show interview with Matt Lauer.  I heard you speak of the exaggerated envy now heard on the campaign trail.  Oh, my friend Mitt, how I relate. If I might; well stated my man. People do want what they do not have. First Bain, then the White House.  Indeed, one Chief Executive position ensured that you were a world power.  The other is but a natural transition. Instead of having a seat at the table of global influence, as President of the United States, you, old man, will own the table.

I concur with the thought expressed in the title of a Wall Street Journal Mitt.  The Bain Capital Bonfire. Romney has a good story to tell, if he’s willing to tell it. Might you have read the account my friend?  The treatise speaks of the gains and losses, signature events in our glorious Capitalist system.  You know the tale dear Mitt and I trust you will articulate it well. I look forward to the day when you share it with me personally; perhaps, over dinner.  Until then, may I offer my own anecdote.  It speaks of why I do not envy you.

Mitt, my man, I am an extremely wealthy individual.  Granted, financially, I have had my share of ups and downs.  At birth, I was born into money.  My father, Michael, had been a very poor young man.  One of thirteen children, the son of first generation Americans, Michael had to work his way to the top.  

Michael enrolled in University. He may have been the first in his family.  He completed his degree in Accounting.  Michael sought and realized Certification.  Then, “visionary” that he was Michael opened his own business. The man was an expert at making money.  He made millions for his client and much for himself.  Ultimately, his firm grew and grew.  

At the time of my birth, my parents lived in a large house on a hill.  The estate was built only a year before.  “Mother” designed the private residence herself.  She chose the neighbor and the acreage.  It was a beautiful plot of land, rolling hills, a deep forest to roam through.  I used to  wander the woods for hours on end.

As a seedling, conceived in a Waldorf Astoria Hotel suite, you might correctly imagine that, as  a child, my clothes were all New York designer collections.  My backyard playground was furnished with the finest swing sets.  We had two.  Sliding boards, climbing bars, and seesaws as well.  Among my favorite toys was not a plaything at all.  Made of wood, large and spacious, a cabin graced the grounds.  Outside of my little log home was a sandbox.  The container for tiny grains did not sit on a lawn. No. the box was built deep into the soil. When I sat within, a portion of my body might appear buried below the surface of the land.  Did I mention the whirly-bird? Oh, Mitt, my life was a child’s delight . . . or so it might have appeared.

I trust any child would have been envious of me, all that I had, and did daily. We vacationed often. A skating weekend here, days away at a resort . . . Sun and fun. Snow and frolic.  ate at the best restaurants regularly. My “father” owned one, that is, in name only.  The Penthouse was an investment made on a client’s behalf.   Taxes, title exchanges. . . shelters and such.   I am sure you understand old man.

My Mom too lived a lovely life. She had no need to work.  Philanthropic endeavors were her want.  Dressed to the nines, she volunteered hither and yon.  At times, the women would play. Bowling. Cards. Shopping.  Mommy was active in many an organization.  Religious affiliations were a wondrous source of shared pleasure.  Father’s career was furthered through the associations.  Mother made friends with the women during daylight hours.  In the evening, the men would join their wives at a club.  On countless occasions, a bigger bash was planned.  

Often, my parents hosted these.  The best china, the finest crystal, and oh the food.  Catered gourmet delicacies filled every room.  As a tot, I would sneak out of my room and “steal” a snack. Sure to be noticed, I was met with a smile and “Is she not so cute?”

Cute? Charming? Endearing? So it might seem. Reason for envy? Absolutely!  That is, if it were true.  Yes, the tale is accurate.  The account is my life.  However, as blissful as it might sound, as beautiful as it might be or have been, it was not.  There were hidden hurts.  

I was a spoiled child. Not spoiled, overindulged or a tike with too much.  I had nothing! There was no love. My parents had no time for me. The two hired a woman to raise me before I was born.  I was given everything, anything my little heart desired, except a connection.  Try as I might, I could not bond with my parents.  I had elder sisters. However, they too abandoned me prior to my first appearance in their home.  

The pair was forever busy.  Each had friends who were surely more fun than a baby sibling.   Fine fabrics hung in their closets and were worn on their backs.  Their bedrooms were as full as their lives without me.  While it may seem that only I was unhappy in this home, in this family, at the age of eight and one half, I discovered the truth.

Ten days after my parents wedding anniversary, my Mom walked out!  I was eight.  My sisters were much older.  It was a Sunday. The five of us were it the same eatery we dined at each Sunday, just as we had for years.  We just ordered dinner when my eldest sibling asked for her allowance.  Mother said she could not have it until she cleaned her room.  Father, on the other hand, assured her she would never need to clean.  He would forever furnish her with a Maid and of course, her pocket money  

I will not bore you with the details or the drama, my friend.  Suffice to say, my mother looked across the table at her selfish children, her moneyed husband whose sincerest interest was to have more, and decided she wanted none of it.  Mommy rose from the table.  Walked towards the door and then, through it.  She left!  Stunned, the rest of us sat there for a minute.  I wonder; was my father thinking of the food that had yet to arrive, or . . .

I will never know. He never spoke to me much.  The next day he did tell us to clean our rooms. We did, but it was too late.  Mother was determined to make a life for herself and any of us who wished to join her.  For a time, there were two of us children.  My eldest sister and I elected to be with our Mom and her new husband, the man I finally felt I could call Dad.

While Mommy was awarded child support and alimony, she refused each.  Barbara wanted none of Michael’s “Dirty Money!” She had had enough of what she characterized as “ill gotten gains.”  That was the reason she chose to give it all up.  We moved to another State and to other than a wealthy suburb.  Our family of four lived a far different life than the one we had always known.  We were poor, dirt poor.

Living on $1500 a year . . . Yes, you read that right. Fifteen-hundred a year for a family of four.  Welfare knocked on our door and said, “You need to apply for financial assistance.  You are eligible.” However, my parents refused.  Mommy wanted no handouts.  Daddy yearned to make it on his, our own.  Mommy gardened.  Daddy did all our household repairs.  Logan returned to school and also worked for meager wages.  Mother too secured a position.  You might recall the once vibrant five and dime, W.T. Grant and Company. Mommy’s employee  discount helped.  The woman who for a score purchased her lingerie at Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, Bonwit Teller’s and other  exclusive establishments bought my first brassiere at Grant’s.

As a child in this newer reality, I was allowed one new outfit in the Fall of the year, for the first day of school and one in the Spring.  Chic, expensive, exceptional and elegant designs? Not anymore.  There were no dollars for such fabulous duds.  Next to nothing at little cost would have to do.  This was true in every aspect of life.

Mommy grew vegetables. Daddy helped.  All our produce was fresh grown.  Breads, pies, cakes and cookies all came out of the family oven.  Store bought goodies were a luxury we could not afford.  Later, Daddy took up fishing.  Even before that, all our entrees were prepared from scratch. Meals were a time for conversation and connections. At last, I was connected!!!!!  That is rich; a richness I envied whenever and wherever I saw it.  Ultimately, I had it! With not a dime to my name, I had love!  I was loved!!!!!!  Mitt, I trust you likely think you have love as well, and money, and that is the reason others feel envious.  Again, I relate to your reality my friend Mitt.

Over the years, wealth once again became part of my life, or perhaps more accurately, in my Mom’s life, by extension, I too had enough. The family moved to another magnificent house.  A panoramic window looked out onto the ocean. The neighbors were highly educated, esteemed, experts in their respective fields.  You know Mitt; they were our kind of people.

While our life was similar to what it was in earlier, years it was not as it had ever been. The difference; this time was our greenbacks were clean!  We laughed often at our lot in life as we do now upon reflection.  So my friend, I do not envy you.  I have and want not.  Oh certainly Mitt, I, as most humans might, enjoy nice “things.”  I acknowledge that is far easier when earnings are great.  However; while I never expected to quote Governor Rick Perry, in this moment I will.  “There is a real difference between Venture Capitalism and Vulture Capitalism.”  My personal experience Mitt is: A vulture capitalist eats children and families.  A venture capitalist feeds people so that they might prosper.  A free market Entrepreneur wishes to ensure that every person, one and all, have the earnings necessary to live well.

References and Resources . . .

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The Good School; Principals or Principles



copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

The Good School; Principals or Principles



A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

“It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

    businesscard.aspx

  • The Good School; Principals or Principles



    copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   Every  association offers guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

    Some associations are familiar to most Americans.  Several, such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First, have recently come into being. For most of these prominent groups, the goal is to shape legislation.  The guise or what guides these alliances is an intense interest in our children.  Missions are eloquently composed.   However, a constant thread transcends each mission statement.  Cash Counts!

    There is money to be made in Charter Schools.  Testing too is a gold mine industry.  Even lobbying for education policy has become a big business.

    Backers such as the Broad Foundation bring big bucks to the charge.  “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better Governance, Management, Labor Relations, and Competition” is the banner headline displayed boldly in Broad Education literature.  The developer ‘s investment firm, cleverly characterized as an “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” stresses the need to “dramatically” change “urban education.”  The implication might be that suburban and rural children can and do help themselves. Possibly, this philosophy might be associated with an acknowledged truth stated in the original adopted Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). Poverty is a significant problem. Except the profoundly poor are frequently enrolled in rural schools.

    President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood this veracity; he lived it.  The father of the nation’s “War On Poverty” spoke of his own reality as he signed the education Bill into law, “As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.”  President Johnson also put forth a plan.  He said…

    “It (ESEA) represents a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling that we offer our young people. By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries.

    We reduce the terrible lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation’s classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies, which bear the burden and the challenge of better education, and we rekindle the revolution — the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance.”

    The President did not say, as a nation, we need place the onus on our Teachers.  Mister Johnson did not claim to be the bearer of corporate gifts.  Quite succinctly, the Head of State spoke of the need to strengthen civil services within our State and Local communities.   Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a deep desire to connect our children, not corporations and the dots these industries print on innumerable test sheets.

    However, over time, the essential element expressed in the original legislation evolved.  While the progression was slow at first, with the 2001 Reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, the language and the leaning changed.  No longer was equality for pupils and people at-large the issue of import. Instead private firms and their financial gains became the subject and the ones served.

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) explicit “purpose is to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap. This is done through accountability, research-based instruction, flexibility and options for parents, so that no child is left behind.”

    In other words, our nation’s youth will be assessed relentlessly and repeatedly.  Scores gathered will be used to validate and generate further well-financed studies. Versatility for Moms and Dads was defined as a choice; lift your child out from the ruins of schools (selectively) deemed “failures” and place that little learner into a crisp and clean Charter School.

    No one mentions that students who do not meet a set “standard” need not apply.  Attendance will be refused to those who might stain a record of exemplary performance.  Nor will anyone give voice to a disturbing statistic. “By the end of the 2004-05 school year, national K-12 education spending will have increased an estimated 105 percent since 1991-92; 58 percent since 1996-97; and 40 percent since 1998-99.”  The thought loudly articulate and promoted is, “Importantly, the increase in funds has been linked to accountability for results, ensuring taxpayers get their money’s worth.”

    Actually the massive infusion of money into the school system ensured that, education could be bought and paid for.  The delivery of dollars, Entrepreneurs saw as an endowment to their cause. Philanthropy for profit.

    The Broad charitable fund, just as Students First and its subsidiary Teach For America informs us that adults are both the nemesis of the young and the saviors our offspring need.  You might wish to evaluate the message of each fraternity.  It would seem from the rhetoric, there is a consensus; Teachers or adult Leaders are the salvation or the bane  of struggling students.  Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, and the lack of reading resources within a home matter not to those who profess a Teacher can provide all a child needs to learn. A parent’s education and socio-economic status are of little consequences when, as is posited by these “Foundations,” an excellent “tested” Teacher is available to lift a young learner up from the weight of Earthly concerns.

    Let us examine the messages.  Perhaps, you too might see a trend.

  • Students First Mission…While there are many factors that influence a student’s ability to learn, a great teacher can help any student overcome those barriers and realize their full potential.
  • Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.
  • About Broad Education…To become effective, efficient organizations that serve students well, American school districts and schools need strong, talented leadership.  

    Many more “coalitions” clamor for controlled corporate education change.  Stand for Children sees “Empowering” education as an “entrepreneurial” enterprise.  Trained “Leaders” will reshape our schools and policies that pertain to our progeny, our pupils.  

    Parents Across America may be the antithesis to the “No Excuses” clamor of corporate command.  The message “Our Children. Our Schools. Our Voices” speaks to actual students in a way that the aforementioned and much acclaimed associations do not.  In their own words . .

    What Works:
  • Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
  • Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
  • Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms whenever possible.
  • Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.

  • The Moms and Dads who make up this collective reap no financial rewards for their work.  Cash does not count, children do!  Green backs do not grow Good Schools. These organizers do not have the dollars to lobby legislators; nor do the persons involved have easy access.  For these committed caregivers educated children are their just compensation. Parents Across America is not alone in their charge.  

    “Save Our Schools” the March and National Call to Action too, was born out of a need to respond to the corporate reform cry.  The creed this council promotes are much like those of the former.

    For the future of our children, we demand:
  • Equitable funding for all public school communities;
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation;
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies;
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

  • However, neither may present as profound a principle as one adopted by an organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that has worked for more than one hundred years in the interest of equal education for all children.  Please ponder what might best define the dynamics necessary for The Good School.  

    Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Today there is nothing short of a state of emergency in the delivery of education to our nation’s communities of color. As our communities quickly grow on pace to become a numerical majority, it is clear that confronting the issues we face is not just our challenge alone but all of America’s challenge. As a nation, we are failing to provide the high-quality educational opportunities that are critical for all students to succeed, thereby jeopardizing our nation’s ability to continue to be a world leader.

    As a community of civil rights organizations, we believe that access to a high-quality education is a fundamental civil right. The federal government’s role is to protect and promote that civil right by creating and supporting a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all students, regardless of where and to whom they were born. This objective is advanced by many components of the proposed FY 2011 education budget and the Blueprint for Reform setting forth the Administration’s priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). For instance, we applaud the Administration’s goal for the United States to become a global leader in post-secondary education attainment by 2020 and its efforts to develop specific strategies for turning around low-performing schools.

    While there are numerous positive aspects of the Administration’s education agenda, more comprehensive reforms are necessary to build a future where equitable educational opportunity is the rule, not the exception. As civil rights organizations, it is our responsibility to seek to close and ultimately eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps experienced by communities of color. To this end, we outline six major principles that we will collectively advocate to strengthen the ESEA and ensure that the federal government provides the support necessary to protect every child’s civil right to a high-quality education:

  • Equitable opportunities for all;
  • Utilization of systematically proven and effective educational methods;  
  • Public and community engagement in education reforms;  
  • Safe and educationally sound learning environments;  
  • Diverse learning environments; and  
  • Comprehensive and substantive accountability systems to maintain equitable opportunities and high outcomes.

  • Might this mission be your own? If you prefer one of the other frameworks, please share why this might be. Principals? Principles? Or Principally Lessons that promote a love of learning? Personal anecdotes are much appreciated.  Experiences explored are lessons we might learn from.  Please share your thoughts. What is a Good School in your mind? Why? What has lead you down the path you chose?  We thank you for your reflections.

    References and Resources . . .

    businesscard.aspx

  • liulyu

    A time ago, I read an article in Education Week. The Good School. The treatise was penned by retired Teacher Nancy Flanagan.  The question posed was how would a parent, or any of us, know if a school was “good.”  Might the learning center be “functional, challenging, caring, and doing what schools are supposed to do?”  “Supposed to do” is the quandary.  It is my belief that we cannot ever accurately define what a school nay a student should do. Think, say, do, feel, who or what an institution or individual may be. That evaluation is as narrow as all others; it depends on dynamics too complex to control.

    Perhaps, we might offer perspectives.  In some neighborhoods standards are thought the best means of measurement.  Traditional Schools are favored. Some may ask as innumerable have for eons; what is a traditional school, a traditional education, or for that matter, tradition? A custom is a ritual once created, and then adopted as illustrative of a culture.  Schools, just as societies, have transformed with time and space. The definition of traditional education varies greatly.   Geography, topography, political and sociological structures influence instruction.  Each historical period presents novel paradigms.  Advancements and impediments often characterize a century.

    In education, the contrast between an Industrial Age and Information Era is often cited. This is a common thread in the literature; Good School, Better or Worse. Re-Inventing Schools Coalition offers a position.

    Traditional Vs. Risc Philosophy
    20th Century Classroom RISC 21st Century Classroom
    Movement based on time Movement based on performance
    Students sitting in rows Controlled chaos
    Driven by textbooks Driven by a shared vision
    Commercial bulletin boards Student boards
    Teacher-controlled class Students are navigators
    10% student engagement 100% student engagement
    3R’s Global curriculum
    Teacher is the judge Self, peers, business leaders, and teachers judge students’ work