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

Occupy Wall Street; Woes and Words

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

Occupy Wall Street?  I will not.  However, I am there in spirit.  I believe in the cause, the many grounds protesters have posited.  Countless Grievances, One Thread Howard Zinn stated this shared truth ever so succinctly years earlier, “It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too.”  Wall Street,Schools, Classrooms, Hospitals, and Banks, these “Occupations” have gone on for far too long. People in Zuccotti Park and at the Chase Manhattan Plaza understand as most Americans do.  The myriad movement reflects the ninety-niners thirst for dignity.  The cravings are deep.  

I  am one with the unemployed, the scholars, skilled, and service workers who only seek a job.  Independent Laborers and Union folks, your pain is mine. Private Industry and public institutions converted to corporate holdings have hurt me as they have you.  I too, have countless tales to tell.  Consultants, your woes are mine.  Gone are the days of companies being loyal to the workforce.  Pensions went with the wind.

401ks have replaced these for some.  More are less fortunate.  The statistics are startling.  What has occurred in the last year is more astounding. States Cut Public Pension Benefits In Massive Funding Shortfall.  Personal dollar deficits, I have known more than a few, as have those who physically Occupy Wall Street.

In spirit, I am you “Occupiers” of Wall Street.  Homeowners, Renters, and those who have lost a place to live, let alone the will to live, I relate. After a score and eleven years, I purchased my first home. I did so during the boom. The cost was great, the interest high.  I thought I could make do.  Times changed and so too did my circumstances.  Nonetheless, I soon discovered the Banks did not care.  Even employees of financial institutions chose not to lend a friendly ear.

I hear you “Occupiers.”  In many ways, on countless occasions, since Middle School, I have stood against the absurdity of Capitalism out of control.  The Military Industrial Complex is as the Privatization craze.  Each permeates and punishes society.  The powerful have used our nations as their playgrounds.  We see it in policies and practices.  Political realities only further the reason for your, my, our rants and rage.

Indeed, Corporate and Civic Complexes have brought about fear and loathing. Conjoined, these have left our nation’s people poorer.  Over and over again, Americans have done as President Eisenhower warned us against.  We did not “peer into society’s future” when we acted on greed and immediate gain.  When we allowed the affluent and those of authority to divest and divert funds necessary for the common good, we — you and I, and our government – did not “avoid the impulse to live only for today.” We plundered “for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”

Contrary to Eisenhower’s cautions, Americans “mortgage[d] the material assets of our grandchildren.” We did more than risk the loss of our “political and spiritual heritage.” We successfully vanquished what was ours, a “democracy” thought strong enough “to survive for all generations to come.”  Our country has “become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

The gloom and sense of doom felt by the masses who speak out is one I share, only the words differ.  We did not “avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate.”  That is why I ask for a reality once yearned for.  May we be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

Rather than “occupy” might we integrate ideas on an American Avenue, two or three; perhaps more.  Let us “Tear Down Wall Streets.” We need not infiltrate, invade, or emulate the ways of Wall Street.  There has been too much of this.  Internationally, monetary and military Industrial complexes “Occupy.”  We do not liberate, as is evidenced by Iraq.  Nor will we bring freedom to Afghanistan or Wall Street. We occupy.  

United States citizens speak of the German occupation of France, or of Europe. After World War II we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, and the Soviets, who occupied countries. The United States liberates all others from occupation. Indeed, today we are the occupiers.  The number of small, medium and large oversea military installations combined, as documented in the Department of Defense Base Structure Report (BSR) 2003 Report, totals at least 702. Bases, buildings owned and leased, as stated a decade ago . . .”Ongoing additions to the base structure, including in- transfers, are often not officially recorded until well after the decision.”

Indeed, in recent years alone, the number of occupations has grown substantially.  Some may say, we have been occupiers since settlers first colonized this land.  Tim Wise spoke of this “truth” only days ago.  Wise injects linguistics into the debate.   Language, the use and abuse, or might I say manipulation of a message, looms large in our lives.  I think of DoubleSpeak

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. ~ George Orwell. [Author of 1984]

Be it Corporate Doublespeak, political, or philosophical jargon. Euphemisms expand. This land is your land. This land is my land?  What might the natives of this or any other territory think?

Might we reflect on the words, the wisdom, and our adopted ways?  “Occupy” Wall Street.  Instead, may we “Tear Down Wall Streets.” These exist everywhere in our country and outside our borders.  It is mused worldwide we live within an oligarchy.  Government Establishments and Corporate Enterprises, each and either, have been “Occupied” or “Liberated” [you choose] by an ideology that insists control must be granted to the few, the proud, the elite.  

The notion of all, equality, and as a collective, is void. Equality has been marked “canceled” on bills of fare. Fairness is far from our reality, for worldwide, the rich rule.

We see this in our schools. Privatization has long been in progress.  In 1995, the title appeared prominently, Public Schools: Make Them Private. Domination, the deed done, began decades ago in health care.  “Markets” are closed.  Economic and war policies are not “democratic.”  The question is, has democracy ever been in action. Certainly, Main Street attempted to bring social equality about.  However, classlessness has long been a cause never fully realized.

Thus, “Occupy” Wall Street, I rather not, thank you.  Oh, I intend to travel to the location, from New York to New Jersey.  I will stand on the streets and express my serious disco9ntnt.  From Connecticut to California, I will walk, fly, drive . . . I will strive to speak in support of our shared contentions.  North or South, I will be there.  Midwestern missions will be, is as mine.  

Indeed, I even now sit and take vigil.  I “Tear Down Wall Streets.” Still, I desire to do other than was done to me.  I will not “occupy.”  “occupations” are all that I disdain.  I would not wish to repeat the rape that is America’s history.  Violent destructive doings, be these in words, or in deed, are not me!

Thus, I invite you to do other than inhabit an institution or an ideology that had destroyed democracy.   “Democratization” might be nice; however, that word too has come to mean an occupation.  Integrate, perhaps?  Yet, to assimilate by force, or with the use of forceful language, is but an invasion. “Decolonize” what was captured, possibly?  Yet, I ask, can we grant independence to what never was truly ours . . . Wall Street, Schools, Medical Services, Banks?  

I will “Tear Down Wall Streets” regardless of the configuration.   Please join me; expand horizons so that all might see a glorious vision. . Together, we can and will reach beyond the sky.  

References and Resources . . .

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Why We Say Save Our Schools





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

I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

Students Struggle to Survive…

Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

“Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

“Teach to the Tests.”

Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

Race To The Top Myths.

  • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
  • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
  • Rigor is “right.”
  • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

Race To The Top Truths.

“Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

National Standards. Low Expectations.

Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .

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The Medium is the Message

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copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It happened once, twice; I trust the third time could not charm me more.  I have witnessed the power of a gesture, one made without words.  I have seen the light that glows when people connect in quiet ways.  Now experienced on more than one occasion, I have come to appreciate the peaceful power of consistent communication.  I had not fully acknowledged what could be accomplished until I arrived on the scene, alone.  Then I saw it.  I felt it.  I could hardly believe that a single steadfast individual, could convey a message without words, and still receive such a resounding response.  Yet, while there, it occurred.  I was struck by what had not been apparent for near a decade. The stance of a quiet soul, stated calmly, clearly, and with care, can move more persons than I ever imagined.  

Perchance, reliability is the reason. Indeed, I know that advertisers say a message when reiterated establishes credibility, familiarity, and becomes the first thought when a need is realized.  The accepted business standard is “The importance of repetition in advertising is huge.”  However, I am not in business.  I have no product to sell, no services to offer.  All that I wish to produce is peace.

As I said, this tale began years ago.  I started to stand vigil at a local South Florida Peace Corner.  I have continued to do so for years.  Indeed, I still do.  Long ago, many of us actively sought global harmony.  Today there are far fewer.  We are fortunate to have six persons frequent the scheduled Saturday events I am  one who, in a fifty-two week period, misses only a handful of demonstrations.  

Even with just a few demonstrators, we do what we have done for all this time.  With signs in hand, we proclaim our desire for peace.  Most stand on the Southwest, shady side of a busy intersection.  I, on the other hand, place myself at the Northwest curbside.  I choose to stand alone.

I do not wish to converse with my fellow activists when I am at, what for me is, a sacred service.  I prefer to engage the persons who pass me by.  Hence, I walk across the road, hold high my hand painted poster, and present the peace sign to those who pass me.  In the traditional form of a thumb crossed under the upraised first and second fingers, whilst the ring and pinky digits are curled into the palm of my hand, I greet people with the written words, “Love!  Not War. Love!  Audibly, I thank each individual who silently, with a V-sign gesture, or a beep, shares the sentiment.

When the weekly ritual began, it appeared there was ample support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Combative causes were believed to be apt.  That is for most.  Tranquil beings thought the actions were an anathema.  Those outspoken on the subject took to the streets.  It was discovered that many who walked by, or drove past, were inspired to participate.  A few would exit their automobiles and ask, “Might I join you.”  Others, out for a stroll, would stop, chat, and then say, “I am with you.”  Literally, these people often would look for a poster, or make one with whatever was available.

Thus, a collection of signs was created. Anyone who wanted to show solidarity for soldiers and civilians in harms way, could grab one.  Concerned citizens came weekly and then, more so in the last 365 days, they did not.   I however, cannot forego what for me is a commitment.  I promised myself I would walk the path towards peace.  Hence, each Saturday, I leave my home and head to the Corner.

A smaller congregation did not affect me, or so I thought.  Unexpectedly, the sign situation brought a newer reality and the realization I now share. While I did not stand with others, I was not alone.  Nor was I totally separate from the tranquil throng.  I always understood that my fellow protestors and I were connected; however I thought the bond was but peripheral.

I was more aware of my relationship with passer-bys.  The people who looked at me as I glazed upon them were meaningful to me.  They still are.  We commune.  I, without distraction, or conversation, focus on the eyes of every being who walks, rides a bicycle, or drives by.  Slowly, over time, I learned to recognize a few regular travelers.  These individuals became known to me, and me to them.  Admittedly, we knew each other only as faces who frequently smiled and waved.  Some met me with scorn.  Nonetheless, for me, life was good!  Isolated in my little world on the North side of the street was wondrous.  

At least it was, until two weeks ago.  Each week, I walk to the Peace Corner.  I need the exercise.  A back injury necessitates brisk strolls, besides a workout clears the mind and air.  Also, I prefer to be environmentally conscious.  Therefore, I am not the one who carries a very large and heavy bag of signs.  Someone with a vehicle has always been the provider of posters.  Granted, over the years, the signs have been transferred from one carrier to another and then, back again.  Since my situation prohibits participation in this exchange, I am not considered a prime candidate for the traditional banner swap.

Consequently, if I arrive at the Peace Corner before others I can choose to wait for a sign, or do as I did recently.  Cross the intersection.  Go to what I think of as my own littler Peace Corner.  Extend my digits in the sign of a V and hope people respond.  In the past when I thought to do this, the need was quickly dashed.  The person with the signs arrived.  

Only once did I have to wait more than mere minutes.  On that rainy day, I had an automobile.  I drove to a store, purchased poster board and markers, then made my own banner.  On that day, as in all the weeks and years before, I was convinced only words would work to communicate my vision.  I thought I understood what is true in South Florida and how that might affect my “audience,” the people who passed by it in a car, on a bicycle, in a wheel car, or only on two feet.

Be it amongst the peace people, or those who travel the streets of Florida, the community changes. When the weather is warm, the Everglades State looks somewhat empty.  When it is cold in the North, people journey south.  Thus, those I see each Saturday are not necessarily neighbors, friends, or family.  Likely, I will never meet a Jane, John, José, Juanita, or others, who sees me at the Peace Corner.  Janeka and Jared are just as anyone else, a blurred vision who enters and exits my life before we can truly connect.  

Conversations at the crossroads, while welcome, are rare.  To those who travel ’round the block, I am but a person who stands on the street on Saturday’s with a sign that reads, “Love!  Not War.  Love!”  Even to some of those who once gathered at the Peace Corner, I may only be the woman, dressed in all white, who occupies the Northwest curb.  Yet, surprisingly to me, on two occasions now, that might has been enough to inspire a thought, to evoke a response, and to energize persons who have not seen me before.

As of today, twice, on a Saturday, I walked to the Peace Corner and discovered I was alone.  The bag of signs, and other activists were absent.  After minutes, still no one appeared. I wondered; what would I do.  In each instance, without a word, I crossed to the Northwest side of the juncture.  I held up my fingers in the sign of peace, as I moved with traffic.  

I looked at those who trekked South, and persons who passed going west.  I hoped for a sign of support and acknowledgement.  I found much!

As I experienced the energy, I contemplated the characteristic concept of messaging.  Research reveals, the message, at least in advertisements, is said to be “irrelevant.”  While I, personally, think the term is troublesome, for I trust that all aspects of an issue or a statement are important, the theory put forth was, for me, fascinating.

Public announcements, pronouncements, or promotions  “which were low on emotional content had no effect on how favourable the public were towards” the product, the person who proposed a practice, even if the poster, or visual proclamation “was high in news and information.”  In other words, my statements, the phraseology painted on my sign, was, relatively speaking, insignificant in the scope of what occurred.  

What mattered more was the emotionally charged subject, the sight of a sensitive soul who silently stands vigil for peace.  Consistency counts.  I faithfully appear each week, stand in the same spot, and offer the identifiable hand symbol.  Also, I choose to carry a single sign week after week, month after month, and year, after year.  I always remain calm, and quiet.  I am never confrontational, and possibly, it is significant that more often than not, I stand unaccompanied.  For Saturday memorials held in homage to global harmony, I dress in nothing but white.  The hue recognizably represents peace.  Dye duplication, I discern, accentuates the theme.

However, what I had not considered may be more important.  The subject I broach evokes emotion, as does my manner.  I thank all who acknowledge me with kindness.  Since my focus is on faces, and not on conversations with my peers, I can and do involve myself, or my the medium, which, as Mister McLuhan would offer, is an extension of me in “human affairs.”  My more recent enterprise, sans placard, introduced the novelty that could affect attitudes.  If nothing else, it was noticed.  An abundance of people expressed appreciation for someone small in stature, who stands on a street corner only to show support for the notion of peace.

For so long I believed my signage was my strength.  Now I realize that other nuances speak more loudly than the written word.  The subjects of War and Peace are emotional ones.  Others who observe a little lass, dressed in white, who waves with love in her eyes might choose to empathize, to express exasperation, or to take no notice of a reality they wish to escape.

The effects are palpable, as are the feelings, those of the individuals who respond to the message, and my own.. My presence is familiar to regular travelers. My visible commitment may cause them to comment or counter.  Subtlety might have been the more significant statement to those not acquainted with my weekly pilgrimage.  I cannot be certain why people react as they have.

Nonetheless, I now understand, all that I trusted to be true might not have been.  The weight was not in the words I had boldly painted on my poster board.  It is as Marshall McLuhan understood all along. “it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.”  As McLuhan’s acumen screamed, “The medium is the message.”

The words in my written communication were never the motivator.  These were but an inspiration, an invitation, and a confirmation.  In ”War and Peace in the Global Village,” published in 1968, Mister McLuhan presented a collection of epigrams and pictures.  He offered the possibility, that “war is an involuntary quest for identity.” Perchance, a peaceful action is as well.  People may find their sense of self in an opportunity to speak to world harmony.  If true, that would be the charm,

I trust that peace on the planet may not appear on a first, second, or third trial.  Nonetheless, I have faith that the light that glows when people connect in quiet ways will come.  I have seen it, once, twice, and maybe this week, it will come again.

The medium.  The message.  The references . . .