Monday, June 13, 2022

BARE BOOBS OR MURDER? what's best viewing for kids?

Remember Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction?” This momentary glimpse of her right boob, a pasty covering the nipple, created such a furor that Congress, the FCC and the Supreme Court all got involved. 

Complaints about the incident repeatedly emphasized that "children were watching!" So what? Why is a kid getting a brief glimpse of a nearly bare boob so upsetting when, by the time they complete elementary school, the average U. S. child has watched some 8,000 murders on TV. Yep, that's right, eight thousand! And we're not even counting movie murders or the killings depicted in electronic gaming.

Routinely exposing children to murder as entertainment generates little to no public protest. Yet a momentary glimpse of a boob get's the nation's bowels in an uproar? What in the world is one to make of that?  Who but a moral cretin, someone like Rev. Franklin Graham comes to mind, thinks that feigned murder of a fellow human is acceptable while a very brief glimpse of a boob, nipple covered, is mouth foamingly outrageous? Murder as entertainment generates a great deal of money for people who count? But in what other way is it beneficial — especially for children? 

Okay, kids know that TV, movie and electronic media murders aren't real.  Nevertheless, what are they learning by living in a culture where the staged depiction of murder is entertainment? Also ask yourself, what kid's learn about sexuality when a breast bared for a fraction of a second creates a national furor? Healthy that ain't.

Here's an actual incident that first got me thinking about this. One morning my wife and I were walking to our car when some young boys next door made believe they were shooting me. I know, boys often do that sort of thing. But let's broaden our view of it a bit. Suppose, instead of pretending to murder me, they had mimicked having sexual intercourse with my wife. Let's imagine they were pointing at her and thrusting their butts. Imagine how the boy's mother would have reacted if I informed her that her were doing that. She would have been mortified. But had I expressed concern about her boys were pretending to murder me, she would have thought me tetched. Why? How come kids mimicking a pleasurable act is utterly unacceptable, while mimicking murder is amusing? What sort of weird cultural values does this reflect? 

Most of what shapes a child's sense of right and wrong is caught rather than taught. By that I mean, kids absorb how to behave and what to value just by living in a certain environment. Now, what do you think they are absorbing by watching and playing at murder? Is this wise and worthy of their promise? And as for this puritanical attitude regarding human sexuality that they absorb, how wise is that? No wonder we've got all sorts of sexual deviants running about.

So, am I far out in left field on this? Or does what I'm saying make sense? Please comment.

To examine similar educationally related issues, see articles at 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

THE WORM TURNS: standardized testing every politician

No Child Left Behind imposed one-size-fits-all standardized testing on every public high schooler in the nation. The subsequent Every Student Succeeds Act, also requires testing of all but private school students. (Do you wonder why private schools escaped?).)

Many lament this mandatory testing. But it looks like it's here to stay. So here's how we might take unexpected advantage of it. Require every politician to take the same high stakes battery of tests imposed on their state's high schoolers. Then, here's the fun part, publicize the results. And while we're at it let's also require aspiring high level government appointees, such as a U. S. Secretary of Education, Secretary of State, or even Director of the FBI, to also take such tests and publish the results. 

I'm not proposing anyone must achieve a minimum score to stay in office. Just that they take the tests and the resultant scores be made very public. No exceptions. 

And let's also extend this mandate to all political candidates, so that voters can compare their respective scores. Before being allowed to run again for President, for example, Mr. Trump would have to take the Florida mandated high school tests. Similarly if Biden should choose to run for reelection he too would have to take, in this case, the Delaware tests. Biden's scores would help clarify to what degree he has been addled by age. And Trump's scores could help establish that he truly is, as he claims, a very stable genius. This thing has breath-taking possibilities.  Imagine, for example, being able to directly compare Marjorie Taylor Green' s scores with those of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Or finding out what's between  Sarah Palin's ears. 

We might also want to develop general questions for all office seekers based on our national experience. Imagine questions such as these: 

1. Given an unprecedented federal budget deficit, the best course of action of those listed is to: a. borrow still more money from China  b. cut another trillion dollars from the tax bills of the wealthiest Americans  c. slash Social Security benefits  d. tighten the nation's belt and spend only what we have. 
 2. If an attractive intern offers sex, a public official should:  a. quickly take him or her up on it before they change their mind  b. accept, but make sure the intern's clothes are laundered afterward  c. politely decline  d. ask them what they mean by "sex." 
 3. If, as a member of Congress, you plan to have our schools emphasize “character education,” the best individual upon whom to base the curriculum would be:  a. J. Edgar Hoover  b. Richard Nixon  c. Bill Clinton  d. none of the above 
 4. If an attack on the US originated in Afghanistan, the best course of action would be to: a. invade Iraq  b. invade Iran  c. invade Canada  d. find out where Afghanistan is located. 

While we're at it let's also require every aspiring state Secretary of Education to pass the same battery of tests his or her state requires of aspiring teachers. In Pennsylvania, for example, they would have to pass separate NTE basic skills tests in Reading, Writing, and Listening Skills, (The later would be a tough one for any politician.) They also would have pass a test of their a knowledge of pedagogy. Why require this? Because any teacher who has passed them all should not be required to accept as a leader someone who can't? 

Since we would be dealing with lot's politicians, aspiring and existing, dishonesty and cheating will be an urgent concern. Safeguards clearly are required. We must be absolutely certain that our subjects don't cheat. And we must keep in mind that a majority of them would be unaccustomed to doing anything honestly. 

That, in broad outline, is the plan. So, do you think office holders and aspirants for public office should indeed have to take the same tests they prescribe for others?  And why or why not? 

To examine other education policiesy issues, interesting articles are available at both and They share a common index.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL: schools reflect America.

Mirrors reflect reality with remorseless accuracy. Exercise, eat well, and the consequences are reflected in the mirror — flat belly, taut muscles, and all. Sit on your duff and gobble Twinkies? These consequences also are reflected with unflattering exactitude.   

Schools act as our nation's mirror. What's right or wrong with them, reflects what's right or wrong with America. Here's a vivid example. The U. S. has the most uneven distribution of wealth in the world. The Aspen Foundation reports that the wealthiest 1% of American families possess some 40% of that wealth. The bottom 90%, that's the rest if us, share less than 25%. One consequence is reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. About 18% of all of America's children, a total of nearly 13 million or 1 in 5, live in poverty. That profoundly impacts the lives of these children. And schools reflect the consequences.

Consider also that more of our citizens per thousand are imprisoned than in any other nation in the world. In fact, the US Department of Justice says that in 2022 that includes 684,500 fathers of at least one minor child. We've also locked up 57,700 mothers of minor children. In fact the Annie Casey Foundation reports that more than 5 million American children, that's 1 in 14, has had a parent imprisoned at some point in their lives.

The destructive effects of these incarcerations flood into our classrooms with devastating effect. And this is especially true in the poorest school districts where teachers have inadequate resources and the children have more numerous major problems. In more affluent areas with financially secure, well-educated parents, more functional families, safer streets, a rich tax base and broader respect for learning, good school outcomes are much, much more likely. And, paradoxically, that's where teachers are better paid and have far more resources. It's a case of "them that has, gets," 

Let's also briefly consider how the quality of parenting fits in. Is quality parenting reflected in school outcomes? You might as well ask: "Is the Pope Catholic?" Of course it is. After all, the requirements for becoming a parent are distressingly lax. Consequently a host of people gain parental responsibility who simply can't, or won't, meet the mark. Many are far too stupid, selfish, cruel, frightened, impoverished, mentally ill, emotionally needy, foolish, addicted, ignorant, etc., to responsibly raise a child. And our schools reflect this melancholy reality every hour of the day. 

I know a first grade teacher who for years won many plaudits. Then she was hired to teach kindergarten in the School District of Philadelphia. She quit before the year was up to preserve her mental and physical health.  Her comment upon quitting was, "I don't know what I was supposed to be doing in there, but it sure wasn't teaching. Then added, "And I'm tired out caring more for other people's children than their parents apparently do." Hyperbolic and spoken in disgust? Sure. But there still is a strong element of truth.

Politicians find it expedient to interpret the situation differently. They maintain, some might even believe, that poor school outcomes are the fault of educators. Sometimes they are. But most of the time they aren't.

Let's reprise. Our schools mirror our nation. So if you are disturbed by what you see reflected in our schools, it is unlikely to be schooling's fault. And if you like what you see, don't give the mirror much credit either. 

Does that mean educators are essentially powerless and can do little or nothing to improve learning? Of course not. But what they can do is very limited when poverty, crime, lousy parenting, social disorder, dysfunctional families, etc., create an avalanche of problems, indifference, even opposition. 

Perhaps you can remember the George W. Bush and Barack Obama era, when school reform was all the rage and the federal government wasted billions of dollars on mandatory testing and other largely worthless school "improvements." As a matter of fact, many of these 'reforms' actually functioned as bureaucratic distractions from the central task of schooling children. 

In retrospect it seems as if these reformers were buying new mirrors because they weren't  satisfied with what the existing mirrors reflected. That's like someone changing mirrors in hopes it will improve their looks. Are our politicos aware that this is what they've been doing when they meddle with our schools? The dumb ones probably do not. But even the dumb ones know that appearance matters more than reality when you're playing politics. And they also know that Barrack Obama was not even half serious when he officially ruled that folks in-training to be teachers were already "highly qualified." ("Highly qualified" was a standard that the No Child Left Behind Law required. But left undefined, the requirement turned out to be meaningless.) 

Obama actually did this with a straight face; proving that the former president is an accomplished liar. Fortunately, Trump and Biden have shown less enthusiasm for federal meddling with our public schools than Obama and his immediate predecessors. Of course Trump and most other republican politicians favor turning public education over to the private sector. The trouble with that 'reform' is the resultant charter schools don't do any better than their public counterparts in raising student achievement. Charter schools too are simply mirrors.

If any  'public servant' really wants to improve school outcomes, here's some of the things they would have to do: 
1. reverse the growing disparity between the rich and the rest of us
2. stop locking up parents without regard for what that does to their kids 
3. start offering free, high quality, parent training (plus follow-up support) to anyone who wants it.
4. inact national health care, so the poorest among us can afford to be well. 

Accomplish things like thes above and school results will improve. But there's little chance that any of them will actually happen. So we will keep thinking, as well as pretending, that the problems we see in our schools are pedagogical, when they really are far more than that.

For more on this see  

Saturday, June 4, 2022

FEEDING THE MONSTER: "woke" professors nourish MAGA

Many of today's colleges feature strident demonstrations of "woke" self-righteousness. Holier-than-thou faculty demand speakers be canceled and fellow professors fired should any of them harbor an opinion different from theirs. Censorious students often inspire or join in these inquisitions. And craven administrators sometimes cave in to this intolerable intolerance. 

It's hard to imagine more repulsive academic behavior. "Stupid" also applies. Particularly if these zealots teach at, or attend, a public college of university. Why? Their intolerance further undermines public funding given already shaky public confidence in higher education. 

These days attacks on higher education pay big political dividends, particularly if you're a MAGA politician. The Pew Foundation found that two-thirds of today's Republicans already have only “some” or “little” confidence in colleges as institutions. Indeed a lot of them have come to believe that higher education is little more than “woke” indoctrination.  Today's"woke" shenanigans simply feed this monster.  

Republican led defunding has already been devastating the aspirations of lower income kids who want to go to college. It's getting less and less affordable. In 1958 I, for one, was able to go to college because government funding covered, on average, 75% of public higher ed costs. Now, after more than 60 years of paring down, average public funding is 25%. . 

We can thank Ronald Reagan for modeling this tactic and demonstrating it really pays off in votes. As Governor of California, Reagan ended free higher ed tuition for California residents; annually demanded 20% across the board cuts in higher education funding; repeatedly slashed college construction funds for state campuses, and imperiously declared that the state “should not subsidize intellectual curiosity.” (Something largely absent in Reagan himself.) 

And, while he was at it, Reagan, and Republican legislators, slashed funding for California’s basic education. These cuts ultimately resulted in overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating schools, more poorly paid teachers and, of course, increased local taxes. Nevertheless, Gov. Reagan was reelected despite the fact that California's public education system has never fully recovered from his despoliation.

When he was governor. Reagan took particularly advantage of the anti-Vietnam war movement by vitriolicaly denouncing student peace protests. Whenever these students demanded an end to this ill-conceived adventure, much less had the audacity to protest the possibility of being dragooned into it, Reagan was scathing in his criticism. He called them: “brats,” “freaks,” and  “cowardly fascists.’ (Reagan, himself, spent his war, WW 2, safe in Hollywood making Army propaganda films.)

Gov. Reagan was even more severe when it came to the campus disorder that student peace protests generated. He publicly proclaimed, “… if it takes a blood bath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!”  A few days later 4 kids were shot to death and nine others wounded with one paralyzed, when Ohio National Guardsmen spontaneously opened fire during an anti-war protest on Kent State University’s campus. (A number of the murdered kids were simply on their way to or from class.) No one has ever been indicted, much less convicted, of these homicides. A Reagan spokesman hastily assured the public that the governor’s "blood bath" comment in no wise provoked the shootings.

In summary, when Ronald Reagan became governor, California’s basic and higher educational systems were both the nation’s best. When he left, they weren’t, and haven't been since.

Subsequently, in his two terms as U. S. President, 1981 to 1989,  Reagan continued his now time-proven tactic of criticizing educators and budget slashing public education budgets. His administration's bloviating spokesman for this effort was Secretary of Education, William Bennet whose "accomplishments" require a blog of its own. President Reagan's congress also slashed federal spending on every kind of education. In fact at Reagan's urging they cut that federal spending on education in half. When he entered office, federal funds paid 12% of the nation’s public schooling bills. When he left they were paying just 6%. (It's still just 7%.)

Sure, the Republican campaign against public education exploits America's historic distrust of learning and the learned. But the current extremism of the most strident “woke” creates an unprecedented opportunity for right wing politicians to enact more censorious legislation, foster know-nothing parent's distrust of their kid's teachers, further cut financial support for “government schools, and so forth.” For some of these politicos the final goal — besides being reelected, of course — must be total privatization of public education. After all, in 2022 government funding for K-12 schooling alone tops half a trillion dollars. And what self-respecting champion of free enterprise wouldn’t want to bulldoze that enormous mountain of cash every year into the private sector? 

“Woke” extremists doubtless see themselves as righteous campaigners for all that’s holy. Knights errant in a irreproachable crusade for justice. And there's no question that many of the injustices they seek to cure are real. But Trump style demagogues are hoping and praying that these zealots just keep on overdoing what they’re overdoing. The opportunities this creates for these right wind rabble rousers are priceless.