Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Disgusting comments"

Kentucky's Governor Matt Bevin has hit a new low. It wasn't enough for him to disagree with protesting teachers, or label them (as Wisconsin's legislators did about my state's educators) slobs, lazy, or thugs.

No, he said protesting teachers were to blame for sexual assaults, child poisonings and students starting drugs because a strike closed school for a day. Read it here.

Let that sink in.

He blamed the teachers for child sexual assaults, poisonings and drugs that happened Friday in his state. Because the schools were closed, Bevin said, he "guaranteed" that a child had been sexually assaulted, ingested poison, or had been otherwise physically harmed because there was nobody left at home to watch them. (Side note: not surprisingly, Bevin, in bed with the NRA, did not claim children found a parent's gun and shot themselves).

And that's an incredibly horrible thing to say.

Kentucky state Senator and Education Committee chairperson Max Wise tweeted
The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible.

Stephanie Winkler, President of the Kentucky Education Association, likewise tweeted  

There are no words for this other than I am appalled!

Yeah, we all should be appalled.

Links you might want to check out:
btw...the budget proposal from Bevin--such a watchdog for children--included cuts to a children's poison control center, early intervention programs for developmentally delayed children, and even textbooks.

The Kentucky House of Representatives sent to Bevin an official condemnation of his remarks
The Kentucky Education Association

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Striking out for change

As teachers go on strike in Kentucky and Oklahoma, and those in Arizona mull the same, I can see how people might be thinking, "Those greedy teachers. They're getting a 15% raise and they want more?"
Oklahoma teachers on strike (photo from

As a Wisconsin educator and taxpayer (and proud son of a union electrician), perhaps surprisingly, I don't just automatically side with teachers on strike. I don't know the facts. I don't know what promises were made and broken. I don't know the conditions of their employment or the quality of the funded education for their students. I don't know the difficulty there in training and retaining quality staff.

But when information comes out--such as asking for demands that include funding for the schools, not just for the staff--I have to believe there are some true, serious issues in education in these states.

In Oklahoma, the average salary is about $45,000. Yes, that's a lot of money for many people, I realize that. But it is a tough job. That salary--for a class of 25 students--comes to about $10 per kid, per day. Ten bucks. And that's for training and encouraging and challenging and inspiring those students anew each day. Ten bucks. Good luck finding even a babysitter who would watch your kid for even a couple hours for that.

So, as the facts come out, I can understand a bit more. Am I a fan of strikes? Honestly, not really. My dad's union was on strike when I was a kid, and in the end, I'm not sure what was accomplished. And I have a problem with withholding the education from the kids. But if this is taken as a final step to get the issues noticed, then I'd have to say it has merit.

But it won't happen in Wisconsin.

Not because the state is so attentive to teachers or education, though.  Our state government, which all but eliminated collective bargaining and union representation a few years back has previously passed legislation making it illegal to strike. So such educational issues may never get noticed in Wisconsin. Instead, what has been happening here will continue--classes will get larger, curriculum demands will increase (more individualization and less prep time), student needs will continue to grow (educationally as well as behaviorally), staffs will have fewer benefits with little chance for a raise (in many districts, putting focus into their classrooms will never again get a great, experienced teacher a raise, ever--that's now dependent on what and how many committees they're on), morale will continue to fall, teachers will get burned out, and the pipeline of the best and brightest to teach our youth will dry up.

Some people may be thinking, "Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

And it's possible those thinking that don't believe their kids or grandkids need or deserve a good education. To them and their progeny, my thought is, "Good luck."

And I can't help but wonder how many of my colleagues had a thought of their own: "Hmmm... I wonder if they're hiring in Oklahoma?"

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wisconsin's Fox-"con?"

Wisconsin is selling out its environment to create jobs.
I get that. I mean, jobs are important and help re-election campaigns.
But really, at what cost?
I responded to an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel written by a Foxconn executive.
Here's my letter (followed by the text of the op-ed).
Um, it sure doesn't calm my fears. Does it for you?

Dear Editors,

Foxconn's "pro-environment" op-ed shouldn't soothe environmental fears for Wisconsinites ("Foxconn: We are committed to Wisconsin's environment," April 1).

Carefully selected phrases such as "whenever possible," and "use the best available" air emissions controls suggest that pollution problems are likely an expected part of the process. Foxconn's commitment to comply with all laws "that apply" rings hollow in light of already relaxed state environmental regulations created specifically for Foxconn. And the op-ed's admission that Foxconn may increase area ozone, but it won't have adverse effects, is neither comforting nor believable.

Regarding Wisconsin's environment, consider, too, the possible consequences of the daily use of millions of gallons of precious Lake Michigan water, as well as Foxconn's questionable environmental record worldwide.

Sure, more jobs are a win. Just make sure Wisconsin's environment isn't the loser. 

Foxconn: We are committed to Wisconsin's environment
by Louis Woo

The excitement within the Foxconn team is building as we prepare to break ground on our state-of-the-art display manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant. We are working with state and local officials to obtain all the necessary permits for the project, and we will pay close attention to the public hearing held by the state Department of Natural Resources Tuesday.
We respect the public consultation process and value input into the development and operation of our new facilities. But as we lead up to that hearing, I believe there is a need to set the record straight regarding the air emissions anticipated from the project
and its potential impact on ozone concentrations.    
As a responsible corporate citizen, Foxconn is fully committed to complying with all laws and regulations that apply to our operations. In line with this commitment, we will use the best available control technology to limit air emissions from the plant and to minimize any potential negative impacts of our facilities on ambient air, including the ozone standard.  
Recent reports have made unrealistic claims regarding air emissions levels of Foxconn’s campus. These reports are unfair because they compare the maximum amount of emissions that theoretically could come from our project with the amount of pollution that other Wisconsin sources actually emit. It assumes, for example, that the campus will operate its comfort heating equipment for every hour of every year, which will not be the case. Foxconn would no sooner run its comfort heaters year-round than anyone would in their own home. It would be wasteful, expensive and make no sense.  
A study by the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium shows that only 2% of the ozone detected in Racine County comes from Wisconsin-based industrial sources. One percent is from Wisconsin industrial facilities such as the Foxconn project, and the other 1% from Wisconsin’s power plants. The remainder of Wisconsin’s contribution to Racine County ozone, roughly 11%, comes from cars, homes, commercial buildings, off-road equipment and marine vessels. The remaining 87% of ozone in Racine County comes from sources outside Wisconsin.  
Racine County ozone is overwhelmingly the result of air pollution transported from upwind states, coupled with Wisconsin-based mobile and area sources. Based on our analyses and the information provided to the DNR, our campus may slightly increase ozone in the air, but that will not have a material adverse impact on ozone concentrations in Racine County or anywhere else in the upper Midwest. 
Foxconn is committed to working closely with the relevant federal, state and local agencies, Wisconsin academic institutions, our own global experts, and others to ensure that we establish policies and practices that comply fully with all the appropriate environmental regulations. Our compliance with all relevant regulations and our commitment to uphold the high environmental standards we set for ourselves will be regularly audited by various government agencies, our customers, and our internal compliance teams.
Foxconn believes that protecting the environment is a responsibility for not only our operations but also those of our supply chain partners and that is why, whenever possible, we will work to exceed all relevant environmental regulations where we do business. Minimizing the negative impact of our operations on the environment is a fundamental responsibility for Foxconn as a sustainable business and a global industry leader. This is the approach and philosophy that we will bring to our Wisconsin operations.
Louis Woo is special assistant to Foxconn's chief executive officer.
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 1, 2018)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

My Students Wouldn't Like It Either

The idiocy of arming teachers discussed in my previous post didn't even take into account how my students would react.

Kids, especially younger ones, often don't have the capacity for a lot of rational thought. They ardently believe, for example, in the Tooth Fairy. The curriculum even explicitly lays out teachings so they can learn cause and effect. Kids say they're "Seven and a half" years old the week following their seventh birthdays.

So, exactly, how are they going to react to their teacher--the one tasked with nurturing them--if she/he is carryng a gun during the school day?

Actually, a couple will think it's cool--their teacher is a gun-toting superhero.

The others? Not so much.

They'll worry. They'll wonder things like "Will the bad guy come to our room because my teacher has a gun?" "Will the gun ever explode?" "Who will stay with us while my teacher goes out hunting the bad guy?" "Will my teacher accidentally shoot me?"

I know this exists because my students display the same worry when discussing fire drills and tornado drills: "What if there's a fire right outside our door and a tornado's coming?" "What if the first tornado opens the door and another one reaches in to get us?"

I've had students display anxiety about storms (independent of their school experience) when clouds or winds are visible through our windows. Some have panicked upon hearing the fire alarm for drills. Imagine what thinking that their teacher had a gun would do to them.

If I was carrying a gun, there would be waiting and wondering when I'd use it, what might happen--not peace of mind--for virtually all of my students.

And, you know, I'll do whatever I can to protect them--just as I'm sure every teacher or coach has done from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Florida's Stoneman Douglas. I have designated evacuation and constantly updated protective plans for which I've trained and have had my students practice. And, should it ever come down to it, I'm willing to sacrifice my life to save theirs.

But, God willing, better gun laws, more help for those with mental health issues, and maybe even more educational staff members in schools to increase positive connections with troubled students and better personalize an educational experience that can sometimes be lonely and confusing will reduce the rhetoric and the belief that teachers should be armed.

It would be a relief for us all.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Armed Teachers are NOT the Answer

"A teacher would have shot the hell out of him."

Thus sayeth the man playing the role of President, who now is advocating for educators to take on armed gunmen.

The idea is so wrong, I hardly know where to begin.

From this long-time teacher's view, his suggestion--and his flippancy-- are abhorrent. His idea is also filled with rampant twisted logic and inhumanity--which apparently pleases his NRA-rabid base and its pals. Shame on them all.

First off, the answer is LESS guns, not more. More thorough background checks and less accessibility to "weapons of war" would surely stop at least some of this horrific carnage. That is so incredibly basic and do-able, most polled Americans agree these are measures that should be taken.

One of Trump's/NRA's fallacies (in addition to the garbage about Democrats taking away the second amendment) is that simply having armed security would deter a gunman.

No. It didn't.

Regardless of the security guard's subsequent actions in Broward County, the shooter was very aware that Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed security presence. He obviously wasn't deterred.

Another fallacy: Trump assumes 10-20% of the teaching staff would gladly take on the additional burden of determining life and death by agreeing (maybe "give them a bonus") to carry a firearm during the day.

No. We wouldn't.

Teachers gladly take on the privilege of inspiring, nurturing, encouraging and challenging the children entrusted to them each day. Teachers are charged with daily assessment and individually-matched teaching, which support a student's social, cognitive, and personal-growth needs. Now Trump/NRA wants them to pack heat, too? A quick survey of my elementary school staff found that NOT ONE would want to carry a gun, too.

"A teacher would have shot the hell out of him."

No. She/he wouldn't.

This particular gunman wore a vest and carried a semi-automatic weapon. The belief that a pistol-packing teacher would have prevented this is not just misguided, it's ludicrous.

And realistically, teachers are often in our profession because we're compassionate. Personally, even if I was carrying a gun, it would have been virtually impossible for me to pull the trigger on a former student.

Most teachers love their kids.  Imagine a parent having to make the same decision--do I try to talk my son into disarming and getting help/having a chance in life, or do I shoot him dead where he stands?

So, what now?

Instead of money for more guns, and teacher gun training, and armed security guards, invest more money in counselors. Or hire and train more educators to provide even more eyes and suggestions and chances to help a kid before he moves to such a heinous act (and gets tabbed by the President as a "sicko").

More guns are not the answer.

Compassion is.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's About Freedom of Speech! (Well, and racism...)

Amazingly, Donald Trump (I now refuse to call him the President) has called out players in the NFL for "not respecting" America enough to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner.

But, yet, Trump misses (or ignores) the larger point that HE is showing disrespect to our Constitution (which Trump claims to have read and vowed to uphold) and the tenet of Freedom of Speech.

And, in doing so, Trump's racism rings o'er the land of the free.

Colin Kaepernick (7) and teammates
Trump's already danced around eliminating Freedom of Religion with his "Muslim bans." (Oh, that's right, they're not bans...). Now he's blatantly attacking those demonstrating their Freedom of Speech rights in peaceful protests that aim to call attention to the oppression of people of color in our country.

It's not about Kaepernick or the football players making millions who are kneeling that Trump has decried. As some of the players have said, it's about them speaking for those Americans who don't have a voice.

And by Trump vehemently expressing his disdain for these protestors, he is vehemently expressing his disdain for their cause. Just as with Charlottesville, instead of even acknowledging racism and its horrible effects, Trump is actually siding against people who are protesting racism.


Seriously unbelievable.

Regarding the presidency, and I can quote Trump here, "Get that son of a b---- off the field right now."

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What a Real President Would do

Russiagate is obviously a real problem for the Trump team. Trump campaign/administration associates that have denied or forgotten meetings with Russian officials, the very credible intelligence pointing to Russia's involvement in our election, the possibility of Trump having undisclosed business dealings with Russia are all real problems and are all terribly frightening for our democracy, as well.

If Trump were an effective leader, with nothing to hide, and with the good of the country and the American people really in his sights, here's what a real president would do:

1) Release a list of all associate contacts with Russian officials or those within the Russian sphere of influence (i.e., Ukraine). Detail who met, where, and when they met, and what was discussed. If there is nothing to hide, that shouldn't be a tough thing to do. Remove the specter of doubt and nefarious activity.

2) Since he has (kind of) acknowledged Russia's role in the hacking/leaking of emails during Hillary Clinton's campaign, say to the American people that" because of the intelligence pointing to Russia's involvement, that for the good of our democracy, a full-scale investigation will be launched to determine the extent of the interference and the players involved." Again, if there's nothing to hide, this should be a no-brainer for the good of our country and for the credibility of future elections.

3) His statements that he has no business dealings with Russia could be at least somewhat addressed with the follow-through of an earlier (and now reneged) promise, to release his tax returns. Yet once more, someone with nothing to hide in those regards should do what earlier he said he would do.

But he won't do any of these things. And with these actions (or inactions), he has astoundingly proven that he does not work toward the good of the country or its people.

See? He's not a real president.