News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Own your own massacre site

For sale:  Wounded Knee, 40 acres,  $3.9 million

From The New York Times
[The Wounded Knee] massacre site, which passed into non-Indian hands generations ago, is up for sale, once again dragging Wounded Knee to the center of the Indian people’s bitter struggle against perceived injustice — as well as sowing rifts within the tribe over whether it would be proper, should the tribe get the land, to develop it in a way that brings some money to the destitute region. 


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Living in a virtual world is not living in an actual one

In the mid-1960s, the head of the Federal Communications Commission reviewed what television had developed into and declared it a "vast wasteland."  Now the Internet, which promised so much for human communications, is under review.  It is more than a vast wasteland.  It is a massive disaster, but with some mitigating spots.There are valuable and hugely important sites and advantages on the Internet, but they are undermined and hindered by the mass of human perversity and failure that proliferates on it.  . Blogs and their commenters are pervasive, and spread such a layer of stupidity, meanness, and mental perversity that they largely define the internet and contaminate the entire enterprise, so that the true virtues of the Internet can be used only through strenuous discernment and discrimination.   

Few people are educated and knowledgeable about language.  They do not understand the difference between language of reports, which portrays facts, and language of judgments, which portrays what is in the mind and not in actuality.  Few people distinguish between the facts that exist independently of them and the notions, errors, and perverse meanness through which they choose to perceive those facts.  

This state on the Internet has caused many teachers and professors to refuse to accept Internet sources from students in their research papers, unless they have gone through a process of evaluation.  I have pointed this out and recently did so in a very lengthy post on another venue, which produced many requests for what that process is.  There are many procedures listed on academic websites, but the one that seems most clear is the one from Virginia Tech.  (Yes, that is the university where a rampaging gunman killed 32 of his fellow students.)

Most reputable universities have posted procedures on their sites, but this one is the most concise and coherent.  That doesn't mean it isn't complex.  Here are the procedures for establishing the standards of accuracy, reliability, and credibility. 


CriteriaRationaleHow Can I Tell?

Authority

  • Is the page signed?
  • Are the author's qualifications available?
  • Does s/he have expertise in this subject?
  • Is the author associated with an educational institution or other reputable organization?
  • Does the publisher or publication have a reputation for reliability?
  • Is contact information for the author or group available on the site?
  • It's often hard to determine a web page's authorship.
  • Unlike traditional print resources, Web resources rarely have editors or fact-checkers.
  • There are no standards for information on the web which would ensure that all information there is accurate and useful.
  • People create web pages for different reasons:
    • Personal
    • Advocacy
    • Commercial/Marketing
    • Informational
  • Look at the top and bottom of the web page for clues.
  • Use the WhoIs service to determine the page's owner.
  • Is there a link to a main web site for the group/educational institution/ organization hosting this web page?
  • Look at the first part of the URL for the web page. Is it .org? .edu? .gov? .net? .com?
  • Does the author or host have a web page explaining who they are and what their mission or philosophy is?
  • Ask a Reference Librarian if information about the publisher is available
+ Now consider this web page

Coverage

  • Is the information even relevant to your topic?
  • Do you think it is useful to you?
  • Does this page have information that is not found elsewhere?
  • How in-depth is the material?
  • Web coverage often differs from print coverage.
  • Frequently it's difficult to determine the extent of coverage.
  • Sometimes web information is just-for-fun or outright silliness.
  • Read through/scan the web page and consider.
  • Ask a Reference Librarian if the information you have found can be verified elsewhere.
+ Now consider this web page

Objectivity

  • Does the information show a minimum of bias?
  • Is the page a presentation of facts and not designed to sway opinion?
  • Is the page free of advertisements or sponsored links?
  • Frequently the goals of the sponsors/authors aren't clearly stated.
  • Often the web serve as a virtual "Hyde Park Corner," a soapbox.
  • The content of the page may be influenced by the advertiser.
  • Read through/scan the web page and consider.
  • Does the author or host have a web page explaining who they are and what their mission or philosophy is?
  • See what other websites link to the site in question. Google's link searches is one method.
  • Ask a Reference Librarian if information about the author/ company/ organization is available.
+ Now consider this web page

Accuracy

  • Is the information reliable and error-free?
  • Can you find when was the last update?
  • Is there an editor or someone who verifies/checks the information?
  • Is the page free of spelling mistakes or other obvious problems?
  • Anyone can publish anything on the Web.
  • Unlike traditional print resources, Web resources rarely have editors or fact-checkers.
  • Currently, no Web standards exist to ensure accuracy.
  • Read through/scan the Web page and consider.
  • Ask a Reference Librarian if the information you have found can be verified elsewhere.
+ Now consider this web page

Currency

  • Is the page dated?
  • Can you find when was the last update?
  • Are the links current and do they point to existing pages?
  • Publication or revision dates are not always provided.
  • Pages with broken links may not be updated regularly.
  • If a date is provided, it may have various meanings. For example it may indicate when the material:
    • was first written
    • was first placed on the Web
    • was last updated
  • Read through and scan the text to see if the author attributes information/facts to a particular year. e.g. "in 1997, 35 car accidents were caused by chickens crossing the road."
  • Scan through the bibliography or list of references (be concerned if there isn't one!) and see how current each item is. e.g. Cool, Joe. (1975) "Current flying practices." Canine Aviation 32(3):23-40.
  • Look at the footer to see if the author has included a date.
+ Now consider this web page

Credits: modified with permission from Susan Beck, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources Evaluation Criteria

Making good Indians, Custer style

The sequester will impose cuts of 5 percent across the Indian Health Service, the modestly financed agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides basic health care to two million American Indians and native Alaskans. It is underfinanced for its mission and cannot tolerate more deprivation.
Here lies a little-noticed example of moral abdication.

The New York Times



In Montana, an Indian reservation’s children feel the impact of sequester’s cuts

 

 The Washington Post

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope Francis is going to twist a lot of conservative panties in knots

And ventilate some liberal boxers, too.



Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio  visits an AIDS hospice in 2001.

Pope Francis opposes things that conservatives oppose:  abortion, gay marriage.  He advocates celibacy for priests.  Vatican watchers are not sure of his stance on contraceptives.  He seems to take a very traditional stance concerning the roles that women may serve. 

He also opposes some things that liberals oppose:  poverty and those factors that cause it.

He is a Jesuit, and was head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. The Jesuit order is committed to modesty and service.  As a cardinal, Pope Francis chose not to live in a mansion, but had a plain apartment where he cooked for himself.  He rejected a limousine and took the  public bus.  This is not surprising to people familiar with Jesuits.  They think that the ministry must be conducted by being with the people, even the most destitute and depraved. And St. Francis, the namesake for the new pope, forbid himself and members of the order he created to own property,  store food and supplies for the future, and insisted they must embrace the most destitute and depraved.  St. Francis often reminded that Christ embraced lepers and ate with prostitutes. Pope Francis has demonstrated that he rejects the material except for what is necessary.  

There is also a big uncertainty about Pope Francis and his stance during the Dirty War in Argentina.  That was a time when the country was taken over by a military junta which ruled from about 1975 through 1983, when elections were held and it was replaced by an elected civilian government. He is not shy about questioning the moral authority of civil government, and he has been an outspoken critic of corruption, social inequality, drugs, human trafficking, and the pillaging of the environment, which is taking place in the development of South America.  

But some immediate twists in the corporate panties were evident in the American business press, when a number of publications examined Pope Francis' stance toward capitalism.  His record of work and the way he has gone about it in Argentina caused some publications, such as Bloomberg News to tug at their crotches in anticipation of some discomfort about whether Pope Francis would pay due reverence to the free market as the engine of economic growth and the foundation of capitalism.  They are nervous about some conflicts between capitalist practices and Roman Catholic doctrine.  They fear any strong criticisms of capitalism, and imagine that the Pope could become like an Eagle Scout practicing for a knot-tying contest on their most intimate economic garments. 

The business community which directly and deliberately caused the recession that set the economy back in 2008 and 2009 has managed to evade, for the most part, the responsibility and blame it deserves.  It has a great affinity for the budget that Paul Ryan released a year ago and has re-issued this year.  That budget is nice to corporations and dismissive of the poor and those needing health care.  Pope Francis did not hesitate to take on the current government in Argentina over issues that he considered contrary to Catholic doctrine.  If he were to take issue with corporate practices as they have been conducted, capitalism would be put under a skeptical scrutiny that could put the brakes on the rapidly growing wealth that corporations have accumulated while the general populations have struggled with the lack of jobs and shrinking buying-power.  

When Ryan released his budget a year ago, the American Catholic council of bishops criticized it harshly and a group of church leaders signed a statement that said "This budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good."  Ryan, his compatriots, and the corporate world brushed off the criticism and this year are persisting with the advantages for corporations and the slashing of budgets for the poor and needy.  The possibility that the world leader of the Catholic church might take on the assumptions in Ryan's budget  and the principles on which the global businesses operate makes the commercial world uneasy.  Such a position could reduce the profits and cause people to resist the power that corporations have over them.

Pope Francis has been widely quoted for his implied criticism of capitalism as it is currently practiced.  Among his statements are:


  • “Every economic decision has a moral consequence” 
  •  “The market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak.”
  •  "A  just society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the state so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied."
As the Bloomberg article points out, somewhat hopefully, Francis has pointed out that "the roots of the financial crisis were human greed and malfeasance, not a flaw per se in the structure of capitalism."  Bloomberg News also notes the Pope's position on global warming:  "He also exuded a consistent concern that climate change -- born of unbridled consumption by rich nations -- will overwhelmingly affect the poor, and he sought to turn Vatican City into the world’s only carbon-neutral state."
 

Being a Lutheran and not a good one (my family has not gone to church since Tom Daschle lost the election because we found some of the defamatory comments from gleeful parishioners about his defeat were contrary to any purpose for going to church), I have no theological reaction to Pope Francis.  I am well acquainted with Jesuits, however, and admire their commitment to Christ's instruction to help the poor and heal the sick, and especially to the scholastic tradition they created and maintain.  While teaching at a Lutheran college, the professor in the office next to mine for a time was a Jesuit priest who had retired as head of the theatre department at Boston College.  He had been sent to Davenport, Iowa, to address the inner city drug problems, and he worked as adjunct professor to help support himself and to keep active in academic work.   As an adjunct professor, he taught classical literature.  We would often chat about the situations in the inner cities and the refuge that teaching literary masterpieces provided from the bleak and often hopeless circumstances that made up life in neighborhoods shaped by prejudice, racial hatred, and neglect.  My Jesuit colleague had health issues with emphysema, but his resolve to inject some compassion and social justice into the blighted neighborhood and keep vital the uplifting understandings contained in important literature was undiminished.  With all the problems of sexual abuse in the church and its attempts to cover them up, the important intellectual and social contributions that orders of the Catholic faith have established in our culture are ignored.  (My blogging colleague at Interested Party refers to the church as the Holy Roman Kiddie Diddlers.)  But Jesuits and Franciscans became important and vital resources on our Indian reservations, and Aberdeen where I now live did not have a major health care facility until the Presentation Sisters established St. Lukes Hospital in response to the flu epidemic a century ago.  My Jesuit colleague brought that same spirit and purpose to the turmoil of the inner city.  

It is that spirit and purpose that unsettles business devotees of the unrestrained and often predatory free market and their political protectors.  Pope Francis while an Argentine cardinal did not subscribe to the theological movement in South America called liberation theology which confronted the exploitation of the land and the people by corporations and saw it as a class war in Marxist terms.  He saw the same issues at work and confronted them with a streak of Christian rather than political radicalism.

And that is what makes global corporatism very, very nervous.   The neo-conservatives who claim Christian traditions are wary of the Pope's thinking about exploiting people and the environment created to sustain life as sacred, as the temples of the creator.  When during passover, Christ cleansed the temple by driving out the money changers, Matthew quotes him as saying, "It is written, my house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers."  Could the Pope be as radical as Christ?

A lot of twisted and kinky panties are in the making. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's the message, stupid. And we got it.

The biggest fraud to be perpetrated in American politics--or maybe it is mass self-delusion--is the GOP identifying itself as the party of Lincoln.  The modern GOP has strayed so far from what Lincoln professed that it is often quite the obverse of what Lincoln represented.  Political scientists and historians who are not totally committed to misrepresenting what the party has become note that the Democratic Party and the Republican switched positions on racial equality and justice for all during the civil rights movement.  The Democrats appealed to and won over the descendents of the abolitionists in the north and Republicans moved into Jim Crow territory in the south.  Liberalism is castigated by an American conservatism that clings to and foments old prejudices against the minorities, against the poor, and believes in a subservient role for women.  

Until I moved to South Dakota, I was a registered Republican.  I came from Illinois where there was a political brand that called itself Lincoln Republicans.  It embraced the values of Lincoln regarding equality and justice, a right to make fair earnings for one's work and to keep the products of one's own efforts but shared in the maintenance of an equitable system, a government that advanced and carefully monitored the engines of the economy, and a government that protected citizens from predatory practices in the market place and work place.  I remained a registered Republican because we had representatives at both the state and federal levels who vigorously served the interests of workers and farmers.  However, during the years before I moved to South Dakota, the Republican Party was coming more and more under the influence of the faction that now defines the party.  During the height of the civil rights movement I covered a speech by the vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association when he warned his members that if the Democratic support for the civil rights movement was not stopped "these people will take over the country."  The report I wrote of the speech was censored.  And after I left Illinois, my congressman, who was a schoolmate of mine, and served eight terms in the U.S. House, was defeated in the primary by one of the emerging new conservatives (who was beaten in the general election by a Democrat.)  The corporate led faction in the Republican Party had never forgiven the Congressman because he was part of a bipartisan coalition on the House Judiciary Committee that wrote the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.  

So, the Republican Party has been taken over by the faction that  often openly embraces fascism and has changed drastically from anything Lincoln and his cohorts woud  conceive. The line advanced by the speakers at the recent CPAC conference is that party has been misperceived and minsunderstood.  Jeb Bush summarized the points made by nearly all the speakers:


"Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs, because those voters feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome in our party."
The chairman of the Republican National Committee lamented that  "The perception that we're the party of the rich continues to grow."

It is preposterous to contend that the message of the party is misunderstood when the contempt and hate speech that pours out from those who speak for the party, such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, constantly demeans, insults, and makes defamatory accusations against immigrants, women, scientists, gays, workers. educators,  anyone they wish to include in their litany of hate objects. Their propaganda assault is carried forward by candidates on the campaigns and politicians on the floors of legislatures, and it is then backed up by legislation.

The GOP claims it wants to attract more Latinos and African Americans away from the Democrats while a number of the state legislators have passed laws, and are proposing to, to make it more difficult for minorities to vote by making complex identification requirements that deliberately target minority voters in the effort toof the nation and insist their party has policies that should attract minority voters but that they are misunderstood.  The party has the notion that message is all that counts, but they can't seem to see how their actions, the diminish the number of people who will turn out to vote for Democrats.  Yet the party spokespeople get up in front of the nation and insist their party has policies that should attract minority voters but that they are misunderstood.  The party has the notion that message is all that counts, but they can't seem to see how their actions, their policies, and their words convey a consistent message that is hard to miss.

The Republican Wisconsin governor took away the right of public employees to bargain.  A number of other states followed suit.  And they did so with great applause from the GOP.  And yet they insist that if workers only understood their agenda, they'd happily join the party.  

Women who are striving to gain equal opportunity and status with men are dismissed with punitive laws regarding their reproductive rights.  Laws designed to protect them from domestic violence and to gain equity in the workplace are consistently and persistently voted down by the Republicans.  But, again, the fact that women vote Democratic is said by the GOP to be a misunderstanding of what it has done and will do for women.

The latest assertion that was prominent at CPAC is a denial that the GOP is a party dedicated to looking out for the interests of the very rich.  Thirty years when the so-called Reagan Revolution was initiated, one of the first major attacks was on a labor union.  Then the gospel of supply-side economics became the scripture of the time, insisting that wealth heaped up on the rich would eventually trickle down to the working class.  In that 30 years, wages have stagnated for workers, the upper percentages have taken control of the country's wealth and earnings, the middle class has shrunk and more people join the ranks of poverty each year, and jobs have been systematically and steadily outsourced to low-wage countries.  And yet the GOP insists that protecting and adding to the advantages of wealth and power of the rich is not one of its major functions.

-
Jeb Bush says all the groups of people he mentions feel unwanted.  When there is a constant barrage of abusive and insulting language directed at you, when you are held up as the scourge of the world, when a party deliberately lies about your values and insists that you are unAmerican because you have views different from the GOP,  the words generate more than a feeling of being unwanted.  They inform you that these people intend you ill and they demonstrate and pass laws to inflict that ill.  

The message has not been misunderstood or misinterpreted.  Despite a press that has bowed to accusations of bias and downplayed the facts of how the message is put into action, a majority of people received it and perceived it accurately.  

The message is clear.  And we've got it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The reason why school boards never ask teachers

My local newspaper, when I was released from active duty in the Army, covered 12 school districts in its circulation area.  I had worked for a competing newspaper across the river where I worked on the sports desk while I took some time off from college to save up some money for tuition so I could finish my degree.  But in dropping out, I lost my college deferment, and I was drafted.

When I was released from active duty, my old job was not available because a number of other men who had been drafted were ahead of me on the list of returning draftees..  I took a job in the farm equipment industry, but I still wanted to do newspaper work.  My hometown newspaper had these 12 school districts to cover, and the boards always met at nights, so it needed to hire stringers to cover the meetings and also to keep in touch with developments in the districts between the meetings.  I signed on as a stringer and was assigned to cover a district, and I made known that I would cover more, as I was putting money away so I could return to college to finish my degree.  Soon I was working almost every night covering suburban and rural school districts, and I even ended up taking some courses in educational foundations from the local community college so I could cover the districts from a more knowledgeable perspective.   I became very familiar with how school boards operated.  After I finished my collegee degree, I eventually became an editor on that newspaper.

School boards have changed in concept and function since the time I was so involved in covering them.   So has the role of superintendents.  At that time school boards considered their primary function was to act as the conduit of information between the public and the professional staffs.  Superintendents were the chief educators in their districts, and they considered their major function was as the lead educators in the districts and to be the main contact between their staffs and the boards.  As chief educators, their job was to relay the concerns of the teaching staffs to the boards and to act in a coordinating capacity with their teachers.  Conversely,  they also presented board proposals to the teachers for review and consultation.  The changes in the board-superintendent relationship are indicated by the fact that many superintendents now confer upon themselves the title CEO,  chief executive officer.  When I covered public school districts, superintendents and principals were adamant about the fact that their executive functions were a small part  of their duties.  Their major duty was their role as lead educators, which was to coordinate teaching programs with school principals and provide support for teaching.  Superintendents and principals bristled if one suggested they were the bosses of teachers.  They were quick to point out emphatically that were part of a  team, not the boss of their staffs.  One of the reasons teachers were fired back then was for not holding up their part on the team effort.    But such firings were rare because teachers and administrators understood the expectations when hired.  

Members of school boards back then were people who were genuinely interested helping their districts deliver sound educations.  Changes and new programs were developed through intense consultation and review with teaching staffs.  If a school was not performing well, teachers were aware of it and brought their concerns to the principals and superintendents.  If board members recommended changes, they would be thoroughly discussed and analyzed with the teachers.  The relationship between professional staffs and boards was collaborative.

That changed when boards began to conceive of themselves as corporate boards of directors and superintendents as their hired executives.  The idea of running school districts as corporate businesses became the dominant one in defining the purpose of school boards and the way they operate.  The first change noted was in the kind of people who ran for school boards.  When I covered them, members were often ministers,  small business people,  educated housewives, and professionals who were genuinely devoted to serving the tasks of education, not sitting on a board to assert authority over a bunch of employees.  Many people who serve on boards now have personal political agendas they want to impose on the school system.  They think their notions about education are superior to those of the people who have trained and worked in the classrooms.  The fact that their management schemes, such as No Child Left Behind, are total failures in improving education does not deter them from imposing their obsessions with managing and exercising power over people onto public education systems.  

The shift to business concepts of education is evident in the  kind of people boards hire to be superintendents.  They are not people who have earned reputations as successful educators in classrooms or leaders of teams of effective teachers.  They are rather chosen for their willingness to carry out the orders of their boards, not for their qualifications and abilities to engage boards in informing discussions of what comprises valuable and effective education. As indicated by the use of the title CEO,  they conceive of themselves as executives, not educators.  

This shift of the prime work away from teaching to executing is reflected in higher education, also.  It is difficult to find a college or university president who has establshed a reputation as a working scholar or professor.  Most college presidents are chosen for their devotion to carrying out the orders of their boards and their ability to raise funds and integrate their institutions into the corporate business structure.  As in South Dakota,  higher education and research are not considered of value unless they are part of some economic development scheme.  

The attacks on teachers and their unions is driven in large part by the corporate world's desire to create a labor force that feels dependency on employers and lives in obsequious gratitude to their corporate masters.  The priesthood of trickle-down economics in the 1980s officially pronounced that it was changing the American economy from an industrial base to a service base, in which most workers were some kind of servants. Globalism of the economy gave them the engine which could turn manufacturing workers out of their jobs by outsourcing the jobs to cheap, unorganized labor markets.  The decline of the middle class and the attendant stagnation of earning power for people who work is a national trend that has been going on for three decades.  Teachers with their contracts that require due process formed a high profile workforce that retains some rights to justice and a voice in defining their profession and work roles.  The advocates of the new feudalism, which wants to re-establish the lords-and-serfs division as the social and political rule have targeted teachers as the latest candidates for serfdom.  Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin took action to return teachers to serfdom when he took away their collective bargaining rights, and many other states followed suit.  Meanwhile, the lords, the CEOs, lavish bonuses on themselves for no other reason than that they want them.  

When the first studies and reports of public education came out in the early 1980s, beginning with Nation at Risk, many reviewers of those studies were curious as to why teachers were not consulted or represented in the analysis of what was going on in public education.  That same omission has been noted in every study and report since on which alleged reforms were   proposed.  In conjunction with this omission has been a concerted defamation campaign to portray teachers as lazy, irresponsible serfs who only work nine months a year, coddle incompetents in their midst, and spend their off hours diddling students. The  letter that comprises the previous post addresses that defamation campaign most effectively.


What many of us saw as an agenda to create a huge underclass in America and declare wa wr on it became evident to many more people with Mitt Romney's 47 percent speech and Paul Ryan's  makers-and -takers meme.  Hardworking and struggling Americans realized they were being dismissed and targeted for ignominy.


School boards across the nation, considering themselves as boards of masters, have carried out this agenda against teachers.  That's why teachers are never asked what are the problems in education and how they can be solved.  If school boards were really interested in improving education, rather than using it as a control point over the proletariat, teachers would be the first people they would ask. 

But educating citizens who are capable of operating in and maintaining a free, equal, and just society is not on most school boards' corporate-inspired agenda.

That is why they don't ask teachers.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The school board never asked, so this teacher told them as she quit.

In letter to her school board, reported in the Washington Post, a veteran teacher told them what they never asked and probably don't want to know. It was her resignation letter. It is reproduced here in its entirety.io

I feel that we as teachers have really had enough, and that someone needs to finally speak up. My name is Abby Breaux and I have been teaching for 25 years in Lafayette Parish, yet no one in this room knows me because no one here has ever come to the schools in which I’ve taught and just asked me, “What do you as a teacher think?”

I keep hearing statements that only ineffective teachers are leaving the system. This upsets me. Many, and I mean many, teachers like me who have been evaluated as effective and highly effective for many years by their administration are leaving the public schools. These are teachers that have been elected Teacher of the Year, LEF [Lafayette Education Foundation] winners, and many have received other awards. Even more than that, we have played a part in hundreds of thousands of students becoming great citizens and grownups! Teachers have also been criticized for leaving during the year, for interrupting the students learning. But, these teachers have had enough, and many are actually getting physically sick and can’t make it to the end.

Teachers are not the bad guys here. You tell society that we have three months off in the summer and get off at 3:30 in the afternoon. Well, I can tell you for a fact that we work at least 10 months a year. What about all the teachers that either get to school early or stay late? We give up a lot of time for our school children- sometimes our students are getting more time than our families. What about all of us who still after 25 or more years, are working all day and then are working more hours at night? What about all the hours we volunteer to coach, chaperone dances, plan field trips, and sponsor clubs? We stay late after school for meetings and programs, and we are constantly grading papers, at night, on weekends, and even on vacations. We attend in-services for either no or minimal pay in the summer or on weekends. Not to mention all of our OWN MONEY we spend on students. I can’t tell you how many THOUSANDS of dollars I have spent over the years for science and social studies supplies for my classroom alone.

Buying our own paper and ink, team celebrations, class rewards, incentives, classroom decorations, primary sources, books, etc…. And if you think that doesn’t happen. Again, ask a real classroom teacher! So don’t tell me that teachers don’t care!

No one ever really asks us what the real problems are, nor do they ask US how to solve them. You’ve hired people from a state that is #50 in the rankings to fill our positions. I could almost understand if you got someone from a state ranked in the top 10! We have plenty of experience and highly qualified professionals right here in Lafayette Parish. If they are not applying for the job, then the question needs to be asked. WHY?

You make us pilot all of these new programs year after year that have been tried already (just under another name), not worked-and tried again. We keep reinventing the wheel! I hear often that teachers don’t teach any more. We don’t!

You have made us information pushers, test givers, and paper passer outers. LET US TEACH!!! You have taken all of this away. You give us a new common core curriculum that is almost impossible to finish in a year, and now you slide in Compass, new evaluations, JPams, and On Course all in a single year, and all which require more time that we just don’t have. You are setting teachers up to fail. Teaching was once a noble and creative profession. Learning was once fun! If you want kids to stay in school, make them want to come!!!

Our jobs should not depend on two lessons a year. Principals should be able to walk into a classroom any time and do a true evaluation. To tell children that OUR jobs depend on them-well you are giving the students the “upper hand”!

They now have the power and they know it. I have heard some students say that they are not even going to try on the standardized tests. They are even “out” for some teachers and are going to score low on purpose. Many students won’t do their homework or study for tests-WHY? They know they won’t fail because of your policies. You have made it all about “what the teacher needs to do” instead of “what the student needs to do!” HOLD them responsible! Would a doctor lose his job if his diabetic patient didn’t follow their recommendations for losing weight when that patient is hospitalized for his/her choices? Of course not! The educational system is no different. We should not be held responsible for apathy and wrong choices!

If you really want to change one thing in our school system-start with discipline: SIMPLE nothing else, just DISCIPLINE. Follow through from first grade on up to twelfth grade. Be consistent, give consequences. Teachers should not be repeating rules to the same students over and over again. If you would listen to experienced teachers who have good discipline, it works and learning is going on. No fancy programs, no bells and whistles, just the teacher in charge. Stop moving students from school to school. This just dilutes other schools!

You are hiding the problems-NOT solving them! The same students that we saw get away with the “little infractions” over and over, and over again, are the same students that end up in the paper under “local arrests”. We are not here to be popular or please parents, we are here to teach children. Small things like uniforms, gum chewing, and tardies may seem small to you, but to a classroom teacher they are the small things that lead to larger problems like disrespect. If you don’t back us up on these issues, the students know it and lose respect for us. Don’t give in half way through the year, or keep changing things. Follow through. Back your teachers up! You have taken our “power” away. No Discipline=No Teaching-Period!

You have basically taken “morals” and work ethics out of ours schools, yet now our tax money is paying for students to go to private schools where they teach morals and work ethics. I believe we should bring BOTH back to our schools, and this will bring our students back as well.

You want to save one child by not removing them from the classroom or campus because you don’t want THAT child to miss out on learning, but you are doing a TOTAL injustice to the average and above average students who want to learn and know how to behave. The others are NOT learning because teachers are spending their time repeatedly correcting, constantly documenting, meeting one on one, and conferencing with the one child who chooses not to behave. I have about 10 daily behavior plans with only 2 out of the 10 working. Why is this? There is no follow through at home! Teachers work harder than the parents and the child to help that child succeed. If you do not think this is true, again, just ask a classroom teacher!

All teachers are different and that is what makes public education so special. Students get the affection, nurturing, life lessons, and education from each of them over their twelve years. Some experiences will be good, some not so good, but that is called life!!! Children need to learn to cope! They need this skill for the rest of their lives, so they can become good problem solvers on their own and not have everything catered and changed to their every desire. Having their parents just being able to call the central office and have teachers give in to “solve the problem” to make it easier for the child is not a coping skill. You are doing the students and parents a total injustice.

Computers have been an asset in the classroom as a learning tool for students. The school board and state however seem to have incorporated them as tools for teachers to do more meaningless work! We should have computers and laptops for the students to use as resources, not for teachers to type and retype and retype again. You would not want us asking students to redo a project three times and then never grade it. Why do you keep giving us surveys and paperwork that you will never read? A perfect example is our VAM [value-added measures] Evaluations! All of this is taking away from our teaching time!

Is there a reason why we in Lafayette Parish (a parish that has MONEY compared to most) still cannot get enough books for our students in the classroom, yet we have money to waste on silly job positions and in services. This is not just this year or last year; this has been an ongoing occurrence. Teachers should not have to scrape and scramble for books and paper every year! To you this might be minor, but for us, the classroom teachers, this is a major issue and affects morale.

If you think getting rid of experienced classroom teachers is the answer, then shame on you! It takes experienced teachers to help new, inexperienced teachers with the overwhelming burdens of classroom management, helping with background knowledge of the information being taught, and learning how to build relationships with the students and the community that these students come from. There is SO much more to teaching then getting in front of a class and giving a lesson!

Personally, I was hoping to teach for at least 30 years, but because of all these new evaluation policies, fear of retirement issues, and feeling constantly threatened that if I don’t do “this or that” I will lose my job, I and many others have had enough and feel the need to leave. I LOVE TEACHING and never thought this day would come. I love working with kids. You have basically pushed me and many excellent, effective teachers out of the education field or into the private sector with all of your useless paperwork and lack of follow through. I know I may get some “recoil” for what I am saying today, but what I am saying is the truth, and it is something that most teachers say and think every day. Many are afraid to speak up and this is something that I too have been holding in for years because of the same reason. Please, sit down with the CLASSROOM teachers and work with them. But above all, GO TO A CLASSROOM! Don’t choose a “favored, high scoring” school. Go to a struggling school and observe a classroom. Better yet, since you are supposed to be people of “service”, substitute in a classroom. Your eyes will be opened to how difficult it is to do this job on a daily basis.

I am very proud to have worked with the many amazing and hardworking teachers, administrators and staff over the years in Lafayette Parish. We want a positive system and a system that continues to improve as much or even MORE than you. We would really like for you to not only hear us, but make some necessary changes.

Thank you,
Abby Breaux

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The face of the Second Amendment

Those who are fighting against any kind of gun control have adopted mindless belligerence as their strategy.  The more they resemble Shakespeare's raging idiot, the more people think they are not mentally or morally competent to possess and carry weapons.

Rhonda Fields is a representative in the Colorado state legislature from Aurora, the site of the movie theater mass shooting last July.  She is a sponsor of legislation being considered in Colorado for gun safety.  She received threatening and racially abusive e-mails protesting her legislation from Franklin Sain of Colorado Springs.  (Sain's company fired him.)  Here is the Huffington Post summation of the e-mails from the affadavit filed for Sain's arrest.  


THANKS N----- C---! You really think passing any more laws will stop gun violence? You and that other N----- OBAMA are living in fantasy land. Chicago and DC have the most strict gun laws in the nation and more people die from gun violence than anywhere. You f---ing c---s are pathetic excuse for civil servants. Hell, n-----s love shooting themselves with GATS, isn't that what your people call it. What you have done here is creater criminals out of law abiding citizens, and put yourself out of a job. You politicians have no idea what you are even doing anyway, do you know how long it takes some to change a magazine, less than a second, so what if some with experience decides to flip out and bring their gun in with 5 or so 10 round magazines, they can do the same amount of damage. Limiting magazine sizes is stupididty, [sic] and will not work. I for one have 100+ 30 ronds mags and 150 round drums. I will never give those up and I am far from being some whack job. What I am pissed off at c--- n------ who know nothing about what they are doing and knee jerk react rather than look for a solution to fix the problem and enforce existing laws. We will all work very hard to ensure there is no job for you 2014. We will make it our mission to ensure each Democrat who supports this law is also out of a job.
Later that day on Feb. 13 another message from the same email arrived in Rep. Fields inbox reading:
Do you actually think that Americans will put up with this... I gurantee there is not enough law enforcement, or military to stop an all out overthrow of this government if you or that N----- President tries to take our guns... Guarantee we will make World War I and II look like childs play, many will die... be prepared...
On Feb. 14 and through most of Feb. 15, the emails are charged with racist epithets and also become less de etailed, but then a final email on the late afternoon of Feb. 15 with more detailed threats arrived, according to the arrest affidavit:
Watching you live, you are a pathetic N----- C--- alnog with MCCANN, two c---- who are way overdue a good f---ing... and hopefully somebody Gifords both of your asses with a gun....... you are both pieces of monkey sh-- who have no right or reason to be in the position you are.... f--- off c---......
Read the entire affidavit here.
The final email references Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) along with Rep. Fields, who are co-sponsoring House Bill 1229 which calls for universal background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales.
It also references former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner outside of a grocery store in 2011 during a meeting with constituents.
The affidavit then says on Thursday, Feb. 21 at around 11:00 a.m., Rep. Fields office received a threatening letter in the mail, one of the most deranged and terrifying of all the messages as it also references Fields' daughter:
Rhonda Fields, N----- C---, Mother of -----, Death to Both, All N----- Back to Africa, F--- you, F--- Your Laws, I Keep my 30 Round Magazines, There Will Be Blood!, I'm Coming For You, N----- B----

Sain's defense attorney claims he was just exercising the First Amendment right of free speech. 

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