Category Archives: Education

School Vouchers Law? To Whose Advantage?

 

According to the Winter 2017 of Education Next, public support of vouchers is in steep decline.

Amid all the chaos of the new administration, Republicans in the House have quietly introduced a bill to use government funding for school vouchers:

H.R.610 – To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.

All arguments about the worth of vouchers aside, why do our representatives continue to introduce bills that are overwhelmingly unpopular among Americans? Continue reading School Vouchers Law? To Whose Advantage?

A Culture of Domestic Violence?

South Carolina’s House chamber, where Chris Corley will continue to serve after being re-elected

No sane person would deny that domestic abuse is heartbreaking. Why, then, do rational people allow a man accused of domestic violence to continue in public office?

A teacher accused of physically abusing a student—or anyone employed in public service, for that matter—would at the very least be placed on paid administrative leave until the matter is resolved. Not so with elected officials.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on domestic violence, South Carolina state representative Chris Corley stands accused of first-degree domestic violence and pointing and presenting a firearm, charges which constitute felonies. Continue reading A Culture of Domestic Violence?

Forget Great. How about Functional?

MSNBC posted this graphic based on early information from The United States Election Project.
MSNBC posted this graphic based on early information from The United States Election Project.

 

Forget making America great. We have some work to do even to make America functional.

Based on the votes counted so far, Donald Trump was elected by only about a quarter of eligible voters. Had Hillary Clinton won, the same would have been true of her. Nearly half the electorate, 44.6% as of the latest data, did not vote at all. That was the lowest since the 1996 election, which involved another Clinton who got a very different result (CNN Politics).

Even if we account for those turned away in states like Wisconsin with strict voter ID laws, the numbers are abysmal. And many of those who did not vote actually do care about our country. Continue reading Forget Great. How about Functional?

Are Trump Supporters Dumb?

 

Creche

As a native of West Virginia who took the last name of a husband of Polish descent, I’ve been subjected to my fair share of jokes about my intelligence.

Just before one of my early Christmases in Maryland, a colleague asked this question at the lunch table: “Why wasn’t the baby Jesus born in West Virginia?”

Several pairs of eyes glanced furtively at me before looking back to him. I’d earned myself a spot as an English teacher in one of the most renowned school systems in the nation—a system that, at that time, usually hired intellectual teachers from prestigious schools. Though I’d graduated both high school and college at the top of my class, I’d earned my degree from a little-known state college, and I sometimes felt out of my league in a department largely made up of intellectuals.

I sensed the punch line before he delivered it with a snort and a laugh: “Because God couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”

I frowned but said nothing.

He raised his hands in a gesture of apology and said, “Present company excepted, of course.”

Of course.

When people default to a stereotype, they seldom recognize the disconnect when they know someone who defies the stereotype. And that is precisely the problem we face in moving forward on many of the issues that face us. Continue reading Are Trump Supporters Dumb?

Is Your News Source Credible?

Go to the author's English Teacher's Page for a lesson package of resources to teach this skill.
Go to the author’s English Teacher’s Page for a lesson package of resources to teach this skill.

We teachers have failed to prepare our students for the digital age. After watching the most recent events of the presidential campaign unfold, I’ve reached the painful conclusion that I didn’t do enough to help my students master one of the most important skills for a literate person in today’s world: how to recognize whether a source is credible and objective.

Continue reading Is Your News Source Credible?

A Retiree’s Wish for Returning Teachers

IMG_2392

“Go out to lunch on teachers’ first day back. And plan a vacation so that you’ll be in some exotic place on the first day of school.” Retired teachers with toothy smiles and unfurrowed brows gave me this same advice again and again in the months leading up to my retirement from teaching English and working in the curriculum office.

While their advice was astonishing in its singularity, the comments from teachers who would be returning to school in the fall varied widely:

Continue reading A Retiree’s Wish for Returning Teachers

Is Vocational Education “Unconventional”?

Do college graduates make more money? Not always, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Do college graduates make more money? Not always, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2015, the average plumber or electrician made only about $3000 less annually than the average K-12 teacher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers earned about the same as teachers, and aircraft mechanics and service technicians made several thousand dollars more than teachers. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels made tens of thousands more than the average teacher.

Given that reality, why do we continue to short-change students by cutting back on vocational education and insisting that college is the only worthy goal for high school graduates? Continue reading Is Vocational Education “Unconventional”?

Write Good?

Donut

It’s an interesting day in politics to be an English teacher.

“No matter how good I do on something, they’ll never write good,” Trump said of the New York Times.

Social media has been abuzz, mocking Trump for his poor grammar, largely quoting him out of context as simply saying of the newspaper, “They don’t write good.”

I’m an English teacher who grew up with a father who quit school in fifth grade and spoke with a heavy Appalachian dialect. I didn’t learn to speak Standard English until I made the decision in college to become an English teacher. But, thankfully, my teachers recognized that I could think. I’ve known many smart, clear thinking people who don’t necessarily follow the rules of grammar when they are speaking off the cuff, as Trump was. While I find humor in Trump’s comments, I could, perhaps, forgive his grammatical errors. Continue reading Write Good?

The Key to Education?

Graduation 74

As I look toward retirement in a few days, I’ve been thinking about the most difficult class I taught in 30 years in the classroom.   I was about 20 years into my career when I was hired to lead the English Department in one of three schools that made up my district’s first experiment in choice. Our school was the new one—the one many students didn’t want because it had no history and no ties to the community.

The boundaries for all three schools were redrawn, and our school opened with only ninth and tenth graders. If students didn’t get their first choice, they were guaranteed a spot in their new home school. Because of our signature program in the arts, many creative students chose us. We also had a large number of students who didn’t want to be there, as well as some students who had problems in their home schools who came to us to get a fresh start. Those in the second group created the perfect storm that shook my confidence to the core and gave me a dose of humility that I’ve never forgotten.

Continue reading The Key to Education?

Courageous Conversations about Race and Poverty?

I Voted

“Why do you keep trying to reason with those people?” It is a question I’m asked repeatedly by my liberal friends on social media when I attempt to engage in a discussion with relatives and childhood friends who support Donald Trump.

Why? Because I believe that well-meaning liberals who dismiss the concerns of poor whites and call them ignorant might as well be the warm-up act for the next Trump rally. Our refusal to acknowledge their concerns has helped set the tone for Trump’s stage appearances.

Continue reading Courageous Conversations about Race and Poverty?