Charter schools, a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Last year when our teachers were courageous enough to walk out and force the legislature to address their needs and the needs of the children, I was impressed with their resolve.  After all was said and done and they received a 5% pay raise, I warned several of the teachers to be ready for the backlash this year. Having made the powers-that-be back down would not come without repercussions.  Here we are in 2019 and the sneaky bunch of crooks (legislators) are attempting to ram through an education bill that would be totally raucous to our school system.  If the parents who have children do not let their voices be heard, we could take a giant step backwards in West Virginia Education.  Everyone needs to call their West Virginia legislative representatives immediately!  In addition to larger classes for teachers, the state would begin to promote Charter Schools which I will address in the following paragraph.  Although West Virginia has moved a small amount away from the bottom in school performance, we are still near the bottom in many important areas.

There is no doubt that our schools are in disarray and not producing the quality of student we would like but many schools across the nation are facing the same dilemma..  I have written about this issue repeatedly, but the answer is not CHARTER SCHOOLS!  In theory the idea of Charter Schools sounds great.  Create a school to compete with the public school to force them to get their act together.  The truth of the matter is more devious.  Charter schools are a way of allowing people of higher means to send their child to a supposedly better school.  Let me explain how it works.  When you send your child to a Charter School, you are allowed to deduct a large amount of your tuition from your state taxes (not federal) to compensate for the expense.  That means that the state will receive less revenue because of the deduction.  If you do not make that much money, this may not be a useful deduction.  In addition, the public schools will receive less revenue due to students leaving and experience an even greater money crunch.  These new Charter Schools will not be built in Hampshire county but in areas where the population is more dense.  Also realize that these schools are built to MAKE MONEY!  They are meant to be a profitable venture. That means less money to the kids and more money to someone who probably does not even live in the state.

Do you really want to make school better?  If you do, read the following short list:

  1. Pay your teachers a competitive wage so they do not have to leave the state and you attract better teachers
  2. Give control of the classroom back to the teacher
  3. Get rid of the excessive testing  (this will save millions)

Do these three things and schools will improve quickly. I promise, I have been there.

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The media. The good the bad and the ugly.

Like many of us, I probably watch a little too much TV.  I have to admit that there are some shows I really enjoy watching.  I have grown up with the media for the last almost 70 years.  I remember the little square 12 inch black and white TV, although I do not remember watching that much until I was older.  I recall shows like FATHER KNOWS BEST, STAR TREK, KUNG FU and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER to name a few.  During this time the media quickly learned that they could advertise products to a large market during these shows.  Back then, commercials and TV shows were somewhat simple compared to today’s high tech, thoroughly researched, mind invasive productions.  For example, in the early days, cartoons were very passive with occasional slap stick humor.  I think it is safe to say that Micky and Mini Mouse were pacifists.  Compare that to today’s toons.  Basically there are three types of toons on TV today.  First we have the adult toons which include violence, abusive language and lots of destruction and sexual connotations.  Next would be the toons for the teens and preteens, these shows are simply a gateway from Winnie the Pooh to the adult toons.  Often these toons include subtle sexual undertones, not quite offensive language and a good amount of violence.  Finally we have the children’s toons which very subtly are teaching society norms which is totally up to the producer.  Some of these toons do teach good decent human behavior and others get into the addictive buying nature of our society or even gentle nudging of social norms.  Many of these children’s productions are suitable to young children but soon fall by the wayside when the child happens to watch one of the toons for older children.  It’s sort of like sugar, once a child is allowed to eat sugar products, there is no going back to the less addictive bite of a delicious apple. Or another example, a fellow teacher once asked me the rhetorical question, “How can I compete against TV and video games?”

I would love to debate with anyone who believes that the media industry has not been a substantial part in shaping the values of our society.  Here is a great example.  When I was growing up the word queer was a mysterious word to me.  Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there was this group of people, predominately guys, who liked guys.  It was never spoken about in the media or around the dinner table. The only time you ever heard the word, queer, was when guys were referring to each other in a derogatory nature!  You could be labeled queer for a variety of reasons such as, you ran too slow or your hair was too curly.  It was totally up to the person deciding who was queer!  Anyway, later in life I worked at the Greyhound bus terminal in Washington, DC and there were many guys of the queer persuasion.  I must say I was a bit uncomfortable at first but I soon decided to live and let live.  I met several guys who were gay and they seemed like nice guys so my issue was settled.  Now, move ahead to the last five years.  The gay population was ‘coming out of the closet’ and society was having a difficult time accepting the alternate life style of these folks.  Enter the media.  In there own, sometimes crazy way, the media has helped us understand and accept people with alternate life styles with a barrage of movies and shows depicting the life of gay people.  Some of these shows caused quite an uproar in the beginning but slowly the noise died down and people began to realize that these were good people with just a different slant on their own sexual preferences.  So, I would have to give the media a thumbs up in this area.  Sometimes I think they overdo things, but the end result has been rather positive.

 

Now, one would think that with this type of power to change attitudes, the media would try and help society grow up, but I fear that is not always the case. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) the average child will witness 200,000 acts of violence before the age of 18!  That is almost 30 a day!! I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but has anyone noticed the increase in violence in our society lately?  We lead the developed world in violent acts created by our own citizens!  We don’t have to worry about Mexicans or other multinationals killing our citizens, we are well trained and capable of doing it ourselves.  Our country had almost 40,000 gun related deaths in 2018 alone!

I do not have any clear-cut answers to these issues but good old common sense tells me that the media could help our world become a more peaceful place to live.  But I fear it goes back to the same answer many of my writings do, money and greed.  The media, which has the power to make the world a better and more peaceful place will choose the dollar every time.  If they can make a movie that sells, there is no limit to what horrible acts they will depict in the movie. They will cut off heads, scare the living hell out of you with horrific scenes, shoot people’s faces off with large guns,  cut them in half, run over them with cars and trucks, but make no mistake their favorite way of killing people is with ever bigger guns!

So this is what I want to say to the media, “wake up and smell the gunpowder”. Our society is in trouble.  We are at the end of being the technological and social leaders of the world.  Part of this is your fault.  Rather than promoting science and math and culture, you have promoted a society riddled with violence and corruption to pad your pockets with ever increasing amounts of money.  Make no mistake, as our country heads down this well traveled road that many societies in history have ventured, your profits will fall along with every thing around you and some day you will wonder what went wrong?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the woman who saw the future.

When you have lived for as long as I have, you witness many systemic inequities in the ways of man.  It is hard for me to imagine that the subjugation of a human being due to the color of their skin was legal, but it was for a long time in most of the civilized world.  It is difficult to fathom that women are still not guaranteed their rights under the US Constitution, TODAY!  The equal rights amendment has never been passed in the United States!  The new movie about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ON THE BASIS OF SEX, is at the movies right now and is a wonderful movie to help understand the evolution of women’s rights.  At the forefront of this movement is a tiny lady with a tremendous amount of courage and determination.  I encourage you to see it!

Ruth Bader Ginsberg as a young women

The year is 1975 and Ruth Bader Ginsberg attempts to enter the job market.  Graduating at the top of her class from a very prestigious law college, she encounters a job market that was unwilling to hire her as a lawyer.  The reasons given for refusing to hire her ranged from the disruptive influence of a female in the office, jealousy of the wives, to what if you decide to have a baby. Frustrated with a society that was unwilling to acknowledge her as a lawyer capable of doing work that was considered man’s work, she set out to change the law.  Her husband was a very accomplished tax lawyer.  He presented her with the idea of pursuing her goal through a small tax case dealing with a man’s right to claim a tax deduction as his mother’s caretaker.  After winning this case she used it as a springboard to launch a myriad of cases attacking small legal battles that discriminated by gender.  Slowly and methodically she won 8 of 9 cases that ensured that gender not be considered when making a ruling.  The tide was changing and Ruth Ginsberg was at the front of the storm.  She would go on to be on the Federal court and then in 1993 was confirmed to serve on the highest court in the land, The United States Supreme Court.

Ruth and her daughter

Ruth has vision and imagination.  These two qualities are what allow her to move forward, solve problems and create a better world.  She had the ability to see a behavior that was accepted as correct at the time, realized it needed to be changed and represented people to seek justice through the courts.  This is the kind of vision that helps to make the world a better and fairer place.  The point I am trying to make is our society usually discourages this kind of behavior.  If one thinks outside the box, expect to be criticized, expect to be ostracized, and expect to be ignored during promotion time.  If one wants to move up through the ranks, follow the rules, do not question anything and enforce rules that seem unfair regardless if you think they are.  This is the way to the top in much of the workplace.  If you want to make this world a better place, speak out!

Below is a summation of the current status of the ERA.  Even though some states are ratifying it, the initial deadline has not been extended and is expired.

 

No longer pending

  • The Equal Rights Amendment (proposed 1972) would have prohibited deprivation of equality of rights (discrimination) by the federal or state governments on account of sex. A seven-year ratification time limit was initially placed on the amendment, but as the deadline approached, Congress granted a three-year extension. Thirty-five states ratified the proposed amendment prior to the original deadline, three short of the number required for it to be implemented (five of them later voted to rescind their ratification). No further states ratified the amendment within the extended deadline, thus it failed to be adopted. On March 22, 2017, the 45th anniversary of Congress’ submission of the ERA to the nation’s state lawmakers, the Nevada Legislature became the first to ratify the ERA after the expiration of both deadlines[103] with its adoption of Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 (designated as “POM-15” by the U.S. Senate and published verbatim in the Congressional Record of April 5, 2017, at pages S2361 and S2362).[104] The Illinois General Assembly ratified the ERA on May 30, 2018.

Dear Board of Education, stay small!

Sometimes it is hard to understand why people/organizations do the things they do and other times it’s pretty easy to figure out why.  Usually money is the key component to almost every decision.  That is one of the main reasons our education system, country-wide, is heading down the toilet. All the political talk is thrown around constantly telling us how bad our schools are and how they are going to make them better, bullshit!  Here in our little county of Hampshire, most people acknowledge that our schools, as a whole, could use some major improvement.  There are a few schools that are doing well at the elementary level but as a whole we are pretty bad. Superintendent Pancione is a good person and with the proper financial support, under his leadership, we could develop into a good school system, but he is a man in the driver’s seat without a steering wheel.  Let’s look at the current issue on the Board of Education’s agenda right now.

They are considering consolidating our elementary schools into four or five schools in the near future.  This is a way we can use resources better and guess what…save money.  There are still some people in Hampshire county who were schooled in one-room school houses and many of them are considerably smarter than a lot of the kids we give high school diplomas to now. Yes, in some ways there are advantages to large consolidated schools but let’s think about this for a minute.  Here are some of the reasons bigger is not better in a school, especially elementary school!  As a school gets bigger, many kids disappear into the woodwork, in my high school of 3000, no one knew anyone and teachers taught students not individuals.  A couple of years after graduating from high school I met my physics teacher at an event, this is the real truth, he said to me, seat number 25, I said yes sir and moved on.  He was one of my favorite teachers but did not know me by name!  When I left Maryland to move to West Virginia and teach, one of the first questions I was asked was, which school I wanted to teach in, Romney Junior High or Capon Bridge Junior High.  I asked them how many students were in  Romney and they said about 500.  I asked them how many students were in Capon Bridge and they said about 220.  My response was, I guess I’ll be going to Capon Bridge!  The following years at Capon Bridge gave me something that I had never experienced before, community!  We were a family of about 250 including staff and students.  Yes, we had our problems and academically we were pretty bad off but we were a community and every one knew and watched out for everyone else.  There is no price tag for that.  There is no amount of education that will overcome the loss of community.  The state continues to squeeze the purse strings of education and we are being forced into a totally underfunded school system fighting to keep its head above water.

There has to be a point where the public says, enough is enough, we are not going to let you deprive our children the community that a small school can offer.  With parents working god-awful hours and pursuing the ever diminishing American dream, often times the school is the only place a student can feel loved.  IT IS TIME FOR PARENTS TO GET OFF THEIR BUTTS AND INSIST THAT THE SCHOOLS STAY SMALL!  One of the things Hampshire gave me was a sense of community and it would be a sad day to take that away from future generations of our students.  Board members, snap out of it!  Protect our schools, do not join the bandwagon of individuals who do not understand what a community school is. Many of you went to small schools and you would not give that up for anything.  Citizens of Hampshire county, do not let them do this.  STAND UP AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!!!!!!