Education, Politics

Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take Common Core Anymore

It’s been too long since the last post, but, apparently, the Tspelczechquer is ringing up traffic for the opt-out movement. Good.

Now it’s time to get our states and schools to opt out of Common Core. Why?

It wasn’t created by teachers.

It’s not a state-led initiative, no matter what Coach Arne Duncan would like you to believe.

It’s driven by a desire to sell flawed tests that schools can’t afford.

It’s terribly flawed, especially the K-3rd grade standards.

It’s “architect” – College Board’s David Coleman – is an arrogant so-and-so who doesn’t “give a $hit” about your kids’ personal opinion. Any true teacher would tell you otherwise.

It’s supported by Bill Gates, the Wal-Mart family, and most every state’s Chamber of Commerce. (Look at all of the educational experience there!)

Hell, even the venerable Louis C.K. realizes that Common Core is killing our kids’ love of learning.

It’s time to go all Howard Beale, people.

Literature, Pop Culture

A Few of My Favorite Books, 2013 Edition

Not that you asked (or care), but here are some of my favorite books of the past year.

The absolute best is Diane Ravitch’s superb Reign of Error. Anyone who cares about public education (and, to a larger extent, our future as a democracy) must read this book. It’s that important. When any public servant tells you he or she is “for education reform,” find out if he or she has read Ravitch. If they have, good. If not, put a copy of Reign of Error in their hands now.

Rounding out my top ten, in no particular order:

The Circle, Dave Eggers – What if a company took over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Amazon, and had the capability of knowing everything about everyone? In the age of NSA and Edward Snowden, The Circle has come around at the right time.

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller – After a flu epidemic wipes out most of North America, two men and one dog struggle to survive in the flatlands of Colorado. Dystopian, heartbreaking, and hopeful, with shades of Cormac McCarthy.

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemmingway – Yes, I know it’s been around for awhile. I finally took the plunge this summer. I knew what was coming, but Hemmingway still managed to break my heart.

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Education, Politics

Coming Soon to a “Failing” School Near You: The EAA!

Thanks, Michissippi State Senate! You approved the statewide expansion of the clusterfk that is the Educational Achievement Authority. Soon to be outgoing State Superintendent Mike “Pontius Pilate” Flanagan had this to say about the EAA:

Flanagan released a statement Wednesday morning defending his actions, saying he has “a moral obligation to do so for the sake of the children suffering in a handful of schools where they are not learning.”

“Shame on anyone who insists on maintaining the status quo, to keep kids in this handful of failing schools where I wouldn’t dare send my grandkids,” Flanagan said in a statement.

Moral obligation, my ass. Mike, you wouldn’t dare send your grandkids to those failing schools because they’re located in Detroit. Also, the “status quo” that’s been maintained in Michissippi involves the wholesale transfer of public money to for-profit charter companies that provide craptastic educations to their students. The EAA has fared even worse:

In October, the EAA reported having 7,589 students enrolled in its 15 schools — 2,369 fewer than last fall, when it had 9,958 students across 12 direct-run schools and three charter schools. That’s a drop of 23.6 percent.

The startup district struggled with cash-flow during its first year, relying on short-term loans  and donations from private foundations (ed. note: millions from the Broad Foundation) to cover its costs. Putting the EAA on par with other schools under state law would stabilize the district’s finances, Esselman said.

The EAA plans to cover its costs by borrowing from MIPSERS, the state pension fund for teachers. Peter, pay Paul.

Life, Politics, Pop Culture

Mandela, Music, and the Education of a College Radio DJ

To begin, my knowledge of South Africa, apartheid, or Nelson Mandela was never formed by Toto. (Really, CBS?)

In 1980, I bought Peter Gabriel’s third album (the “Melt” cover) for the low, low price of $3.99 at Believe in Music. “Games Without Frontiers” caught my ear on WLAV, and I memorized the rest of the album lyrics after repeated plays on my portable stereo system. The final track, “Biko”, with its stark chords and African choral background piqued my interest. Who was this Biko?


Fast forward five years to my senior year at Eastern Kentucky University, home of the Colonels and fledgling campus radio station, WDMC. A 12″ mix of something called “Sun City” reached my music director desk. Great, another all-star fund raiser, I thought. We’d already worn out the grooves of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World”. Good songs, good causes, helped thousands of people.

But “Sun City” was different. What began as a research project by Little Steven Van Zandt became an unforgettable seven minutes of jazz, rock, rap, and pop. “Sun City” raised awareness not only of apartheid, but of the Reagan Administration’s role to stop economic sanctions against South Africa.

This song changed my way of thinking about the political power of music. As Little Steven mentioned in an interview with NPR’s Here and Now, “Not only does art transcend politics, art is politics.”

Today, as we remember the life of Madiba, and celebrate Human Rights Day, it’s important to remember these songs of social protest.

Where are the voices of protest today?

Pop Culture

The College Dropout Compares Self to Shakespeare Play, Hilarity Ensues

Kanye West took to the airwaves to express his undying devotion to the walking punchline that is Kim Kardashian:

“I felt like our love story is a love story for the ages. I felt like when we first got together it was like a Romeo and Juliet kind of thing where it’s like she’s a reality star and I’m a rapper.”

Capulets. Montagues. Reality stars. Rappers. Obvious correlation, right? 

Stay in school, kids.