It’s Time to Move On

 

 

 

Beloved Readers,

I’m making a move to paulhenley.blogspot.com

WordPress is a powerful platform.

However…

Many of the powerful features come at a cost.

There are advantages to this site structure, but I’m choosing to change.

I recently moved my blog in a big file/unpackage/reformat transfer to Blogger.

Please join me there to continue the conversation in your own mind and with me.

See you there!  paulhenley.blogspot.com

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“You All Look Alike to Me.”

A couple of things happened this week that–strangely–seem to fit together. I say it’s strange because the educational settings were quite different. In one case, the incident happened at an idyllic liberal arts college; in the other case, the events took place at a Texas-style warehouse high school.

The college incident involved graffiti. Insensitive words were spray painted on the side of a building. This kind of action runs contrary to the very values of the institution (not that hateful graffiti is policy outside of perhaps Bob Jones University). The reaction was intense. Campus-wide emails flew across the server. Official statements strongly condemning these acts (or act) came from the president, various administrators. One email offered counseling to those who felt threatened.

Hold on. Next incident:

The high school experienced a series of incidents this week. First, somebody urinated just outside the boys’ restroom. The next day, two fights broke out. After that, more urine. The reaction was intense. Students, as a whole, had their free time restricted. The time normally set aside for catch-up and recreation was repurposed to sitting in a room.

Okay. Let’s start with the differences in reactions.

The college saw the entire college community as victims who needed help, counseling, and support. A faculty meeting was held to discuss the graffiti, and one key question was “What did they write, actually?” Another question was, “Um…where is this graffiti?” It was all on one wall. One word was “NIG,” which makes me wonder if someone ran out of paint or forgot how to spell the slur. It may have been two 11 year olds, for all we know at this point.

In other words, most people on campus (myself included) had no idea anything was going on. We were only told that we were under siege by the forces of hate and that the campus community would rally together to fight this hate with counseling, meetings, and (by the way) some sort of law enforcement to deter or catch anyone trying to do this again. If it was just removed or covered, the vast majority of the campus would not know anything had happened. If getting everyone upset wasn’t the goal, I don’t know what the idiot’s goal would have been.

On the other hand, the high school saw all students as potential perpetrators. Everyone must pay unless and until we catch the actual urinator(s) in question. While only four students actually got into fights, the other 2200 will pay for those fights as a lesson…of what it’s like to be punished for things you don’t do.

My guess is that the students are fully aware of that lesson by now…

There are similarities here, though. They seem like the key here.

In both cases, those in charge treated every individual as a nameless part of a bigger group, be they victims or perpetrators. My experience as a behaviorist has shown the best way to extinguish a behavior like graffiti or inappropriate urination (seriously?) is to “ignore” it. Don’t believe me? Take a teenager and refuse to look at them for an hour. Watch things explode! Yes, the graffiti needs to be removed. Yes, the pee needs to get mopped and deodorized. Otherwise, the actions are minor. Stupid, but minor.

But making giant public spectacles of these things turns such actions into major actions. Such reaction only stands to encourage stupid behavior. If you feel powerless in this world, you always know that spray painting “NIG” on a wall will send an entire campus into a frenzy. No spray paint? Just go pee on a public wall somewhere or pick a fight. You can hold 2200 students hostage for an hour with a single stupid action, while accomplishment in light of 2200 others is much more difficult. These are bad lessons to teach, whether you catch the idiots in question or not.

By victimizing or suspecting all and publicizing actions loudly, you actually reinforce stupid, obnoxious behavior. When the Ku Klux Klan has a major rally, perhaps 100 people show up (normal rally: 12). But then another 6,000 arrive to protest the rally. To a Klansman, that’s an audience of 6,100. If these “knights” showed up and found themselves alone, they’d just feel stupid in front of each other wearing bedsheet hats.

Every time I have to remove my shoes in an airport, I think how that failed “shoe-bomber” actually won, at my expense. That man couldn’t light a match, and yet I get athlete’s foot because of him. I pay a TSA fee to hire the people to insist I remove my shoes. I have to arrive that much earlier for my flight. My life is altered, even in his failure. He won, and he won because we decided to help him win.

Stupid people do stupid things. More attention means more stupid things. If you can’t catch the “urine bandit,” then it stands to reason that peeing on a wall by yourself brings only so much excitement. The idiot will find the urinal, if ignored, because the only thrill is the effect it has on others. I can only hope the moron with the spray paint can didn’t see all the hoopla he caused on campus. Next time, the “artist” might actually look up how to spell the whole word, and it costs more to cover up six letters than three.

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They’re Only Human, After All

A meaningful article on what has become a silly game:

Referee stalemate another example of NFLs never-ending greed – NFL News | FOX Sports on MSN.

American Business Philosophy:

  • You have a highly competitive field where there is a lot of money involved.
  • You have only one real employer.
  • You choose the best of the best, and then you pay them well.

Until you get greedy. Then, you hate unions.

After all “Corporations are people, my friend.” But unions shouldn’t be allowed to be politically involved.

For most of those around me, I am the lone Seattle Seahawks fan they know. Thus, watching them play “America’s Team”–Dallas lost that moniker about three years ago–was a game of great interest to me.

I have about 100 things to say about last night’s NFL game, but Jason Whitlock seems to sum it up best. It comes down to human nature. Sure, the final play of week 3 resulted in a skewed result for a game. But Sunday showed how a head-to-head contact (resulting in a stretcher) could be ignored by replacement referees. That led to another dangerous play, a chop block. The kernel quote from Jason’s analysis is this:

It’s human nature. Given enough freedom, surrounded by enough corruption, we’ll all take a short cut.

Dead on. We can blame everything bad on someone else or some group to which we don’t belong. The Wall Street Meltdown. The 9 BILLION DOLLAR BABY called the NFL arguing over an extra few thousand for its small group of referees. Last year’s lockout of the players. The budget deficit. The debt.

I do it, too. You do it, too. Maybe the way you do your taxes. Buying the cheaper foreign product over the one made by your cousin across town. Then commiserating when she loses her job. Blaming foreigners. Or Obama. Or “Muslim Rage.” Or one of the Perrys. Or one of the Walkers. Or Mexicans (read: anybody who’s brown). Or gays. Anybody but yourself for taking the easy, irresponsible way when you had the chance.

Or this…a complete turnabout when the whole “union” thing moves from education to football.

No, I can speak from a political standpoint, a football standpoint, or an education standpoint. Given lax rules and human nature…people are going to cheat.

I should know. My personal Seahawks chant is “OUR COACH CHEATS!!!” He did it at USC. He taught his students well on that one. He’s doing it at Seattle. Regularly. And as you can see, he gets away with it. My PERFECT Super Bowl matchup is a cheating coach leading New England vs. Seattle: The Battle of the Cheaters Who Never Pay. The game doesn’t matter because in 3 years, they will have to vacate the championship. The Bud Light commercials all say, “Look mature! Start drinking Bud Light in high school!”

As Jim Rome always says, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying–and it’s only cheating if you get caught.” This quote even got directed at one university apparently cheating for Jesus.

In education, kids cheat on tests. Teachers cheat on tests. Districts skew numbers; so do states. My children study the least amount necessary to get the grade they want on a test. The “love of learning,” if it ever existed, has been smothered by testing requirements and political preening about “high standards,” “rigor,” and “college readiness.”

That’s why we need rules. That’s why we need UNIONS, including teachers unions. Otherwise, nobody has ANY power to keep the other side in check.

I agree with Governor Scott Walker’s flip-flop, of sorts. The “real” referees need to be back in the games starting Thursday. Otherwise, it becomes questionable if the best teams make the playoffs.

But it also becomes important that VOTERS hold their politicians–and their funding sources–accountable. It’s a Republic, not a team sport. Right now, we have no real way of tracking what Bob Perry in Houston is doing to my children’s schools. Over half of Texas public schools are failing, and much (if not most) of this failed approach to education was supported by millions and millions of dollars in campaigns that weren’t honest ones. Maybe Bob should have to explain himself, but–like certain NFL coaches–he doesn’t have to. This is America. Now, anyway.

We need rules. We need refs. We need unions. We will need them until the second coming.

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We Just Lost…SOMEBODY SPIN THIS!

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“We said that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract,” Lewis said. “And it was time to end the strike.”

 

                                         –Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis

Today, classes resume in Chicago. The teachers strike is over, pending a full vote of the membership. Despite those who would claim otherwise, the CTU flat-out lost on their biggest issue. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

The draft agreement for the first time links teacher evaluations to student test scores, giving city officials what they say is a more rigorous system to identify the worst-performing teachers—and fire them if they don’t improve. And the deal would let the city lay off teachers based on performance, rather than simply based on how long they have served.

The full story is here:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443816804578004652048007358.html

Yes, there are caveats. Those are there to make sure that CTU leadership can claim “VICTORY!” in what can only be described as defeat.

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For the first week, parents were willing to support the strike; however, that support hits the point of diminishing returns after about one week. “What am I supposed to do with these kids?” would soon overtake “Teachers have it hard.” Worse, we see Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff was willing to resort to Wisconsin-style Republican tactics if necessary. From today’s Inside Higher Ed blog:

What is equally if not more threatening, though, is the mayor’s attempt on Monday to seek an injunction based on the rationale that teachers are only legally able to strike over economic issues. While strikes should always be the last effort, it seems clear that in many municipalities, unions — and teachers on the whole – -really have reached the end of the road. They have been largely ineffective in countering a political movement that has been incredibly punitive towards teachers while doing too little to address the systematic economic and social challenges of many urban areas.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/09/19/interview-joanna-perrillo-about-chicago-teachers-strike-and-uncivil-rights-teachers#ixzz26wricuW7 
Inside Higher Ed

THAT paragraph painfully foretells the future of teachers unions. The unions have outright failed to fight off a political trend that punishes their membership for the vocation they chose. That court injunction was the BIG threat, both immediate and perennial: losing even the spectre of collective bargaining over non-economic issues. It happened in Wisconsin, and the unions took their message to the streets and the voters who lived on those streets. Voters eventually sided against unions, bringing a Republican majority back to the Wisconsin legislature. To have a court injunction (or worse, a later ruling) stripping the CTU of non-economic bargaining rights would be enough to gut most teachers unions’ power.

Teachers don’t leave because of low pay as much as they leave due to working conditions. Those conditions worsen yearly through the pervasive disrespect they receive from students, parents, administrators, and the press. It’s what makes teaching the third least happy profession in America. Overall, unions have done very little to mitigate that situation. Today, the CTU acquiesced to that disrespect. They had no real choice at this point. They have reached “the end of the road.”

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Out of Touch with (Political) Reality

This has been a sad week for teachers unions. As I’ve said before in previous posts, it’s amazing the chronic lack of power wielded by such a large group of educated people. They do it to themselves, though. Well, the union leadership does it to them–but the membership is happy to acquiesce. They will give in again. Soon.

Right now, the Chicago Teachers Union reminds me of the National Rifle Association. The NRA doesn’t really have a leg to stand on right now. The Republicans SCREAM for free, federally funded Rugers for every American over the age of eleven. Family values, you know.

Meanwhile, the Democrats spend exactly no time on this issue. Gun dealers are safe. Gun owners will not be missing any guns due to federal legislation. In fact, Barack Obama has only signed bills that expand gun owners’ rights. There’s not a battle to fight, and the NRA has to raise money to be relevant. That leads to this video chock-full of racism and misinformation. Footage is from 2008, and statistics come from as early as 2006 (“The W Years”). They pair it with people speaking with Hispanic accents and actors wearing guerilla gear telling viewers they don’t care what Americans think–they’ll kill them. It’s about creating a crisis.

The Chicago Teachers Union has a similar political issue. In 2009, a large chunk of treasury money was spent keeping teachers in classrooms and out of unemployment lines. Districts are ready to cut budgets due to a lack of support from state legislatures (like the one in Springfield, Illinois). Chicago teachers tend to make a good wage, when compared with teachers in downstate districts and those of other states. Still, a teachers union cannot rest on its laurels. Otherwise, it becomes a target for another union. You have to create issues sometimes.

Sometimes, a journey of 1000 miles ends very badly, and this one will. Here are some key reasons Chicago teachers will lose on all fronts:

1. Chicago teachers stand to get a 16% pay increase across the board over 4 years, with no acknowledgement of quality variation. Being that CTU teachers fare pretty well in the salary and benefits department, they look like money-grabbing public employees at a time when the economy is struggling to recover from the “low taxes-low regulation” policies of the 2000’s. Thus, they have little, if any, public support.

2. They are at odds with the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel. You may remember him. He was the brilliant brain behind much of President Obama’s campaign. Once Mr. Obama became president, he was kind of wilted. He left to run for the office he holds now, and he has some specific changes (“research“-based) to the school day and evaluation. He has the backing of the President, the public’s trust in this battle, and the ultimate authority.

3. A key reason for the union’s walkout is they don’t want to be evaluated with test scores. This issue runs very deep in union blood. A child is not a test score. A teacher is not the sum of her/his students’ test scores, the average of the scores, or the median of those scores. The test is not always accurate or doesn’t always measure meaningful things. Those ideas are something most people agree with. However, these scores a proposed as one measure in a larger system. Bad student scores wouldn’t necessarily get a teacher fired. They’re not even enough to completely ban a kid from getting promoted to the next grade. That’s where the CTU loses ground: they don’t want to be evaluated at all. It gets worse when you realize that 8% of CPS students graduate from college, while 80% of 8th graders don’t read on grade level (as per test scores).

4. Chicago is in the midst of a crime wave. Dumping 350,000 public school students from inside the city will have a negative effect on safety. This is “found time” to those students. They’re gonna play it for laughs. I hope it’s just laughing. I can hope.  As the New York Times writes:

In Chicago public schools, 87 percent of students come from low-income families. More than 80 percent of public school students are African-American or Latino.

As more crimes get committed by school-age kids, the blame will fall on the union. Parents have issues, as well. Now they have to take care of their kids when they weren’t prepared to do so. It gets worse when charter schools are holding classes. Now, it looks like that model is preferable to the general public.

5. It’s an election year, and Presidential contenders tend to use education to counter-balance their platform. G.W.B. was a teacher-positive governor in Texas, offering raises and extra money for health care. His testing system directed the money from both Texas and Title I to the schools that needed it the most. Schools could choose how to use the money. If nothing changed, then everybody would know that there were issues besides budgetary ones. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has foisted his teacher-reforming ideas on schoolteachers through men like Arne Duncan (“Peg Spellings with a bad haircut”) and initiatives like Race to the Top (“Aim for the Middle?”). Mr. Obama has not addressed either unions’ major conferences, and he has gone so far as to point to where he was “not afraid” to take on the “powerful teachers unions.”

President Obama’s hands are tied now. If he caves, Mr. Romney will jump all over him. If Rahm Emmanuel caves, it will be seen as an Obama initiative. On the other hand, the union has done a poor job of presenting their case to the public. Squashing this strike will no doubt make the President look like he took charge of the situation.

This move by CTU plays right into a Barack Obama campaign plan. One friend postulated that his campaign had moles in the CTU to push this through to a winning vote. I’m ready to promote that idea to a working theory. The place, the timing, the demands, the lack of public support would all lend a thoughtful person to hold off for at least a year, letting the election settle. Nobody within the union tried to stop this, from what I can tell. Now, it becomes a matter of timing: when is the best point in the campaign to break the union?

When this is all finished, I’d like to think the Chicago Teachers Union elects new officers.

I’d liketothink…that. I’m not stupid.

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When It’s Tough to Be White in America

Note the words “an exceptional event.”

My daughter carries her mother’s soft brown hair and her father’s Germanic nose. She’s 16, and she lives in a multi-cultural community. To many, multi-cultural means black (with some white people peppered throughout). Same with the term, diversity. The “Silent P,” my city and the high school in question, are actually multi-cultural. I’m talking 30-30-30-10, in terms of ethnicity.

[Note: I find it interesting that in the 10% or so that are labeled “Asian,” we as a society lump Pakistani Sunni Muslims and Filipino Roman Catholics. That’s a pretty wide swath of cultures to throw under one ethnicity.]

This girl of mine, for all of her issues, has faced racism across the board. She has a black “friend” from the neighborhood who won’t acknowledge her in school. She has lost other friends because of her skin color and ethnicity. Yesterday, that seemed to come to a head–on the first day of school.

She has a boyfriend (though I was never directly told of this—HAS THE FATHER APPROVED??). This boy coaches a kids’ soccer team. It seems a key way to get my daughter’s attention is to be good with kids. In fact, she seems happiest when working with small children. This “boyfriend” is a Hispanic (didn’t I just tell you he was coaching soccer? Pay attention!). He’s also on the high school soccer team. I’m told he’s a “nice kid.” I’ll take everyone else’s word for it. For now.

Yesterday was the first day of school for the Silent P. In the morning, this young man attempted a Public Display of Affection (PDA) by trying to KISS my daughter. She dodged said attempt. This caused great consternation and frustration for both of them. He was resentful for the rest of the day. She was frustrated all day, as well. You see, I think she would have kissed him back…had he just made this attempt in the afternoon.

The morning was not a good time to be trying to kiss my daughter. That’s not because of some biological clock of sorts. Rather, it’s because on “A-Day” mornings, she is around her Asian girlfriends. These friends are quite conservative, socially. One was called a “slut” by her father when she was caught watching TV with her then-boyfriend and laying (clothed) with her head on his leg. Another is not allowed to have boys in the house. Period. My daughter and her boyfriend have only been “together” a short time—one day, by some standards. For my daughter to actually kiss a boy she had been dating only one day, she would be labeled a “slut,” as well. At least in her mind. At least in someone’s mind among this set of friends. Such a kiss would have been a point of contention. If word leaks out to a parent of just one of these girls, my daughter’s social circle could contract quickly.

All of these things had to be taken into account in the course of one, maybe two seconds. The boy didn’t understand the context. Hopefully, that has changed or will change. My daughter chose to keep her friends close. “Sisters before misters.” (Wait, isn’t that a black phrase?) Meanwhile, I imagine this poor young man could have been humiliated in front of his culture (Hispanic young males). Hopefully, nobody from his world saw the whole thing. On the other hand, word could get out that my daughter is kind of “cold.”

All in one or two seconds.

I’m convinced that a real conversation about race, ethnicity, and culture in this country will never take place. Generations will eventually assimilate, and that means Caucasian-Americans (!) will make further adjustments, as well.

It’s tough to be a teenager in this America, these days. Homeschooling, moving to the country, choosing specific neighborhoods, and talking about how a place is “a good place to raise kids” can be euphemisms for “the culture is more defined around here.” That’s true no matter which culture dominates, as long as the cultural rules are clear.

But throwing my kids into a place where you face “America” all at once…well, that just makes things difficult on them. (My apologies, you three poor Henley kids—I hope you don’t notice this blog this for a few years, still.) The goal was and is that nothing will bite you in the butt in adulthood that hasn’t hit you already. As a parent, though, it’s tough to watch the growing pains. I forced this life on my kids because I didn’t want them to deal with the ignorance I’ve spent 45 years overcoming. Right now, though, it feels like “ignorance is underrated.”

Song is worth a listen, by the way. So’s this song, where Ari Hest NAILS the attitude of a young man who left one specific place to find the “Silent P,” complete with kitschy pics and others from the Shawshank Redemption, no less. Glad to see someone else notices the motivational effect of Ari Hest’s “Aberdeen.”

I hope my kids look at this as a place to return, to call home. In the meantime, we’re all stuck here, stuck in “America.”

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A Snippet/Article for Teachers

Some ideas about getting started for all of those who will be doing so very soon. Keep two important things in mind when reading this article and writing rules you must live with for an academic year.

1. Have an official means of amending the rules. If the Constitution has that clause, so should a classroom.

2. The best idea (and quote) from this article is “You’re shooting for influence, not control.” This is akin to NBA Commissioner David Stern, who once fired a referee for over-reacting to an argument with Tim Howard. In an interview about it, Stern said the purpose of the referees was “game management.”

3. Remember when setting rules that the operative activity in the classroom is not teaching; rather, that key activity is learning. The purpose of the rules? Helping students learn.

Otherwise, it’s just a power game. Usually, a teacher will lose those.

Who Makes the Rules in a Classroom? Seven Ideas about Rule-making. – Teacher in a Strange Land – Education Week Teacher.

 

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