Friday, October 31, 2008

One of the things that disgusted me more than anything when watching the Republican National Convention last month was when Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin bashed community organizing as essentially a meaningless task. The Daily Show (my favorite show on television) takes on this issue in a smart, revealing, and very funny piece by John Oliver.

For more information on what community organizers do, read the description on Wikipedia and

Skepticism from another parent

A wedding photographer named Jill from Fresno, California has her own blog. Based upon browsing around the site, it primarily revolves around her business and her family. This includes her son who has Down Syndrome. She recently wrote a very passionate post about Sarah Palin's proposal for special education funding. Jill reminds us that it is not just that funding is needed for special education services:

"As [Palin] rightly said 'For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information.' What she totally glossed over, though, is that the information comes through sources her ticket is NOT endorsing: guaranteed medical coverage for all children. Where does most of our early information about our children and their ‘condition’ come from? Our doctors. Doctors our children won’t see without insurance. Therapists that our children won’t see without coverage. Visiting nurses that will no longer ‘visit’ us because our child isn’t able to get insurance (’pre-existing’ and ‘congenital’ often are treated the same by insurance companies). "

When one looks at education policy, not enough people look at the entire spectrum of issues that effects the schools and their students. It isn't just curriculum, or school funding, or teacher pay, or other things specifically related to education. It is also poverty, and social services, and yes, HEALTH CARE. The post concludes with something that anyone who cares about education (liberal or conservative) should remember:

"We want [children] educated, yes - but HEALTHY children learn better than UNhealthy children. It has to be from the bottom up - healthy children learn better. You can’t go ‘top-down’ — you can’t ‘teach a child healthy.’"

It is a great post and I encourage everyone to read it. While your at it, check out the rest of the website, including some of her photographs.

I'm not an expert, but . . .

Recently, Sarah Palin promised the parents of disabled students that a McCain administration would provide more federal funding via IDEA. Except the money would not help improve services in public schools themselves, but give parents "more choices" by allowing them to attend private schools with public funds. This sounds nice, but how does Governor Palin promise that services at a priate school will be any better? For that matter, how does the "voucher/charter school crowd" promise that those private schools will be any better for their students?

I am not an expert or authority on education policy, and I'm sure there is a good defense of all this. But to me, it seems the money would be better served improving public schools (it is called "public" for a reason). I have always had the feeling conservative education officials want to ultimately privatize education, just like health care (though I could be wrong). Furthermore, I find it hard to imagine that any of this will ever be adequately funded give the deficit and McCain's proposal for a spending freeze. I did find the end of the article rather interesting in how this is addressed:

"Ms. Palin said the costs could be covered by striking earmarks 'for political pet projects' from the federal budget, but Mr. McCain has already pledged that money for other goals."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who will be the next Secretary of Education?

Michael Klonsky is speculating who would be the Secretary of Education in an Obama administration. He floats around D.C. Michelle Ree, and New Mexico Senator Jeff Bignaman, but predicts it will be Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius:

"My prediction is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who’s made education funding her biggest priority as governor. Sebelius was recently appointed to a four-year term on the National Assessment Governing Board by Sec. Spellings and is a strong public school advocate. She led the battle against her own state school board (called them “an embarrassment”) over their support for teaching creationism in the state's public schools."

My Senator's odd choice of words

I have never been a fan of Republican Senator Kit Bond because of where he stands on the issues, though I have nothing against the guy personally. Today, he campaigned at a McCain-Palin rally in Cape Girardeau (Rush Limbaugh's hometown) with Sarah Palin, and said some things that were both reprehensible, and at the same time, very weird. First, there is this:

“Just this past week, we saw what Barack Obama said about judges. He said, ‘I’m tired of these judges who want to follow what the Founding Fathers said and the Constitution. I want judges who have a heart, have an empathy for the teenage mom, the minority, the gay, the disabled. We want them to show empathy. We want them to show compassion.’”

"The minority"? "The gay"? Does he not know how to pluralize nouns? Plus, when did Obama ever say he was tired of judges who follow the Founding Fathers and the Constitution? Then there is this:

“He thinks this country should be a government—not a government of laws, but a government of compassion and empathy, not of laws.”

Why can't our government be one of both laws, and compassion and empathy? Come on Senator!

Testing Industry is Booming

Forbes reports that despite, or rather, because of the economic collapse in our country, private education and testing industries are booming. The reasoning, it appears, is that parents are more worried than every about their children's future that they are willing to spend the extra money on testing seminars and educational references. One example is the test prep specialist company, Kaplan Inc. (owned by the Washington Post Company)

"The company is benefiting from economic downturn through increased demand from parents looking to grab more merit-based scholarships and financial aid for their kids through higher SAT and ACT scores."

I have nothing against companies and corporations providing educational resources per se, but I have always been weary of companies that create tests and test products that are so influential in education today. There is enough criticism that students are being taught how to take a test thanks to NCLB. But some schools are now requiring students to learn how to take the SAT and ACT directly from the test prep corporations themselves.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Learning Objective: How to BS to the America people

Before I decided to become a teacher, I wanted to be a journalist. Although I changed my mind to become a professional journalist (instead choosing to work on a blog like this), quality journalism is something I still have the highest respect for. When it comes to bad journalism, my disgust and reprehension is equally as strong, if not stronger. One example of bad journalism that almost never disappoints (or, I suppose, almost always disappoints) is cable news. There are many reasons for their poor quality of work, and one of them is the constant stream of pundits brought on the air to fill time.

The New York Times now reports on a school in Virginia called the Leadership Institute that trains conservative pundits who appear on cable news to better able to spew out their talking points (i.e to bull shit to the American people). While the article is primarily about this conservative institute, for the sake of fairness, it also points out that the liberal Center for American Progress started a "pundit project" that helps pundits with "on-air training" at Daily Kos's annual convention.

A good piece of journalism about bad journalism. Except I do have one question: why is the article part of the "Fashion and Style" section?

Substitute Teacher shows up drunk from the night before

In Oklahoma, substitute teacher Charlene Banks showed up to school after drinking Vodka to 11 p.m. the night before. Her speech was slurred, she couldn't still, and she smelled of booze. While I don't want to diminish the seriousness of such irresponsible behavior, it is a little funny. My favorite line from the story:

When an officer asked Banks how much vodka she had consumed the night before, she allegedly replied, "Does it matter? It's vodka."

Maybe this school district does things differently, but here is what I don't get: if your a substitute teacher, you generally have the option of accepting or declining an assigned classroom. If you want to get drunk on a particular night, just decline your requested assignment when you get the phone call from the school district. It is not as if you are fired if you say no. How hard is that?

Up to 50 students exposed to HIV

How very unfortunate that such a thing could have happened. A spokesman for the school district correctly summarized the biggest problem (outside of actual infection, of course):

"There's potential for stigma for all students regardless of whether they're positive or negative."

Not that it matters where it takes place, but the school is located in a suburb of St. Louis.

At-Risk Watch: Poor Vision

I have started a new series on this blog that I call "At-Risk Watch". When I find a new and interesting study, story, or post that looks at 1) characteristics of at-risk students and 2) reasons why students are at-risk. The other day, I looked at the problem of early chronic absences, which would fall under this category (although I had not created this series yet).

Today, I am looking at the connections between poor vision and students who are at-risk. At Education Policy Blog, Aaron Schutz (an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) has created a post on poor vision linked to a number of stories and studies. Most people probably think this is a relatively minor problem that is usually corrected with glasses or other forms of visual modifications. But it appears that this assumption is wrong.

The most interesting study for me is the connection between poor vision and delinquency that Professor Schutz has posted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What does the Vice President do?

Above is a video of Joe Biden being interviewed by a 5th grader in Palm Beach. It is a nice little video, but when the child asked him what the Vice President does, I thought Biden's response could have been better. Yes, Joe Biden will serve as an advisor (and a good one he will make), but I have yet to hear a Vice Presidential candidate explain the official duties of the office when asked about it. Remember, there aren't that many.

I realized I am making a bigger deal out of this than I should be, and Biden's response wasn't that bad. Maybe it's just the teacher and Political Science major in me. Hey, it's a better response (and certainly more accurate) than Sarah Palin's. Good Lord!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sarah Palin and Special Education

I think it is fine that Sarah Palin wants to be an advocate for special needs families nationwide, but talk is cheap. A special needs mom wrote into the blog Liberal Values making some very good points, and raising some very good questions. She opens the blog with the following:

I am an expert at raising a child with special needs. My son is an adult, 26 years of age.

Governor Palin, you have said repeatedly that you will be an advocate for parents of special needs children. It is now time for you to tell us what you mean by that statement. It is not enough that you chose to have a baby with special needs. There are thousands of us who made the same choice - and others like me who did not know until our children were born (or later even) that they had special needs. There are also hundreds of thousands of people with developmental disabilities on decades-long waiting lists for services across the country - and others who are completely unable to access services for their children because they don’t fit some arbitrary criteria.

Chronic Early Absences

There are numerous factors that can put kids "at-risk" to academic failure in their early years. The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) has just put out a report discussing Chronic Early Absence. It is when children in their early childhood years miss excessive amounts of their school, which effects their academic and social development. The NCCP considers the it "chronic" when they miss 10% or more of the school year, both excused and unexcused (truancy) absences. Above is a pyramid chart describing solutions to diminishing this problem (courtesy of the NCCP website).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Election 2008 (repost)

The following is the exact text I have copied and pasted this morning on the first version of my blog. It is the last post I made on there (other than my post saying that my blog has moved). I am re-posting it because it states my position on the election which I have yet to talk about until I started up my blog again. Enjoy!

I haven't talked about the 2008 election yet. It is probably not a surprise that as liberal as I am in my politics, that I am supporting Barack Obama. There are numerous reasons for this, including:
His support for getting out of Iraq as opposed to John McCain's belief that any kind of "victory" is still achievable (it isn't).

-His belief that economic policies should be geared more towards helping poor and middle class Americans instead of the wealthier ones.
-His background in civil rights and academics (hey, the guy is actually intelligent).
-His pragmatic approach to decision making.
-His youth and lack connection to the divisions of the 1960s (for more on this one, read
Andrew Sullivan's outstanding essay for The Atlantic back in December 2007).

In addition, I really do not want John McCain to be President. Not only because of Senator McCain's stance on Iraq, but for his reversal on other issues. While he is still a man I greatly respect for his long service to America, he is no longer the "maverick" he used to be. McCain, who once ran probably the most honorable campaigns in modern American political history in 2000, has now sold his soul in the hopes of winning the White House this year. For a while I thought that if McCain won the White House, he might actually say "the hell with 2 terms. I did what I had to do to win, and now I'm going back to being the Maverick I really am." However, his choice of the disastrous Sarah Palin proved to me that it isn't just politics. John McCain is a poor decision maker, and would make a terrible President.

Given the past 8 years, now more than ever, I feel we need Barack Obama. If he wins, I will celebrate his victory, but I promise, I will be his biggest critic starting after Inauguration Day (as I would for any President).

I promise that, before the election, I will do an UNBIASED analysis of both candidate's positions on education issues.

The Photograph comes from Barack Obama's website.

New Blog Name

Since I have started up my blog again, I have been trying to think of ways to increase traffic (or at the very least, get some traffic to begin with). I decided I needed to alter the title of the blog. Instead of "The (un)Reasonable Missourian", I have decided to go with "The (un)Reasonable Teacher". The meaning behind the title is not only seen below the title quote, but in this post when I first created the blog a year ago (just substitute the word "Missourian" with "Teacher"). Other additional information about the blog that I have previously posted (my autobiography, my updated autobiography, and why I decided to return), are posted under "About the Blog" to the side of the page. I have also posted the original blog website, in case you would like to read some of my earlier posts.

I choose a new title not only because it sounds better, but it also emphasizes the fact that this is primarily an education blog (though it will delve into other areas as well). In addition, I have changed the template of the blog, so it looks a little brighter.

Finally, as I have said, feel free to email me or leave a comment if you stumble across this blog. Tell me what you think about what is discussed here. After all, one of the things I want this blog to be about is an exchange of different ideas. Thanks