Tag Archives: adults

Prayer in Public Schools: It is as It Should Be

Lately, many Christians have come to feel they are being persecuted and denied their religious rights, specifically the right to pray in public schools. They believe there is a direct correlation between not allowing prayer in public schools and the problems that plague America. Maybe they are right about the impact of prayer on America’s issues, but they are misinformed to believe our nation’s problems are due to the lack of prayer in public schools. The truth is that school children have always been allowed to pray in public schools, but their prayers cannot be coerced, guided or influenced by public school employees. Restrictions on religious expression in schools apply to the adults, not the children and therein lies the rub.

It is hard to argue against prayer as an American right to religious expression for anyone. The fact that so many people in this nation’s 239 year history have fled and continue to flee to America to escape persecution for their religious beliefs, validates that religious expression lies at the core of America. Therefore, given this nation’s founding principles of equality and religious freedom, there is no logical reason not to allow prayer in public schools for everyone. To deny free and unobstructed prayer in public schools to anyone is to dishonor America’s heritage as a haven free from religious persecution.

The school prayer issue has become a derisive sore spot for many people as well as for their communities. The issue has become a symbol of the growing perception of the downward spiral of our country; it has become another divisive wedge that threatens to rip the nation apart. But, in a nation that embraces diversity and equality, why do we allow such a sore spot to fester and tear us apart? What could be more unifying than simply permitting unrestricted prayer in public schools for everyone, adults and students alike? Isn’t that what everyone wants?

America is one of the few places in the world where people can worship as they choose without fear of religious persecution or physical retribution for their beliefs. Religious freedom is as much American as apple pie. So is prayer in school. Consequently, prayer in school should not be debatable; prayer is a fundamental right of all American citizens regardless of their religious beliefs. In America, religious expression is an open invitation to everyone regardless of where they work, what tongue they speak or what religion they embrace. Therefore, a logical solution to the prayer in public schools issue is to open prayer to everyone.

Why should there be any restrictions on prayer in public schools? Prayer does not need to be restricted; all that is needed is a plan to make it fair and accessible to everyone. However, if we are to allow unrestricted prayer in public schools and make prayer available to everyone, we must exercise caution and have a plan that honors the religious diversity of the communities in which schools exist. The plan must be free of prejudice, bias and disenfranchisement of anyone’s religious beliefs or rights. For example, the chart below provides a logical diversified plan for prayer in public schools that provides fairness and accessibility to all.

Weekly School Prayer Schedule:

Day The following religions will lead school prayer on the day assigned: Open School with Prayer over the Intercom Start Each Class with Prayer Prayer at Lunch Prayer at School Activities
Monday Christianity Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tuesday Judaism Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wednesday Islam Yes Yes Yes Yes
Thursday Other Religions Buddhism Hinduism Muslim Baha’i
Friday Other Religions Unitarian Universalist Wiccan/Pagan/Druid New Age Scientology
Saturday Nonreligious/Secular No No No No

This chart illustrates what prayer in public schools might look like without the restrictions that are currently in place in our public schools. Is this what Americans want? Is this what Christians want? Would such a plan work? Probably not. When it comes to their religion, most people struggle to see beyond their own nose. Most people, including Christians, would balk at any plan or situation that held their children as a captive audience to philosophies and beliefs they do not support, and that is exactly why prayer exists as it does in today’s public schools. Current restrictions on prayer in public schools have nothing to do with a conspiracy to take God and prayer from schools. The religious limitations placed on adults in public schools are a safeguard to protect children from adult religious influences that may be in conflict with the religious teachings and values taught in the home and church. For parents, for Christians, to insist prayer be allowed in schools without restrictions is dangerous to the very values the Christian community or any other religious community wishes to instill in their children.

It is difficult for many Christians to understand that the right to pray in public schools does not only extend to Christians. Not only have Christians fought and died for freedom and religious rights in America, but many non-Christian families have sacrificed for this nation as well. They have just as much right to pray and shout their religious convictions from the school rooftop as Christians. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that rather than turn public schools into a religious battleground or marketplace for the souls of a captive audience, our children, that we as a society impose some restrictions on the role of religion in public schools?

What is so wrong with prayer being in the hands of the students as it is now? No law in America has ever silenced student initiated or student led prayer in public schools. Public school children are free to pray as they wish, talk to their peers about their God, and even hold hands during lunch and pray as a group. They have never been denied their right to personal religious expression through prayer or even witnessing to other students. The law only prevents adults from initiating and leading religious expression in public schools. The only limitation on prayer in public schools is undue influence by an adult.

I am a Christian, and I for one do not want any adult in school or otherwise influencing the religious beliefs of my grandchildren other than their mama and daddy and their church. As Christians, we should teach our children how to pray at home and in church, so that when they get to the school house they are comfortable praying if and when they choose without adult coercion, influence or guidance. As a former high school principal, one of the most powerful testaments to faith I ever witnessed was students holding hands and bowing their heads in prayer in the school cafeteria. They didn’t need an adult to call them together to pray. They didn’t need an adult to say, “Bow your heads, let’s pray.” They were led by their faith, a faith that was instilled in them at home and in church, and that is how it should be.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 29, 2015

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You might need to go back to school if . . . .

Part III: Politics

Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.  Sloan Wilson

Have you ever wondered why so many politicians claim to represent the people who elected them, but when they get to Jackson or Washington they become independent contractors representing special interest groups and personal agendas rather than the people? Listen to them speak; all too often they speak of the people, but not for the people. Although they may be elected under the umbrella of a certain party and therefore owe a certain allegiance to that party, they tend to forget their first responsibility is to the people and not the party. They are the elected voice of the people and not the elected voice of the party, or at least that is how it is supposed to work.

Such contradictions of purpose are common in arenas such as politics where there is little accountability. During elections, politicians know they can make any promise they need to entice people to vote for them. They know accountability comes once every two, four, or six years according to their office term limits, and more important, they know voters have notoriously short memories. Therefore, once elected, they can do practically whatever they want until their final year or maybe eighteen months in office when they once again hit the streets and airwaves campaigning, political hobnobbing, fabricating new promises, and padding their accomplishments to fit the ear of the voter. Face it, most voters are basically lazy; they rarely take a deep look into the past records of candidates they vote for in elections – locally or nationally. They simply vote for the party; they follow the lead of friends and relatives; they cast their vote based on image; or they decide who to vote for when they get to the polls and see the ballot for the first time, which means they often favor the incumbent.

In America, our leadership problems are as much the result of the laissez-faire attitude of the public as it is who the public elects. We vote out of allegiance to a party, we vote how someone tells us to vote, or we don’t vote at all. In today’s world, people even tend to shy away from voting their conscious for fear of being politically incorrect or out of sync with family and friends. The days of deep independent, intelligent thinkers have been replaced by strict party allegiances, apathy, and fanatical bigotry sometimes thinly veiled by the auspices of patriotism and religion. When it comes to putting the right people in leadership positions, we are our own worst enemy. We are guilty of paying an unbelievable amount of lip service to the political process, but when it comes to voting and accountability, we display an incredible lack of interest. We talk a good game, but talk is about all we do when it comes to politics. So, maybe, its time the voting public went back to school and learned about their responsibilities as a citizen . . . .

You might need to go back to school if . . . .

  1. You believe the Tea Party is the party of the people;
  2. You believe Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Tea Leoni’s character on “Madam Secretary” have more than hair color in common;
  3. You believe the Mississippi Republican party supports public education;
  4. You believe either party – Democrats or Republicans – holds all the right answers;
  5. You believe the nationwide GOP push to privatize public education is for the good of children and not a ploy to line the pockets of the private sector eager to get its hands on education dollars;
  6. You believe Mississippi does not have the $1.3 billion it has shorted education over the past few years, or you believe the $1.3 billion Nissan received from Mississippi during the same period came from the tooth fairy or Santa Claus;
  7. You believe like 4% of the American public that “lizard people” control our society through big business and politics;
  8. You need or allow a political party to do your thinking for you;
  9. You can identify the Three Stooges but not the three branches of government; and
  10. You believe a “merge right” highway sign is an invitation to a Ted Cruz political rally.

Although it is easy to believe politicians are the blame for so many of our problems, it is not as easy to look in the mirror and see the real problem. If a politician or political system becomes unaccountable to the people, there is no one to blame but the people. When citizens fail to understand this simple truth, then maybe it’s time they went back to school and revisited Political Science 101 and History 101.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 23, 2015

You might need to go back to school if . . . .

Part II: Believers

“People say they love truth, but in reality they want to believe that which they love is true.”    Robert J. Ringer

I believe most people become annoyed and even angry when you don’t believe as they do because they want assurance that if they are wrong, they are not alone. Friendships have been lost and wars have been fought simply for the sake of convincing, coercing, or outright forcing people to buy into the beliefs of others. Regardless of their social standing, ethnicity or education, people are not comfortable or happy unless everyone around them thinks and believes as they do.   When people climb out on the believers’ limb, they do not want to be alone, and they will do whatever it takes to bring others out on that limb with them. However, lately, it seems the vast majority of people need little convincing or coercing to climb out on that limb no matter how outrageous or precarious.

To be socially accepted in the circles they travel, people in general have little problem believing in anything that is thinkless [sic] or void of common sense. For example, look at television commercials. Every year, the public spends billions of dollars on gadgets advertised to make their life easier and more enjoyable: gadgets that let them listen in on private conversations through walls a block away (Can you say voyeurism, eavesdropping, or unethical?), gadgets such as X-Ray glasses that supposedly allow you to see through fabric or clothes (Can you say perverted?) and health gadgets such as elastic belly wraps guaranteed to peel away the fat by simply wearing the device daily (Can you say gullible?). People are born believers in anything that guarantees them an easy solution to righting their perceived or actual inadequacies. They buy into TV commercials, clearly biased news reporting, hearsay, stealth politics and even peer pressure in their continuous quest for anything that helps them “fit in,” fixes them or promises to bring truth and happiness into their lives.

The problem is that people too often tend to blindly embrace fabricated truths. But, unless you are willing to subject yourself to ridicule and abuse, it is best to allow them to indulge in their delusions or fantasies of reality. They are hurting no one but themselves and maybe their pocketbooks; therefore, sometimes the best remedy for ignorance is to not nurture it by ignoring it. But, unfortunately there are times when ignoring ignorance is like feeding plague pellets to rats; the ignorance infection grows out of control even faster. In today’s society, there is no shortage of people willing to blindly wallow in ignorance.  Isaac Asimov said, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” In an age of convenience, the only sword of knowledge some people possess is their ignorance. They sometimes flaunt their ignorance under the flags of individual rights, religion, and what is politically correct. Why? I believe Thomas Edison explained it best when he said, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” In today’s society, it is easier to accept ignorance as a fact than it is to use common sense and brain power to invalidate the stupid, the ignorant, and the ridiculous. Thinking has become too much work for a society more interested in being entertained, patronized, sanctified, and politicized.

So, what can be done? Probably nothing! Of course, it would be best for everyone if shallow thinkers simply went back to school and started over. We have Head Start programs for underprivileged children, so why not have a Restart program for underprivileged adults who are intellectually and common sense challenged? It certainly would not be difficult to identify candidates for such a program. The beliefs people embrace are often the biggest clue that they desperately need to unplug and reboot – THEY NEED TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL!

You might need to go back to school if . . . .

  1. You believe you can deal with stupid people by arming yourself with knowledge;
  2. You believe Preparation-H shrinks wrinkles;
  3. You believe in the first and second amendments, but not the pursuit of “life, liberty, and happiness” for all people;
  4. You believe yoga is an evil practice and Harry Potter is an evil book designed to trick people into joining the dark side;
  5. You believe you can change a stupid person’s mind by lowering your standards and looking at life from his/her perspective;
  6. You believe in Rumpology or “bottom reading” as a legitimate science. If you do, maybe you can tell me why I get this sudden pain in my right rump cheek when I am around you, or maybe that does explain it;
  7. You believe in Urine Therapy! Here’s drinking to your health;
  8. You believe everything you read on the Internet, Facebook, and Rolling Stone;
  9. You believe adults don’t urinate in swimming pools; and
  10. You believe it is okay to share your opinions, but take offense when others share theirs.

I doubt such a list will strike a personal nerve with any of my readers, but if you recognize a friend, relative, or acquaintance in any of these ten items, please help that person enroll in the nearest school as soon as possible. Your sanity and mine may well depend on it.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 11, 2015

Coming in future weeks:

Part III:                       You might need to go back to school if . . . . for Politics

Part IV:                       You might need to go back to school if . . . . for the Gullible

Part V:                         You might need to go back to school if . . . . for the Simple Minded

Did the Punishment Fit the Crime: Test Fraud in Atlanta

Cheating is never right, so many will applaud the punishment handed out to ten Atlanta administrators and teachers charged with racketeering for cheating on state-administered standardized tests. Three of the ten convicted educators will serve a minimum of seven years each in prison while five will serve a minimum of one to two years each in prison. All ten will face stiff fines and 1,000 to 2,000 hours of community service. Did the punishment fit the crime? Maybe, but it is interesting to note that according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the three educators sentenced to seven years in prison may have received a lighter sentence in 87% of the crimes tracked by the Commission. Only murder, kidnapping/hostage taking, sexual abuse, and pornography/prostitution carried longer median sentences than the three Atlanta educators received for cheating on standardized tests. Although testing fraud is serious and should be punished, do these educators really deserve harsher punishment than 87% of hardened criminals?

Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Jerry Baxter, said, “Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime.” There is little to argue with in the judge’s statement, but as despicable as the actions of these administrators and teachers were, it is hard not to see them as victims also. Administrators and teachers across the United States are under inordinate pressure to meet district and state student achievement targets and failing to do that they often face severe evaluation and/or termination consequences. The Atlanta educators were no different. However, they could have taken the high road and let the chips fall where they may as the vast majority of educators do, but they chose to sell their professionalism and integrity for a shortcut to success – their success, not the children’s. As a result, the children became victims of their fraud, and they became victims of their own stupidity as well as victims of a “CAN’T WIN” testing system for school administrators and teachers.

That these educators should be held accountable for their actions is not in question, but their sentencing does not solve the problem. Their sentencing only substantiates there is a problem. Judge Baxter is right; when the stroke of the cheater’s pen passes kids regardless of their ability to read, write, or do basic math, the kids become victims. However, aren’t they also victims when their parents don’t take responsibility for their education; aren’t they also victims when state lawmakers do not adequately fund education; aren’t they also victims when teachers pass kids to the next grade who lack the skills needed to succeed; aren’t they also victims when principals tell teachers no one fails even when kids do not have the skills needed for the next grade or school; and aren’t they also victims when superintendents make it clear to principals and teachers that their jobs depend on how well kids do on state tests?

If educators are to be held accountable for a child’s education, which they should be, it stands to reason that not only teachers but everyone who has a hand in the child’s education, including parents and state lawmakers should be held just as accountable. Why should school administrators and teachers shoulder all the pressure and blame? After all, if judges are going to uphold children as victims in cases of test fraud and hand out prison sentences normally reserved for hardened criminals, shouldn’t the same consequences be applied to parents of children with excessive absences from school or parents of children with habitual behavior problems in the classroom that impedes the teacher’s ability to teach? Also, shouldn’t the same consequences be applied to state lawmakers who fail to fully fund resources needed by teachers and children in the classroom? Aren’t children being educationally harmed, cheated, and victimized just as much by the actions or lack of actions by these individuals?

There are no doubts the administrators and teachers in Atlanta deserved to be punished for their fraud, but a more fitting punishment may have been to strip them for life of their license to teach and ban them for life from involvement in education in any capacity whether it be in the public or private sectors. Fines large enough to make it hurt and community service were appropriately part of their sentencing, and the shame and stigma they will carry with them for the rest of their lives may very well be the harshest punishment they will receive. However, Judge Baxter felt more was needed than expulsion from the teaching profession, large fines, and community service. He felt such an egregious conspiracy to fraud by professional men and women who disgraced their profession, themselves, and their families deserved more, and he may have been right. Through his actions, he has sent a message across the nation that such disingenuous neglect of duty will not be tolerated. Maybe, someday neglect of duty will likewise not be tolerated by the courts in the ranks of parents and state lawmakers as well.  After all, when it comes to educating children, educators are not alone, or are they?

JL

©Jack Linton, April 19, 2015

Principals do not Invent Crappy Useless Time Consuming Things for Teachers to do!

Most teachers do not understand what makes their principal tick, or why so much of what he does comes across as stupid or without reason. They often wonder what planet he is from, why he constantly assigns extra work to them, why he is always on their back, what possesses him to make asinine decisions, and the list goes on and on. However, contrary to popular teacher beliefs, principals are just as human as teachers. Sometimes they may not act it, but they are indeed human, and as such, they feel many of the same frustrations teachers feel. Although their actions may sometimes appear desperate, stupid, insensitive, or outright incompetent, there is usually some rhyme or reason to their madness. But, teachers often fail to understand the madness due to not comprehending how the principalship works, and/or due to misconceptions about principals that have been engrained in the teaching profession for decades.

A major misconception of many teachers is that principals sit around inventing crappy useless time consuming things for teachers to do. The truth, however, is that most principals do not have time to sit down much less think about inventing crappy useless time consuming tasks. When they do sit, it is often with their face in their hands wondering how they are going to find time during the school day to meet with five irate parents, two bickering teachers, visit at least ten classrooms, attend a meeting at central office with the assistant superintendent and food services director on the nutritional value of serving SPAM burgers over hamburgers in the school cafeteria, complete a mega data report due to central office by 3:00 p.m., meet with the superintendent over a disciplinary issue that has the community up in arms, meet with a fuming bus driver who doesn’t think the assistant principal is supporting her when she tells kids they cannot read a book on her bus, meet with a couple of fired-up club sponsors to explain for the second time why they cannot conduct candy sales during breakfast and lunch, make phone calls to local pastors apologizing for the football team practicing late Wednesday evening, meet after school with the counselors to discuss course offerings for the next school year, supervise the junior varsity football game that night, and before going to bed at one or two in the morning complete a crappy useless time consuming report that must be on the superintendent’s desk no later than 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Another common teacher misconception is the principal and sometimes even the school board is out to get them. Unless the teacher lives in Oxford, Mississippi and his name is Dan Jones, this is not something teachers need to worry about. Principals do not have time to plot against anyone. They do not want to get rid of teachers unless they are not doing their job. One of the happiest times of a principal’s professional life is when he doesn’t have to conduct interviews to fill teaching vacancies for the coming school year. That rarely happens, but when it does, no one is happier than the principal. Principals are usually so thankful they have found enough teachers crazy enough to sign a contract that plotting to get rid of one of them rarely crosses their mind. The only plotting most principals are guilty of is scheming to find a week to get away during the summer.

The bottom line for principals is they, like teachers, are simply trying to survive. Why should they invent conflict when the very nature of their job tends to attract more conflict than they ever bargained for? Teachers understand stress and conflict as much as anyone, so why they often believe school administrators are sheltered from or immune to conflict is baffling. Maybe the problem is that unlike the principal who has served as a classroom teacher, teachers do not have a reference point to help them make a connection between the job they do and the job a principal does. In the eyes of many teachers, the principal’s job is to make sure there is toilet paper in the teacher lounge restrooms, keeping troublesome students out of their hair, and staying out of their way so they can teach. They simply do not understand what a principal does all day other than sit in his office and think of more useless crap for them to do. Therefore, it stands to reason that if they had a better understanding of the role of the principal, they might better understand that the roles of a teacher and principal are extensions of each other – each needs the other to have a successful school as well as to survive.

What Every Teacher Needs To Know About The Principal

  1. The principal was once a teacher too. It is doubtful that he has completely forgotten what it is like being a teacher:
    • It is doubtful that the principal has completely forgotten what it is like being a teacher unless he was one of those principals who spent less than five years as a classroom teacher. To expect a person to be an effective administrator without adequate time in the classroom is laughable. Without a solid base of five or more years in the classroom, it is a rare principal or assistant principal who truly understands the role of the teacher and has the knowledge and tools to provide the administrative support expected by the teachers;
    • It is doubtful that the principal has completely forgotten what it is like being a teacher unless he was socially promoted (Yes, it happens with students, and it happens with teachers). Sometimes an inept or marginal teacher is promoted to an administrative position because he is a hometown boy, goes to the right church, travels in the right circles, or at one time was a damn good coach, so when the day comes the district can no longer prop him up as a teacher or his coaching candle dims, he is promoted to assistant principal or principal as the lesser of evils;
    • It is doubtful that the principal has completely forgotten what it is like being a teacher unless he is just an outright A__hole, and unfortunately, just like with teachers, there are sometimes a few of these hanging around;
  2. Principals, like teachers, want to be left alone! Like teachers, they would like to be able to do their job without constant interruptions from central office, angry or needy parents, bickering teachers, gossip generated by teachers, and vendors peddling their wares;
  3. Principals hate paperwork, evaluations, and testing as much as teachers . . . .
    • Principals rarely require extra paperwork of their teachers unless by directive from central office or the state department of education. When it comes to paperwork, ninety-nine percent of the time the principal is simply the messenger;
    • Principals don’t like being judged/evaluated, and they dislike judging/evaluating others even more. This is especially true when the evaluation process and evaluation tool is little more than an “I gottcha” process or a checklist to document the principal went through the motions of conducting a teacher evaluation. These types of evaluations are a waste of time for both the principal and the teacher; and
    • Most principals understand that accountability is important, but when state testing eats up a quarter of the instruction time allotted for the school year, the school ceases to exist as a place of learning. It is transformed into a data collection venue for data that has little relevancy for the students or teachers by the time it is processed and sent back to the school several months later;
  4. Principals make decisions based on the following priorities . . . .
    • First, the safety of the students, faculty, support staff, and uncertified personnel;
    • Second, what is best for students;
    • Third, what is best for the faculty;
    • Fourth, what is best for the support staff;
    • Fifth, what is best for individual certified personnel;
    • Sixth, what is best for the community;
    • Seventh, what is best for non-certified personnel; and
    • Finally, what is best for the administrative staff can only be considered after all other considerations have been evaluated;
  5. Principals and teachers are both human, and as such, they are not always right. The difference is that teachers expect to be forgiven for their faults or mistakes, but they are often reluctant to extend forgiveness to an administrator for his faults or mistakes;
  6. It is not personal on the principal’s part if he forgets something he was told outside his office. More than likely, a principal will be stopped several times in the hall by teachers, students, custodians, etc., so the odds of his remembering all the important things he was told in the hallway when he gets back to his office are very slim at best;
  7. Teachers do not have a monopoly on stress! Principals deal with stress from home, students, parents, colleagues, central office, the state department, federal guidelines, community, church, Walmart, the mall, etc. Principals are confronted by school stress no matter where they go! Principals are on stress call 24/7.
  8. Like teachers, principals like to hear they are appreciated for the job they do. Constant negatives tend to raise stress levels and make both teachers and principals a little less human;
  9. Principals welcome constructive feedback. If something is not working, teachers should talk to their principal about it, but they should never talk to him without a solution in mind. The solution should be well thought out and even backed by research when possible. Principals value the perspective of teachers who share ideas and concerns with them. They may not always agree, and sometimes the meeting accomplishes little more than an agreement to disagree, but by initiating a conversation with the principal, the teacher has planted the seed for possible change in the future. Teachers must also understand that principals cannot make every brilliant idea happen that teachers approach them with even when the principal would like to do so. Sometimes, days or even months pass before a spark the teacher generated in an earlier meeting with the principal leads to a resolution that neither the teacher nor the principal had previously considered;
  10. Principals are put off by faculty or staff who appear to be slackers or clock watchers;
  11. Principals expect follow through when they ask a teacher to do something. Unfortunately, some teachers think ignoring this expectation and begging for forgiveness later is cute and acceptable; however, it is often a sure way for the teacher to get his name on the “poop list.” When the principal asks a teacher to do something, he expects it to be done whether the teacher agrees or not. The only exception to following a principal’s directive is if his request is unethical or morally wrong; then the teacher has every right to balk;
  12. Principals expect teachers to handle the majority of the discipline issues in their classroom. Unfortunately, some teachers see this as the principal trying to avoid doing his job. However, any teacher worth his salt knows classroom management is the responsibility of the teacher. If kids were robots, teaching would be easy, but when the robots are programed with personalities and brain waves, the difficulty of the teaching task changes dramatically. Learning to manage personalities and focus the brain on learning is the teacher’s responsibility, administrators are there to support teachers with interruptions they cannot handle on their own, but they are not there to take over the daily classroom management for the teacher;
  13. Sometimes it is hard for principals to have empathy for teachers who moan about long hours, especially when the principal logged eighty hours Monday through Saturday of the previous week working at the school and supervising extra-curricular activities. It is exhausting and unfortunate, but working long hours goes with the territory for all educators!
  14. Principals create new programs and policies each year not to make things harder or give teachers more to do, but because they understand there is always room for improvement. One of the worst things that can happen to a school is for the actions of the faculty, support staff, and even the administration to become stale or complacent; and
  15. Principals care about kids just as much as teachers do!

This list of 15 is only scratching the surface, but regardless of what is said in support of principals, some teachers will never change their perceptions of them. Nonetheless, principals do far more than drink coffee all day, take two hour lunch breaks, and sit around and think of ways to make teachers miserable just as teachers do a whole lot more than talk to kids or watch them color all day, and then go home and count their money. As a former principal, I will not hesitate to say that other than the students, the teachers are the most important people in the school. But, as a former teacher, I must admit that until I walked in the shoes of a principal, I had no idea how valuable the principal was to the overall success of the school and to my success as a teacher. There are three roles schools depend on more than any other for success: the role of the student, the role of the teacher, and the role of the principal. Without students there is no school; without teachers there is no learning; without principals there is no order.

JL

©Jack Linton, April 6, 2015

Funding Mississippi Education and Seceding from the Union

I see where Governor Phil Bryant will sign the state Senate’s education funding bill although it short changes K-12 education by another $211 million dollars. I could rant and rave about how little the Governor and the state legislators value education, but these men and women have children and grandchildren of their own, so it’s hard to believe they do not value education to some extent. More likely the truth is that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot financially afford to do what is right educationally for its children. However, the problem with that truth is that it makes the Governor’s and legislators’ aversion to the Federal dollars that have financially propped up Mississippi for years, and their support for doing away with state income taxes that account for 31% of the state’s total revenues even more bewildering. This is a troubling paradox which stands to be corrected only through the ballot box, but Mississippi has long been enamored with its paradoxes, so sanity is not likely to occur through the vote.

If we accept the truth that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot afford to fully fund education, then we must also accept the truth that cutting a third of the state’s revenues is not a practical solution to providing for our children’s education or any of the other countless services needed in the state. Anyone who does not accept that truth either has a private bankroll capable of providing for all their children’s needs, including education, or they know of some secret stash the state has hidden away in a Richton salt dome. But, this is not just an education issue; it is an issue that permeates all agencies and divisions of the state. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by throwing away your wallet and praying for heavenly intervention although when it comes to funding education in Mississippi, educators have been praying for heavenly intervention for years.

Many state legislators call for improvement in education before they “hand out” more money. I agree there are improvements that can be made in education, but withholding funding to make that point is grossly negligent on the part of our legislators. Withholding funds until improvement is realized as so many legislators advocate does not resolve the problem, but rather exacerbates the problem.   Also, although it is highly laughable, too many of our leaders in Jackson believe Mississippi teachers are getting rich off the state. As a result, our children are growing educationally poorer due to distrust and declining legislative financial support. However, the biggest problem with our leadership in Jackson is they fail to understand the education funding issue in Mississippi is not about teachers; it is about children.

When it comes to making a living for their families, teachers in Mississippi are in the same boat as the majority of the people in the state; they struggle. Most families in Mississippi, including teacher families, do not have a bankroll capable of providing private education for their children, nor do they have a key to the mystical stash in Richton; they depend on a free public education for their children’s future. Therefore, instead of conjuring up ways to throw away a third of the state’s revenue, we need legislators who think outside the proverbial box to find ways to better address state funding not only for education but for all areas that depend on state funding. To do that, our leadership needs to look for ways to consolidate spending as well as avenues for creating new revenue dollars rather than proposing schemes that will further cripple the state. Therefore, in line with the current trend of enigmatic thinking engulfing our state and country, I want to share some practical funding suggestions and benefits of thinking creatively and not foolishly.

Practical Suggestions for Funding Mississippi Education

Practical Suggestion #1: Consolidate elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools at the county level.

Benefit: Under this plan, the state would save money by having only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school in each county. By slashing the number of schools in the state by 75%, the savings in administrative and instructional personnel as well as support staff alone would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So what if it means mega schools of three to four thousand kids, the savings to the state would make it more than worthwhile.

Practical Suggestion #2: Consolidate or reduce the number of state senators and state representatives to Jackson.

Benefit: Under this plan, the state could have one senator from each county, which would increase the Mississippi Senate from 52 members to 82 members. Second, three representatives to the state house would be elected from each of five state congressional districts such as the Coastal District, Central District, Capital District, Delta District, and Hills District. In each district, one Republican, one Democrat, and one at large representative to the State House of Representatives would be elected. This would reduce the number of state representatives from 122 to 15. This plan would reduce the overall number of state legislators from 174 to 97, which would save the taxpayers around $2,000,000 annually if not more.

Practical Suggestion #3: Conduct a study to look for redundancy in the 138 state agencies and departments. Reduce the number of state agencies and departments as indicated by the study through consolidation.

Benefit: Considerable savings could be made by consolidating some of the 138 state agencies. Savings would come by eliminating redundant directorships, support staff and clerical staff.

Practical Suggestion #4: Direct MDOT to be more conservative and repair state roads and highways with pea gravel instead of expensive paving. Also, to save money on bridge repairs, MDOT should think outside the box, and build ramps on both sides of deteriorating bridges.

Benefit: Money saved by MDOT to repair roads and bridges would actually be redirected back to the working sector. For example, mechanics would benefit greatly from automobiles constantly in contact with pea gravel potholes and ramping over creeks, rivers and overpasses where bridges once stood. I can also see a sudden spike in business for body shops as people across the state opt to have their cars painted orange like Bo and Luke’s car on the Dukes of Hazard! In addition, gas stations would benefit from the need for higher priced high octane fuel, car dealers would benefit from selling more souped up automobiles, insurance companies would benefit by charging higher rates, and the demand for emergency response and medical personnel would skyrocket.

Practical Suggestion #5: Require all adults in the state to exercise their second amendment rights and carry a firearm. This would effectively reduce the number of sheriffs, deputies, highway patrol officers, police officers and other law enforcement personnel needed in the state.

Benefit: Money would be saved by moving to a vigilante style of citizen law enforcement. What law enforcement personnel left could spend their time helping coroners identify bodies.

Practical Suggestion #6: Completely restructure K-12 education by placing one certified teacher in each school as the lead teacher, and since anybody can teach, hire substitute teachers off the street to teach classes. For administrative positions such as principals and assistant principals, conduct a monthly community lottery to draw names for a lucky citizen to serve in those positions for a month, or better yet, draw the lottery names from a hat containing the names of state legislators. For clerical positions, it would be the civic duty of all citizens to sign up to serve in their local school for one week each year.

Benefit:   This plan would allow the state to funnel the majority of public school dollars to private schools and charters and populate those schools with elite upper class, white middle class, and minorities with unique athletic skills while reserving public schools for poor whites and non-athletic minorities. This would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Practical Suggestion #7: Charge parents for any absentees their child accrues beyond 10 days unless the child is hospitalized or is bedridden for more than three days under a doctor’s care.

Benefit: Charging parents for excessive absenteeism makes sense. The money paid by parents would go to help offset the expense of providing tutoring services, loss of state funding to schools and summer schools.

Just think how much money Mississippi would save if such a plan was adopted! This plan would allow the state to save so much money that Mississippi could afford to secede once again from the distrustful United States of America. By doing so, Mississippi would no longer be enticed to accept those evil nasty Federal dollars the government keeps trying to shove down our poor throats to offset the expenses of such things as education and health care. With this plan there would be so much extra revenue pouring into the state coffers, Mississippi could afford to entice companies to build in Mississippi with one-hundred year state tax exemptions; the state would even have enough money to pay the cost of moving the companies’ management and workers to Mississippi. Finally, we could elect our own president, Bubba, field boss, or master or whatever the state legislature decides is best for us. There would be no state taxes! The only requirement would be to raise cotton in your backyard, and happily sing, “We Have Overcome” in tribute to the personal and political agendas and opinions of those who know best in Jackson.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 24, 2015

The Common Core Standards Controversy

Common core standards, an attempt by big government to take over the minds of our children, or the best chance our children have to be competitive in a global society, has been the subject of much debate lately.  The standards focus on the cognitive skills of children and emphasize teaching depth over breadth.  Opponents scream the standards are a federally funded program, and the truth is the federal government has incentivized states to adopt the standards through such programs as Race to the Top funding and the No Child Left behind waiver process.  However, the argument that we should oppose common core standards because it is being funded by the federal government does not hold water.  The fact is that the federal government has been subsidizing education in this country to some extent since the 1950’s.  For example, Title I, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed in 1965 during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, is the most comprehensive federal legislation impacting education ever passed by Congress.  Over 56,000 schools in the United States including Mississippi schools accept Title 1 money from the federal government every year.  Based on 2011 – 2012 data from the United States Department of Education, 877 schools out of 925 in Mississippi received Title I funding from the federal government to the tune of $193,652,567.  This is just an example of federal government subsidies to Mississippi schools, and although I would like to see less government involved in our schools, I have yet to see any Big Brother brainwashing, or anything government related that is overly intrusive other than paperwork.  If nothing else, Mississippians should be thankful we live in a country where such support is possible – after all, I see it as putting our tax dollars to good use.  Of course, there are those who will disagree, but until we elect people to our state legislature who are willing to fully fund education every year as the law requires, we will always be a state with our hand out begging for whatever support we can find for our children.  People need to remember that the Mississippi state legislature has fully funded education only twice since the MAEP formula was adopted in 1997, and both of those years were election years, 2003 and 2007.  However, even if a miracle happened and the Mississippi legislature fully funded education, we would still need federal dollars to survive.  Face it people, we live in a great state, but economically a very poor state.

Therefore, even though personally I would like to be able to tell the federal government we don’t need your help, so leave us alone, the truth is that in Mississippi we do need the federal government’s help in funding education for our children.  This may be hard to swallow for some, but it is not only the truth; it is a fact.  It is also an unfortunate fact of life that the truth is not always what we wish it to be, and the truth about Common Core Standards is no different.  A person may have a million reasons to oppose Common Core Standards, but the truth is that our children need the standards regardless of opposition that is often founded on what is best for adults rather than what is best for children.  As I see it, there are basically ten reasons why people oppose the Common Core Standards:

1.  Common Core Standards make some parents, politicians, and teachers uncomfortable.  Many teachers, parents, and politicians are intimidated by what they don’t understand or by what they feel challenges the status quo;

2.  Common Core Standards make it difficult for parents to help their children with homework; therefore, the standards are not good for children.  That is equivalent to a parent telling his or her child that I am not good in math, so you don’t need to be good in math either;

3.  Some parents, politicians, and teachers believe Common Core Standards are a   federal takeover of education.  It is not a federal takeover of education, but for as long as Mississippi has been on the bottom, maybe we need somebody to take over.  It should be obvious by now that we don’t know how or don’t have the capacity to pick ourselves up.  Sometimes our “ain’t nobody gonna tell us what to do” mentality is an anchor around our necks that holds us firmly to the bottom.

4.  Some parents and teachers are happy with the way things have been in the past, and for them the present is fine also.  They are content with Mississippi being ranked 51 out of 51 in the nation.  Their generation and the generations before them have known only marginal academic success at best, so why should today’s generation be any different?  A marginal education was good enough for them, so it should be good enough for their children and grandchildren;

5.  Some politicians are afraid of creating a society of critical thinkers who can analyze data and make informed decisions on issues affecting their lives.  They cringe at the idea of a Mississippi full of free thinkers who have wrenched themselves free of the puppeteer’s strings;

6.  Many in the Tea Party movement look at Common Core Standards as a threat to charter schools and vouchers and their underlying agenda to destroy public schools;

7.  Some people fear Common Core Standards cannot deliver what it promises.  Their underlying reasoning is that we may be number 51 in the nation, but at least we know where we are and where we will be ten years from now;

8.  Some people fear Common Core Standards will develop a nation of anxious robotic children who have been brainwashed by big government.  This is just pure nonsense.  The government has nothing to do with developing anxious robotic children.  That credit belongs to an addiction to cell phones, video games, and countless hours in front of the television;

9.  Common Core Standards create a trickle down stress effect:  teachers are stressed by teaching more conceptually rather than factually, children are stressed because they have never been required to think on their own, parents are stressed because their child is stressed because he or she is having to work harder for an “A”, and politicians are stressed that they will lose votes because parents are stressed; and

10.  Some politicians are afraid that if the implementation of Common Core Standards is successful, they will no longer have teachers to belittle and use as their whipping boy.  If they can no longer bash teachers, who will they be able to intimidate and rail against for the poor state of affairs in the state?  If they can’t demean the teaching profession, how will they justify lobbying to take away the few fringe benefits teachers have such as retirement and insurance.  Heck, they may even be forced to honor the law and fully fund education.

Let’s be real about the opposition to common core.  The opposition as illustrated above is about adult discomfort with Common Core Standards.  The opposition has little to do with what is best for kids.  Opponents to Common Core can scream all they want about it not being good for children, but the bottom line is Common Core scares them, not their children.  Common Core takes adults out of their comfort zones and unfortunately that plays readily into the hands of adult paranoia.  Face it, the three major reasons some people want to get rid of Common Core Standards is based on adult discomfort with something new, adult insecurities, and adult paranoia.  It is not about what is best for kids, but rather what is best for adults.

However, to be fair, the proponents of Common Core Standards have done their fair share of adding coals to the fires of opposition.  It is a fact that many parents and teachers are scared of the Common Core Standards, and realistically, why shouldn’t they be?  Teachers often feel as if they are caught in the cross-hairs of the controversy, and they are.  They have every right to be stressed and even angry when their state legislature continually labels them as unprofessional and basically inept at their jobs, many parents blame them exclusively for the failures of their children, and the public in general has little or no respect for them as professionals.  Likewise, parents are scared.  Why?  Because for the most part, what they know about Common Core Standards comes from hearsay and misinformation.  They are frightened by the unknown, so they cling to what they know even though deep down they may feel change is needed.

You see, a major theme at the core of opposition to Common Core Standards is the lack of information.  Opponents claim that the public has not been adequately informed, and after taking a step back and looking at the implementation of Common Core Standards over the past two and a half years, I am inclined to agree with them.  Yes, schools began to tell parents and the public at least three years ago that Common Core Standards were coming, but few parents and the public in general had little idea as to what a standard was much less what was meant by Common Core Standards.  There is no doubt that school districts have tried to reach out to parents by sending home important information regarding the standards in student backpacks, and some of it may have actually made it home to the parents.  Give school districts credit; they have organized and held community meetings touting to answer parent questions; however, many parents have left these meetings feeling even more confused than ever since many felt the questions were closely censored or maybe even planted.  School districts have also posted relevant information about the standards on their websites.  This sounds like a good idea except that many teachers and administrators themselves are confused by the information contained on these websites, so how can parents with limited educational knowledge be expected to clearly understand the information?  Yes, schools have done all these things and probably more, but the one thing they have failed to do is adequately answer in a straight forward manner questions that parents still have after attending the meetings or reading through the information provided.

When people and especially parents who are concerned about their most important asset, their children, cannot get their questions answered by the people who are supposed to know, they tend to migrate to the conspiracy theorists, agenda driven politicians, and street hearsay.  When their questions are not answered they begin to wonder why?  What is the school district trying to cover up?  When they attend meetings to find answers and leave feeling they have been talked down to and made to feel inadequate as a parent, they become frustrated and anger begins to grow.  When they dare debate the issue, and they are met with condescending voices of assurance that everything will be all right if they just have faith, they leave disgusted and looking for answers elsewhere, and you can bet there is someone lurking in the shadows with an answer that under less stress and frustration parents would recognize as clearly questionable if not downright ridiculous.  But, when you are hungry, you become willing to ingest just about anything regardless of how it tastes.  The bottom line is parents are entitled to answers to their questions, so they can formulate an informed opinion rather than develop an opinion that is steeped in misinformation.

In closing, I stand behind the implementation of Common Core Standards as being what is best for children, but I also believe the only way to put to rest some of the opposition is to embrace the debate and provide the answers opponents are seeking.  I do believe that the vast majority of people, especially teachers, are in support of the standards, and that there are many others who are ready to support the standards if they can be assured they will not have to walk the journey alone.  It is time to move Mississippi forward, and Common Core Standards can help us do that.  I am ready for the children in Mississippi to have the same opportunities to make a wage comparable to what the same job pays in other states.  I am ready for children in Mississippi to be able to stand with their heads high among the nation’s elite.  I am ready for Mississippi to shine.  It is time Mississippians stopped settling for less when we are capable of so much more.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 12, 2014