Tag Archives: Mississippi

Cashing in on Fear:  The Catalyst Behind the Trump/Devos Education Budget?

The current focus on public school improvement is flawed.  Politicians, the public, and even some educators are caught up in a oversimplified mindset that lumps all public schools into one huge cesspool of incompetence.  It is dangerous to generalize anything, and public schools are no different.  It is not public schools in general we need to fix, but what is happening within each individual public school that needs our attention.  Many public schools are doing an excellent job educating children, but unfortunately, they are being dragged down the rabbit hole with those that are doing a poor job.

To say all public schools are bad and in need of improvement is a generalization that is simply not true.  According to education researcher John Hattie, the single biggest variance between a good school and a bad school is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  Dismantling public schools in favor of charter schools and creating an open-door policy for parents to send their child to the school of their choice will not resolve inconsistent quality issues in the classroom.  Due to the human element, classroom quality issues are as likely to show up in charter schools as they are in public schools.  It is not a public school or charter school that makes the difference in a child’s education.  As Hattie points out, it is the quality of what transpires in the classroom that makes a difference.  Simply being hired by a charter school will not make a person a better teacher.  Enrolling a child in a charter school is not a guarantee of academic success or teacher competence in the classroom.  With the future of public schools in jeopardy and a shrinking teacher pool, it stands to reason today’s public school teachers will be tomorrow’s charter and private school teachers, so unless we resolve the quality issue we are doing little more than transferring the problem from one school to another.   Proponents of charters will argue charter schools will only hire the best teachers and cull the weaker ones.  They may try, but I am afraid they may find as the public schools have found, there are not a lot of master teachers walking around looking for a job.  Pile that problem on top of current hiring practices in many charter schools such as hiring unlicensed and inexperienced teachers and you have a recipe for disaster waiting in the wings.  Unless, charter schools can find the magic teacher formula that has eluded public schools, their savior status will quickly fade.  Unfortunately, at that point, we will have to sleep in the bed we have made due to a misplaced focus.

Some will say I am putting the blame on teachers, and yes, I am, but there is enough blame to go around for everyone including school administrators, school boards, politicians, parents, the public, and the students.  Everyone must share in the blame when students do not learn, but in rank order, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators are the most responsible.  Sorry, educators, but that is the bottom line truth in a nutshell.  Sorry, parents and politicians, but charter schools and private schools will not resolve the issue, especially since those schools have the same problem of finding quality teachers as the public schools.  At least, public schools have minimum standards teachers must meet to teach while most charters and privates schools can and often do hire almost anyone off the street.  Therefore, being called a charter school does not make a school better.  Regardless of what politicians say, and many parents believe, parent choice is nothing more than a distraction that takes away from the real education focus needed to fix schools and ensure students learn.  For any school to be successful – public, charter, or private –  the focus must be on quality, attitudes, and commitment. Promoting dismantling public schools shows a lack of commitment in any of these areas, and that lack of commitment has escalated over the past 16 years mainly for one reason – fear.

Since 9/11/2001, America has been at the mercy of fear.  Fear is the root of our current state of dysfunction in all areas of our lives including education.  We are currently in a state of dysfunction that is more dangerous than maybe anything this country has ever faced; we fear terrorists, we fear immigrants, we fear the Republicans, we fear the Democrats, we fear conservatives, we fear liberals, we fear any belief outside our own, and we fear and mistrust the color of a man’s skin.  This is not the first time in our history we have been in such a state of distress, but it is one of the few times in our history we have allowed fear to rule our lives and distract our focus.   In the 1960s, we feared thermonuclear warfare with the Soviet Union, but instead of allowing that fear to distract us, we used it to sharpen our focus.  Out of that fear, we put a man on the moon, built a national highway system second to none in the world, put greater focus on math and science in our public schools, and created the Internet as part of national defense.  Fear created a constructive response rather than the unconstructive response we are seeing today.  Since 2001, we have used fear as an excuse to fight two wars against terrorism with little to show for the loss of blood of the brave men and women who served our country, used fear to turn our political system and nation upside down, used fear to turn citizen against citizen, used fear to isolate ourselves from the world, and used fear to create a dysfunctional education dialogue that threatens to destroy an institution that helped make America great – our public school system.  In the 1960s, we turned fear into productive action while today we have allowed fear to drag us into uncooperative thinking and inaction.

Over the last 16 years, fear has ruled our lives and governed how we respond to events and issues.  Our answer to just about everything today is to lash out negatively, cast blame, and think in short term solutions.  The current dysfunctional focus on public schools is an excellent example.  In the 1960s, when we were caught up in an arms race with the Soviet Union, we did not scrap our education system or try to improve it with our heads in the sand.  Of course, back then, there was an “us versus them” mentality in America and not the present “us versus us” mentality.  Today, there is a political venom flowing through the veins of our country that no amount of antidote is likely to cure.  We are trapped in pockets of group think where outside views are considered a threat and too often solutions are reactions to distractions rather than the real issues.  Charter schools and vouchers are prime examples of such distractions.  These vehicles of parent choice distract from issues such as teacher quality and child poverty.  Such distractions can easily be seen in the education cuts proposed by President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in their 2018 education budget.  Instead of cutting vital education programs that support millions of public school children across the nation, they could have easily used a portion of the $21 trillion saved by dropping out of the Paris Climate Accord to fund their pet charter school and voucher projects, yet they chose to cut public education by over 9 billion dollars or roughly 14 percent.  Why?  Could it be they understand the best time to push a personal agenda is during times of fear?

Any budget is a statement of values, and the Trump/Devos education budget is no exception.  Anyone who looks closely at the suggested budget cuts and to the areas the cuts are redirected can see the ultimate goal is to dismantle public education in favor of parent choice options.  If passed, the Trump/Devos budget will cut the United States Department of Education funding by $9 billion and redirect $1.4 billion of that money to school choice.  The cuts will eliminate at least 22 programs including $1.2 billion for after school programs which will have a negative impact on 1.6 million, primarily poor, children; $2.1 billion for teacher training which is a vital component for developing quality classroom teachers in both charter and public schools; $27 million for arts education; $72 million dollars for international and foreign language programs; and $12 million dollars for Special Olympics programs.

President Trump and Betsy Devos say the federal government does not need to be involved in these programs.  According to them, the programs being cut can be more effectively handled and funded at the state and local level.  Maybe, they can be handled more effectively at the state level, but how can a poor state such as Mississippi fund these programs when it cannot afford to adequately fund the state public school programs it has?  Mississippi can’t, so where does that leave after school programs, arts education, foreign language programs, and the Special Olympics in the state?  It means either the citizens of Mississippi will pay higher taxes to foot the bill, or those programs will be discontinued.  Likely, the programs will be dropped or phased out.

Most people in Mississippi will feel some concern for losing after school programs, arts education, and especially the Special Olympics, but in a state where so many believe English is the only language needed in America, the loss of foreign language will barely be given a passing thought.  That is a shame.  I have a PhD, but by global standards I am illiterate.  I regret to say I speak one language, English, and although that has been good enough for me, it most likely will not be good enough for my grandchildren and especially my great grandchildren.

I recently read over 80% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone or mobile device, and within a year – a couple at the most – that number will grow to 90%.  According to David Rothkopf, author of The Great Questions of Tomorrow, we are possibly only a couple of years from every man, woman, and child in the world being connected for the first time in history through a man-made system.  Companies like Amazon have already gone global, and others will soon follow.  I am not talking about moving companies overseas; I am talking about Internet presence.  Amazon can touch anyone in the world whenever they please.  That is the future for all of us.  Our kids better be able to communicate with the world when that happens.  They will not only need the latest and the greatest technology tools, but they will also need a second language and preferably a third language if they hope to compete in the world market.  Speaking only one language will no longer be good enough even for Mississippi, yet, we have a President and Secretary of Education who want to cut foreign language programs.  Why?  How does that make any sense at all unless we are in such fear of the world that we plan to remain isolated indefinitely.

A contributing factor to fear is the unknown, and since 2001, as a nation we have been grappling with fear of the unknown:  fear of unseen and often unknown terrorists, fear for our livelihoods amid fluctuating markets, fear of leaders who so often put their personal agendas above the good of the people, fear of losing our guaranteed rights as citizens, fear of changing attitudes and values, and fear our public schools are no longer in capable hands.  We have seen our leaders grasp at straws for solutions, and turn against each other in the process.  We have witnessed politicians wage war on science somehow ignorant to the facts that throughout history governments who denounced science often lost.  We have watched as our leaders and our people have grown closed minded to the diversity that made us the greatest country in the world.  And, now rather than focus on the real issues, of teacher quality, academic support systems, and poverty, we are watching helplessly as our leaders slowly dismantle a once proud education system that produced Americans who revolutionized land and air transportation for the world, turned simple farmers into a skilled labor force for industry, and lay the knowledge foundation that led to the world’s first heart transplant, harnessing of nuclear energy, put the first man on the moon, and produced some of the world’s greatest literary giants.  Unfortunately, our leadership is in the market for a new vehicle, and they will not be satisfied until that vehicle is sitting in the garage with or without wheels.  It is sad, they do not understand there is no need to reinvent the wheel; all that is needed is to fix a spoke or two in the old wheel, so we can focus on what really matters – our children’s future.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 18, 2017

Facebook is People Being People

Sometimes people get upset and bent out of shape over posts on Facebook – sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for reasons not so good.  There are times when you laugh with people on Facebook and times when you want to wring their necks.  If you choose to be a part of social media, you will experience both.  Why?  It is simple.  Facebook is people being people, and if you can’t accept that, you have no business being on Facebook.

At the end of the day, there is one given with social media – people will post just about anything for just about any reason.  That means the odds are excellent you can find something to offend you if you look hard enough, or you are in the right frame of mind to be offended.  There are offenses to meet every taste on Facebook from really rotten truly offensive stuff to petty, silly, downright ridiculous stuff.  At times, people even get their panties in a wad over innocent things that were never intended to offend anyone, but what is sad is when the offended person refuses to let it go regardless how many apologies are forth coming.

Please, let me repeat!  Facebook is people being people, and if you can’t accept that, you have no business being on Facebook.  People post for a variety of reasons, and other than holding a stinky rotten cheese stick to their head, there is little anyone can do about it.  If a person owns a computer, tablet, or smart phone, with a Facebook app, they can post whatever they please.  If it offends, you can laugh it off, you can ignore it, you can lash out, you can hold a grudge, you can act like a blooming idiot and make a fool of yourself, you can offend them back, you can dig up dirty laundry you know about the offender and post it, or you can unfriend the offender, but that is about all you can do.  As of now, offending someone – intentionally or unintentionally – is not punishable by prison time or the death chamber, so move on – let it go, especially if the offending person offers an apology.  Remember, Facebook is people being people, so accept it, or go do something more constructive with your time like read a book.

People being People on Facebook:

  1. People who post to witness and share their religious status;
  2. People who post because they are lonely and seek human contact;
  3. People who post to be funny or humorous (at least they try);
  4. People who post to share something that makes them happy or excited;
  5. People who post to affirm their existence;
  6. People who post to share a political or social view or rant;
  7. People who post because they are on Facebook and don’t want to be perceived as lurking in the background;
  8. People who post to provoke a rise out of people or get their goat;
  9. People who post to Facebook as a family scrap book;
  10. People who post because it is easier to post to Facebook than actually talk to people;
  11. People who post because they like noise of any kind in their lives;
  12. People who post because they don’t have a life;
  13. People who post because deep down they really like people and like being around them;
  14. People who post on Facebook because they have a short attention span and cannot read or write anything beyond a handful of sentences;
  15. People who post because Facebook is the only family they have;
  16. People who post to share their pity party;
  17. People who post to keep up with friends;
  18. People who post because it gives them a sense of being somebody;
  19. People who post to simply inform; and
  20. People who post because they can.

Facebook is people being people!

JL

©Jack Linton, April 27, 2017

The Human Achilles Heel – Reading

Zombies can teach us a thing or two about the importance of reading.  However, getting a zombie to sit down for an interview and talk without it biting your head off is tricky at best.  While most people live in a world of rush, rush, rush, zombies have learned to slow the world down.  They understand slow and intentional is the key to everything, especially a prosperous life.  It is the difference between indigestion and a heart attack.  Therefore, they never rush into anything, especially taking over the world.  They are slow, methodical, and intentional to a fault.

For example, look at reading.  Reading is an intentional activity exercised by higher order species.  In other words, if you walk upright without your knuckles dragging the ground and you have a lick of sense about you, in theory, you should be a reader or at least capable of reading.  Of course, there are always exceptions such as the politicians running the government or those poor souls who buy into late night infomercials on television.  Those wacky doodles aside, serious readers such as zombies are intentional about their reading.  In fact, they are often more intentional about reading than they are about cannibalism.  When they get involved in a good book or find a fascinating resource, they sometimes go days without eating anything other than a slice of ear or a quick eyeball – you know, snack food.

Most zombies I have interviewed say it is easier to find someone to eat than it is to find a good book to read and the time to read it.  Finding time to read is difficult, but zombies have made time for reading a priority even when it means not going on the prowl as much as they like.  To their credit, they, unlike humans, live by a code that emphasizes daily reading.  They know a thing or two about brain dead, so unlike many humans, they are relentless in their pursuit of stimulating brain activity.

Even zombie leaders look for ways to scratch out a few minutes to read, and they are intentional when it comes to modeling reading for their followers.  That is why it is not uncommon to find huge herds of zombies reading as they migrate across the nation.  Finding a zombie reading on doorsteps outside a home staked out for lunch or dinner is even more common.  Such devotion to reading can be attributed to great leadership.   Great leaders insist on knowledgeable and healthy followers, and there is not a better way to increase mental and physical health than to read.

There has been a great deal of research into zombies, and one of the most interesting findings has been the revelation that it is their devotion to reading that makes them so formidable.  Their success at moving massive herds across deserts and through noon time traffic jams in New York, Atlanta, and Eastabuchie is not luck.  By reading regularly, they keep up with such important information as the latest migratory data and traffic avoidance strategies.  Although they might turn stomachs on first look and appear frightening, in truth, they are far less terrifying than humans who don’t read.  The research clearly indicates, as a species, they are simply better readers than humans and therefore tend to be more rational thinkers.

Some will argue that is not true.  However, all anyone needs to do is look at human Facebook pages, Twitter messages, and text messages to see humans have an aversion to reading anything beyond a hundred words with a strong preference for forty words and under.  It is hard to say if they are genetically tied to a minimalistic reading quota, they are genetically lazy, or simply brain dead.  A quota or lazy gene may be legitimate issues, but brain dead is not an excuse – especially for humans.  Zombies are brain dead, but that does not prevent them from out reading humans ten to one.  When you take into consideration there are unrealistic restrictions that prevent zombies from having an Amazon.com account or a library card, a ten to one ratio is beyond remarkable.

On the other side, the human side, it is a safe bet in today’s America that anything written beyond one-hundred words will effectively turn off ninety-five percent of the American population.  If a foreign government wished to successfully invade and conquer the United States all they need to do is offer free cable, internet, cell phones, and electronic tablets to the public on any day of the week and especially on Super Bowl Sunday.  In the United States, the less than five percent reading or abstaining from electronic stimulation on any given day would be hard pressed to repel a foreign invasion.  The same can be said of a zombie invasion.  The only difference is the zombies are already here.  They have grown from a aggravating parasite to an immediate threat to the human way of life, and they have done so by intentionally reigniting brain electrodes while humans in America have effectively electronically sterilized their brains!

Because they are prolific readers, the zombie general population is as much as eight steps ahead of the human general population.  To put this in proper perspective, it is like comparing the brain activity of an amoeba to the brain activity of Albert Einstein where the amoeba represents the non-reading human population and Einstein represents a zombie nation of readers.  Before they became readers, zombies rambled aimlessly across the nation getting their heads split by machetes or screwdrivers driven through an eye socket into the brain.  Other than the occasional rat killing, there was little for zombies to look forward to in life.  However, once they turned to reading, their lives changed for the better, especially after they formed book study groups to study such classics as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  Through reading, the Zombie Nation has reinvented itself, and as a result, these blood gurglers of the dead are fast becoming unstoppable.

While American leaders indulge in self-importance, self-righteousness, party agendas, conspiracies, and the dumbing down of their followers, zombie leaders are growing themselves and building a base of highly literate followers.  They are constantly reading, researching, trying new ideas, embracing them when they fit, and discarding them when they don’t.  They are slowly taking control of America, and they are doing it without firing a single shot.  They are intellectually preparing themselves for the day when American humans can no longer read much less comprehend their gun manuals.  The human Achilles heel (reading) has become the sword by which zombies will inherit the nation.  While humans have become complacent and comfortable in who they are and in what they do, zombies led by the example of wise well-read leaders, are reading every cookbook in America in preparation for the day they take over.  Complacency rarely happens with zombies.  Their intensity is unrelenting!  They never relax; they are totally focused on their next book and meal.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 21, 2017

Teachers and Administrators don’t Enforce Rules:   A Case against School Dress Codes!

 

Teachers who do not consistently enforce school rules are not always bad teachers or irresponsible individuals; sometimes some of the best most dedicated teachers in a school do not follow the rules.  Some teachers, like some school administrators, hate confrontation, and enforcing rules means confrontation with the student, confrontation with parents, possible confrontation with the administration, and often negative vibes from students as well as other teachers.  For some, enforcing rules makes their lives messy, uncool, or even unpopular.  Others don’t enforce the rules because they feel they have more important things to do, and then there are those teachers who do not agree with the rule, so they simply ignore it.

So, why have rules in school?  If so many teachers look the other way rather than enforce the rules, why should schools bother with rules in the first place?  The textbook answer is that rules ensure a safe and orderly learning and teaching environment, but do they really?  It can be argued that rules provide a fighting chance to bring order to the chaos; however, is that what educators really want?  No!  What teachers really want is for kids, parents, and school administrators to leave them alone.  For many teachers, rules are tools of convenience frowned upon as an inconvenience and waste of time that creates negative confrontations.  They see teachers and administrators who dodge the rules as the smart ones.  Maybe, they are right, and if so, maybe, rules are not needed in schools!

However, regardless of what some may think, there must be rules!  Rules are necessary to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.  Unfortunately, like all things, there are good rules and rules that are questionable or make little or no sense.  For example, rules dealing with dress codes most definitely fall into the questionable category.  As a former teacher and school administrator, I believe dress codes are necessary, but it has been my experience few teachers agree with me.  Very few teachers really care what students wear to class.  I say this because very few teachers write up students for dress code violations, and the ones that do are often ridiculed by their colleagues.  So why have rules, especially a dress code?  Why hold a student accountable for a dress code that five out of six teachers in the school day ignore?  What is the school administrator to do when the sixth-period teacher turns a student into the office for coming to class naked when that student attended five previous classes in the buff and not a word was said by previous teachers about exposed wingydings in class?  The only option the administrator has at the end of the day is to give the kid a hat and send him home.  Now, I am slightly exaggerating, but when it comes to dress codes, it is truly almost that bad.  I realize correcting a student for a dress code violation shaves precious seconds off teaching the test, especially when there is not a single question on the state assessment that deals with student nudity, unless, maybe, someone slips in a liberal writing prompt.

Over the years, as a school administrator, I developed and enforced more than my fair share of school rules including rules governing dress codes.  To this day, I have forty year old former students walk by me in the mall and intentionally pull their tucked shirttail from their pants with a wink (tucking shirttails was probably the most despised rule I ever implemented as a principal).  I was a stickler for rules, and maybe too much so, but I believed then, and I believe now if you have a rule it should be enforced.  I also believe using a rule for any reason other than its original intent (i.e., allowing students to break the rule as a reward) is counter-productive and sends a mixed message to students, parents, and the community.

Therein lies my issue with current dress codes in schools.  Instead of teaching a lesson or addressing a safety issue, dress code rules in many schools today have become a part of the school reward system.  If students exhibit good behavior for the month, if there is a big district game, if a student collects the most Popsicle sticks, if a student brings a dollar to school, and the list goes on and on, they are allowed to break the dress code rule on a specified day such as Friday.  For example, they are allowed to wear clothing such as jeans or apparel outside of school colors.  That may sound innocent, but if the rule was important enough to be created, it should be important enough to be enforced consistently five days a week.  If it is okay to excuse students from the dress code on a game day, as a fund raiser reward, or for any other excuse, why have the rule?  It is counterproductive to the intent and purpose of a rule to permit students or adults to break a rule as a reward.  I am not against rewarding students, but don’t reward them by allowing them to break school rules!  Schools always talk about teaching kids to be good citizens; how can teaching them it is okay to break rules be good citizenship?  We have enough rule breakers in our society without training more.  If it is okay to reward students by letting them break a rule, maybe that rule is not relevant and should be done away with for every day of the week and not just on special occasions.   If eliminating the rule for one day is not a problem, the odds are good it would not be a problem if eliminated completely.

When it comes to school rules, it is fairly simple.  If a school is going to have a rule, it should be enforced consistently across the calendar.  If a teacher signs a contract to work for a school district, the teacher should be up to the task of enforcing the rules of the district or look elsewhere for employment, preferably in another profession.  Enforcing rules is not a fun job for administrators or teachers, but it is a necessary job made more difficult when a rule is used contrary to its intent.  If a school ever finds it okay to allow students to break a rule, it is time the school re-evaluated that rule.  If wearing jeans to school is okay on certain days as a reward, then it is ludicrous to ban them on all other days since it is obvious jeans do not pose a threat to a safe and orderly school environment.

If a school rule can be suspended as a whole or in part as a reward, then the rule has little if any bearing on the orderly function of the school and should be eliminated from the student handbook altogether.  The purpose of a school dress code is not to teach kids that rules are made to be broken or to provide a cash cow for local clothing vendors.  The purpose of the code is to enhance school safety and student learning five days a week.  Giving students permission to break a rule periodically sends the message to adults and students alike that the rule has little to do with safety and learning – at least not every day of the school year.  The bottom line is enforcement of rules must go beyond convenience; teachers and administrators should enforce the rules (dress code or any other rule) or dump the rules!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

Copy Machines are Responsible for the Demise of Public Schools

Since the beginning of civilization there have been schools to educate citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to be productive in the community.  Most early schools were available only to a select few, but as time passed, the concept of educating everyone became more acceptable, specifically for religious reasons.  For example, in the United States, the first schools were decreed by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647.  Those early schools were intended to teach all Puritan children to read the Bible and receive basic information about the Calvinist religion.  Since that decree to establish elementary and Latin schools in every town, schools have grown from the one room school houses of the early Colonial days to the mega multi grade complexes of the present day.  Today, there are fancy boarding schools for the affluent, religious schools to ensure the propagation of spiritual doctrine, private academies for those with societal peculiarities, and free public schools intended to provide all citizens an equal opportunity for a quality education.  All have their place, but none more so than free public schools.

Regardless of what some may say, public schools have been the educational mainstay of the United States.  Although under attack lately for a grocery list of ills that encompass about every evil known to man, public schools have nevertheless been an integral force behind the success of the United States.  Few nations provide all citizens the education opportunities the United States provides its citizens, and regardless what the haters say, overall, public schools have been a tremendous success though at times they struggle with change.  However, in fairness, the inability to change has not always entirely been the fault of public schools.  Quite often shortcomings are due to outside forces beyond their control such as politics, an obtuse culture, or an ill-informed public.  Nevertheless, sometimes public schools are to blame.  That is especially true when a good school idea such as copy machines morphs into a bad idea.

Copy machines are ingrained in public schools to the point that the odds of doing anything to jeopardize their existence are slim at best.  Tinkering with them can get a person strung up by his thumbs even though these machines are an example of a logical, well intended solution to a school problem that has mutated into a monster.  Copiers often masquerade as essentials when in reality schools would most likely fare much better without them.  Due to the aura of innocence that surrounds these machines, few people in or outside education recognize the serious negative impact they have on America’s public schools.  However, it is time to expose the monster for what it truly is!

What would you say if I said copy machines are responsible for the demise of public education in the United States and should be outlawed in public schools?  If you are a teacher who is dependent on the copier for copying worksheets and tests, you might think I am crazy!  If you are Joe Public burdened with ever increasing taxes to pay for such 21st Century playthings, you might cry “Hallelujah!”  Whereas, if you are a parent who too often is confronted with volumes of handouts crammed in the bottom of their child’s backpack or inch thick packets of handouts sent home as homework, you might sigh with relief, “It’s about time.”  On the other hand, if you are a politician committed to a never ending war against public education, you might feel a tinge of excitement.

Unfortunately, copy machines are indeed responsible for the demise of public education.  It’s not simply passing out endless homework and busywork packets that canonize copiers as a lethal schoolhouse disease slowly sucking the life blood from public schools, but the fact that copiers directly lead to other school related cancers such as state testing.  From the mimeograph machines of the late 19th century to the super-fast, high efficiency digital duplicators used today, a direct line of decline in public education can be tracked.  From the beginning, copiers generated an unnatural gluttonous need for paper, which in turn created a strain on the timber industry to provide pulp to paper manufacturers at a reasonable cost.  When paper manufacturing costs rise, textbook prices escalate, and as a result, school districts can no longer afford to maintain up to date textbooks .  Without the latest textbooks, teachers are more likely to use copy machines more frequently to provide current materials to their students.

With the decline of textbook sales, textbook publishers were forced to find a viable educational alternative or go out of business.  Therefore, they turned their attention to the test producing business, which required less paper per unit to produce while escalating overall paper volume usage exponentially.  With the help of their lobbyists in Washington, they were able to finagle policies that required all students to take their tests.  Since testing mandates are virtually free of testing exceptions, the publishers basically found a lucrative never ending market for their number one new paper product – state tests!  As a result, today, states divert billions of education dollars each year from public schools to the test publishers, which more than makes up for lost textbook revenue, and they ultimately owe it all to the copy machine.

Copy machines are the catalyst for this cycle, and consequently must shoulder the blame for the current state of public education in the United States.  This cycle greatly benefits paper manufacturers, test publishers, lobbyists, and politicians, but does little for public education in return.  The bottom line is that public schools now spend more money on copiers, paper, and testing than they ever did for textbooks.  So, should there be any question as to why there is not enough money to hire quality teachers or properly maintain school facilities?  As long as there are copy machines in schools, paper manufacturers, test/textbook publishers, lobbyists, and politicians will continue to get richer while public schools fiscally slowly spin down the drain.

When these costs are coupled with the diversion of public tax dollars from public schools to support special interest projects such as charter schools, private schools, and vouchers, it is easy to see why public schools are gasping for life.  Unfortunately, little can be done to keep public school funds from being diverted to such special interest projects, but there is something educators can do to facilitate some relief.  They can GET RID OF COPY MACHINES!  Schools have little control over funding, but they can remove copy machines and hopefully, over time, minimize the damage these monsters cause.  Chain them up, haul them to the dump, or convert them to garden sculptures, but get them out of the school house.  Parents and politicians are always talking about the “good old days” when they were in school, so why not go back to ink wells, mimeograph machines, and numbering a sheet of notebook paper from one to ten before taking a test?  Since apparently no one is to blame for under-funding education or testing the life out of education, why not put the blame where it belongs – on copy machines?  With copy machines, we have a scapegoat everybody can live with at least for now!

JL

©Jack Linton, December 12, 2016

Future School

George Bentley, principal of PS227, stood behind the steel fiber reinforced window in his office and watched the chaos in the hallway.  He didn’t know which was worst, corralling the students into classrooms in the mornings or herding them off campus in the afternoons.  Both were dangerous for him and his faculty.  When the kids were outside their classrooms, school administrators, faculty, and staff remained behind locked doors for their protection.  Supervision duties such as hall duty and cafeteria duty were things of the past.  Such duties were simply too dangerous.  Venturing into the hallways during class breaks or before and after school without an armed escort meant hospital time if not worse.

All public schools were basically the same.  They were little more than holding tanks for the “have nots” and the unwanted.  Public schools in 2049 were the consequence of over thirty years of public school privatization and rampant school choice that literally syphoned the life from public schools.  Left segregated along socioeconomic lines, poor whites and minorities who were no longer the minority wandered the hallways stripped of hope and their value to humanity.  Simply put, public schools symbolized the new segregated America.

Unfortunate teachers not recruited by the Corporate, Arts, and Athletic charters and academies taught from the confines of chain link steel cages bolted to the floor at the front of their classrooms.  School buses were equipped with steel cages to protect the drivers and military-like sweeps through the buildings conducted by loosely trained assault teams known as STAF (School Tactical Advance Forces) were the norm in public schools across the nation.  This was school of the mid-21st century – a cesspool operated under the guise of education – holding pens for throwaway juveniles.

The Corporate Education recruitment poster on Bentley’s wall depicted students studying quietly and listening respectfully to a teacher walking freely about the classroom.  It was a throwback to a time when education held promise not only for the affluent and talented, but for less blessed children as well.  Unfortunately, the promise ended when America washed its hands of public schools, and politically and socially branded them a lost cause.

A book ricocheted off the window sending Bentley recoiling against the wall.  Embarrassed by his reaction, anger and helplessness flooded him.  He jerked around to face the window and slammed a fist against the glass.  The window shook, but thankfully the reinforced glass held.  Outside the window, a tall dark haired boy shouldering a bulky book bag stared at him from the hallway.   Laughing, he motioned for Bentley to join him.  Bentley knew better.  He pushed the purple riot button next to window to call for STAF.

A cute girl with long sandy blonde hair walked up to the boy and began shaking her finger in his face.  Bentley recognized her as a new student.  Her registration had caused quite a stir among the clerical staff and faculty.  Her parents actually accompanied her to register which was unheard of at PS227.  Now just as mysteriously, she was in the face of one of the most feared bullies in the school.  Both fascinated and alarmed, he watched as she continued to shake her finger at the boy who just stared at her blankly as a crowd began to gather around them.  He pounded his fists against the glass until she turned to look at him.  “RUN!” he screamed at the glass, knowing she could not hear him.

As she looked at Bentley and tried to understand what he was saying, the boy slid the bulky book bag from his shoulder and swung the loaded bag in a high ark above his head bringing it down hard against her left cheek.  Her knees buckled, and she dropped face first against the unforgiving floor tiles.  The crowd went wild cheering and giving high-fives.  Laughing and bowing to his audience, the boy stood over his fallen prey and rolled her on her back with the toe of his shoe.  Blood flowed from a deep gash above her right eye where her head hit the floor; her left cheek was red and swollen from the impact of the bag.  Mocking her, pointing and shaking his finger, he spit in her bloodied unconscious face.  Bending over her, he ran his fingers across her face, and then turned to Bentley behind the window and smeared his bloody fingers across the glass.

Behind the safety of the reinforced glass, Bentley clinched his fists in anger.  He took a step toward the door and grabbed the knob before he thought better and released it.  Where was STAF?  Someone had to do something.  The mob outside his window grew wilder.  Several girls stepped from the pulsating mass, looked at the injured girl, and spit on her before returning triumphantly to their cheering friends.

A tall thin Hispanic youth whom Bentley recognized as Roberto Salinto, a ranking member of the Doric Disciples stepped from the crowd.  Salinto spoke to the boy, and when the boy, encouraged by the crowd, said something back, he slapped him hard silencing the crowd.  The dark-haired boy swung his book bag, but Salinto stepped aside easily and drew a heavy silver chain from around his waist.  The chain whistled as it cut the air and slammed into the boy’s jaw dropping him unconscious to the floor next to the girl.

Salinto smiled at the crumpled body and knelt next to the girl.  Running his fingers in a figure eight around her breasts and up the slender slope of her throat, his hand stopped at the gold chain around her neck.  He spoke to her, but there was no response.  He jerked on the chain – breaking it free, and stood as four STAF officers stepped through the crowd waving Tasers.  The officers saw Salinto and froze; their eyes locked with his.  He stared at them coldly, and calmly walked pass them back into the crowd disappearing instantly.

The commanding STAF officer barked a command at the mob, and they took a step back.  “Gentlemen, we have five minutes to get this event under control, and get out of here,” he shouted.  “Check the girl, and see if she can be moved.”

An officer knelt next to her and felt along the back of her neck and along her shoulders.  When he saw her legs move, he snapped an ammonia capsule and shoved it under her nose.  She recoiled against the harsh burn of the chemical, and instinctively pushed his hand away.  “Give me a hand,” he called.  “There doesn’t appear to be any serious injuries.  The quicker she’s on her feet the quicker we get out of here.”

Another officer joined him, and the two of them helped the girl to her feet.  She wavered unsteadily for a moment clinging to both of them for support.  The first officer spoke to her, and she nodded pointing to the boy on the floor.  Concerned by the seconds ticking away, the commander barked orders to four more STAF officers arriving on the scene.  The four grabbed an arm and leg and carried the boy toward the front doors of the school where a black van emblazoned with “STAF” across its sides waited.

An alarm blasted!  At the far end of the hall a red banner could be seen over the heads of a second more organized group moving toward the event.  The commanding officer’s ear radio buzzed to life with the voice of the Advanced Warning Dispatcher, “Sir, the Disciples are on the move.  You have maybe a minute before your current event escalates.”

“Time to move,” the commanding officer snapped at his men.  Immediately, they began to ease back in the direction of the van keeping the crowd, now growing bolder with the advancement of the red banner, at bay with the threat of the Tasers.  “Is the girl hurt badly?” he said to the officers supporting the girl.

“She’s pretty banged up, but I don’t believe there’s anything broken or life threatening,” said the first officer.

“Then leave her,” said the commanding officer, “and get to the van.”

“But sir,” the first officer protested.

“I am not going to allow this event to escalate beyond Tasers, so drop her where she is, or a lot of people are about to get hurt, and hurt bad!  You know the drill!  We’ve got to move and move now!  You know the rules of engagement, so move!”

The two officers looked at the wavering girl for a moment, and sat her gently on the floor before breaking into a full run to the waiting van.  Left reaching, the girl struggled to her knees but collapsed as George Bentley accompanied by two STAF officers stepped from the office door into the hallway.  The Disciples broke into a run toward them.  The officers grabbed the girl and carried her through the door into the office with Bentley fast on their heels.  As he pushed the door closed behind him he met resistance.  A booted foot was wedged in the door preventing it from closing.  Laying the girl on the office floor, the two officers rushed to his aid.  Hands shot through the space between the door and the jam and pushed to open the door.  The space grew wider.  Seeing they were losing the battle, one of the officers stepped back and released the strap holding his rifle to his shoulder.   “Oh, God,” Bentley thought, “please don’t shoot.”

The officer flipped the rifle and slammed the butt end hard against the leather ankle of the boot wedged in the door.  The ankle snapped loudly followed by a scream and the boot vanished from the opening.  Bentley and the second officer drove their shoulders into the door feeling it crunch against the fingers clawing and pushing at the shrinking opening.  Finally, with a final push, the hands withdrew amid screams, and the door slammed shut.  The Disciples went wild rushing and banging on the door, and then as if on cue they stopped, gave each other a few congratulatory back-slaps and high fives, and walked away as if nothing had ever happened.

The STAF commander waited ten minutes for the students to disperse, and then moved his men back into the hallways and herded straggling students to class.  Bentley watched from the safety of his office mentally and physically drained by yet another confrontation, but thankful no one had been seriously injured or killed.  The girl most likely had a concussion along with abrasions and bruises, but given some time, she would recover – at least physically.  STAF’ had once again prevented a minor event from escalating into a major catastrophic event.  Once again they followed the rules of engagement, but it was only a matter of time before there would no longer be rules to play by.  He could only pray he was gone before that day arrived.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 4, 2016

LSU vs USM or How I Almost Got a Date with a Louisiana Goddess

This past Saturday my wife and I along with my daughter and her two kids rode the fan bus to the USM vs LSU game in Baton Rouge.  Taking the bus and not having to drive in the traffic was a great decision!  The trip and the first half of the game were perfect, but because this is a family blog, I will withhold my thoughts on the second half of the game.  However, despite the second half disappointment, the trip was a success.  Not only did my grandson, who is a big LSU fan, get to see the campus and attend a game in Tiger Stadium, I had a whole day and night to pick on and aggravate my beautiful granddaughter.  Life does not get much better than that!

Our seats in the stadium were located just above cloud level.  My acrophobia, which usually kicks into high gear on the first rung of a ladder, never loosened its grip on me the entire game.  Fortunately, most people were too busy tending nosebleeds to notice my white knuckles gripping the seats.  Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Tiger Stadium.  Watching football from cloud level is like watching ants line up in formation and then scatter across the field, or was that the band?  It was really hard to tell from such a high perch.

For me, the most refreshing part of the game was the pregame music.  They actually played music people could get into and sing like “Louisiana Saturday Night” and Garth Brook’s “Baton Rouge.”  You didn’t hear bone shattering high pitched rap squealing through the stadium speakers like you do at USM football games.  There is a big difference in music designed to make you shake your booty and have a good time and music designed to make you twerk your booty and do the dirty.  I love USM home football games, but with the racket that constantly shakes The Rock, I swear sometimes I don’t know if I should be celebrating the Eagles taking the field or looking for a bomb shelter.

The music, the game atmosphere, and even the LSU fans were all fantastic!  It has been over thirty years since I last attended a game in Tiger Stadium, and I was a little apprehensive as to how we might be greeted by Tiger fans that have been known on occasion to get a little rowdy.  My concerns were addressed soon after we arrived in Baton Rouge.  Shortly after leaving the USM alumni tailgate party, my little group and I were walking toward the stadium when I decided to stray off course to drop my now hot cup of tea in the trash.  No sooner had I dropped the cup in the trash than I hear, “Hey bro, you need a cold one?”  I turned and there stood a guy in a purple and gold T-shirt holding a quart container of what I am sure by his demeanor was not lemonade or ice tea.

“No, I’m good,” I said, and started walking toward my wife, daughter, and grandkids who were gawking and pointing at their surroundings a short distance in front of me.

The guy stepped to my side and started walking with me.  “Hey, Mississippi,” he said.  I suddenly wished I wasn’t wearing a “Beat LSU” sticker on my shirt.  “You guys gonna beat them Tigers, yeah?” he asked.

Like a dumbass, I said, “That’s what we’re here for.”  He gave me a puzzled you dumbass hick look, so I quickly added, “but we’re going to spot you guys 50 points first.”  He seemed to like that, but at that moment he was distracted by two unbelievably beautiful college girls walking toward us.

By the way they were dressed they didn’t look to be too interested in football.  In their platform heels, they were at least six feet four inches tall.  They had to have been born into the dresses they wore; there was no other way they could have squeezed such tiny pieces of material over their long exotic frames.  My new friend grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop.  “Holy mother of Jesus, do you see that?” he asked as if any human male was capable of missing such a sight.  “Bet Mississippi got nothing like that, huh bro,” he said, releasing my arm and taking a long drink of cool aide or whatever he had in the quart container.

“Not bad,” I admitted, “but Mississippi girls can compete with anybody.”

“Nah, no way!” he said stepping back and looking at me in disbelief.

“Yeah,” I said, “Mississippi girls are second to none.”

Now, I was only trying to defend the honor of the Mississippi ladies, but my new friend took my response as a challenge.  “Bro, you ever had a Louisiana woman?”

“No,” I said with a laugh and started walking.

“You like to?” he asked following me.

“Not today, I need to catch my group,” I said.

“Come on Bro, you in Louisiana,” he said.  “Let’s go get a couple cold ones and go talk to them girls.  Say, which you want.”

“I’m a bit old for those girls,” I said, wishing my wife and daughter would slow down so I could catch up.

“Naw, man,” he said, keeping stride with me.  “Age ain’t nothing.”

“Well, they’re too tall anyway,” I said.

“You really think so,” he said and took another long drink.

“Yeah, I do,” I said with a laugh.

“We make ‘em short too,” he said and stopped walking.

Why I stopped I don’t know.  “I have a short one,” I said, pointing to my wife up ahead.

“I see,” he said and extended his hand.  “You guys have a good time, and if you change your mind ‘bout a drink and them girls, come see.”

“Maybe, next time,” I said and shook his hand.

“Gotta go,” he said with a huge smile.  “I need a refill.”

After catching up with my wife, I told her about my new friend.  I am not sure she believed me, but she did keep me close to her side for the rest of the trip.  I admit that once or twice as we were plodding our way to the top of Tiger Stadium, I thought about turning around and going for a cold drink with one of the tall Louisiana Goddesses and my new friend.   However, I didn’t turn around because I was not ready to die at the hands of the Mississippi woman traveling with me.  I may be many things, but I am not a dumbass.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 17, 2016