Tag Archives: President Donald Trump

Support for a LEGO Wall

Recently, I saw a post on Facebook depicting President Trump building his proposed border wall from a box of Legos.  Other than a brief laugh, I scrolled down the page giving it little thought, but then it hit me like a Lego brick upside the head.  It could work!  Not only could it work, but a Lego wall would be a cost-effective way to get hog-tied American citizens and laughing Mexican leaders off the hook for funding the wall.  A Lego wall stretching the length of the border between the United States and Mexico would still be expensive, but the cost could be reduced drastically from billions to millions by taking advantage of America’s greatest untapped building material resource – old Lego sets and Lego pieces collecting dust under sofas and in toy closets in homes across America.     

Putting a plan to build a Lego wall in action would not be difficult.  Most American families would be overjoyed to donate their old Lego sets and partial sets that no longer interest their children or grandchildren to the wall.  A network of Lego Drop Boxes in malls, Walmart, churches, and government buildings could be set up across the nation to collect Lego pieces for The Great Wall of America.  Legos make sense as a money saver as well as a building material.  By using Legos – new or donated – to build the wall, money for mortar, adhesives, rivets, welding, etc. to hold the wall together would not be necessary since Legos interlock.  Donated Legos would be especially useful to the construction of the wall.  Used Legos not only interlock but are covered with a thin gooey film from sticky little fingers that once played with them.  Try prying apart two interlocked Legos sealed by peanut butter and jelly or banana pudding taffy?  It is almost impossible.  Nuking might do the job, but it’s doubtful.

Labor is the second area in which a Lego wall would save the country money.  Let’s assume every Congressman can assemble Legos (A stretch, but for now please humor me).  Why not put them to work building the Lego wall?  They receive a paycheck for doing little to nothing, so why not put them to work earning their pay for a change?  Of course, such a work force of limited skill sets and questionable work ethics would require constant supervision and mentoring, and that is where pre-school and kindergarten children come into play.  Children are Lego experts, and through their expertise and guidance, the construction of the wall would flow smoothly from beginning to end.  Now, before someone starts shouting about child labor violations, please, listen closely.  Under the Lego plan, communities would organize pre-school and kindergarten field trips to allow children to travel to the wall and spend a day eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mentoring the Congressmen stacking Legos for the wall, and teaching them how to work and play nicely together.  If nothing else, children mentoring Congressmen on how to get along, share, and work together would be a patriotic service sorely needed in America. 

Finally, maintenance for the wall would be easier and cheaper if Legos were used.  Billions of dollars would be saved on maintenance since cumbersome and expensive steel and concrete would not be needed.  When a section of the Lego wall needed repairs, Congressmen would simply pop out the worn piece and fit a donated Lego piece in its place.  There would be no long delays waiting for replacement materials since America’s Donate a Lego campaign would produce an endless stream of Legos for repairs and additional tower construction.  This would especially be true in March and April when most children lose interest in the Legos they received for Christmas and put them aside.  That interest lull is the perfect time for patriotic parents and grandparents, tired of losing their religion and speaking in obscene tongues when they step on a Lego piece buried in the carpet, to scoop up all Legos laying around the house and drop them in the nearest Lego Drop Box.  The beauty of this process is it comes at no cost to the to the citizens of the United States or Mexico.

If you stop to think about it, a Lego wall makes as much sense as anything else happening in Washington these days, so why not give it a chance?  Who knows, it might give us a reason to smile, be nice to each other, and be proud of our country’s leadership once again.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 19, 2019

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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

Public School Educators should follow Trump’s Example

The title of this article is probably one of the stranger things I have said, but it is true.  If public education is to survive, it is imperative public school educators take lessons from Donald Trump.  They must study the way he orchestrated his speeches into repetitive “trumpet” calls to action that ultimately sent him to the White House.  They must pay close attention to how a man who is intentionally simple and self-promoting could get inside the heads of a nation and become the most powerful man in the world.  Public school educators must learn to play Donald Trump’s “trumpet game!”  Their survival most likely depends on it.

If public school educators learned to use Trump’s “trumpet” formula, there is no reason why it shouldn’t work for them as well.  What Trump did was not magic or sleight of hand.  It was not even complicated, but it was brilliant.  His speeches were nothing more than self-marketing at its most flamboyant and magnificent.  Of course, most educators are not as ostentatious as Trump, but they could still learn from him by studying his rise to power.  When it comes to marketing, educators have a lot to learn, and there is not a better teacher than the current President of the United States.

If people hear something often enough, they begin to believe it – good or bad.  If people hear whimpering, whining, and apologies often enough they begin to believe something is wrong.  Therefore, it’s time educators stopped whining and being apologetic!  Educators need to learn from the President to be more aggressive and self-promoting.  They need to start telling the public what they want them to know, and they must keep preaching that message until the public believes it.  The days of the sweet little timid unassuming school teacher are over.  If public schools are to survive, confident self-promoters, not afraid to toot their own horn, are needed, and Trump’s formula is the vehicle to enable teachers to market themselves successfully.  For instance, look at the following example of how a teacher might sound using the Trump “Trumpet” Formula:

How Teachers Might Express themselves using the “Trumpet” Formula

Hello America.  I am a public school teacher – a great teacher.  My friends tell me I am a great great teacher.  People I don’t even know call me and tell me how very very great I am.  Believe me I am a great teacher.   But, my profession is under attack by a misinformed public and politicians.  Politicians are total scum bags.  They have fought against me and other great public school teachers for many many years, but they can’t beat us.  Can’t do it.  Total losers.

Teaching is the best profession in the world – not the oldest, but the best.  Public schools have all the best teachers – the best tile on the floors – the best ringers in the bells.  Other schools fail in comparison.  Look at charter schools – total disaster.  They are not even real schools.  They’re fake.  They’re fake schools.  Public schools are real.  Tremendous schools!  Public schools have cafeterias.  They serve the best government commodity food in the world.  It’s true.  The cafeterias are the best, they are.  You can eat “pig-in-a-blanket” with syrup for breakfast.  The ladies in the cafeterias serve the best cheesy cheese over rice in the world for lunch.  You can even grab and squeeze their biscuits, it’s fantastic.

Public schools are the safest schools.  They have the best walls around them – chain link walls, walls of iron and steel.  Great walls that can be seen from Mars – so far away they look like tiny Ninja fortresses.   And, think, the parents of ELL students – non-English speakers – paid for it.   It’s true.  Public schools have the best arts and sports programs in America – in the world.  They’re great – tremendous!  Unlike some schools, public schools even make time for academics.  People tell us, very very important people, tremendous people, that America has the greatest underfunded education system in the world.  It’s unbelievable.  It really is.

Support public schools.  Tell your sons and daughters to support public schools.  America has a great great dependency on public schools.  It’s huge.  Tremendous!  Friday night football in the fall, Prom – backseat romps in the spring, and baby’s first holiday onesie at Christmas.  Traditions we will lose unless America stands tall for public schools.  If Americans allow politicians to screw public schools, traditions will die and societal problems will grow.  Believe me, they will become huge!  They will be enormous!  It’s true. Please don’t.

Last but not least, public school teachers totally understand it’s gonna be politicians first – Republicans first, Democrats second.  But, can we just say, “Public School Education,” third?  Is that okay?  It would be tremendous.  Huge!  Friday night football would remain king!  People, great great people, special people, people I don’t even know, will call it huge.  Tremendous!  Together we will make public schools great again big time.  Thank you.  You’re great – the best.  It’s true.

[End Teacher Example]

Hey, this worked for Donald Trump!  Verbally repeat or publish something often enough in social media and people will eventually start to believe it.  How else could a billionaire with no political experience and little in common with the masses get enough votes to become President of the United States?  His looks are not that appealing, and he doesn’t come across as overly smart, so what made him interesting enough to win the confidence and trust of the people?  The answer is simple.  Although his message was rarely clear and to the point, he kept to the point.  His message, “We will make America great again,” never wavered.

Though simplistic, he was never uncertain about where he stood.  He never backed down.  He got inside America’s head and he stayed there with a simple combination of telling people what he wanted them to hear and what they wanted to hear over and over and over again.  Throughout the election campaign, he was the dominating aggressor to the point of being rightfully labeled a bully, but he never strayed from his message nor was he ever boring.  Americans love to be entertained, and he delivered big time!

Educators can learn a lot from Donald Trump.  To change attitudes toward public education, educators need to take his lessons to heart.  Like Trump, to win, educators must get inside people’s heads.   They must develop a message of simple, but aggressive repetition.  For example, if teachers had maintained a unified repetitive stand that Common Core Standards were GREAT, TREMENDOUS, and WOULD MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, instead of becoming boring unsure defenders of the standards, the negative hoopla, most likely, would have, in a very short time, faded away without the need to drop the standards, change the name of the standards, or any other such nonsense.  Educators must learn to say what they want people to know and remember, and like Donald Trump, they must say it often.

However, probably the greatest lesson educators can take from Trump is simplicity.  According to a report by Evan Puschak, founder of NerdWriter, Donald Trump favors simple sentences when he speaks.  He rarely uses complex or compound sentences.  Puschak stated 78% of Trump’s words are one syllable with only about 5% of his words having three to four syllables.  In a separate report by Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, Viser used a Flesch-Kincaid analysis of answers Presidential candidates gave to debate questions to determine Trump’s responses were consistently on a fourth grade level – simple and easy for anyone in the audience to comprehend.  In the world of communication, simplicity is power.

Unfortunately, unlike Donald Trump, educators like to put their “smarts” on show when they speak, especially in front of the public.  As a result, they often speak over the heads of their listeners or down to their listeners.  They hit them with professional jargon and acronyms until they put them to sleep or turn them off completely to what is said.  Therefore, when it comes to communicating with parents and the public in general, educators would do well to forget their diplomas and the fancy cute acronyms, and speak the language of the people.  When it comes to communication, the old adage, “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) is by far the best strategy.  If you don’t believe it, ask Donald Trump; his “trumpet” call took him all the way to the White House.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 4, 2017