Rick Saccone Hopes to Become Trump’s New Bobble Head in Western Pennsylvania


Rick Saccone hard at work for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

Rick Saccone’s signature achievement in the Pennsylvania House was to get “In God We Trust” posted in every public school.


Actually, he didn’t even get that.


He wrote a successful bill that merely allowed public schools to post that – if they wanted.


To my knowledge not a single school in the Commonwealth has taken him up on it.


His second greatest hit was to authorize a state day of fasting.


I’m not kidding. And it’s all down hill from there.


Now he’s running for U.S. Senate!


Oh. Wait. His fundraising was terrible.


Excuse me. He’s running for U.S. House – because that’s an easier win!


Whatever. So long as he can get to Washington, DC. He’s had enough of this small potatoes Pennsylvania politics – even though he’s one of the smallest potatoes in the patch.


If you know what I mean.


He’s running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election to be held March 13 to fill Republican Tim Murphy’s seat.


You may recall Murphy. He made his name voting for anti-abortion legislation until his alleged mistress got pregnant and then he allegedly pushed for her to abort their love child.


You know. Family values stuff.


Is Saccone up to that level of hypocrisy?


Donald Trump thinks he is.


The least popular President in U.S. history with only a year under his bulging golf shorts thinks Saccone is his kind of guy.


Trump even came to western Pennsylvania to support Saccone tweeting:

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“Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!”


Of course, Trump immediately had to walk back this comment because his trip to the keystone state was being paid for with public tax dollars. He had to say that it was an official White House event and not (as he indicated in the tweet) that it was a campaign event.


You know, for once I agree with Trump.


Rick Saccone IS Trump’s kind of guy.


He has lots of experience as a Yes Man. That’s really all he’s done in Harrisburg.


We used to have our own version of Trump – a Republican Governor who had no idea how to do his job – Tom Corbett.


Of course, Corbett’s reign was short lived. Like the President, his popularity plummeted and he was voted out of office like yesterday’s garbage.


But he had his loyal bobble head Saccone backing him every step of the way.


In fact, he voted for Corbett’s initiatives 95% of the time giving him the nickname of Corbett’s “Mini-me.”


Even when Corbett proposed something deeply unpopular, like cutting almost $1 billion from the state’s poorest public schools, Saccone went out there to explain why our children, our future, just weren’t worth the investment.


The Swamp recognizes Saccone as one of their own.


That’s why big moneyed interests are pouring cash on the sycophantic lawmaker. That and the fact that the district in question went for Trump in the last election by 20 points.


The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent at least $1 million on ads for broadcast and cable TV stations to boost Saccone’s candidacy.


And that’s not all.


Congressional Leadership Fund has put aside at least $1.6 million for ads, not to mention funding from outsiders like the 45Committee and Ending Spending – a group founded by the mega-donor Ricketts family.


All this money just to serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term!


Whoever wins would be up for re-election in November to secure a full two-year term.


Moreover, now that the state Supreme Court has overturned the Commonwealth’s gerrymandered districts that unfairly favor Republicans, that November race is likely to include newly drawn legislative lines.


So this GOP wonderland that boosted Trump and Mitt Romney in 2012 will likely become more competitive.


In fact, it may already be.

Saccone disrespecting the flag by wearing it as a shirt.

Some polls have Saccone up over Lamb by only a 3 point lead. This may be in part because of Trump’s steadily deflating support – even among Republicans. The President’s approval rating in the district has dropped to 49 percent – not far from the national picture where 47 percent disapprove of his job performance.


This is not good news for Saccone.


The SuperPACS supporting him are trying to paint Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, as a Nancy Pelosi puppet.


But Lamb has repeatedly criticized Pelosi, telling The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he would not support Pelosi as the Democratic leader. There is a “need [for] new leadership on both sides,” Lamb said.


Yet Saccone has done everything in his power to suck up to Trump.


Taking his cue from the Commander in Chief, Saccone took to twitter to express his feelings:

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“I’m humbled that @realDonaldTrump for President, Inc, has officially endorsed my campaign for Congress!”


I’m not sure why he wrote “President, Inc.”


Perhaps Saccone thinks the office belongs to a private company.


Perhaps he doesn’t understand that a politician’s job is to serve the needs of his or her constituents.


Judging by his less than stellar performance in state government, this would seem to be the case.


He’s come a long way from earnestly trying to legislate past the establishment clause of the first amendment to fighting to starve our schools to running for a position as Trump’s favorite puppet.


Or not.


That depends on voters this March.


Full Disclosure: I am not a Saccone fan. Along with teachers, parents and students from across western Pennsylvania, I’ve picketed outside of his offices demanding he do his job and provide for students. He was deaf to our cries. Do you hear me now, Rick?




Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!



There have been 11 school shootings so far this year.


And January isn’t even over yet.


That makes about 50 for the academic year – roughly one a week.


Some involve no injuries. Some are suicide attempts. And some, like the latest in Kentucky, involve an active shooter hunting and killing children.


While gun violence is a problem throughout the country, it is especially virulent at educational institutions.


According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.


Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.


Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.


The reason?


Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.


In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.


We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.


No new regulations.


No assault weapons ban.


No gun buyback programs.




In fact, the only thing we did do was actually weaken gun laws to INCREASE the likelihood of more kindergarten kids dying by shot and shell.


In this country we have created a false dichotomy – it’s either children or guns — and we’ve chosen GUNS!


We’re told to buy bullet-proof backpacks, arm school teachers, and have gun wielding police patrol the buildings, but don’t do anything about the firearms, themselves.


America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns in the world.


It’s no wonder, then, that our citizens are so much more likely to die at end of a barrel.


Since Sandy Hook, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings (including those done at locations other than schools).

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According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings, with at least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 wounded as of October 2017.


The database defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people (not counting the shooter) were shot regardless of whether those wounds were fatal or not. And since some shootings go unreported, it’s likely only giving us the bare minimum.


But that’s just mass death and destruction.


The overwhelming majority of gun deaths are smaller scale – police brutality, domestic violence, suicides, accidents, etc. America’s total annual firearm deaths came to more than 33,000 in 2014.


This is patently absurd.


Other countries don’t have the same level of gun violence as we do, even per capita.


There are certain facts that we refuse to accept.


States with more guns have more gun deaths.


Countries with more guns likewise have more gun deaths.


Meanwhile, states with tighter gun regulations have fewer gun-related deaths.


Countries with more rigorous gun control likewise have fewer gun related deaths.

(Don’t believe me? See Florida’s “The Geography of Gun Deaths,” and a 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews.)



Yet we’re told that gun control is useless because new laws will just be pieces of paper that criminals will ignore. However, by the same logic, why have any laws at all?


Congress should just pack it in, the courts should close up and the army should just all go home. Criminals will do what they please – there’s nothing we can do about it.



This kind of thinking is the triumph of business over sense.


The gun industry is making billions of dollars off this cycle of gun violence: mass shooting, fear of regulation, increase in sales. Repeat ad infinitum.


We may never be able to stop all gun violence, but we can take steps to make it more unlikely. We can at least make it more difficult for people to die by firearm.


And this doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all guns.



It just means sensible regulations.



According to the Pew Research Center, when you ask people about specific firearm regulations, the majority is in favor of most of them – both Republicans and Democrats.


We don’t want the mentally ill to be able to buy guns. We don’t want suspected terrorists to be able to purchase guns. We don’t want convicted criminals to be able to buy guns. We want mandatory background checks for private sales at gun shows.


Yet our lawmakers stand by helpless whenever these tragedies occur because they are at the mercy of their donors.


The gun industry owns too many lawmakers.


Our continued gun violence problem is a symptom of our flagging democracy.


In a Republic like ours, our representatives are supposed to enact our will in the halls of power. Yet they don’t actually represent us. They represent business and the wealthy.


Until we regain control of our government, we will always be at the mercy of the dollar and the gun.


Our children will remain merely the most innocent victims of our heartless and unfair politics.


Gun violence is not an everyday occurrence at our schools. In fact, children are actually safer there than anywhere else. But everything is relative. Going to class to learn you’re ABC’s shouldn’t bring with it even a moderate chance of fiery death!


But that’s 2018 America. We live in a culture of death.


You need no further proof of that than the weekly report of which school got struck by the lightning of gun violence. Which children were mowed down by the consequences of an out of control plutocracy today?


Bang. Bang. Democracy is dead.

School Choice Week – Choosing Away Your Choice



School Choice Week is one of the greatest scams in American history.



It is a well-funded, thoroughly organized attempt to trick parents into signing away their right to make educational choices about their children.






It goes like this:



Salesman: Would you like a choice?



Parent: Sure!



Salesman: Then just agree to never have another choice again.



That’s it in a nutshell.



Choose not to choose.



When you decide to send your child to a so-called choice school – a charter or voucher institution – you lose almost every other choice about what happens at your child’s school.



Sound impossible?



Let me count the decisions you lose by signing on the dotted line.



When you send your child to a school paid for with public money but run by a private organization, you lose:



AN ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD, so you have no say about what the school does.



OPEN DOCUMENTS, so you have no right to see budgets, spending agreements, bids, contracts, etc.



OPEN MEETINGS, so you have no public place to speak up to the people who run your school.



RIGHT TO SELF-GOVERNMENT, so you have no right to run for a leadership position on the school board. Instead you’re at the mercy of appointed flunkies.



THE RIGHT OF ENROLLMENT, so school operators get to choose whether your child gets to attend, unlike public schools which have to accept your child no matter what – so long as you live in the district.



QUALITY SERVICES, so school operators can cut services for your child and pocket the savings as profit or use it to advertise to get more paying butts in seats.



QUALITY TEACHERS, because most charter and voucher schools aren’t required to hire educators with 4-year degrees, and since they don’t pay as well as public schools and often refuse to let their teachers unionize, they attract less experienced and distinguished educators.



DIVERSE CLASSMATES, because charter and voucher schools increase segregation. Your children will be educated with more kids that look just like them. That’s healthy!



And that’s merely at MOST privatized schools. But that’s not all. At some privatized schools you can lose even more! You may also lose:



COMMON SENSE DISCIPLINE POLICIES, so your children will be held to a zero tolerance discipline policy where they may have to sit quietly, eyes forward, marching in line or else face aggressive public reprimands and harsh punishments.



AN UNBIASED SECULAR EDUCATION, so your children will be taught religion and politics as if they were fact all funded by public tax dollars! Hear that sound? That’s our Founders crying.



FREE TIME, so you’ll be required to volunteer at the school regardless of your ability to do so. Gotta’ work? Tough!



MONEY, so you’ll have to pay tuition, buy expensive uniforms, school supplies or other amenities.



And if your children are struggling academically, you may also lose:



ENROLLMENT, so your child is given the boot back to the public school because he or she is having difficulty learning, and thus costs too much to educate.



You lose all that if you decide to enroll your child in a charter or voucher school!



But that’s not all!



If you DON’T decide to send your child to a so-called choice school, you can still lose choice!



Why? Because of the rubes who were fooled into give up their choice. When they did that, they took some of your choices, too.



Because of them, you still lose:



-NECESSARY FUNDING, because your public school has to make up the money it lost to charter and voucher schools somewhere, and that means fewer resources and services for your child.


-LOWER CLASS SIZES, because your public school has to fire teachers and increase class size to make up for lost revenue.



-FAIR ASSESSMENTS, because the state and federal government require your child to take unfair high stakes tests to “prove” your public school is failing and thus justify replacing it with a charter or voucher schoolas if those have ever been proven to be better, but whatever! CA-CHING! CA-CHING!



This is what you get from School Choice Week.



It’s a uniquely American experience – selling the loss of choice — as choice.



And all the while they try to convince you that public schools are the ones that take away your alternatives.



Yet public schools are where you get all those things you lose at privatized schools.



You get elected school boards, open documents, open meetings, the right to self-government, the right of enrollment, quality services, quality teachers, diverse classmates, common sense discipline policies, an unbiased secular education, free time and money! That’s right! You actually get all that and more money in your pocket!



I’m not saying public schools are perfect. There are many ways they need to improve, but it’s difficult to do so when many of the people tasked with improving these schools are more concerned with sabotaging them to make room for privatized systems.



These are paid employees of the charter and voucher school movement who want to kill public schools – BUT THE KILLER IS ALREADY IN THE HOUSE!



Imagine if we dedicated ourselves to making our public school system better!



Imagine if we committed to giving parents and students more choices in the system and not trying to replace that system with one that gives all the benefits and choices away to corporate vultures!



So, yeah, School Choice Week is a scam.



But, hey, enjoy those yellow scarfs.



Few Kids in the World Can Pass America’s Common Core Tests, According to New Study



Could you jump through a hoop?



Probably if it were lying on the ground.



But what if it were held slightly higher? Let’s say waist high? Sure.



Shoulder height? Maybe with some practice.


How about if we raised the hoop to the rafters of a three story auditorium? Could you jump through THAT?



No. Of course not.



You could train with the world’s greatest coach, with the best equipment, 24-hours a day and you still couldn’t jump that high.



Yet that’s kind of what the U.S. has been expecting of its public school students – minus the resources.



We hold the hoop ridiculously out of reach and then blame them when they can’t jump through it.



But don’t take my word for it.



This is the conclusion of a new study that came out in January called “How High the Bar?” by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League.



They found the benchmarks for passing the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and American Common Core tests put success out of reach for most students the world over.


To do so, they linked the performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science to the proficiency benchmarks of NAEP and thus Common Core aligned tests which use NAEP benchmarks to determine passing or failure.


The difference is the NAEP is only meant to compare how students in various states stack up against each other. Common Core tests, on the other hand, apply exclusively to kids within states.



No one’s actually expected to pass the NAEP. It’s only given to a sample of kids in each state and used to rank state education systems. The U.S. government, however, gives almost all its students Common Core tests and expects them all to pass – in fact, failure to do so could result in your public school being closed and replaced with a charter or voucher institution.



However, in both cases, the study concluded the score needed to meet the bare minimum of passing was absurdly too high – so much so that hardly any group of children in the entire world met it.



It’s important to note that these aren’t standardized testing skeptics.



They believe in the assessments. They even believe in Common Core. What they don’t believe in is the benchmarks we’re expecting our kids to meet to consider them having passed.



And this has massive consequences for the entire education system.



The media has uncritically repeated the lie that American public schools are failing based almost exclusively on test scores that show only one third of our students passing.



But if the same tests were given to students the world over with the same standard for success, even less would pass it, according to the study. If we drew the red line on international tests at the same place we draw it on the NAEP and  Common Core tests, almost every child in the world would be a dunce.



Kids from Singapore would fail. Kids from South Korea would fail. Kids from Japan would fail. You name a country where kids do nothing but study for high stakes standardized tests, and even they couldn’t meet our uniquely American criterion for passing.



In fact, the percentage of our students who do pass under these ridiculous benchmarks often exceeds that of other countries.



So when you hold kids up to impossible standards a few actually make it – and more of our kids do than our international peers.



That doesn’t mean the benchmarks are good. But it doesn’t mean the American education system is failing either. In fact, just the opposite.



We have a high stakes standardized testing system that not only does not assess kids fairly, but it actually hides their success!



In the words of the study’s authors, “…the analysis suggest the U.S. has established benchmarks that are neither useful nor credible.”



How did this happen?



It comes down to one word – proficient.



If you’re proficient, it’s thought you’re competent, you are able to do something. You might not be incredible at it, but you can get the job done.



Kind of like this:



Hey. Did you hear about my leaky faucet? The plumber fixed it after three tries because he’s proficient at his job.



Oh really? My plumber fixed my leaky faucet in only one try and didn’t even charge me because she’s advanced at her job.



That sort of thing.



There are only four scores you can achieve on most standardized assessments: Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Below Basic. The first two are considered passing and the last two are failing.



However, this doesn’t line up with the five general grades most public schools give in core subjects:



A – Excellent

B – Very good

C – Average

D – Poor

F – Failing



A-D is usually considered passing. Only F is failing.



So you might expect them to line up like this:



Advanced – A and B

Proficient – C

Basic – D

Below Basic – F



However, that’s not how they line up on NAEP. According to Diane Ravitch, who served on the National Assessment Governing Board, the federal agency that supervises NAEP, they line up like this:



Advanced – A+

Proficient – A

Basic – B and C

Below Basic – D and F



This is important, because saying someone scored a proficient on the NAEP doesn’t mean they’re just okay at it. It means they’re excellent but have room to improve.



The problem is that when developers of Common Core tests set their benchmarks, they used almost the same ones as the NAEP. Yet the NAEP benchmarks were never meant to be the same as grade level ones. Confounding the two puts mere passing out of reach for most students.


And that’s not just out of reach for most American students. It’s out of reach for international students!


In short, American students are doing B work on their Common Core tests and failing with a Basic. Yet in other countries, this would be passing with room to spare.


Moreover, when you hear that only one third of American students are Proficient or above, that means only one third are doing A or A+ work on their Common Core tests. That’s actually rather impressive!


According to the study:


“National judgments about student proficiency and many state Common 
Core judgments about “career and college readiness” are defective and misleading… 
According to NAEP officials, Proficient does not mean grade level performance. The misuse of the term confuses the public. The effects of this misuse are reflected in most Common Core assessments…


NAEP’s term “Proficient” does not even mean proficient. “Students who may be proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”


The report even cites other independent analysts that have come to similar conclusions such as the U.S. General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Brookings Institution.


In short:


“Advocates who push for school improvement on the grounds of questionable benchmarks are not strengthening education and advancing American interests, but undermining public schools and weakening the United States.”


Some specifics.



The study was conducted by comparing performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science with the NAEP and American Common Core tests.



Very few foreign students were able to score high enough to meet what is considered proficiency on the NAEP and Common Core tests.




In fact, in 4th grade reading, not a single nation was able to meet the benchmark.



In 8th grade math, only three nations (Singapore, South Korea and Japan) had 50 percent or more students who could meet the criterion.



In 8th grade science, only one nation (Singapore) had 50 percent or more students meeting the benchmark.



But wait.



Even though the benchmarks are unfair and few nations children could meet them, the percentage of U.S. children who did meet them was higher than most other nations.



Take 4th grade reading.


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No one had 50% or more of its kids scoring a proficient or advanced. But 31% of U.S. kids actually met the benchmark, putting us fifth behind only Singapore, the Russian Federation, Finland, and England.



Only 31% of our kids could do it, but only four other nations out of 40 could do better.



That’s kind of impressive. Yet judging our scores in abstraction solely on this unrealistic proficiency standard, we’re failures. The whole process hides how well our kids actually do.



Bottom line, Common Core benchmarks are too high and paint an unfair picture of our education system, according to the study:



“When citizens read that “only one-third” or “less than half” of the students in their local schools are proficient in mathematics, science, or reading, they can rest assured that the same judgments can be applied to students throughout most of the world…


Globally, in just about every nation where it is possible to compare student performance with our national benchmarks, the vast majority of students cannot demonstrate their competence because the bars are set unreasonably high.”


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At very least, this invalidates the scores of the NAEP and every Common Core test yet given in this country. It demands we set new benchmarks that are in line with grade level performance.


At most, it casts doubt on the entire process of high stakes standardized testing.


It demonstrates how the data can be manipulated to show whatever testing corporations or other interested parties want.


Standardized testing is a gun, and we have been demanding schools shoot themselves in the foot with it.


Instead of trying to hold our schools to impossible standards, we should be holding our lawmakers to standards of common decency. We should concentrate on equitable funding, reintegration, and supporting our public school system and public school teachers. Not enriching private testing corporations so they’ll paint a misleading picture of student performance to justify pro-privatization schemes.


When will our policymakers rise to meet the benchmarks of honesty, empathy and caring about the well-being of children?


In the final analysis, that may be bar they are simply incapable of reaching.

The Further You Get From Public Schools, the Greater the Chance of Child Abuse



A California home-school where parents shackled, starved and abused their children is a symptom of a larger disease.



And that disease is privatization.



David Allen Turpin and his wife, Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested after police found the couple’s 13 children living in deplorable conditions in their Perris, California, home.



Some of the children were actually young adults but were so malnourished investigators at first mistook them for minors.



It is a situation that just could not have happened had those children been in the public school system.



Someone would have seen something and reported it to Child Protective Services. But school privatization shields child predators from the light and enables a system where minors become the means to every adult end imaginable.



Let me be clear. Privatization is defined as the transfer of a service from public to private ownership and control.



In education circles, that means home-schools, charter schools and voucher schools – all educational providers that operate without adequate accountability.



We are taking our most precious population – our children – and allowing them to be educated behind closed doors, out of sight from those tasked with ensuring they are getting the best opportunities to learn and are free from abuse.



And since home-schooling operates with almost zero oversight, it is the most susceptible to child neglect and mistreatment.



Children who in traditional public schools would have a whole plethora of people from teachers to counselors to principals to cafeteria workers who can observe the danger signs of abuse are completely removed from the home-school environment.



Home-schooled children receive their educations almost exclusively from parents.



While most moms and dads would never dream of abusing their kids, home-schooling provides the perfect cover for abusers like the Turpins to isolate children and mistreat them with impunity.



It is a situation that at least demands additional oversight. And at most it requires we rethink the entire enterprise as dangerous and wrongheaded.



Charter and voucher schools at least utilize whole staffs of people to educate children. The chances of something like this happening at these institutions is much smaller. However, both types of school also are much less accountable for their actions than traditional public schools.



And that is the common factor – responsibility. Who is being held answerable when things go wrong? At traditional public schools, there is a whole chain of adults who are culpable for children. At these other institutions, the number of people in the hot seat shrinks to zero.



Much of that has to do with the regulations each state puts on privatized schools.



Just look at the regulations governing home-schooling.



In 14 states including Delaware, California and Wisconsin, parents don’t have to do anything but let the school district know they’re home-schooling. That’s it! And in 10 states including Texas, Illinois and New Jersey, you don’t even have to do that!



Kids just disappear without a trace. If no one reports them missing, we assume they’re being home-schooled.



But even in states that appear to be more exacting on paper, the reality is a virtual free-for-all.



Take my home state of Pennsylvania. To begin home-schooling, parents must notify the superintendent, have obtained a high school degree themselves, provide at least 180 days of instruction in certain subjects and maintain a portfolio of their child’s test results and academic records.



That sounds impressive. However, this doesn’t really amount to much in practice because these regulations have few teeth. Hardly anyone ever checks up to make sure these regulations are being met – and they’re only allowed to check up under certain circumstances and only in certain ways and at certain times!



Even when it comes to charter and voucher schools, most states, including Pennsylvania, go little further than that.  



Frankly, most of the time we don’t know what happens in charter and voucher schools, because few state governments insist on audits, unscheduled visits or reports.



For instance, though few charter or voucher schools starve, lock up or torture students, many have zero tolerance discipline policies. Few would claim even these controversial behavior management systems sink to the level of some home-school parents who have allegedly withheld food and bound children’s hands with zip ties. But adolescents being forced to sit silently with their eyes looking forward, hands on the table or else receive loud rebukes – as they are in many charter or voucher schools – may qualify as another kind of abuse.



Moreover, all privatized schools can withhold providing a proper education. Home-school parents can refuse to teach their children not just truths about science and history but the basics of reading, writing and math. Likewise, charter and voucher schools can cut student services and pocket the savings as profit. And no one is the wiser because the state has abrogated its responsibility to check up on students or even require they be taught much of anything at all.



Meanwhile, none of this is possible in the traditional public school setting because it must operate in the light of day. It is fully accountable to the public. Its documents are public record. Decisions about how it should be run and how tax dollars are spent are made at open meetings by duly-elected members of the community.



Some, including myself, would argue that the regulations required of public schools by the state and federal government are sometimes too onerous, unnecessary or even just plain dumb. But that doesn’t change the fact that regulations are necessary. It just leaves open the question of which ones.



The bottom line is this: Public school is the equivalent of teaching children in an open room with qualified educators that have proven and continue to prove they have no criminal record and are able and ready to educate.



Privatized schools are the equivalent of teaching children in a closed room with educators who may not deserve the name and may or may not have deplorable criminal pasts.



Looked at in the abstract, no one in their right mind would conceivably suggest the latter is a better educational environment than the former. However, we have been subjected to an expensive propaganda campaign to make us think otherwise.



Look. I’m not saying public schools are perfect. Certainly students can be abused there, too. The media salaciously reports every doe-eyed teacher who stupidly has a sexual relationship with a student – whether it be at a public or privatized school. But in comparison with the worst that can and often does happen at privatized schools, these incidents at public schools are extremely rare (1 in 800,000) and of much less severity.



Though both are bad, there is a world of difference between the infinitesimal chance of being propositioned by your high school teacher and the much more likely outcome of being treated like a prison inmate at 13 by the charter school corporation or being starved, shackled and beaten by your parents!



Human beings aren’t going to stop being human anytime soon. Wouldn’t it be better to entrust our children to an environment with regulations and accountability than letting them go off in some locked room and just trusting that everything will be alright?



Our posterity deserves better than privatization.



They deserve the best we can give them – and that means fully responsible, fully regulated, fully accountable public schools.

Men, Too, Need No Longer Suffer in Silence the Pain of Sexual Harassment



This is one of the hardest articles I’ve ever written.


I’ve started it several times. And each time I deleted it.


After all, what right do I have to talk about sexual harassment?


I wasn’t raped.


I wasn’t drugged, beaten or blackmailed.


No one physically abused me in any way that did lasting physical harm.


But I was misused.


I was harassed.


And I shouldn’t have been.


I was made a victim, and my victimizer was a woman.


That, alone, shames me to my core.


I’m a grown man.


We’re not supposed to care about things like this.


We’re supposed to be unfeeling, undisturbed, stoic cowboys with our eyes ever fixed on the horizon.


If anything, I should be the one accused, not the accuser.


Some would deny that you even CAN sexually harass a man.


They’d look at the cultural ideal of manhood as an emotionally stunted beast of burden, and say men are too callous and shallow to be susceptible to this sort of pain. After all, men are always ready for the next sexual encounter. Or we should be, because that’s what it means to be a man.


But they’re wrong.


Men have feelings, too. We hurt. We cry. And we can be scarred by unwelcome advances.


So what happened?


It was almost thirty years ago.


I was just a kid in middle or high school – 8th or 9th grade.


It was in pottery class.


I’ve always loved the arts. I used to draw every spare second. My notebooks were covered with doodles and sketches. Cartoon dinosaurs and skulls. Sometimes an alien or dragon.


And I loved working with clay, too.


For years my mother had a vase I made in that pottery class. It was fat on the bottom with a slender neck. Purple glaze on the outside with a blue interior. Mom displayed it proudly in her dinning room, sometimes with a few flowers inside, until one day it accidentally fell from a shelf and shattered.


I might have been working on that same vase when it happened. I really can’t remember.


I think it was a pinch pot.


I was standing at a table I shared with three or four other students, wrapping tubes of hand rolled clay around and around into the shape of a container, when someone came up behind me, grabbed my butt and squeezed.


I jumped in surprise, and said “Ohh!” or something.


Then I heard, “Hey, sweet cheeks!”


And laughter. All coming from the other side of the room.


I turned my head to see who it had been.


It was a girl I hardly knew though she had been in my classes since first grade.


Let’s call her Nancy.


She was a chunky but not unattractive girl from the other side of the room.


She walked back to her friends, both boys and girls, at her table, and they were all losing it over what had happened.


I blushed and turned back to my work, feeling like the clay my fingers molded.


I couldn’t even process what had happened.


Why had Nancy just walked over to me and pinched my butt?


It wasn’t even a playful pinch. It wasn’t grabbing someone with the palm of your hand and giving a squeeze. She had clawed into my flesh, secured a good hunk and pulled.


It was angry and mean.


I didn’t understand. What had I ever done to her?


I barely knew her. I hadn’t said more than ten words to her in eight years.


“You like that?” she asked from across the room.


I just kept working on my pot, looking at it as if it were the only thing left in the universe.


The others at my table were giggling, too.


I remember it like a scene in slow motion. Me rolling out and unwinding the clay. Everyone else laughing. Nancy smirking.


And then she came back and did it again!


I jumped and squealed.


But I did nothing. I said nothing.


She pinched me at least three or four more times. Maybe more.


And she said something each time.


And like it was on a script, always the laughter and guffaws.


Eventually I think I started to quietly cry.


That’s when it stopped mostly.



The others at my table were as silent as I was. When they saw my reaction, I think they got embarrassed.


We were all working with incredible concentration trying not to acknowledge what was happening.


I made sure not to turn and look behind me. But I could hear the snickers.


Where was the teacher?


The room had a strange L-shape. At the foot of the L was a kiln where she was diligently firing last week’s pottery. From where she was, she probably couldn’t see the rest of us working at our tables.


I don’t think she saw anything. She never said anything if she did.


When she returned to our side of the art room, she may have asked if I was okay. I’m not sure. I probably just shrugged it off. Maybe asked to go to the bathroom.


Why did this bother me so much?


Because I wasn’t asking for anyone to come over and touch me like that.


I just wanted to make my stupid pot. I just wanted to be left alone.


I didn’t want to be treated like anyone’s joke. I didn’t want my physicality to be the cause of anyone’s laughter.


It’s not that Nancy was a pariah or a terrible person or anything. If things had been different, I might have responded differently.


But when you’re a guy in high school, you aren’t allowed to be upset when a girl comes and pinches you.


You’re supposed to respond a certain way.


I couldn’t ask her to stop. I’m supposed to love it.


Even if it’s a joke.


Even if it’s a way to denigrate me in front of the whole class. Even if it’s a way to proclaim me the most undesirable boy in the whole room.


It felt like someone pointing at a banana peel in the trash and mockingly saying, “Yum! Yum!”


But I was the garbage.


It certainly made me feel that way.


I’m not sure why this has bothered me for so long.


Maybe it’s the feeling of powerlessness – that there was nothing I could do. Maybe it was a feeling that I should be reacting differently. I should be more assertive either telling her to leave me alone or maybe actually liking the physical contact.


I’m not sure how to explain it.


I was made to feel inferior and degraded.


Perhaps that’s why I’ve remained silent about it all these years. The only solution had seemed to be to forget about it and move on.


Yet doing so leaves a cold lump in your chest. Oh, it won’t kill you. But it’s always there. You just learn to live with it.


I suppose in writing about it, I’m trying to rid myself of that lump.


I don’t know if it will work. But I’m tired of carrying it around with me anymore.


We’re living in a remarkable moment. Women everywhere feel empowered to share their stories of abuse at the hands of men. Shouldn’t I feel empowered to share my story of abuse at the hands of a woman?


But there does seem to be a disconnect here. A disanalogy.


No matter who you are, everyone has been the victim at one point or another.


Whether you’re male or female, rich or poor, black or white – everyone has been on the losing side.


However, some people use that truth as an excuse to pretend that all groups have been equally targeted. They use it as a way to justify the marginalization and minimalization of women and people of color, for instance, groups that have been most often earmarked for abuse.



Let me be clear – I firmly reject that. I am not All Lives Mattering sexual harassment and abuse. Clearly, women have born the brunt of this burden and men have more often been the cause.


But that doesn’t mean that men are immune to being victimized or that women are incapable of being aggressors.


Perhaps that’s my point in writing this – to caution against easy expectations and easy labels.


Toxic masculinity exists because we have toxic expectations for men and boys. Our society molds them into the shape of our collective expectations.


It’s about time we expect more from men.


And it’s time we allow them the space to be hurt so that they, too, need no longer suffer in silence.

Public Schools Best Fulfill Dr. King’s “Purpose of Education”



What is the purpose of education?


Is it to train the next generation of workers?


Or is it to empower the next generation of citizens?


Is it to give children the skills necessary to meet the needs of business and industry?


Or is it to provide them the tools to self-actualize and become the best people they can be?


In today’s world, our leaders continue to insist that the answer to the question is the former corporate training model. Knowledge is only valuable if it translates to a job and thus a salary.


But we didn’t always think that way.


As another Martin Luther King Day is about to dawn this week, I’m reminded of the man behind the myth, a person who clearly would deny this materialistic view of learning.


When we think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we usually think of the towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement who gave the “I have a dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963.


However, as a teacher, I find myself turning to something he wrote in 1947 when he was just an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College.


While finishing his undergraduate studies in sociology, he published an essay in the student paper called “The Purpose of Education.”


Two sections immediately jump off the page. The first is this:


“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”


So for King it wasn’t enough for schools to teach facts. It wasn’t enough to teach skills, math, writing, reading, history and science. The schools are also responsible for teaching children character – how to be good people, how to get along with each other.


It’s a worthy goal.


But 2018 contains a far different educational landscape than 1947.


When King wrote, there were basically two kinds of school – public and private. Today there is a whole spectrum of public and private each with its own degree of self-governance, fiscal accountability and academic freedom.


On the one side we have traditional public schools. On the other we have fully private schools. And in the middle we have charter, voucher and home schools.


So which schools today are best equipped to meet King’s ideal?


Private schools are by their very nature exclusionary. They attract and accept only certain students. These may be those with the highest academics, parental legacies, religious beliefs, or – most often – families that can afford the high tuition. As such, their student bodies are mostly white and affluent.


That is not King’s ideal. That is not the best environment to form character, the best environment in which to learn about people who are different than you and to develop mutual understanding.


Voucher schools are the same. They are, in fact, nothing but private schools that are subsidized in part by public tax dollars.


Charter schools model themselves on private schools so they are likewise discriminatory. The businesses who run these institutions – often for a profit – don’t have to enroll whoever applies. Even though they are fully funded by public tax dollars, they can choose who to let in and who to turn away. Often this is done behind the cloak of a lottery, but with no transparency and no one checking to ensure it is done fairly, there is no reason to believe operators are doing anything but selecting the easiest (read: cheapest) students to educate.


Charter schools have been shown to increase segregation having student bodies that are more monochrome than those districts from which they cherry pick students. This is clearly not King’s ideal.


Homeschooling is hard to generalize. There is such a wide variety of experiences that can be described under this moniker. However, they often include this feature – children are taught at home by their parent or parents. They may or may not interact with their academic peers and the degree to which they meet and understand different cultures is variable to say the least. They may meet King’s ideal, but frankly the majority of them probably do not.


So we’re left with traditional public schools. Do they instill “intelligence plus character”?


Answer: it depends.


There are many public schools where children of different races, nationalities, religions, and creeds meet, interact and learn together side-by-side.


Students wearing hajibs learn next to those wearing yarmulkes. Students with black skin and white skin partner with each other to complete class projects. Students with parents who emigrated to this country as refugees become friends with those whose parents can trace their ancestors back to the Revolutionary War.


These schools are true melting pots where children learn to become adults who value each other because of their differences not fear each other due to them. These are children who not only learn their academics as well – if not often better – than those at competing kinds of schools, but they also learn the true face of America and they learn to cherish it.


This is the true purpose of education. This is the realization of King’s academic ideal and his civil rights dream.


However, this is not the case at every public school.


While there are many like this, there are too many that are increasingly segregated. In fact, in some areas our schools today are more segregated than they were at the time of Dr. King’s assassination.


These are schools that get the lion’s share of resources, that have the newest facilities, the widest curriculum, the most affluent clientele.


So, no, not even all public schools meet this ideal. But those that don’t at least contain the possibility of change.


We could integrate all public schools. We could never integrate our charter, voucher and private schools. That goes against their essential mission. They are schools made to discriminate. Public schools are meant to be all inclusive. Every one could meet King’s ideal, if we only cared enough to do it.


Which brings me to the second section of King’s early essay that pops off the page:


“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”


Seventy one years ago, King was warning us about the situation we suffer today.


When we allow academics to be distinct from character and understanding, we put ourselves at the mercy of leaders with “reason, but with no morals.”


We put ourselves and our posterity in the hands of those like President Donald Trump, the fruit of a fully private education.


Racism and privilege become the defining characteristics of a class without character, in King’s sense.


If we want to reclaim what it means to be an American, if we want to redefine ourselves as those who celebrate difference and defend civil rights, that begins with understanding the purpose of education.


It demands we defend public schools against privatization. And it demands that we transform our public schools into the integrated, equitable institutions we dreamed they could all be.