This Is The Guy I Voted For

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I Need Some Help, Updated Again

(This is staying at the top for a while. There are new posts below!)

I think I have asked for financial help once before and I need to do it again.

The Frustrated Son and I are feeling the pinch. We have some big bills to pay. I need about $2500 in the next couple weeks to fend off the creditors (dental work is expensive!). If you enjoy the blog, please consider donating a little.

Update: Even if you don't enjoy the blog I will be happy to accept your donation! If you do donate, my real name gets sent to you along with a receipt. I trust you will keep it confidential! How's that for incentive!?

Click the TFT logo

Update II: Please?

Update III: I guess folks out there are in worse shape than I! Well, thanks to both of you.

Who Would You Fall On Your Sword For, Arne Duncan?

Man who kept secret CPS clout list for Duncan resigns

Just days after he surfaced as the man who kept a secret clout-heavy list of school applicants for then-Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, David Pickens has resigned.

Pickens said today the decision was his, and that he tendered his resignation Wednesday, effective April 30.

Pickens revealed earlier this week that he oversaw a list for Duncan, now President Obama's education secretary, detailing politicians, aldermen, businessmen and others seeking entry into the system’s most coveted schools.

Years before Duncan created a formal policy that allowed "principal picks" in elite college prep high schools, Pickens said he acted as a "buffer" for such principals by checking out the requests of clout-heavy callers seeking admission for students into elite schools.

Pickens said he was charged with checking out students and telling callers — including some with no connections — "no" if principals said they couldn't accommodate the students. No principal was ever pressured to take a student, or told who had called on the student’s behalf, Pickens said.

"No one tried to stop me from talking" about the list, Pickens said today. “It demanded and deserved an explanation and that’s what I did.


David Pickens (right) admitted this week that he kept a secret clout-heavy list of school applicants for then-schools CEO Arne Duncan (left).  (Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)


Friday Cartoon fun: Pervert Passes Edition


The Uselessness Of Religion

Andrew Sullivan has a series called Sin Or Crime going on at the Dish. It's about the Catholic RAPISTS who get protection from their bishops and the Pope to keep them out of trouble with the law.

Really? Is that a serious question? Is it either/or? If you are religious, then yes, it's a sin. If you are human, it is revolting, rage-inducing and criminal. Why the question, Sully? Seems that just allows for more equivocation.

In Sully's latest, he is considering whether or not the RAPES or consequences to priests for RAPES would be influenced if the clergy were parents. Um, who fucking cares?

Why is there even a discussion? Hitchens has written a screed in favor of prosecution, Dionne seems to think redemption is possible if they come clean, and I want them shot. No one dares write anything positive, because that would make them RAPE-supporters. It's hard to support RAPE. But for Sully, wondering if it's a sin or a crime seems to be what he is doing.

Dude, it's both.

And you should say that. And you should denounce any organization that systematically RAPES its most vulnerable members (who are members not by choice, usually) and then moves to conceal it by way of their power and statehood.

The Vatican should not be sovereign. There should be no confidence in an entity that conceals these kinds of crimes, especially when done to children. There should be no special treatment of the Church. Revoke its tax-exempt status. Many of them are RAPISTS!

Religion causes folks to equivocate when equivocation is impossible; priests RAPED children. Who cares if it is a sin. It is fucking RAPE. And RAPE is against the law. God has nothing to do with it. Religion has nothing to do with it.

Sully, please stop using stories of saved souls to allow for a debate about this. There is no debate about RAPING children. Is there?

Thursday Bonus Cartoon Fun: My Freedom Edition

Thursday Cartoon Fun: The Trouble With Religion Edition


The Other Education Gaps

From Ecology of Education
10 Gaps in Education (that don’t get enough press)

Not all gaps are created equal.

The Achievement Gap gets the most press and seems to have the most leverage. But there are a host of others. Read on for a handy dandy guide to 10 Gaps in Education, and then add your own in the comment section.

Legislative Gap

Distance between lawmakers and teachers.

Potential Gap:

Difference between a students’ potential and the tasks they are asked to do.

Stimulant Gap:

Time between the bottom of one cup of coffee and a refill. Often described as “The Unbearable Gap”.

The Rumsfeld Gap:

The schools, teachers, parents, & students we have vs. the schools, teachers, parents, & students we want.

The Billable Gap:

When educators daydream about the money they’d make if they could bill their hours. ”65 hrs this week, times 4 weeks this month, times $125 per hour = Cha-Ching!”

The Arm Chair Gap:

When folks with no teaching experience suddenly become experts on issues in education after reading an editorial or article.

The Restraint Gap:

What a teacher wants to do vs. What a teacher must do when confronted by someone suffering from The Arm Chair Gap.

The Manchurian Gap:

Students who are brainwashed to believe that answering test prep questions actually prepares them for entering the work force.

The Coup d’Gap:

When policy makers seize the reins of the education debate by scapegoating and alienating teachers. Often characterized by language centered on market terms — accountability, input/output, achievement — and rigor with little or no mention of students, vigor, or relevance.

The Back-to-the-Future Delorean Gap:

Often experienced in schools where there is a mix between 19th century teachers/administrators and 21st century technology proponents.

A Frightening Comparison

From Fred Klonsky:
  • The number of Chicago soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last seven years = 16.
  • The number of CPS students that have been shot so far this year = 143
  • The number of CPS students killed in Chicago so far this year = 20.
Two things: 1) How can a city educate its kids if they have to contend with this kind of violence and 2) How can we trust Arne Duncan to deal with national issues if he left Chicago in the state he left it?

Conditions on the ground have an effect on student achievement.  Until we deal with it, we are kidding ourselves.


Did Arne Duncan Play Favorites In Chicago?

Duncan's staff kept list of politicians' school requests
March 22, 2010 5:01 PM

For several years when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was Chicago Public Schools chief, his office maintained a list of politicians and others seeking help for applicants to selective schools, former top aide David Pickens told the Tribune today.

The list is being investigated as part of a wider inquiry into allegations of back-door admissions practices at the elite schools, now being conducted by the school district inspector general and part of a federal probe. Until today, the district had not revealed it had kept such a list.

While the list reads as a who's who of influential business people and elected officials, it also includes parents and others who advocated on behalf of students not accepted to the schools through the general admissions process, district officials said.

Duncan's staff was charged with following up on every case - whether parent or politician - typically by calling school principals on the student's behalf to see if there was space for them.

The list was maintained by Pickens, who is currently chief of staff to the president of the Chicago Board of Education. Pickens said the list was created to keep track of all the calls the office received, especially from politicians who often complained to Duncan if their applicants were not accepted.

Pickens said the calls from his office were not directives to the principals - no one was ever told they had to accept a student who his office called about. Pickens said that principals grew tired of all the calls they would get from influential people seeking admission for a student, and that by centralizing the process he could serve as a firewall. He said the majority of the people on the list were rejected by the principals.

Duncan spokesman Peter Cunningham said: "It was up to the principal. This wasn't an alternate route into these schools. It was part of our process of being responsive to people."

Duncan, who was public schools chief in 2001-2008, was unavailable for comment today, his spokesman said.

-- Azam Ahmed

Sir Ken Robinson On Education

h/t JB

Monday Cartoon Fun: More Texas & Education Edition

What Good Are Grades?

Joe Bower, a teacher in Canada,  is trying to shake things up, and I appreciate it. He is trying to show us that educating children is not a contest, it's a duty. And it's our duty to do it right, without making the students miserable and narrow and competitive. Joe want kids to find intrinsic motivation to learn. I agree.

He is against grades.  He is against homework.

Here is his latest:

Secondly, the issue here isn't that we are not sorting children well enough. Rather it is that we spend any time at all sorting them in the first place when we could be using our time and effort to help them improve. Ranking and sorting, bickering over grade inflation and rigid criteria and higher standards does nothing to help children become better people. Kohn puts it quite succinctly:
What grades offer is spurious precision, a subjective rating masquerading as an objective assessment.
Thirdly, reducing something as messy as real learning to a symbol, letter or number provides little to no useful information. It simply can't tell a kid what they have done or how they could get better. Studies have shown that grades are a pathetic way to provide students with feedback. Period.

Like so many things in life, we have become distracted. We have been distracted by grades, honor rolls, achievement, winning, losing, test scores, data... and the list goes on and on.

Let's refocus.

Assessment can be simplified into two steps.
  1. Gather
  2. Share
At first this may sound overly simplistic and rather benign, but here's the catch. You never need to use tests to gather, nor do you need grades to share.



National Standards Have No Basis In Reality

Alfie Kohn's response to the NYT article National School Standards, at Last:
To the Editor:

While it’s true that eight of the 10 top-scoring countries have centralized education standards, so do nine of the 10 lowest-scoring countries in math and eight of the 10 lowest-scoring countries in science. That’s according to data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMMS].

And if we’re interested in students’ depth of understanding or their motivation to learn, as opposed to mere test scores, there isn’t a shred of data to support a claim of superiority for countries with nationalized education systems.

It’s with good reason that so many thoughtful classroom teachers and education researchers are strongly opposed to this “core standards” initiative — which, let’s remember, has been driven primarily by corporate officials, politicians and testing companies.

To say that all students should receive a high-quality education is very different from saying all students should get the same kind of education. A one-size-fits-all approach to schooling doesn’t produce excellence, and it certainly doesn’t further the cause of equity.

Alfie Kohn
Belmont, Mass., March 15, 2010

About Health Care

We on the left apparently have 2 positions on the health care debate:

1. Pass it even though it sucks,


2. Vote no because the bill is not what anyone wants.

Obama ran on health care, and touted the public option as the only way to control costs. I think just about everyone who voted for Obama knew he was settling for a public option because single payer would never pass. Democrats aren't stupid; we are self-defeating.

As Obama and the Democrats caved on everything to the insane right, the left apparently realized they had no cojones, and they had better try to get whatever Republicans would let them have. They forgot that Republicans won't let them have anything. We have to fight for it. But Obama wanted bipartisanship. So we ended up with a year-long fight.

There were some Progressives in Congress who stood up to the nonsense and presented a united front in favor of a public option: Weiner, Kucinich, Grayson, among others. They were considered fringe, even though the left (among others) wants exactly what they want--universal health care--but we decided to settle for a public option.

That was our first mistake.

Now we find ourselves making the last of the Progressives cave into the debacle that has become the health care reform debate (there is no debate about the need, just who will profit). And it isn't reform. And Kucinich caved, just like the rest of them.

Yeah, yeah, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Well, what we have is not good, and what we will get is not good; it's just less bad. And that is what Kucinich and Grayson and Nader and all the rest have been saying. But they are too far out on the fringe (except they are not) to take seriously. Even though they are correct that this bill is a disaster. Mark my words, the insurance companies will find a way around most provisions, especially those that don't take effect for a couple years.

We are doomed, but at least a few folks who don't have health insurance now will get it (and they will pay, because it will be the law). In their minds, going to the ER was a much better deal, I am sure.

We know that America needs universal, single payer health care. We know it, but won't do it.

We know Bush, Cheney and the rest lied and tortured, but we won't prosecute.

We know they spied illegally and sent prisoners away to black sites for even worse torture, but we will do nothing.

We know the banks are stealing from us, but we will do nothing.

What is the point of living here? America, the greatest country in the world? You decide.

Kucinich should vote no. He said he would. But now he feels like he has to help Obama, or something. Voting for Obama is turning out to be something of a mistake. Would Hillary have been better? Probably. Oh hindsight.

I am so tired of Democrats trying to be reasonable. Reason is not what drives most people. We need less reason and more "vim and vigor," based on reason. We need to match Republican resolve. We need to fight with the same weapons, and reason is NOT a Republican weapon.

Democrats fucked this thing up. Now it's Hamsher v. Moulitsas. Hamsher is our conscience--she fights for what we need, deserve and actually want. Moulitsas is now, and I guess it's kind of funny, the establishment, arguing for what we can get.

We need to be both Firedogs and Kossaks.

Maybe Next time.

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