They Can't Kill Us All

Interviewing Mom

Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent.

To learn more about StoryCorps, visit storycorps.org

Q&A from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Answer Us, Arne....

Burning Questions from Teachers Part 2: Meet Our Realities, Mr. Duncan

Two weeks ago, I posted a public survey for the 1800 members of Teachers' Letters to Obama, to find out the issues and questions of greatest concern to the group. A much smaller group of representatives will be holding a phone conference soon with Education Secretary Arne Duncan soon, and we want to carry the messages from all. The response has been profound. Two hundred and sixty-nine teachers have taken the survey, and a week ago I posted some of the responses. Since then another batch of responses have come in. They are unfiltered and unedited. Here you have window into the concerns of America's teachers.

1.  Why do you think telling children a multiple choice test is the most important part of school (which is what we do with high stakes tests, no matter what anyone says) will prepare them for a 21st century world where critical thinking and creativity will be the most valuable skills?

2.  Why aren't teachers valued as professionals in this system that has been created by politicians? We have earned the respect of our students and their parents, yet those we elect to govern the education system fails to take into account the expertise and talent we put into our work and the qualifications we have earned through our work with children to ask us how to improve the system we work with every day. We have so much to offer, and know what works, but no one takes us seriously. It is frustrating, to say the least. I have been to national conferences and have spoken to groups of as many as a thousand elected officials about education, and have been often one of only a handful of educators in the meeting called to discuss education and its future. What is wrong with this picture is that we would never do the same thing if we were discussing law or medicine, agriculture or sports, yet we do it consistently when we talk about the future of our children. We fail to include the most valuable input available from the most talented and experienced people over and over again. Is it because we are overwhelmingly female? Another horrifying questions that begs a response. Dr. Michelle Ivy, National Board Certified Teacher, Social Studies, Jacksonville, FL 1999-2019

3.  In a historic decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that all Connecticut public school children have a constitutional right to a good education and that the state has the obligation to provide the resources. The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) brought this lawsuit on behalf of more than 100 cities and towns and boards of education, professional education associations, unions, students and their parents - including our Bridgeport community. However, this will take years to litigate, with CT fighting it all the way. Does this administration intend to address this issue?

4.  How do we engage the whole child and his or her family in the journey of lifelong, self-directed education?


Thursday Cartoon Fun: Blind Justice Edition


Arizona Bolstering Image As Bunch Of Complete A**holes

Tom Horne: Ajo owes state $1.2 million
He alleges funds used to teach Mexican kids

Arizona schools chief Tom Horne said Tuesday that his office is seeking $1.2 million from the Ajo Unified School District, allegedly for using state funds to educate 105 students from Mexico since 2007.

Horne said his office also is investigating whether Mexican students were attending Douglas High School and two Douglas charter schools: Omega Alpha Academy and the Center for Academic Success...


Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Clean Up Edition

Bob Reich Defends Steve Jobs

From Bob Reich:
Why is the Federal Trade Commission threatening Apple with a possible lawsuit for abusing its economic power, but not even raising an eyebrow about the huge and growing economic (and political) muscle of JP Morgan Chase or any of the other four remaining giant banks on Wall Street?

Our future well being depends more on people like Steve Jobs who invent real products that can improve our lives, than it does on people like Jamie Dimon who invent financial products that do little other than threaten our economy....

...So why is the FTC nosing around Apple and not around Wall Street? Because the Federal Trade Commission Act allows the agency to stop “unfair methods of competition” almost anywhere in the economy except in the financial sector. Banks are explicitly excluded.

Another reason for financial reform.


Blackwater's Erik Prince Calls Pakistanis "Barbarians" In Secret Speech

Jeremy Scahill says:

Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater’s secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater “call[ed] in multiple air strikes,” blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the “largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history.” He characterized the work of some NATO countries’ forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations “should just pack it in and go home.” Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.
Lots more at the link.

Pink Freud

Comfortably Numb with Van the Man!

BP Takes Responsibility For Spill But Are Still Douche Bags

US oil disaster: BP – beyond principle

Everyone is playing politics, not least a federal government with a long history of ignoring Louisiana's woes

The admission by Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, that his company was "absolutely responsible" for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico came not a moment too soon. BP spokesmen spent all last week trying to palm off responsibility on to Transocean, which owns the rig on which the blowout happened. Yesterday BP took responsibility for the cleanup operation and said that it would pay all necessary and appropriate cleanup costs. In truth, the oil giant could do no other than confirm what Barack Obama had already proclaimed publicly, that it would be footing the bill. In the words of interior secretary Ken Salazar, the US government's job was to keep their boot on BP's neck, and yesterday it yielded results.

Everyone is playing politics, not least a federal government with a long history of ignoring Louisiana's woes. Learning from George Bush's fatal mistakes in dealing with Hurricane Katrina five years ago, Mr Obama and his officials were all over New Orleans at the weekend. But neither a nominally contrite BP nor an activist president may be enough to prevent what could still turn out to be the world's most devastating oil spillage. For this, BP in particular and the oil industry in general must take their share of the blame. No one forced BP to drill the world's deepest wells in the Gulf of Mexico. It was its business strategy to be a leader of the industry's frontiers in the Gulf and the Arctic.

Mr Hayward may have personally done much to turn around the fortunes of a company accused of putting profits before safety after a blast at a Texas oil refinery. But he evidently had not done enough. Blowouts are not uncommon, nor is the sight of a fail-safe device failing, like the blowout preventer on the floor of the ocean. It is late in the day to be finding out that staunching the three leaks on the ocean floor with robot-controlled submarines is like doing open-heart surgery at 5,000 feet in the dark. Nor is this the time to be doing things never yet tried before at this depth, like building and lowering 74-tonne steel funnels to hoover up the gushing oil. These technologies should have been tried and tested before BP got the licence to drill there.

But it was the other way round. BP was in the forefront of lobbying to contain the regulatory framework within which it had to operate in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year it spent $15.9m on federal lobbying on issues like drilling on the outer continental shelf. Even as this disaster unfolds, BP continues to oppose tougher rules of safety auditing, arguing that voluntary compliance is enough. However, this catastrophe is not unfolding off the coast of Nigeria or Azerbaijan, but on home turf and on primetime television. Maybe this time, it will change minds.

Terminator Terminates Off Shore Drilling

From HuffPo:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is withdrawing his support of a plan to expand oil drilling off the California coast, citing the environmental tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.

Speaking during a news conference Monday, Schwarzenegger said television images of the oil spill in the Gulf have changed his mind about the safety of ocean-based oil platforms.

The Republican governor had proposed expanding oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara to help close the state's $20 billion budget deficit, so withdrawing his support essentially kills the idea since he would have to include it in his May budget revision.
Good for you, Ahnuld.

Monday Cartoon Fun: Obligatory "Drill Baby Drill" Edition

Religion Makes You Stupid? Research Suggests

Hearing prayer shuts off believers' brain activity

When some religiously devout people hear a charismatic healer speak the word of god , the regions of their brains involved in skeptical thinking and vigilance appear to shut down. Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and his colleagues scanned the brains of Pentecostalists while they listened to recorded prayers from non-Christians, "ordinary" Christians, and a healer. The brain activity changed only in response to prayers they were told came from the healer. According to Schjødt, the same deactivation may occur in response to the words of physicians, parents, politicians, and other charismatic leaders. The researchers published their results in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. From New Scientist:
Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and scepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian.

Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.
More at the link.

Robert Reich: Bail Out Education!

Why Public Education is More Important Than Wall Street, and What We Must Do

All over America right now, public education is in crisis. Teachers are being fired as next year’s school budgets shrink. Next fall’s classrooms will be far more crowded. Some districts are going to four-day weeks. And the nation’s public universities are in deep trouble.

The answer is for the federal government to bail out public education until state and local revenues return as the economy strengthens.

After all, the government bailed out Wall Street. What our kids learn — America’s human capital — is more important to our economy than Wall Street’s financial capital.

In addition, we should rebalance the economy away from finance and toward people. Congress should enact a small one-half of one percent transfer tax on all financial deals. This might slow down Wall Street a bit but generate $200 billion a year for our public schools and universities.

Last year, America’s top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each — enough to pay for 20,000 teachers.

Please watch this video, and pass it on.

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