Category Archives: Academics & Education

DESE: The original box of rocks that nothing is dumber than

 

According to research from Missouri Education Watchdog, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) agreed to surrender Missouri’s education voice under Obama’s “Race to the Top” scheme.  Race to the Top was a contest in which states agreed to let the federal Department of Education, via two puppet organizations, run all of the state’s education systems.  In exchange, some states were awarded money, but others were not.

Chris Nicastro, chief rock in the DESE box, applied for the grant. To increase her chances of “winning,” Nicastro agreed to surrender control of our schools even if Missouri failed to win a grant.

Missouri failed to win the grant.  Surprise!

How do we regain control?  It won’t be easy.  We’ll need the Missouri legislature to pass a law, then we’ll need permission from the US Department of Education. Arne Duncan won’t grant that waiver, so we’ll need to elect Mitt Romney and hope he appoints an Education Secretary who believes in local governance and state sovereignty.

Let’s get started.  Ask your State Rep, State Senator, and incoming Speaker of the House, Tim Jones, to make it their top priority getting  restoring local–or at least state–control of Missouri’s schools.  Ask Attorney General Koster and incoming Attorney General Ed Martin to investigate Chris Nicastro’s abuse of her office.

And even before all of that, check out this fantastic presentation from Missouri Education Watchdog.

Missouri Education Watchdog — State of Education in Missouri

Seducing the States

You can’t call yourself a conservative and ask for education money from Washington.

Republicans dominate both houses of the Missouri legislature.  You’d think they’d act like republicans (lower case).  But when it comes to education bribes from Washington, many of our Republican legislators show little resistance to political seduction. We can help them.

On BigGovernment. com, Bob McCarty highlights the hypocrisy of blasting ObamaCare from one side of the mouth while begging for federal cash out of the other.  He points to a Heritage Foundation video that features our own education watch dog Gretchen Logue

Ronald Reagan never got around to dismantling the Department of Education. In the year of his 100th birthday, let’s honor him by resisting the seduction of Washington bribes.  The Constitution is clearly silent on the issue, which means the 10th Amendment prohibits appropriations for local schools. 

Here’s What You Can Do

Contact your Missouri State Legislators today and ask them to send Arne Duncan’s bribe back to DC.  Call or email your Missouri State Rep. and Senator. Tell them to send DC’s Education Bribe back where it came from.

Senators Lembke and Nieves are trying to #senditback.  And they need our help.

Call or email now.

Then Do One More Thing

In addition to calling or writing, please do the following:

Don’t Listen to the Liberal Lies

If Missouri takes Arne Duncan’s bribe, it will simply INCREASE general spending, not education spending.  That’s just the way government works. 

By returning this bribe (and its burdensome handcuffs), we’ll send a message–and instill fiscal responsiblity in both Jeff City and Washington.

Please call your state Representative and Senator today. 

Who Has the Fear?

For 100 years in America, government, business, and the education establishment built schools and laws about education. The purpose of these government schools and education laws was to produce compliant, unimaginative, order-taking automatons

Don’t believe me?  Here’s Woodrow Wilson, educator and president, speaking on the American plan for education:

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

The Tea Party scares the hell out of the ruling class. The NEA, Washington, DC, and Washington University fear the idea of the class of people they programmed to “perform specific manual tasks” thinking and voting independently. Think unions want workers who think independently and create things of meaning?  Are you kidding me?

We who march, rally, speak, make videos, and vote are the enemy of the ruling class, not a mere alternative. 

We are the people, and we no longer need rulers. And that has the rulers panicked.

November 2 marks the beginning of the end of elitism in America.

Francis Howell Has a Sicko Teacher

Celeste is an eighteen-year-old student in the Francis Howell High School.

Celeste’s fellow students and, apparently, a teacher named Debra Blessman are bullying and abusing the girl.  Celeste’s sin? Conservatism.

Bob McCarty tells the story better than I can.  Dana Loesch has been all over this story.  There’s a facebook page dedicated to supporting Celeste, which everyone should like, even those of us who hate facebook.

I should point out that, to date, the school’s administrators are standing behind the abusive teach, Blessman, who calls Celeste a “tea bagger” and encourages the students to mock the girl.

Expect this story to have some legs unless Francis Howell’s school board gets its act together and fixes the problem. The problem, here, is with the teacher, not the student.

Bob McCarty is probably the best source for updates.

Epiphany

I can’t tell you the date of our last sandlot football game. We didn’t commemorate it or mark with a special ceremony.  We probably didn’t even know it would be our last game together.

Epiphany

After school, the kids would come to my house. Our next door neighbors, the Nahers, had a double lot, and Mrs. Naher was a former professional women’s baseball player. She loved sports and kids and let us tear up the the lawn they manicured all summer by playing sandlot football in the fall and winter.

“We” were three or four classes of boys who graduated from Epiphany School between 1975 and 1979, roughly.  Joe Cox, Matt Ellison, Dan Ellison, Dan Psaris, Bobby Psaris, Chris Winkelman, Jerry Walk, Sonny Oliver, Francis and John Godfrey, Don Vopel. Sometimes others. We played by our own set of rules.  I believe that two forward passes constituted a first down. Rushers had to count to “three Mississippi” before rushing the quarterback. 

We planned the games and chose teams at school, at Epiphany.  Then we picked teams, again when we realized that a different set of kids showed up.  Joe Cox or Matt Ellison would often volunteer to ref. 

It was during those cold, wet, painful football games that I learned about drive, desire, strengths, and limitations.  I learned that I was fiercely competitive and could be vengeful.  I also learned that I was fast and quick despite being one of the bigger kids.  And I learned to laugh and to be funny. I would catch myself noting the kinds of jokes that “worked” and the kinds that didn’t.

By the time I reached seventh grade, the games were over. The Nahers had moved to the Lake of the Ozarks, and the new owners put in a fence. Our attentions shifted to girls.  And we had less carefree time as got older.  CYC league basketball, soccer, and baseball practices became more frequent and more intense.  There was more homework.  And we were getting bigger and stronger, able to inflict far more pain and injury with each passing year.

***

I thought about those games and those boys and the girls of Epiphany today. The parish held a special mass and reception for Epiphany School alumni. The school’s closing after this year.

The church looks very different than it did when I left for the Navy in 1984. It’s both more modern and more worn, like the manicured fingernails of a wealthy old lady.  The neighborhood looks the same, although many of the houses have been town down and replaced. 

I sat with two of my three sisters and my dad.  We’re all alums. So are Dad’s sisters and brothers. With Dad, they are Margaret, Mary, Jack, Jane, Jerry, Geraldine, and Jim.  Of that brood, my dad was the lone preventative.

Next to me was my youngest son, Patrick. He’s almost seventeen. He didn’t go to Epiphany, but he and I wish he did.  After moving to the suburbs in 1995, I never moved my boys back to town. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but on days like today, it gives me a little twinge of guilt. Maybe I could have saved the school.

***

Mark Palardi was there.  His son will have the honor of graduating in Epiphany’s last class.  From 1912 to 2010, thousands of students received excellent educations at the school on Smiley Avenue. Alumni include local celebrities Mike Shannon and Mayor Francis Slay. 

Mark hung around Epiphany taking care of things after graduation. So did my best friend, Dan Psaris. And Jim Przada, who was there today. So did Richard Hanneke, now a Monsignor. He concelebrated today’s mass.  Dan and Mark and Jim and I attended Fr. Hanneke’s very first mass after ordination in 1976.  After that mass, we did something, but I don’t remember what. Probably played baseball, considering it was may. May 22 to be exact.

***

The cycles of a Catholic parish’s life include the boys who become men and the girls who become women. They meet in kindergarten, grow apart, return to the parish, and make it stronger.

Only that last part isn’t happening anymore it seems.  My childhood sweetheart and I didn’t marry and return.  She went off to be a star and I went into the Navy after numerous failed attempts at growing up.

The classes at Epiphany dwindled.  From 1912 to about 1972, each class grew larger and stronger.  My sister Mary was the first class in the “new” school building.  during her time at Epiphany, the Baby Boomers filled the place to the rafters with over 1,000 students.  The men of the parish built makeshift classrooms in the Upper Gym. 

The school was shrinking when I arrived.  My class had about 60 students, not the 120 my sisters’ had.  But 60 meant a student to teacher ratio of 30 to 1. (Despite those numbers, they learned us real good.) 

And generations moved away.

Regulation, costs, fewer nuns, state mandates all drove up the cost of a Catholic education.  The parish aged. It’s too expensive to continue operations, so the kids will disperse to St. James, St. Joan of Arc, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael.  The Archdiocese will lease the school building to someone else who will operate another kind of school.  There, the kids will learn everything they need to prepare for adulthood, except the two most important things.

These two things were the most important lessons we learned at Epiphany—lessons that some of us learned and practiced while others of us pridefully ignored.

Those lessons were to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and to return home to keep your parish going.

The new operators of the school on Smiley won’t teach those lessons. And because of that, the school will never be Epiphany again.

Dominus vobiscum.

Outliers: The Story of Success

Rarely does a book require immediate action from the reader.  "The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine moved America’s founder’s to action.  "The Communist Manifesto" moved Vladimir Lenin to enslave a nation–and allowed Stalin to enslave many more.  "The Origin of Species" launched a crusade against tradition that grows in intensity with each subsequent generation.  (Listverse has a list of the 10 most influential books of all time, admittedly subjective.)

I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Novel

Malcolm Gladwell might have penned the next book to change history.  "Outliers: the story of success" (Little Brown, New York) takes the reader on a marvelous tale of men and women who toiled and strained to rise above their meager starts to become . . . great.  There are world-class hockey players, software and computer billionaires, great lawyers, mathematicians.  All of these "outliers" fall many standard-deviations from the top of their kind. 

And like a great fairy tale writer, Gladwell deftly draws the reader deeply into his little secret:  "All is not as it appears." 

Was there foul play that made these people rich?

Did the hockey players’ parents cheat?

Were these geniuses not as smart as they pretended to be?

Like the titillating headlines in supermarket tabloids, "Outliers" makes you turn the page to find out Bill Gates’s dirty little secret of success and why certain hockey players were heads and shoulders above peers of the same age. 

Masterful Plot Twists

outliers As the story unfolds–and Gladwell’s action and tension rise and fall like a Dean Koontz novel–you learn facts far from scandalous yet more intriguing, even, than an illicit affair between Queen Elizabeth and Elton John.

I’ll leave the details to your reading of this fine book.  But I’ll tell you why this book will change the world if we let it.  And why we should.

America’s Shameful Education Results

Walter Williams once said that if he were the Grand Wizard of the KKK he could think of no better way to destroy blacks in America than to send them to our public schools.  Just this past Saturday, Morton Kondracke on Fox News’ "The Beltway Boys" said that education could be Obama’s Achilles’ Heel–it is so bad and the teachers’ unions so corrupt and selfish.  (Kondracke is the liberal.)

If you have children in public school today, unless it’s one of the top 100 or so districts in the country, you probably realize that your children will leave high school far less educated than you did.  Somehow we have to fix it.

Not so much recently, but a whole lot when my kids were tiny, I read reams on education reform.  I drew many conclusions about the causes of our declining education–the unions, government meddling, bad homes, emphasis on entertainment over learning–but inventing a solution seemed out of reach.

The Solution to a Quagmire

Enter Gladwell.  "Outliers" explains the most plausible and unmentionable (in liberal elite circles) cause and solution to American education problems since Carl Childers identified the problem with a broken roto-tiller in "Sling Blade":  "I reckon it ain’t got no gas, um hmm." 

The model for fixing education quickly, inexpensively, and permanently is pretty straightforward.  Except for the special interests.  The young girl Gladwell models, Marita, has, like so many others in the book, made herself into an outlier.  From single female head-of-household home with a single bedroom for the family and a minimally educate mother, Marita has become a math wizard in a special KIPP middle school in one of the worst neighborhoods in New York. 

"Marita doesn’t need a brand-new school with acrews of playing fields and gleaming facilities," writes Gladwell. "She doesn’t need a laptop, a smaller class, a teacher with Ph.D., or a bigger apartment.  She doesn’t need a higher IQ or a mind as quick Chris Langan’s.  All those things would be nice, of course.  But they miss the point.  Marita just needed a chance.  And loot at the chance she was given!"

That chance, according to Gladwell, was the opportunity to work as hard as a wet-rice farmer in rural South China. 

Imagine how the NEA will attack Gladwell’s recommendations:  longer hours in school, fewer but more intense "specials," hours of homework every night, weekend classes, and no summer vacation.  The New York Times has already panned the book, as Gladwell gores one of its favorite oxen. (h/t Yglesias)  Yet Michiko kakutani, the reviewer, almost certainly did NOT read the book.  If he did, he clearly has little interest in education–he doesn’t mention the only prescriptive part of "Outliers!"   That would be like reviewing the Bible and leaving out the part about God.

Yet his evidence is unmistakable.  Summer break separates the rich kids from the poor kids.  In his always-remarkable research, Gladwell proves that kids from the wrong side of the tracks learn more in school–even in supposedly crappy schools in the inner city–than the rich kids in prestigious districts.  The problem is that they unlearn in the summers while the rich kids keep on learning.  The kids start pretty close, but each new school year, the poor kids start further behind the rich kids.  As Gladwell points out, "School works.  The only problem with school, for the kids who aren’t achieving, is that there isn’t enough of it."

How To Make It Work

Before Christmas, buy and read "Outliers."  For Christmas, buy  a copy for one member of your local school board.  I have already ordered a copy for a board member in my district.

This could be the most important book in a generation, but only if we are serious about fixing education in America.  If not, at least you’ll enjoy one of the best books I’ve read in a year.

 

(cross-posted to The Work Works)

Also see a 2 part, thoughtful review on The Quick and the Ed (part 1 | part 2).  I believe the author of this post found something I did not: that Gladwell claims more hours of school is the only solution.  Gladwell says that bringing the Chinese wet-rice farmer’s work ethic to school, not just hours, is the key to KIPP.

Particularly Beware This Boy

It turns out, according to a Zogby poll to be released in its entirety today, that most Obama voters are woefully, frighteningly, and unforgivably ignorant of the basic facts of government and of Barack Obama himself.  Not surprising.  Dickens warned us of the dangers of ignorance in "A Christmas Carol":

Suddenly, Scrooge noticed something strange about the ghost. Two children-like figures were at the ghost’s feet – a boy and a girl. But, they looked old and dreadful, like little monsters. Scrooge was shocked.

“Spirit, are they your creatures?” Scrooge asked.

“They are Man’s creatures,” said the spirit “The boy is Ignorance. The girl is Want. Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy” said the spirit.

Neither our schools–Kindergarten through Ph.D.–nor our press is fit to properly inform and educate voters.   Both institutions are partisans.  Schools, for the most part, promote socialism and anti-Americanism.  They dumb down kids, teach to the least capable, and eschew the values that once defined an American:  individualism, competition, and excellence.  The press is, well, the press. 

The other culprit here is high voter turnout.  Since the most educated and informed voters tend to vote every election (about 30 percent), the math requires that the higher the turnout, the more ignorant the average voter.  Since Democrats appeal disproportionately to uninformed people, it makes sense that Obama captured the clueless vote. 

Expect to see a lot of bumper stickers that read "Don’t Blame Me–What’s Vote?"

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Survey: Environmental Cost of Plastics

Please take a quick, 10-question survey on the environmental cost of plastics. 

This survey is for an environmental science class, and will help me get a good grade.  Please forward this link to anyone you know might want to help me with this survey.  I need at least 25 responses, but the more, the merrier.

http://hennessysview.plastics.sgizmo.com

 

Thanks, in advance, for your help.

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Quashing Thought

Does your college freshman attend mandatory thought indoctrination camps?  Is he formally and publicly humiliated by the university if his view on gay marriage, global warming, or affirmative action differ from Barrack Obama’s?  Doe his college or university punish him for holding opinions that are inconsistent with the Democrat Underground and other anti-American hate groups?

If he attends University of Delaware, the answer is “yes.”

Thanks to Joanne Jacobs on Pajama’s Media (h/t The Discerning Texan), we learn that Delaware is holding liberal, Soviet-style thought control experiments on its students, for which its faculty and administration should be taken out and shot.

A chilling description was provided by freshman Brooke Aldrich in a Wilmington News-Journal story: “Students were asked if they approved of such things as affirmative action or gay marriage. If they did, they would join students on one side of the room. If they didn’t, they would join students on the other side of the room. They were not permitted to explain their reasons or to answer ‘I don’t know,’ she said.”

Students wanted to talked about “why we chose this and sort out each other’s views,” she said. “But at the end, we were told the exercise was designed so that we could not have debate, that a lot of times in life you don’t have the opportunity to express your opinion.”

Read the whole story.  Then get your kids the hell out of the liberal brain-wash clinics they’re attending.  Send them to Hillsdale College or tell them to pay for their own damn indoctrination.