Politics 101 – Got To Have A Boogie Man

(From the74) Charter moratoriums have also picked up momentum over the past few years as teachers unions have turned to increased political activism, she said. While the #RedForEd movement began as an appeal for increased public school funding, particularly to augment teacher salaries, organizing energy has long since turned toward charters, which union leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García argue draw funding away from traditional public schools.

“Unions are having a lot of other issues coming up that are leading to political mobilization and strikes, and charters are becoming part of the mix of issues alongside other grievances,” she said. “And it’s an opportune moment to bring charter schools into that agenda.”

Since the Supreme Court ruled on Janus, which overturned 40 years of precedent regarding the mandatory collection of Union dues, the public union sector is in a fight for their life. Enter Trump and DeVos as Secretary of Education and you have a perfect storm. What looked like grassroots uprisings around the US surrounding the #RedForEd movements in West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, and others were actually a very strategic effort by Unions to take back the narrative, win state houses and influence national politics.

When Cory Booker, a once school choice advocate, flips, you know the efforts are working.

Education always polls high on local elections as a major issue of concern for voters. The Democratic party has successfully made the issue national and it has the ability to move a number of state races as well. From a strategy point of view, it’s masterful.

The million dollar question is; ‘Is it good for kids?’

The Economics of Global Warming

I’m a weekly listener to Russ Roberts and Econo Talk. He is one of the most detailed interviewers that I’ve ever come across. His ability to dig in and hang with experts on so many different topics is amazing to me. Here Russ interviews an economist on the economics of global warming. From polar bears to hurricanes to sea level rise to solutions. Listen to the show HERE, it’s worth digging into a major issue with some rather smart people.

Bjorn Lomborg on the Costs and Benefits of Attacking Climate Change

Jun 10 2019


Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, talks about the costs and benefits of attacking climate change with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Lomborg argues that we should always be aware of tradeoffs and effectiveness when assessing policies to reduce global warming. He advocates for realistic solutions that consider the potential to improve human life in other ways. He is skeptical of the potential to move away from fossil fuels and argues that geo-engineering and adaptation may be the most effective ways to cope with climate change.

You Get To Decide What To Worship – David Foster Wallace

I stumbled across the acceptance speech from Kenyon College (2005)

From his ‘What Has Meaning’ speech:

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.

Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear.

Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

The full speech HERE.

The Philosophy of Nietzsche

The more I dig into this man’s ideas the more conflicted I am of his importance. Like anyone’s work, there is good and bad. His ideas made an impact. His ideas were controversial. His ideas were misinterpreted. His ideas were put forth at a time in the world where science and reason were challenging old held beliefs about religion.

To understand Nietzsche you have to understand the context of when he was writing his books. Clearly he was a genius and when he finally slipped into madness and spent the last 10 years of his life incomprehensible, you wonder if he flew too close to the sun.

Check out this entire documentary on Netflix – Genius of the Modern World

For some fun, check out Akira the Don mixing Jordan Peterson reciting Nietzsche’s poem, The Tarantula. The mix is about the slide towards equality above all else. Spooky!

YES. This Is Why I’m In Education

Every great idea has a spark, a moment where it smacks you over the head and you can’t believe you missed the forest through the trees. For me, that moment had to do with the role of schools and what education is supposed to achieve.

One of our Directors started an informal discussion about what the goal of our K8 charter school should be. He posed the question, ‘What’s the goal for our graduating 8th graders?’ If you think about it, by 8th grade, these students have been with us since PreK. Next, to their parents, they are spending more time within the walls of our school than anywhere else. What a simple question. Is our goal memorization, critical thinking, the scientific method, grammar rules, how to write a 5 paragraph essay? The answer was so intuitive that my family actually answered the question a decade ago when we selected our kids’ kindergarten to 8th-grade experience.

When he shared the idea with me, he relayed that the few teachers, admin and parents that he asked came back with one simple answer, ‘TO BE AWARE OF OTHERS’.

There it was, the Golden Rule. The basis of every major religion from Buddhism, to Islam and Christianity and Judaism. Awareness of others. From that moment on fog was lifted in my life and I moved from the tactics of running a school system to the PURPOSE of running a school system. The purpose that hit me that day was that we were here to ensure the academic success of our students AND to help mold and model positive character.

From this idea, I have developed a 9 point character education plan that can help schools to implement research backed theories that improve academic outcomes in students and help to build character in K to 12th-grade students.

To understand what I’m working towards, give this interview a listen.

The Education Debate We’re Not Having

While we argue about issues like federal intrusion and Common Core, not enough attention is being paid to steps that could bring real improvement to our schools.

DECEMBER 4, 2014 AT 9:00 AM

By Joe Semsar  |  Contributor

Joe Semsar, a former Teach for America corps member and staff member, is an organization-transformation consultant in Deloitte’s federal government human capital practice.

Last June I attended a debate between the Republican candidates for South Carolina superintendent of education. The two-hour debate featured six candidates vying to lead the state’s public education system for the next four years. While the candidates addressed a multitude of scripted and audience-initiated questions, the bulk of those questions centered around the federal government’s encroachment on state and local education and the future of the polarizing Common Core standards.

As a former teacher, I was dismayed at the narrowness of the debate and left wondering what had been discussed that would directly lead to an improved K-12 educational environment. My time as a teacher made clear to me that state standards alone will not lead to students’ mastery of their material.

Like many young teachers fresh out of college, I got my start as a classroom instructor in a school that had perennially failed. After the Recovery School District of Louisiana seized control of the school and handed it over to a charter management organization, that organization built a new staff, extended the school day to nine hours and adopted a new pedagogical approach grounded in diagnostic assessments and individualized academic tracking.

None of those steps resulted in significant academic gains. So what can state and local governments realistically do to improve educational outcomes? There are many truly effective steps that can be taken, but here are two, gleaned from my experience, that could make a difference quickly at little cost.

First, state and local governments must work diligently to empower teachers with the resources needed to succeed — lesson plans and supplemental resources aligned to each state’s grade-level expectations that can be easily tailored and deployed. The inadequate supply of teachers and the rise of teachers certified through non-traditional alternative-certification programs create a situation in which multitudes of educators find themselves floundering to consistently produce engaging lessons. As a first-year teacher, I was responsible for developing lesson plans for five subjects a day for 36 students; that’s nearly 900 lesson plans over the course of a school year, not to mention the differentiation that must be factored in when creating lesson plans for students on different academic levels.

I understand the “every classroom is different” argument, but let’s be honest: No matter how talented or committed one might be, the development and delivery of 900 lesson plans over the course of a school year is simply too big of an ask. A few successful charter management organizations — such as KIPP schools — create online resource repositories for their teachers that provide instant access to engaging lesson plans, classwork and homework that foster educational environments conducive to learning. Why can’t our states and localities replicate this model on a larger scale?

Second, in many low-income communities classroom management — dealing with bad behavior — is the elephant in the room that no one wants to address. More-engaging lessons reduce in-classroom misconduct, but many disenfranchised students suffer because they have fallen behind and need more than engaging instruction. The schools that consistently outperform their academic expectations leverage positive-behavior incentive systems and school-wide consequence systems to curb bad behavior and encourage positive behavior. Celebrating positive behavior reinforces expectations that lead to an improved communal ethos within schools.

There is much that government leaders and education administrators can learn from those who have led school systems and individual schools to outperform expectations. From a more collaborative educational environment that encourages teachers to share resources to the proliferation of behavior systems that have proved successful, governments need to hone in on the core problems and work to address them while leaving partisan, polarizing issues on the sidelines.

Joe Semsar | Contributor | joesemsar@gmail.com  |  @joesemsar