education

Schools and Some More Stuff


By the time this pandemic is over our kids will be as much as a year behind in school. Many are already having both academic and psychological issues due to isolation, including lack of the socialization that being in school provides. Plus, staring at a screen all day is just plain hard to do.

One of the ways schools have tried to minimize these adverse effects is to create a hybrid system, where 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids are in the classroom, which provides plenty of social distancing. As that’s going on, the rest of the kids follow along at home on their computers and the kids are rotated through the system. That only works, of course, when the kids have both computers and internet access, which simply isn’t the case for all kids.

Parts of the country are starting to “open up”, which means that we are incrementally allowing people to patronize bars and restaurants, but with perhaps only 25% occupancy. That provides separation so that we’ll only infect others with this deadly virus when we sneeze. “Opening up” has been part of new surges before and expecting different results now is demonstrably insane. Look for an increase in coronavirus cases around February 20. Open up bars? I have a better idea.

Actually, this isn’t original, but I’m proud to borrow from Vanessa Barbara’s essay in the Times, “I Can’t Believe I Need to Say This, but We Need Schools More Than Bars.” What if we converted bars and restaurants to school rooms?

Let’s see, bars and restaurants have tables and chairs in large, open areas. Check that box.

These are unused or vastly under-used facilities, making them available. Check that box, too.

A neighbor works for a company that runs an office with 1,000 – 1,500 employees. She’s been working from home for the past 10 months, as have her colleagues, and she periodically goes into the office for a short task. She reports that there are never more than 20 people in the entire building. That dramatic under-use of office space is typical across the nation.

Let’s see again: These are places with desks, chairs, great lighting, lots of room and internet service. Check all the boxes.

Another benefit of this kind of adjustment is that it minimizes the number of new teachers we’ll have to hire and train due to extremely small class sizes, because the class sizes won’t have to be smaller.

And yes, this can be done safely, even with the coronavirus unconquered, although with these new virulent strains now spreading that will have to be studied again.

Utilizing these spaces for school rooms could bring bar, restaurant and office renters a few months of financial relief and provide a venue for teachers to do what they are wired to do: teach kids. Our folks who are desperate for a bar or restaurant will just have to learn to live with disappointment for a little while longer.

The point is that we are living in a time when no road maps are available to deal with our challenges. That’s piled on top of our archaic education system format, leaving our kids behind their international peers and with life-long implications for under-performing, both individually and for us as a country. Legacy thinking from past centuries just can’t get the fix-it job done. We’re going to have to be creative now and, really, forever, if we’re to create the best outcomes.

It’s more complicated than transforming bars, restaurants and offices into classrooms, of course, and we humans have an infinite capacity to make things difficult. But what if we were to focus solely on educating our kids – would that simplify things a bit?

Turns out some folks have already done some outstanding work to ameliorate the learning losses our kids have endured, as well as the hits to their mental health. Read this report from McKinsey & Company. Pages 1 – 9 outline the challenges and our ongoing inexcusable education outcome disparities.* If you want to know how we’ll fix what’s broken, focus your attention starting on page 10.

Clearly, what we need is for our leadership to get out front and lead our kids back in school. That’s going to take some creative thinking and it’s going to cost money. All that’s riding on our getting this right is the lives of our kids and the future of our nation.

—————————————-

Covid News

If you’ve been watching (who hasn’t?) you’ve seen that the infection numbers have been dropping for a short while. Not surprisingly, it’s more complicated than  that.

This (used by permission) is from my analytically superior colleague Dave Nelsen, who brought us the story last July of why masks work:

“[T]here are credible people out there who believe .  .  .  that the worst of COVID-19 is still ahead of us. Here’s one such article. FYI, Dr. Peter Hotez is President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute .  .  .

“The basic concern is about the UK and South African variants with their great transmissibility leading to a fourth, yet higher, final wave. Regardless, do not let down your guard. Every protocol that works against “standard” SARS-CoV-2 (masks, distance, good air flow indoors, etc.) also works against these new mutations.” [emphasis mine]

Here’s a link to the report.

Insanity update

You may recall that some of the survivors of the 2018 Parkland, FL school massacre are activists for gun safety reform. David Hogg is one of the leaders and I received an email from him last week, complete with a link to a video of QAnon conspiracy nut job Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Pluto). In the video you’ll see her harassing him shortly after the shootings when Hogg was just 17 or 18 years old, still in high school, and Greene was chronologically, at least, an adult. You have to see Greene stalking Hogg to believe it.

This woman is what is now passing as an honorable member of Congress. If you need more to be convinced of how deeply disturbed, cruel and dangerous she is (read: unhinged), click here.

—————————————-

Some good news

The Biden administration is a week and a half old and has conducted a press briefing daily. The good news is that over these 12 days not a single reporter has been attacked, shamed or insulted by the press secretary, many questions have been answered, there have been no lies about the size of Biden’s inaugural crowd and every briefing has started on time. All in all, it’s what we used to call normal.

—————————————-

A Little Bit of Fun – Plus

Perhaps you missed one of the candidates for president in the last election. Too bad, because he has some sense that is most often missing. Here’s a link to his message and here’s a link to his still available campaign website. Be sure to click the Issues tab.

This guy makes sense in his entertaining, tongue-in-cheek way. Thanks to AT for pointing to him.

—————————————-

*From the McKinsey report: “The pandemic has forced the most vulnerable students into the least desirable learning situations with inadequate tools and support systems to navigate them .  .  .  Currently, the United States ranks 36th in math and 13th in reading in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.”

—————————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hand Wringing


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33  .  .  .

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is conducted every 3 years and tests academic proficiency internationally of 15-year-olds. American kids haven’t progressed. “About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old .  .  . ” There’s more to learn and you can find a report here.

Meanwhile, students in other countries are consistently better prepared to succeed. We’ve tried various programs, including No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act, Race to the Top and we’ve spent billions of dollars, but our kids are still behind.

American kids from wealthy families living in strong school districts are doing fine. Perhaps it’s the excellent schools. Maybe that performance is driven by family attitudes and expectations.

At the other end of the fixed-in-place economic teeter-totter are kids whose main academic achievement lies in falling behind not quite so much. So many schools are in disrepair, as are teaching materials and any sense of hope. That’s what happens when we attempt to operate our 21st century schools on a 17th century model.

It’s time to figure this out. And it’s time to do so without political turf grabbing or pork barrelling or ego stuffing. Perhaps then we can actually prepare our kids – all of our kids- for the 21st century.

Do you see any national leaders, say, the president, doing anything to make things better? Neither do I. And our inertia is fueling making this the Chinese century.

In an odd way, this is very much like the infrastructure programs we’ve been promised. Other than re-paving some sections of interstate highways and repairing the most dilapidated bridges, have you seen even a hint of infrastructure improvement?

During the 2016  campaign Trump promised an infrastructure program that would be “the biggest and boldest in half a century.” In 2018 he laid out a pie-in-the sky, one-page infrastructure plan. One step in that plan was “Then a miracle happens.” It wasn’t dead on arrival; it was dead before it was sent to Congress. So, there’s been nothing done. Nothing.

I confess that it’s satisfying to bash Trump for that, but we’ve been talking about this issue for decades and doing nothing about it for just as long.

It’s impeachment season, so Congress is mired in either walking or chewing gum and is unable to do both at the same time. So, regardless of impeachment outcomes, we’re certain to hear nothing more about infrastructure than some hand wringing next year. And there won’t be even that for the education of our kids.

This is what absolutist politics that views compromise as surrender does for us.

This is what treating those who disagree as though they’re enemy combatants does for us.

Unless something changes, this is what we’ll continue to get.

Think about that as you make your voting choices on November 3rd.

————————————


Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

In Case You Missed It


Reading time – 2:10; Viewing time – 3:33 .  .  .

Ed. Note: There was apparently operator (that would be me) error for the email announcement of the Sunday post this week. That’s why you’re receiving this on Monday. I think the situation is corrected and, with luck and the absence of any more operator interference, we’re back on track.


Perhaps you recall George W. Bush’s so-called “Faith Based and Community Initiative” of 2003. Less well remembered is Bill Clinton’s “Charitable Choice” program of 1996. The practical effect of each was to supply federal dollars to religious institutions.

Earlier still, in 1954, we added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. That was so that we could declare ourselves better than and identifiable from those godless Commies, at least to ourselves. That addition to the Pledge wasn’t enough, though, since most Americans didn’t recite it daily; only school children did that. So in 1956 we added “In God We Trust” to all of our currency. We look at our coins and greenbacks every day, so that should have provided sufficient reminders of God as officially on our side and in our laws, even to those with the shortest attention span.

Each of these actions super-glued religion to our government and our country. I don’t understand why establishing religion as part of our state was not un-Constitutional, given the clear mandate of The First Amendment. Disappointingly, this story is continuing and it would have been easy to have missed it, given the tsunami of events last week.

Betsy DeVos is the totally unqualified head of the Department of Education. Her lack of qualification is due both to her near-complete ignorance of public education and her predilection to shift all to the private sector and to destroy her department of government entirely. Her ignorance doesn’t stop her from taking bold action, though, including effectively de-funding public education.

She has now decided to enhance the flight of your tax dollars for public education to private religious institutions. The lead paragraph of an article about this in The New York Times reads,

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools.”

So, religious organization X will now be free to use its federally supplied dollars (how come they have those?) to fund religious schools. That’s a nifty two-step diversion to those private schools of your public money that is supposed to go to pubic education. What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion  .  .  . ” is unclear?

Even Evangelicals have expressed opposition to government funding of religious institutions. That is in part on the basis that such action will inevitably result in government control of religion. They’re right.

Last scratch at this itch: In 2012 President Obama unilaterally created the DACA program, which was effectively the selective, rather than universal, application of our immigration laws. Republicans went berserk in opposition. The law is the law, they screamed. The Constitution clearly separates powers and this one doesn’t belong to the Executive branch, they cried.

Where is that same opposition to Trump and DeVos selectively refusing to enforce our laws and support the Constitution today?

Click to join me on March 23 for this fascinating and informative event.

               ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

 Scroll to top