Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why I'm Voting NO on the EO Smith Field Construction

The last time this vote was taken the communities of Ashford, Mansfield and Willington voted No. And they did so largely because the project was too expensive. Although much has changed since then (the matter of a national economic meltdown that's politely called a 'recession'), relatively speaking we can still not afford to go forward with this.

Some personal insights:

After the last vote, the Board was slapped with a dose of reality and they briefly responded with the lucidity that the school budget itself needed to be brought under control. During that period of time, I was led to believe that teacher contracts would be negotiated with the realisation that we were in crisis and sacrifices would be made.

No meaningful concessions were made by teachers.

The same hope was held out in negotiating administrative contracts. No meaningful cost saving there either.

Surely cost savings could be realised with the maintenance staff! Nope.

The Board as a whole has no spine for sacrifice in the budget although they often make noises to the contrary. So when the last school budget was being debated I still held out hope that if meaningful wage and benefit concessions couldn't be realised at least we could stick to a zero or lower budget proposal. Nothing doing.

In fact the spreadsheets of possible lower than zero budget cuts turned out to be a red-herring. A small town in CT that actually tried to cut their school budget were told IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW!

That's right, the education industry wrote into legislation an immunity card for themselves that basically can be interpreted to read that no matter what happens to the economy of a community, that community in addition to suffering ALL of the economic woes that may befall them are responsible for maintaining the lifestyle educators have come to accustom themselves to during the best of times.

Sweet deal. That legislation was written by the same idiots who just passed Obama-inspired education legislation that will soon add millions in taxes to fund education initiatives that are failing all over the country as we speak ("its only money" - your money).

So. Athletic fields. Yes, they could use a lot of work. Can we afford them? NO.

I no longer trust the promises of Board members who claim to promote austerity while voting for ever larger budgets and stone-walling any attempts to restructure the school and its finances. We need to walk that walk first. We need to downsize staff. We need to stop doing the same things that have never worked over and over again in the magic thinking that this time it will be effective.

EO Smith is bloated with excess spending, micro class sizes, techno-phobic teaching practices, out of date equipment, and an aversion to improving the only thing that matters; the quality of learning for the students. For all of their good fortune, for all of their immunity from the economic woes of their neighbors, and for all of the empirical evidence that schools have to change, we are held hostage to begging for better education, for substantial change, and for our money's worth in what is being spent.

It's obscene. And athletic fields won't begin to solve those problems. Nor will more money, more empty promises, or one more attempt at trying the same thing over again expecting a different result, one more time.

We need change.

Why I'm Supporting Susan Eastwood and Joe Courtney

I've known Susan Eastwood and her family for a long time. The last time Susan ran she lost by just a small number of votes. Afterward she went through a period of time believing she should have knocked on a few more doors. She was tireless in that campaign as it was.

Susan and I have honest differences of opinion. That's the sign of an political integrity. She listens and isn't afraid to push back when she disagrees.

But the real reason I'm voting for Sue is because she works so hard at doing the right thing. She already is involved in a handful of great causes that has included getting legislation passed to ensure school bus emissions don't affect the health of our children, open spaces, clean air, and more. She's exactly the kind of voice that's needed in the State Capitol to serve as an advocate for the part of the State that plans on staying green and open and decent.

She is enthusiastic, qualified, and she works her tail off for all of us and all to come. She's earned our respect and deserves our vote.

Joe Courtney is another Democrat worth voting for. I met Joe at a fund-raiser after he had lost to Rob Simmons. In those days that loss was hard to take. It looked as though Simmons riding the then high-flying coat-tails of George Bush would never be unseated. Yet Joe managed to do just that.

And he has served this community well. He worked hard to salvage and triage Obama's Health care bill. It would have been worse without his involvement. Joe is also one of the few Democrats who walks the walk. Like Kucinich and a handful of other representatives who put the promise of the American Dream first and foremost in his votes, Joe is our voice of integrity to Republicans and a tone deaf Democratic administration in Washington.

Joe is far more likely to give this administration a kick in the ass than Janet Peckinpah will. Joe's opponent is a career opportunist whose opportunities are often mired in controversy and scandal. For those of us who remember the stories of her adventures in New Haven while a news anchor there, it is hard to imagine she's got the kind of character Connecticut needs to represent it. And adding yet another opportunist to that already seedy environment seems like a bad idea.

I trust Joe Courtney and I feel safer that he's in Washington than someone whose only reason for running for office is little more than self-gratification.

And I hope that no one thinks these endorsements are partisan. I'm not happy with Democrats in Washington and in Hartford. The gutless and jaw-dropping stupidity being exercised in both places is inexcusable.

Susan and Joe aren't part of that mess and Republicans and independents need to take a deep breath and a leap of faith that all candidates aren't bad candidates. Courtney and Eastwood deserve your vote.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why This Liberal Is Voting For McMahon

While it's true that Obama's education policy is wholly asinine, that's not why I'm endorsing Linda McMahon for the CT Senate seat. Fact of the matter is that Obama has treated Democrats and Liberals like dogs for the time he's been in office. It's our own fault that we were had. We spent years trying to rid this country of what had been the dumbest and meanest federal administration of our lives. That is until Obama started hitting his stride.

I'm ashamed to be a Democrat. The party in power bears no resemblance to the local Democrats all over America who voted for change, who believed in Hope, and who thought Obama would be a smart president. While the Obama administration demonizes Tea Party politics, Sarah Palin, Fox News, and so on, I struggle to find anything redeeming, smart, or graceful in what the Obama administration is doing. I've come to dislike these idiots more than I disliked the Bush administration.

This is just the first of my endorsements for this coming election and I want it to send a message. Liberals and Democrats have choices. We're told to fear the alternative candidates but I don't. I didn't fear Bush or Chaney or the rest of that sordid bunch. We survived and thrived only to be stabbed in the back by a grand charade.

You see, normally I would vote Democrat barring a candidate who did not sit well. But the recent rash of stories about Obama's fund-raiser in Greenwich and other encounters has given me pause.

FireDogLake reported on Obama mocking Liberals and explains what it might mean to the administration.
One thing is for sure. Obama never would have expressed this kind of contempt for the base prior to his own election. He — and the DNC — are playing Russian roulette with the rest of the party, belittling the very people who show up and vote and do all the campaign grunt work in every race in the country. And for what? It all appears to be little more than an egotistical, thin-skinned taunt aimed at those they feel aren’t giving them the accolades the Democrats think they deserve.

Nobody in the history of electoral politics, and I mean nobody, believes that telling people to “get over it” will get them to the polls. (Well, nobody but Spiro Agnew.) And you can bet your bottom dollar that come 2012, when Obama’s own electoral future is on the line, that won’t be his message.
Well, I'll be at the polls come election day. I get more motivated every time I read an article about what's happening.

The Suburban Guerrilla blog gets it right.
...those of us left living on a wing and prayer thanks to your “half full”, half-assed economic policies just don’t have a sense of humor about our continuing plight. I know it’s been a long time since your mom got food stamps, but you might want to give that empathy thing some thought.

Speaking of empathy, Bill McKibbon at the Huffington Post reports on the experience of some college students who delivered some of the White House's original solar panels to the Obama administration thinking that it would make a statement. It did.
Now, let me say that I already knew Jean Altomare, Amanda Nelson, and Jamie Nemecek were special, but my guess is the bureaucrats hadn’t figured that out. Unity is out in the woods, and these kids were majoring in things like wildlife conservation. They’d never had an encounter like this. It stood to reason that they’d be cowed. But they weren’t.

One after another, respectfully but firmly, they asked a series of tough questions and refused to be filibustered by yet another stream of administration-enhancing data. Here’s what they wanted to know: If the administration was serious about spreading the word on renewable energy, why wouldn’t it do the obvious thing and put solar panels on the White House? When the administrators proudly proffered a clipping from some interior page of the Washington Post about their “greening the government initiative,” Amanda calmly pointed out that none of her neighbors read the Post and that, by contrast, the solar panels had made it onto David Letterman.

To their queries, the bureaucrats refused to provide any answer. At all. One kept smiling in an odd way and saying, “If reporters call and ask us, we will provide our rationale,” but whatever it was, they wouldn’t provide it to us.

It was all a little odd, to say the least. They refused to accept the Carter panel as a historic relic, or even to pose for a picture with the students and the petition they’d brought with them. Asked to do something easy and symbolic to rekindle a little of the joy that had turned out so many of us as volunteers for Obama in 2008, they point blank said no. In a less than overwhelming gesture, they did, however, pass out Xeroxed copies of a 2009 memorandum from Vice President Biden about federal energy policy.

I can tell you exactly what it felt like, because those three students were brave and walked out graciously, heads high and kept their tears back until we got to the sidewalk. And then they didn’t keep them back, because it’s a tough thing to learn for the first time how politics can work.

To say that the party is in the hands of assholes would be an understatement.

I'm not in the mood to vote for yet another right-wing, get-ever-tougher, and screw the country Democrat for Senator. Dodd and Lieberman have so screwed the State of Connecticut that it is unrecognizable. We are job poor, tax heavy, and politically brain-dead.

The next vision Richard Blumenthal has will be his first. He is a fine Attorney General but nothing more. It is an understatement to say he is uninspiring. In a crowd of grey suited bureaucrats, one would be unable to find him. This is not who I want representing me in Congress.

If Obama so loves conservative politics then Linda McMahon will teach him and hold him accountable. And one can only hope that when she's elected with the help of Liberals that she'll ring his bell as a 'thank you' gesture from us to him.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Deconstructing Education

On Democracy Now, Lois Weiner identifies the origin of standardized testing regimes such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. She traces one of the first such efforts to the Pinochet regime in Chile who instituted it under military rule. Obama's technique has been to exploit the ingrown greed of local government's to cut the throats of its children and taxpayers to get federal funding for standardized testing programs.

The teacher's unions have spent a decade playing along with this nonsense largely because they could stick their heads in the sand because although it adversely affected the students, it caused no ripples in the mass march toward retirement.

And even today, as can be heard in Karen Lewis's criticism of Arne Duncan, the teacher's representatives do little more than demonize-the-other with personal attacks on Duncan and claims that the data is "unscientific", that Duncan is unfit, and so on. These are shrill and empty arguments.

This leave the system alone (don't blame us) or change it badly (standardized testing/teacher performance) shouting match leaves everyone stuck with a dysfunctional duality of choices.

As a longtime critic of both NCLB and RTTT, I am forever disappointed in the response of teachers unions to the challenge of improving schools. The knee-jerk solution is inevitably "more money" with less evidence for the assertion than charter schools can provide for their arguments. And so the public and weary taxpayers are held hostage to this siren song knowing full well that the last increase in spending was no more effective in improving education than throwing money to the wind.

It seems to me that if teachers union representatives are going to argue for scientific evidence that the Obama/Bush policies are failing then they need to honor the scientific evidence that class size has little or nothing to do with student success in school past grade four.

To claim that Obama/Bush are attempting to de-professionalize teaching is true. But the argument needs to demonstrate some more veracity. A teaching profession content to perpetuate non-scientific myths that are comfortable for union purposes also expose the problem of actually teaching scientific method, ethics, good citizenship, and so on. If teachers can ignore fact then why not students, government officials, and special interests?

It is not enough to complain about de-profesionalization when the teachers unions prevent the possibility for re-professionalization. Teachers have for too long allowed union lawyers whose only interest is a larger paycheck to define what professionalism means.

Can it mean that industrial revolution ideas of unionization can give way to an enlightened set of working engagement? Can't teachers unions suggest better models than the Obama/Bush dross? If so, when will they present such arguments?

Teachers unions have yet to become part of a better solution. They have yet to arrive with better ideas. And this is largely because they have cultivated a siege mentality that fosters the idea that any change is a 'concession'. And a union that has long entitled its longest standing members special privileges and treatment is as unlikely to improve the profession as the Obama/Bush policies will.

Teachers unions need to reinvent themselves as agents of intelligent change based not on profitable myths about children and education practice but on innovative and meritorious alternative pedagogies.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Running from the Global

Contrast this video to Obama W. Bush's educational polices.

And ask yourself why UConn's Education Department is such a lap dog for bad education policy.

#YongZhao


No Child Left Behind and Global Competitiveness from New Learning Institute on Vimeo.

Cartoons (click to site of ownership):