Sunday, March 16, 2014

#156 March 16, 2014- Educational Identity and Political News

Who Are We. . .
Defining who we are is an important part all of us as humans.  As social creatures we need to establish our identities and work hard to get others to see us in positive ways.  This is true for individuals, and it is also true for larger groups of people as well.  We spend a lot of time and energy working to create perceptions of who we are and what we stand for.  Some of these perceptions are accurate and others are more "PR" that we create, or perceptions, accurate or not, that others create for us.  As Machiavelli stated, “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

For most individuals, how we are perceived by others is a matter of personal interest, but is of little importance outside our immediate circle of friends, colleagues and associates.  However, for those who have greater societal influence, or for groups of people the impacts of public perception are of more significance.  This is why advertising and public relations departments become so important in creating an image of major political, social and economic figures and groups.  There is a need to influence public opinion in order to sell a product, whether that product is an item, an idea or a specific individual.  This is especially true in a society like America's where choice and freedom are held in such high esteem.

There is a constant balancing act that goes on in our public debates here between convincing people and coercing people.  Our idealism tells us that we can use facts and sound arguments to convince others that our viewpoints and ideas are correct.  If our argument is sound, or our product is good then others will buy into our way of thinking, or literally buy what we are selling.  We see efforts to convince others in many places in our society.

Yet, there is another side to public perception and gaining the support of others in our efforts to promote ideas and things that we value.  Coercion is always a part of the human experience.  Once again turning to Machiavelli, “it is much safer to be feared than loved because is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”  In other words, since people can't be trusted we need to have some type of mechanism in place to make others do as we want, and fear or punishment is the most effective way to insure cooperation and compliance. 

The more important the "product" is to us, the more likely it is that we will turn to coercion over cooperation.  This is very logical, after all, in matters that are considered important we should do everything possible to make sure that everyone does what is necessary for the survival and prosperity of our society as a whole.  Even in a "free" society like America's we use a number of different mechanisms to insure the compliance of members of our society.  We use physical force and maintain our police and military forces.  We use economic force.  We also use social forces to control the thinking and actions of people in our society.

This may all sound a little heavy handed and bleak.  Yet, it is part of human nature and doesn't have to become Machiavellian in nature.  Human interactions are complex and we rely on a number of different mechanisms to get the things that we want and to promote our ways of thinking.  The language of our founding documents is filled with these conflicts.  On one hand we have the hope and optimism expressed in the power of the people and their efforts to create a just and free society, and on the other hand we see the constant fear of the misuse of power by people. 

In the end, what really matters is our view of humanity and our ability to tolerate our imperfections and our trust in our ability to resolve the problems that we face.  Either we, as a collective whole are able to work together to create a better society, or we must rely on outside forces or strong individuals to control our less positive traits.  The questions of where the power to make decisions lies and who should be responsible for the directions that our society takes are not simple ones, nor are they ones that should be taken lightly.  They also are not as ideologically simple as we would like them to be.   

These are conflicts that have been ongoing throughout human history and that are often masked by other factors.  It is here that our ability to present ourselves in a variety of different ways comes into play.  Honesty isn't something that we have come to expect in our politicians or other prominent public figures.  In recent years we have been conditioned to mistrust those in power, while at the same time we find ourselves turning to new leaders (who frequently end up failing us in the end).  There is a significant amount of irony in hearing candidates tell us that we should trust them and not their opponent, when in reality they are closer in thoughts and actions to each other than they are to the people they are supposed to represent.

It all comes down to the ability of the people to discern what is reality and what is a façade, manufactured to generate support for an ideology or candidate.  However, we live in a complex world, one where fact and fiction often seem interchangeable.  We need an educated, constructively suspicious population that participates in all processes involved in decision making and governing our society.  Education is the key to this, and is vital to the survival of our ideals and our democratic institutions.  No wonder that public education has become a central battleground in the conflict for control of our society. 

Our public education system is a reflection of our society and where we are headed.  How we treat our children and how we choose to educate them reflects on our core values.  It is also a place where we see public perception manipulated and an effort made to control the debate in a variety of ways.  If this premise is true, than what do our stances on public education tell us about the direction our society is moving in?                  

As individuals and as a society, we spend our money on the things that value and express our ideals through our use of financial resources.  In other words, we put our money where our mouth is.  The question becomes, who owns and controls our rights to an education?  Is it the citizens, students and their families, educators, or some other interest?  

If one employee leaves Cuba City High School for a higher-paying position elsewhere in Wisconsin, it can leave the school short of instructors in two or more subjects.
Green Bay Press-Gazette

Like so many people, when I read Mercedes Schneider's posts on Bill Gates and the Common Core I struggled with a jumble of emotions. Surprise. Disgust. Awe. Anger. I'm a visual learner which meant ...

What we choose to spend our financial resources on reflects many things, but we should be making decisions about technology and curriculum purchases based on best practices for our students.

s a pediatric occupational therapist, I'm calling on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the...
The Huffington Post|By Cris Rowan

The Waldorf School’s computer-free environment has become a draw for parents at high-tech companies like Google.

How we measure our school systems' successes or struggles also helps define our views on education.  We measure what we value and analyze the results using ideological filters.  We continue to measure educational achievement in ways that are misleading at best and harmful at worst. 

The Senate and Assembly remain at odds over how to reform the state's new school report card.|By Lee Enterprises

The federal footprint on standardized testing would shrink under a bill set to be introduced by Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., that has major backing from the largest...

The president of Bard College says recent changes to the SAT are motivated by the competition that College Board has experienced with its arch rival, the ACT, rather than any serious soul searching

There was a lot of "crazy" for comedian Jon Stewart to review after last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, or as he calls it,...
Talking Points Memo

How we treat those who work in our schools also reflects the value that we place on education in general.  

Between San Francisco's hot real estate market and its dwindling teacher pay, not one home or apartment is listed on the market there at a price a...

A couple of comments from this article. 
"So what ? Who gives a S_ _T about them or any other public sector worker."
"Teachers work 9.5 months a year (180 days to be exact), so yes, it might be difficult to make 12 months of mortgage payments on 9.5 months of salary. The math makes perfect sense to me .I have to work 250 days a year. (5 days x 50 weeks). So, they can either get a career working 12 months a year or get a summer/second job. I appreciate what they are doing for our children, but don't complain about your salary being 75% of the rest of us if you only work 75% as much. I'd love to have your year round health benefit package also."

Whether we see attacks on individual educators, or on the unions that serve and protect educators the message is the same, education is a  "lesser" profession.

At CPAC panel, RNC Chair Priebus touts "total and complete unity" between GOP, Tea Party, and Glenn Beck acolytes

I didn't think that I would have to update my "Allegations Against Mr. Portelos" list again, but unfortunately I did. Those who have been working tirelessly to end my career hit a new low. A new...

At a San Diego school board meeting on Tuesday, dramatic testimony from teachers and parents uncovered serious questions about the way their...

At one time our public schools were valued and respected, but now. . .

Well, this is not something you hear every day. Ohio state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) has raised some eyebrows with a blog post titled "Public...
The Huffington Post|By Rebecca Klein

The problem is that we are allowing our society to be defined by those who would seek to profit as individuals from our collective efforts.  Public education is a bulwark that stands in the way of oligarchy and other non-democratic forms of government.  We need to change the discussion and move forward, building on the strengths of our existing system and utilizing the talents and skills of the professionals who work in our schools.  

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . It's still a long way to November, but not too early to hope.

A great piece of news for Mary Burke supporters and a troubling wake-up call for Gov. Scott Walker's campaign.|By Lee Enterprises

If we can weather this current storm of Conservatism, maybe the future will look a little brighter.

Get off America's lawn, you punks.
New York Magazine|By Jonathan Chait

The outpouring of love and support from the community was tremendous, and events like this would further honor someone who worked hard to bring different parts of our community together.

Michael Johnson and Ed Hughes are planning a potluck dinner to strengthen community and honor the former Memorial High School principal who...|By Lee Enterprises

The Bad . . . It's still long way to November, and the quality and "integrity" of the campaign will probably not rise to a higher level.

The Republican Governors Association was running a TV ad linking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke to the state’s economic woes under former Gov. Jim Doyle.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

We have to stay vigilant and remember that our opposition is willing, and able to do just about anything to maintain political power here in Wisconsin, and around the U.S.

Backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity has campaigned against taxes and spending in Coralville, Iowa, but some voters are skeptical of its motives.
The New York Times|By JOHN ELIGON

In-person absentee voting would no longer be allowed past 7 p.m. or on weekends in Wisconsin under a bill the Republican-controlled state Senate moved closer to passing Tuesday, despite objections from those who say it's...
Green Bay Press-Gazette

The problem with elections in Wisconsin — as it is across the nation — is that not enough people vote.

The Ugly . . . No explanation needed.

George Zimmerman was shaking hands, smiling and signing autographs at a central Florida gun show Saturday.

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