Sunday, August 31, 2014

#177 August 31, 2014- Happy Labor Day!!

Different Versions,
Same Reality. . .
Reality and truth are too often portrayed as absolutes based in either common sense or a shared perception of ideas, actions or events.  Yet, we know that different people can experience the same thing and come away with very different perceptions of what occurred.  These differences in "reality" result not only in different interpretations of the "truth" but also create different visions for our future as we move forward from our present circumstances.  It is also true that our own ideologies and biases cause us to define words and concepts differently.  In a nation as diverse as America the inability to agree on a common version of our past, a common interpretation of our current situation and a common vision for the future is often problematic.  This isn't to imply that there are no moral absolutes, or that we are free to act in any way that we choose, but rather a recognition that (within certain parameters) there can be different interpretations of things, and that even if our perceptions are significantly skewed they still influence our reactions and actions.  

Make no mistake about it, diversity of thought and opinion offer significant potential as well.  After all, without divergent thinking we will find ourselves continuing on the same pathways, and ending up with the same results over and over.  The idea that we can be condemned to repeat our past mistakes, or that we should expect different results from the same thoughts and actions cause us to question our ability to improve our future.  We need to have alternative viewpoints and hear the opinions of those who would cause us to question our own version of "reality" if we are to make any progress as individuals or as a society. 

This tension between the safety in consistency in beliefs and the challenge of diversity in thinking creates a number of different emotional states for people.  For some of us, the tension is an opportunity for growth that creates a feeling of hope.  For others, it is a source of fear and anxiety that causes hatred and resentment towards those who challenge or threaten our viewpoints.  Which of these reactions we have is based on many different things and can be different for individuals and groups.  Among the most important factors that influence our reactions to challenge and change are our own stability and sense of security, our ability to accept uncertainty, and the guidance, leadership and support that exist around us.

An example of the effects that multiple "truths" can have is clearly demonstrated in the current climate around public education.  The majority of us would agree that education is important to individuals and to society as a whole.  We can agree that all of our citizens should receive some formalized education and that it should be of the highest quality possible. 

Residence halls are being prepped, school supplies are flying off the shelves, and the sports season has already started. As local K-12 and college students get ready for classes, which|By Lee Enterprises

Yet, from the very beginning of the discussion we see terms and concepts defined differently, resulting in a wide variety of policies, goals and objectives.  Should our educational system strive to be a "melting pot" and create a uniform vision of citizenship?  Should it be a training ground for future employees and focus on "practical" skills?  Should it be a place where a variety of options are offered and critical thinking is developed and encouraged?  Should education fill multiple roles?  Should we have a public vision of education that is supported by our society?

Here in America we have chosen to answer these questions in a variety of ways, but a majority of our students receive their K-12 educations in public school settings.  While I am of the opinion that this system is the best one for a democratic society, there are challenges associated with trying to define and provide a quality education for millions of students who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  This tension has been a source of positive growth, but also has resulted in a system that fails to fulfill its vast promise in many ways. 

Our current dialog about public schools is one that is filled with rhetoric, misleading statements and inconsistencies.  Current Conservative leadership (and unfortunately many leaders from other ideological viewpoints as well) has cast a shadow of doubt over our public education system and distorted the public's view of what is happening to our students and educators in our nation's public schools.  The result is a collection of misperceptions, inconsistencies and outright fallacies that make the already difficult job of educating students that much more challenging.

There is a perception that our public schools cost too much and that too many resources are being funneled into our public education system.  Ask anyone who works in a school and they will tell you that there is a need for more resources and more financial support for our schools.        

Why? To give it to his friends. Walker gave his corporate friends HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in tax...

» Fewer teachers, more poverty mean challenges for kids in Wisconsin’s public schools | Research and...

The dialog around our professional public educators has become extremely negative in recent years.  This, combined with cuts to take home pay, loss of collective bargaining agreements and a general reduction in support for educators has decayed morale in our public schools. 

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District is trying to rebound from one of...|By Hillary Mintz

Some of the less-experienced teachers hired to replace retiring veterans are...|By Erin Richards

There is still no deal between the teachers union and the school board in Galesburg, Illinois, as the teachers strike now enters its third week.

The teachers' strike has ended, representatives from the Board of Education and Galesburg Education Association announced early Thursday morning.

For the second week in a row in his new home, Kenneth Maldonado’s evening...

Imagine if you had to spend hundreds of dollars of your own money just to get...

We are subjecting our students to more and more assessment and more standardization of curriculum as we seek to hold our school systems more "accountable."  This effort to increase accountability and to make our schools more "rigorous" has changed the pedagogical landscape and reduced opportunities for many students to experience the arts, extracurricular activities and even cut into science and social studies instruction.     

Look at the testing chart.

A new study out of USC and the University of Pennsylvania finds that...|By Los Angeles Times

It should come as no surprise that it is our most at-risk students and those from groups that have been historically under-served by our public education systems who suffer the most.  We cut supports, increase academic "rigor" and still expect more from our students, educators and schools.  Students, educators and those who actively support our public schools may recognize the need for these services and supports, but our political leaders and policy makers too often fail to support these needs with resources or their words.       

Poor students don’t just need teachers. They need social workers.|By Daniel J. Cardinali

Not all students have the same access to advanced courses and electives, which could be a symptom of gaps in achievement.|By Lee Enterprises

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Wisconsinites have a chance to make a strong social, political and economic statement this November.  Our gubernatorial race has implications that go far beyond the borders of Wisconsin.  It is a race that is winnable, but we need to make sure that we get the vote out and keep the focus on issues that matter.    

Stop obsessing over the Senate. Wisconsin is the real battleground.

Past polls have showed the governor's race in a dead heat, while the August...|By Lee Enterprises

WPT will instead have an election special with Democrat Mary Burke on Oct. 16.

Burke agreed this week to a proposed Oct. 16 debate at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Walker declined that one.|By Patrick Marley

The Bad . . . Governor Walker has turned Wisconsin politics into a cesspool of corruption, and he isn't apologetic about it.

Gov. Scott Walker said Saturday he played no role in soliciting donations from a...|By Daniel Bice

A fresh batch of emails emerged Friday night that shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was deeply involved in raising money for an ostensibly independent group focused on fending off the recall.They came in a court filing from a special...|By James Hohmann

The governor dismisses the halted John Doe probe as a "political witch hunt"...|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . Our nation is divided in so many ways.  The rhetoric and demagoguery from our Conservative "leaders" does nothing to heal the wounds and unite us as a nation.  

From an NAACP member to an MLK Day-condemner.

No other president has had to put up with the kind of opposition that Obama has.

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