Sunday, March 22, 2015

#205 March 22, 2015- Exhausting

I was exhausted at the end of this past week.  It hit me when I realized that I thought an 8:20 PM start for the Wisconsin Badgers' NCAA tournament game sounded like it was pretty late.  I joked with some colleagues that 8:20 used to be when we started thinking about what to do on a Friday night, but now I wasn't sure if I'd make it to the end of the game (I did by the way, watching them win their opening round game easily).  There are many reasons why my fellow educators and I were so tired this week.  Maybe I'm not as young as I used to be, maybe it was the conferences that went until 8 PM the night before (after teaching all morning) and the two long evening meetings early in the week, maybe it was the energy level of our students who enjoyed nicer weather and are anticipating their upcoming Spring Break. 

All of those are valid reasons for feeling mentally and physically tired, but we can't discount the reality that public educators and others working to drive a social justice agenda here in Wisconsin are facing attacks on so many levels that it can seem overwhelming at times.  After all, this isn't my first year of teaching and I've been through virtually every scenario imaginable in my nearly two decades as a public educator.  Yet, it feels different in recent years.  That enthusiasm that educators have for education and their students is still very much alive, but the undercurrent of frustration, anxiety and even despair is slowly moving towards the surface. 

This is true for public educators because our work is so interconnected with the lives of our students, the health of our community and the social, political and economic climate that our schools are embedded in.  Being a public educator is so much more than standing in front of a classroom and sharing our knowledge and wisdom with students.  We find ourselves helping families with housing and medical care.  We find ourselves counseling students through traumas.  We find ourselves torn and uncertain in the face of issues that have no easy resolution and try to find our way towards social justice as best we can.  We find ourselves becoming part of a system that, more and more, seems to be moving away from the values that we entered our profession espousing. 

To give an idea of what educators in Wisconsin are concerned about and some of the challenges we face here are some thoughts on multiple topics as we enter the last week before Spring
Break. . .

Politics matter in our lives- We've learned the hard way that the policies and legislation enacted have a significant impact on our lives and the lives of the families we work with.  The efforts to seize and maintain political power have adversely impacted our entire system of public education by significantly weakening the ability of educators to advocate for their students and families. 

There's a medium sized town in Wisconsin home to a boy named Tim. Calling Tim a "boy" might be a stretch since, at only seventeen, he moves about in what's clearly a man's body. He's six and a half feet tall; a mean, lean two hundred and thirty pounds; and fully capable of bench pressing . . . wel…

This silencing of educators and the impact that it has on education policies has been noted by those who seek to profit from our schools and students.  They are using pro-student rhetoric to gain power, but they use that power to enact anti-student policy. 

Michelle Rhee's group is sneakily trying to rebrand itself to advance its anti-union agenda.

Ideological inconsistencies are hard to combat- It is painful to watch our state's governor go around the nation touting his self-defined "successes" that are built on the backs of the citizens he was elected to represent.  While I disagree with Walker's social, political and economic ideology, I would still feel obligated to accept some of its merits if it truly worked for the citizens of Wisconsin.  Yet, the evidence seems clear, most of us are being hurt by the recent policies enacted by Walker and the Republican lead legislature. 

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) is a conservative hero with a record of taking progressives and unions in a state that went for Obama and beating them twice....

Wisconsin gained 27,491 private-sector jobs in the 12 months from September 2013 through September 2014, a 1.16% increase, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.|By John Schmid

The inconsistencies that abound in this recent administration make us wonder why there are those who still "stand with Walker."  There is the myth of transparency and honest government. 

Scott Walker is traveling the country portraying himself as a straight shooter. "We said what we're gonna do, and we did it!" he told CPAC delegates in D.C. last...

Another example is the illusion of economic conservatism that is really just a redistribution of wealth upwards. 

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would...

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tours the country touting his conservative credentials while gearing up for an expected run for president, there’s a conservative question that’s nagging back home.|By Herald editorial board

In the end, it seems like we are not involved in an ideological conflict between Conservatism and Progressivism, but rather a struggle to expose an agenda that is much more self-serving and in the long run, harmful to our state.  We can engage in political discourse and heated debate, but we find it difficult to dispute a political platform that changes on a regular basis to fit specific political needs.  

Nationally syndicated conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, founder of the website Twitchy, tells Breitbart News that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a...

Economics impact every aspect of our society- Money and wealth could be a driving force for positive change in America, but instead the drive to amass huge fortunes is harming all of us.  This impact appears in education where individuals and companies are using the current climate to profit from our schools or to promote a political agenda. 

Controversy around Common Core hasn't stopped companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Apple from cashing in on huge education contracts.|By Lawrence Delevingne

Milwaukee Public Schools is facing a cut of at least $12 million as a result of that move, but plenty of well-to-do suburban districts are acknowledging gaping budget holes, as well.|By Patrick Leary

Who knew that being a billionaire would enable you and your family to buy an entire school district and even the state board of education? It isn't that difficult, if you have enough money. Do we l...

It is visible in our politics where we see a small number of people with a disproportionate ability to impact policies and decision making. 

Only some of the money, the amount of which is nearly double what the Kochs spent on 2012 elections, would come from the brothers themselves|By Amanda Holpuch

We see it impacting those who are most at risk and who rely on sound public policy to stay afloat.

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would totally dismantle one of the best long-term care systems in the country.|By Tom Frazier And Lynn Breedlove

Inequities of all types are destructive to democracy- Our nation is facing some of the biggest gaps we've ever experienced in virtually every possible category.  Race and gender inequities are highly visible, but at the same time we are seeing the splits between any number of different groups expand.  A small number of individuals are benefiting from the direction we are headed, but the end result will be painful for everyone.  History shows us repeatedly that inequity breeds discontent, struggle and strife.  

A new report comparing Wall Street bonuses to minimum wage earnings sums up income inequality in America.

Yet again, conservatives on the Supreme Court are poised to do significant damage to minority communities

Educators see these inequities on a daily basis as we struggle to advocate for our students in a system that seems to be designed to magnify gaps.

Principal: How Common Core testing hurts disadvantaged students
The third in a series of letters between two principals -- one who likes the Common Core and the other who doesn't.

We need accountability, but it needs to be valid and meaningful- Educators are no strangers to the word accountability, it has been used to attack educators on a regular basis.  The illusion that we haven't been accountable is one that opponents of public schools love to use, yet educators have always worked hard to meet the needs of their students.  We are facing a future where our efforts are measured in ways that are unfair, inequitable and unjust.  It is difficult to hear your efforts maligned while knowing that the "facts" being used against you are inaccurate and misleading.  

Schools with more economic, racial diversity tend to score worse on School Report Cards.

We should also be holding those who profit from our schools accountable for their actions.

Pearson, the education publishing giant, describes its practice of monitoring social media posts as a test-security measure, but some parents say the...|By Natasha Singer

A real dialog about accountability needs to happen.

The goal of K-12 education is to prepare students for their future.

Take the example of student discipline.  Data shows that a disproportionate number of minority students are disciplined severely.  The end result is a radical change in policy that may not be effective in addressing the underlying concerns that exist.  Instead of removing consequences and weakening the authority of educators we need to work to address the root causes of the behaviors that impact the learning of all students.  Fully funding and supporting policies that are aimed at educating student proactively and that are restorative in nature will have an impact, without significant supports we will be left worse off than when we started our efforts.   

New York public-school students caught stealing, doing drugs or even attacking someone can avoid suspension under new “progressive” discipline rules...

One option is to reduce the pressure of standards and assessments and let students explore the world around them in a meaningful and positive way.

New research suggests that exposure to nature makes us more cooperative.

So, what happens now?- It sure does feel bleak and appears that it might be easier to simply put our heads down and toil on.  Yet, we know that the struggle is worthwhile and that there is hope for the future.  The problem may not be our opponents and those who manipulate the system for their own ends, but rather it may be that sense of hopelessness and a feeling that we can't succeed in our efforts to resist this divisive and negative agenda.  People need to see the possibilities of what we can accomplish when working together.  We need to break down the barriers that have been erected to keep a flawed system in place and work collectively to move our society in a more united and positive direction.  It has been done before, and we certainly can do it again.  It starts by getting involved in the processes that exist, and continues as we forge new pathways and alliances that serve to promote true "liberty and justice for all."  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

#204 March 15, 2015- Springing Backwards in Education

Spring is the time when we typically think about fresh starts and new beginnings.  Even the "loss" of an hour is viewed as a step "forward" and we enjoy increased daylight, warmer temperatures and the change from what is too often a long, cold winter here in Wisconsin.  Spring should be a season of growth and optimism.

Unfortunately, spring has become a tough season for public education and those who work and learn in our schools.  It is a time when budgets are created.  Budgets which have become tighter and tighter in recent years.   The drive to "balance" Wisconsin's state budget, as misleading as that statement has become, has resulted in devastating cuts to local school funding.  Add to those challenges the threat of money being diverted to voucher schools and the costliness of "accountability reforms" like testing and Educator Effectiveness and school districts are left with no alternative but to make deep and disruptive cuts.

Propopents of the proposal in Walker's budget say a change in state law would allow cash-strapped rural schools to save money by educating all children in a...|By Patrick Leary

The Madison School District needs to close a budget gap of at least $12.2 million.|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal

Spring is also a time when educators make their plans for the upcoming school year and allocations for staffing is announced.  All of the uncertainty around school budgets, what programming will look like and things like class size and configurations are unsettling for educators.  We see stress levels increase for students, families and educators who all are wondering what their schools will look like next year.  Increasingly, we are seeing quality educators decide to leave the profession early or move to different places where a stronger commitment to education is displayed.       

A teacher asks her state superintendent to give her and her colleagues more instructional time -- or suffer an exodus of good teachers.

Breaking education news about schools and further education. Find leading opinion, podcasts, comment and analysis on education from TES News

Enrollment at teacher training programs is down in many parts of the country, raising fears of a looming teacher shortage.

Of course it isn't all about the money.  In fact, many educators would tell you that they would continue to work for the wages we receive (although we can't absorb any more cuts to our take home pay) if we could return to the days when we really could teach our students.  The current movement towards standardization and the mythology around educator and school accountability is impacting educator morale in ways that the financial aspects of education don't come close to reaching. 

It isn't just about educators and our desire to teach students in more holistic and integrated ways.  The damage being done to our students is very real, and very disturbing.  Professional educators understand that students learn more, enjoy learning and are more engaged when they are taught in creative ways that unite disciplines and that assess their progress through meaningful and realistic methods.  The "reforms" to education that have arisen out of the assessment and standardization mindset have not impacted achievement gaps, nor have they improved the quality of education for our students.  Instead, they have increased the discontent of educators, students, families and communities and paved the way for educational profiteering and privatization.  

I used to be a public school teacher.  I have taught in four different public schools in three different states.  I have taught in very affluent areas and lower income...

Many teachers are tired of cycles of education reform that come with new trendy ideas about how they should do their job. What does all the hype look like from...

The people most often cited as 'education experts' in blogs and news stories may have the backing of influential organizations - but have little background in education and education policy, a new study suggests.

If we are going to reinstate spring as a season of hope, then it is important that we change the way we approach education, and change the power structures that exist around our schools.  Administrators need to listen to the professionals who work in the schools they lead and be willing to cede some of the power to these educators.  Educators need to be vocal in their efforts to improve our instruction and actively work to promote policies and practices that truly work for students.  Our families, students and community members need to become informed about issues that impact them and be advocates for themselves in a system that all too often favors the status quo over the needs of the individual.  It is only through a cooperative effort of those who work in, learn in and rely on our schools that a truly great system of public education can emerge from the current chaotic climate that exists around education.     

Distributed leadership is not about delegating tasks, but giving individuals ownership over outcomes and creating a culture of innovation.

Award-winning educator writes that because Congress is not expected to eliminate annual standardized testing in the new version of No Child Left...

Sometimes I scratch my head when I read about the government's efforts to improve schools: new standards and tests that have to be implemented immediately, punitive teacher evaluations, and threats of school closures and...

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . The pushback against the excessive amounts of standardized testing is gaining momentum.  Now to see what happens here in Wisconsin.
My home state of South Carolina is an ideal lesson in education reform. SC is a high-poverty state (in the bottom quartile of affluence in the U.S.) that committed early to the accountability era b...

State education officials moved Wednesday to dramatically recast California's system to evaluate school quality by suspending the use...|By Los Angeles Times

The Bad . . . It seems so obvious that right to work is anything but legislation that helps workers, yet half of the states in the U.S. now have these laws on the books. 

Overhauling more than a half century of labor law in Wisconsin, Gov. Walker Monday signed so-called right-to-work legislation banning labor contracts that require private sector workers to pay labor fees.|By Meg Kissinger And Jason Stein

The initial results are not unexpected, and it is unlikely things will get better unless the law is repealed. 

Hoffman Construction, a major road building and mining company, is abandoning Wisconsin because of the Right to Work legislation just passed.

America needs unions, our nation is stronger when democracy flourishes. 

Faith in democracy, whether it be in Washington or the workplace, is fundamental to the survival of our republic.|By The Daily Take Team

If you’re in the American middle class—or what’s left of it—here’s how you probably feel. You feel like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours than ever before, and yet falling further and further behind. The...|By Nick Hanauer

International Monetary Fund researchers are detailing just how much societies suffer — and top executives grab — when trade unions have no strong presence.

Here in Wisconsin we've been told that unions are corrupting the democratic process.  Could it be that there is another side to the story that might tell a different tale?

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel either has no understanding of campaign finance, or is willfully misleading her readers. In either case, her...

The Ugly . . . As Walker's candidacy gains momentum, we are left wondering when, if ever, the facts will finally catch up with him.

Unemployment rates are up in every Wisconsin county and major city.|By AP

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has 2016 presidential ambitions, but he's facing budget problems in his home state. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

#203 March 8, 2015- A Wisconsin Vision

We are moving into our 4th year since the Wisconsin Uprising developed in response to the "bomb" being dropped on Wisconsin's public sector workers.  During this time we have seen Wisconsin divided into separate camps and the divides between political ideologies has widened into seemingly insurmountable gaps.  Over these past 4 years the attacks on ideals that are supposedly the cornerstones of Wisconsin's culture and history have come at a rapid pace.  Public education, labor rights, safety nets, environmentalism and social justice issues have all been trampled under the wave of Conservatism that has taken power in our state.    

With a vote of 62 to 35, the Wisconsin state Assembly approved right-to-work legislation after 24 hours of debate.|By LaToya Dennis

Gov. Walker’s proposed budget would change the way thousands of Wisconsin families get care for an elderly loved one, or a member with disabilities.|By Erin Toner

After his weekend appearance on Fox News, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is explaining his stance on immigration policy.

Walker throws out some education-related numbers to show his policies are working, but they're not as impressive as he makes them sound.

We have also become victims of a "leader" who has put his political aspirations ahead of the needs of many citizens in Wisconsin.  Instead of uniting a state to address the concerns that we face, he has taken advantage of the climate of fear and anger to advance his own personal agenda.  While claiming to be looking out for the "everyday taxpayer" Walker has done a remarkable job of building a political machine that has vaulted him into the national spotlight.   

As he entertains a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is enjoying popularity among conservatives as a fresh face with a compelling story about "leadership."|By Chicago Tribune

Opponents of this new vision for Wisconsin often refer to our state's history of clean government, our progressive ideals and a legacy of labor activism that is embedded in our past.  We find ourselves talking about the "Wisconsin Idea" and defending a history that fills us with pride.  Walker, Fitzgerald and others are portrayed as something foreign to Wisconsin.  Yet, for all of our proud traditions of worker's rights, public education and progressive values, Wisconsin is no stranger to a different brand of politics. 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent statements on the campaign trail show that he is becoming as dangerous as former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who destroyed...
In fact, as one talks to people in Wisconsin it becomes clear that this vision of a Progressive Wisconsin with a constant eye on social justice and political activism is one that isn't universally upheld.  The question we need to answer as a state is just where our true allegiances lie.  We have all heard the justifications for the wave of Conservative legislation from political leadership that talks about the fact that voters have elected people who support this agenda.  However, at the same time there seems to be a mismatch between what the voters choose and what they are given as representation.  Things like right to work don't often appear during campaigns, but turn up later in legislative hallways.  Dismantling public education isn't supported by citizens, but is done effectively through legislation and policy making. 

The poll results were unveiled in tandem with a new charter school accountability initiative being spearheaded by the Center for Popular Democracy and In the...

Supporters are stunned by proposed cuts by Gov. Scott Walker to the Discovery Farms program, which helps farmers run cleaner and more efficient operations.|By George Hesselberg | Wisconsin State Journal

While this is from Chicago, the machine that drives political success is equivalent.  Those currently in power here in Wisconsin have done a masterful job of placing blame on others, vilifying their opponents and bending facts to serve their own ends.   

Closing mental health clinics was the mayor's idea—but that doesn't stop his supporters from blaming an independent alderman.

Once elected, the voice of the "taxpayer" frequently changes and becomes a voice of self-interest and an advocate for the wealthy elite.  Political success and access to power become the priority over the needs of their constituents.  Voters, and some elected officials, realize too late that they have been "snookered" and have become pawns in a bigger economic and political "game."  A game that has disastrous impacts on a large number of citizens.      

That security cost $1.75 million from July 2013 to June 2014, but Walker’s transportation secretary did not figures that take into account the governor’s wave of recent national travel.|By Patrick Marley

The retired Republican lawmaker dumps on his party and explains how Walker snookered him on Act 10.

Another aspect of this struggle that makes "winning" difficult, and even in some ways undesirable is the reality that cooperation and compromise aren't a part of the plan for those currently in power.  The question becomes how do you stay true to an ideology that values dialogue and discourse when your opponent is seeking your destruction.  Act 10 and right to work are pieces of legislation designed to decimate, not regulate labor rights.  Walker and his allies have shown no willingness to compromise, or even discuss alternative ways to address concerns that exist in Wisconsin.  So, to defeat them, do we have to play by the same rules, or lack thereof?  In winning back our state do we end up weakening the fabric that has made Wisconsin a place worthy of our loyalty? 

We also have to consider the reality that the message we are delivering isn't reaching the people that we need to reach.  We can surround ourselves with those who think in similar ways and lament the loss of our state to "outside interests."  But, at the same time we need to recognize that there are a substantial number of citizens who find the rhetoric from our current administration to be something that they can identify with.  Whether they are in complete agreement, can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, or come to their position through any number of pathways, the result is the same.  Progressives are losing at the ballot box in recent elections and are sometimes failing to deliver our vision of Wisconsin in a positive way.  It is those voters who are identifying only with a portion of the Conservative message, or who are reacting to a perceived threat to the stability of our society who we need to connect with and convince to change their allegiance. 

This can only happen if we continue the effort to communicate our ideals.  We need to present our vision of Wisconsin, not in negative or reactive terms, but rather in a positive, proactive manner.  The union ideals of solidarity, compassion and support for all members need to permeate our message.  This isn't a struggle of one group for recognition, but rather an effort to improve society for everyone.  Truly an "Injury to one, is an injury to all," and we are only as strong as our most disadvantaged, at-risk citizen.  To ignore this is to create an unsustainable and inequitable society that eventually must pay the price for the gaps that are created whether income, opportunity, achievement or any other. 

No thinking citizen wants to live in such a place.  We have to share a vision that leads all to a more positive place in a truly socially just society.  The Conservative ideals of prosperity, independence and freedom are ones that are not exclusive to one ideology.  How we get to the goal of a productive, independent and prosperous society is important.  A truly just society isn't built on the backs of anyone, it doesn't discriminate or subjugate.  Instead, it is built cooperatively and with an eye to the future.  Progressives truly have a vision of a place where our grandchildren can thrive, now we need to retake our place at the table and change the course of our state and nation.    

As Scott Walker’s support for ‘right-to-work’ bill is seen as another blow to blue-collar workers, labor movement and activists ask ‘what happens now?’|By Zoe Sullivan

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#202 March 1, 2015- Truly Credible Threats

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it,” is a statement often quoted when we are experiencing events that approximate those of the past.  It is also an example of the constant state of fear and tension that we find ourselves in on a regular basis.  Politicians, the media and others who rely on conflict as a means of maintaining both their power, and their relevance need us to exist in this state of anxiety.  This is why they are constantly referencing catastrophic events and individuals from the past all in an effort to guide our thinking in a particular direction.    

Yet, those who study history carefully and who are thoughtful in their analysis of our shared past know that the conditions that caused previous events to occur don't guarantee the same results.  We may see connections and patterns, but at the same time differences exist between different time periods.  This is true whether they are separated by centuries, decades or even a few years.  If nothing else, our knowledge of the past will impact our actions in the present.  Knowledge of history provides us with ideas, precedents and evidence to support opinions, but it doesn't provide us with a blueprint to follow that will guarantee a specific result.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when hyperbole and rhetoric rule the airwaves and shape the discourse around topics of vital importance.  In the process we lose perspective and become a nation divided by a shared, but misinterpreted past.  History becomes a tool that is manipulated and used to create similar outcomes, but it is a history created by those in power, the "winners", and not one that is truly representative of the people involved or the actual events.  In effect, history becomes a weapon and not a tool.  We end up threatening each other with a distorted view of past events and reduce our ability to effectively move forward as a collective group.    

All of this becomes relevant as we enter another round unrest around issues involving workers' rights here in Wisconsin.  The events appear eerily similar to those of 2011 when the attacks focused on public sector workers and the Act 10 legislation.  The tactics used by Republicans in many ways mirror those used in the recent past, quick introduction of a fast tracked bill, cutting hearings short, heightened security and reduced access to events and individuals involved.       

Shortly before 6:30 p.m., a public hearing on Wisconsin's fast-tracked right-to-work bill was abruptly adjourned due to what committee chairman Steve...|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

Democratic senators say Wisconsin doesn't want the measure. The Republican Senate Majority Leader calls it one of the most important jobs bill of the session.|By Dee J. Hall | Wisconsin State Journal

The bill’s fast track and the lack of consensus about its effects are concerns.

There have been a few differences from 2011, most notably the reduced number of protestors who appeared in Madison during the week.  Unlike 4 years ago those protesting number in the thousands and not the tens of thousands.  At the same time the media's distorted coverage continues unabated.  Words like "apathy" don't describe the feelings of many workers in Wisconsin.  A rally of Walker supporters numbering 2,000 would be touted as a significant number and one that represents a larger, "silent" group of "taxpayers."   

For two straight days this week, 2,000 union members converged on Wisconsin's Capitol to rally against a new right-to-work bill, chanting, marching and hurling...|By Chicago Tribune

To me, the most troubling aspect of the misuse of history and the misrepresentation of current events is the fact that it represents a clear effort to manipulate a public that is too often unwilling, unable, or too dogmatic to see beyond the imagery used.  Politicians and other "leaders" are able to shroud themselves in a mystique of patriotism, hyperbole and rhetoric that masks their true intentions.  We as a society end up debating on their terms and ignoring the reality behind the policies and legislation that ends up harming us all. 

In the end there are those who will end up believing that protestors caused over $7 in damage to the Wisconsin capitol in 2011, and who will end up equating protestors with terrorists.  They will forget that protesting for equality and our rights is much more in line with American ideals than restricting access to power and silencing dissent.  They will also begin to see threats where there are none, and see their neighbors as enemies.  This is no way to lead in a democratic society.  We can mock this type of thinking all we want, but in the end it represents a truly credible threat to our nation's political, social and economic health. 

A Republican committee chairman in the Wisconsin state senate cut short a hearing on an anti-union bill.|By Teresa Tritch

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday said his experience undermining labor unions in Wisconsin has prepared him to take on...

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his home-state battles against labor unions prepare him to take on terrorism -- but he denies he's comparing the two. Walker drew attention at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday with his response...|By By Eric Bradner CNN

UPDATED 2/27/2015 with more memes and a sobering video at the end. Earlier today, when asked about ISIS, presidential...

The misuse of history and misrepresentation of events is at the heart of the divide and conquer strategy.  In essence, those applying it are attempting to create a mythology that will help them manipulate citizens into believing that they are acting in their own interest when in reality they are doing exactly the opposite.  Conservatives have done this effectively in their effort to destroy the power of labor unions in America.  Right to work is simply the next step in the plan to dismantle their political opposition.    

A fact-based primer on "right-to-work" and what it really means.

Who really benefits from|By patty

Four years after mass protests, state’s GOP governor lauds depleted unions as he eyes presidential run.

Yet, if right to work isn't really in the best interest of the people, who would want to push to make it a reality?  The answer to that is relatively clear, the people who stand to gain the most from this type of legislation are a small number of wealthy individuals and their political allies.   

Scott Walker has promised to sign ‘right to work’ bill that watchdog claims bears stark resemblance to model legislation drawn up by conservative group Alec|By Ed Pilkington

It's been more than two decades since Gov. Scott Walker (R) first pushed right-to-work legislation as a state lawmaker in Wisconsin. Now, all these years later, the famously anti-union governor may finally be getting his wish -- whether he...

There are a wide range of opponents of right to work beyond those directly involved in organized labor.

The NFL players’ union has come out against Wisconsin’s right-to-work legislation on Tuesday and went after Gov. Scott Walker in a statement to the...|By Kendall Breitman

"This is going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry," Schultz told ThinkProgess.

More than 400 Wisconsin firms in construction contracting oppose the Republican push for a
This opposition to right to work, and the efforts to inform the public can give us hope for the future.  We also know that over time we will see a rebirth of organized labor in some form.  This is part of the cyclical nature of history.  While the events won't unfold exactly as in previous years, human nature is consistent in many ways.  People will eventually look for ways to organize and regain a voice in their workplaces and in the political arena. 

Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial...

We can always hold on to hope, but at the same time the short term prospects for labor, and social justice in general, is bleak here in Wisconsin.  No matter how loudly we state our case, legislators here will follow their leadership and move ahead with the platform shaped by the far-right.  They have vast amounts of power and wealth, and at the same time have shown no reluctance to employ all of their resources in an all out effort to dominate the discourse around important issues in our society.  Many citizens have, in essence, given up hope and resigned themselves to a future dominated by a small number of conservative voices.  After all, if 100,000 protesters and a recall can't stem the tide, what is left for us to do?

Once again we can turn to history for lessons, ideas and hope.  While our current situation is definitely dismal, we still retain a significant amount of power and live in a place where we can change the direction our society takes.  Out of the ashes of despair we have seen tremendous growth occur.   

It begins by recognizing what we have, and maintaining those things that promote social justice causes.  Unions, while weakened need to be supported, organizations and individuals speaking out against the conservative policies need to be heeded and their message broadcast.  Every conversation, action and event that occurs is one more step on the pathway to a better society for all citizens.  We need to rally around institutions like our public schools, and not allow attacks based on falsehoods and misrepresentations to go unchallenged.  It may seem easier to throw in the towel and accept our fate, but we must recognize that our opponents will not stop until they have entrenched themselves in powerful positions and created systems that benefit only themselves.          

Building a broad base of grass roots opposition, holding legislators accountable are key, say participants in a forum at Edgewood College.|By Pat Schneider
The lessons of history are there for us to learn from.  Silence and apathy have never created a positive environment for all citizens.  Silence and apathy are the true credible threats to our democratic society.  Organize, teach, protest, write, speak, argue and inform!  These are our tools and they need to be used effectively and often.     

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . There are many ways to continue to resist the "reforms" and other efforts to destroy public education in our nation.  Here's one strategy.

United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We...
The Bad . . . In community after community across Wisconsin the proposed budget takes its toll.

Governor Walker released his 2015-17 biennium budget on Feb. 3, 2015. The budget at the state level always has a significant impact on the budget for the School District of Lodi.
The Ugly . . . Does this signal a return to the "bad old days" when individuals were arrested and held without just cause?  The DOA in Wisconsin has already lost in court cases that involved a use of these questionable tactics, yet they appear to be intent on repeating their mistakes. 

By Jason Huberty, February 26, 2015 As Republicans rushed through a so-called "Right to Work" bill in the Wisconsin State Senate on Wednesday, some people...

Interesting that Walker's personal security detail is getting raises, while those who protect and serve the rest of us wait for a pay increase.