WHAT HAVE 50 YEARS BROUGHT?

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
T.H. White, The Once and Future King

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”
J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister

 

Yesterday the Weber family engaged in our holiday day trip tradition. Every summer holiday – Memorial, Labor, Independence – we pile into the car and head out of town towards some vague destination within 2 hours of the city limits. Yesterday we pointed the car towards Erin Tennessee, which proudly offers a slice of the old country in Tennessee, to do a little exploring.

Upon arrival, we walked around Erin for a bit before heading towards Dover. On the way, we stopped at the animal resource management lands and witnessed an osprey on her nest. In Dover, we ate at a Taco Johns – which I don’t recommend – and went for a hike at Fort Donaldson – which I do recommend. Along the way we talked, observed, and interacted in an effort to ensure that our family connections remain strong.

In the evening we joined our neighbors for a pleasant holiday BBQ. It was the kind of day holidays are built for. Unfortunately, as I scrolled through social media at the end of the day, the good vibes instilled by a day well spent fled like a herd of gazelles faced with a pride of lions.

As I flipped from public shaming to public shaming, it was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. Vehicles hurling towards each other, the outcome beyond doubt, yet no means offered to alter the quickly approaching calamity.

Tales of people without masks intentionally coughing on those with masks, packed swimming holes in the Ozark’s or Texas, a 70-second video of a confrontation between a white woman and a black man in Central Park, videos of customers verbally chasing a non-mask wearing person from a grocery in Staten Island. I watched all of it as I recoiled in horror. Is this what we aspire to? Is this the world we are preserving for our children?

Yesterday’s trip began with NPR, who was running a special on the anniversary of Kent State. 50 years ago this month, protesters and police squared off against each other on the Ohio campus, each empowered by their sense of righteousness. The national guard were viewed as imperial authoritarians, minions of a fascist regime. Students were perceived as entitled children who sought to destroy all order. Both secure in their perception of the other. Tensions mounted, peaking in shots ringing out and 4 students losing their lives. Two of which, just trying to go about their daily lives, never realizing that they were on the precarious perch of history.

These days, I look at our country and I can’t help but think that 50 years later we are setting the stage for a reoccurrence of those tragic events, only on a grander stage. We are all so angry and so willing to make value judgments about others based on the scantest of evidence. Both sides rushing to dehumanize those they perceive as being a threat. Lost is the ability to extend any grace. Complexities are stripped away and everyone is reduced to their simplest form.

We all wrap ourselves in our moral coats as we regale each other with horror tales about the other side.  Those that support the president are all salivating three-headed monsters intent on killing everyone, with little compassion for those less fortunate. Those who oppose the president are in turn painted with a color of cowardice and an intent to rid the world of all choice and financial reward, merely searching for wealth redistribution and free stuff. Both seemingly unwilling to extend grace to the other side. This is not a path paved for success.

As we move into summer, and temperatures outside heat up, how long will it be before our national cauldron boils over? What will it take before cooler heads prevail, and we realize that public shaming has never been an effective means of public policing? How long will it be until we reclaim the ability to look at people without reducing them to the most simplistic version of themselves?  We seem so intent in condemning everyone to an designated silo, that we refuse to even consider that people’s behavior is based on multiple stimuli.

Kent State, and by extension the Nixon administration, mark a turning point in our nation. It is where we collectively lost faith in our democratic institutions. That loss of faith has proven detrimental to all of us. We have become a nation with no faith in the entities meant to bring order and enrichment to our lives. It’s a loss of faith acerbated by the current occupant of the White House. The free press, the intelligence community, judges, and the court, are all painted as enemies of the people while our current commander-in-chief portrays himself as a modern-day savior. A wedge is being driven among us that was first hammered 50 years ago and with every blow is threatening to drive us further asunder. Yet we refuse to put the hammer down.

Like the Nixon administration, the events of today will continue to play out long after this administration leaves the White House. A fate that will haunt both supporter and opponent, as long as we continually allow him the power to bring our worse angels forth.

In an effort to halt this downward spiral, the Democrat Party bings forth a flawed candidate. One that will likely do little more than drive us even further apart. One that demonstrates that choice is not always between a good option and a bad option, but rather a varying shade bad. One that’ll lead to just more of us yelling at each other, as if we can bludegon the other side into submission.

I don’t know how we get there, but I do know, there is no better time than a holiday dedicated to those who fought to preserve our freedoms to reflect on our own actions and how they serve to protect those lofty aspirations for which others have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve. We have to translate that reflection into action. At some point we have to do more than just listen to each other, we have to start hearing each other.

If we don’t adjust soon and instead keep mindlessly hurtling forward, I fear it’ll be a lot more than 4 dead in Ohio.

RETURN TO SESSION

Tennessee legislators head back to work this week, with eyes towards the General Assembling resuming on June 1. A week out and there is little clarity about what will unfold once the session is open.

The Senate seems determined to keep things as brief as possible and only entertain legislation with financial impact. The house by contrast is indicating a willingness to take on a much broader agenda. A willingness that some attribute to pressure from lobbyists intent on getting their vested interests heard. They are willing to accept a lack of action from the senior body as long as the lower body considers their agenda.

At the core of it all is the state budget and the impact cratering tax revenues will have on it, specifically spending on education. If you’ll remember, most of the governors proposed pre-coronavirus education spending was cut before the General Assembly recessed. Left behind untouched though, was the $41 million targeted to fund implementation this year of a state voucher program. A program that the governor seems to be unseverable from. Unfortunately things have not fallen right for the governor’s pet project since recess.

A Nashville judge ruled the program unconstitutional and ruled that implementation be halted until an appeal had been heard. Subsequent hearings upheld the original ruling and the Governor has now asked the State Supreme Court to render a judgment. A charge they’ve accepted and set an August 5th date to hear arguments.

As long as there is a glimmer of hope that a judge may rule in his favor, Lee is going to hold onto that money earmarked for vouchers, poised to pounce should he receive clearance. Remember the halt to implementation didn’t come until the end of the initial enrollment period. I’m willing to bet that it would take less than a New York minute to implement the program should a reversal come.

Also apparently still on the table, despite the plethora of problems presented prior to the shutdown, is the Governor’s pet reading bill. Previously the House had made several modifications before allowing it to pass from the committee. Among those modifications were the stripping of the “science of reading” language and power from the TDOE. The $68 million in funding was later stripped from the budget. Lee has indicated that should a bill other than his pass, he will veto it.

House Education Committee chair Mark White is now suggesting via Chalkbeat that a scaled-back version could include $30 million from the state’s share of the Federal COVID-19 Stimulus Fund be directed towards teacher training in the “science of reading”, as teacher training is a permissible expense. I must confess to being a little confused here as it’s been widely reported that the state’s share of that federal money is $26 million, so where did the other $4 million come from?

It’s also worth noting that White is in a dog fight for re-election out in Memphis. The reading bill is an important initiative to both SCORE and their national partners, Chiefs of Change and the Gates Foundation. All three entities have already made significant investments in pushing the “science of reading” throughout the country, passing legislation in Tennessee would ease the challenge to pass legislation in other states. I’m sure three wealthy entities would be quite pleased if White manages to shepherd the bill through and would be open to helping his campaign.

In the event that public funding falls through, I’m pretty certain that some private funding could be secured. After all, the Chiefs for Change recently released plan for school re-entry provides an argument for “hi-quality curriculum” and even goes further by arguing that it be aligned with assessments.

“We recommend partnerships between states, curriculum providers, and testing companies to create a mutually reinforcing, systematic approach to teaching and learning for our country’s children. The key to success is curriculum-aligned formative and summative assessments.”

The next month should provide insight into the potential of a second term for Governor Lee. While publicly he has stated that the General Assembly’s agenda should be left to the discretion of its members, privately he has voiced that his preference would be a quick session focusing on primarily financial issues. If the session runs longer and there are considerable modifications to his preferred legislation, an inference could be made that there is a change on the horizon.

It should be interesting to see how this one plays out.

QUICK HITS

This week also should reveal more of what to expect from Metro Council and the Mayor’s office in regard to the city’s finances for next year. The recent release of sales tax revenue received by MNPS for March gives some cause for optimism. Originally budgeted at $23,321,004.82, the district received $3,177,545.00 less. While not an unsubstantial number, it’s a sight better than a feared potential drop of $10 million. The real test will be April’s numbers that won’t be available until this time next month.

One of the big challenges of a move to distance learning is the need for teachers to balance home and classroom. Education writer Peter Greene addresses that challenge is a recent piece and reminds teachers that educating students can easily become all consuming. In that light he offers this nugget of advice.

And you also have to remember this about teaching– it will not hesitate to take all you’ve will give it, even if that’s more than you have to give. You have to be the one to regulate it, because no school board or administrator or even students will say, “You know what? You look like you’re really heavily extended now, so we’re going to put your needs ahead of our own and not ask any more of you.”

Sad news this Memorial Day weekend, pedal steel player Bucky Baxter passed away. Baxter, probably best known for his work with Bob Dylan and Steve Earle, was a great guy who I got to know during my days running Nashville music venues. He was easy going and always a pleasure to work with. Prayers to his family.

I was going to let this go without comment, but unfortunately, I can’t. On Friday MNPS released a list highlighting 10 remote teaching superstars.

Just like the traditional classroom, the new remote learning space has its share of stars: teachers who quickly adopted and adapted to technological tools and brought their own innovations and inspiration to the task. 

You know who I think is a remote teaching superstar? Every single teacher who attempted to adept. Not all had the ability to thrive due to a learning curve, personal challenges, or other, but they went above and beyond in attempting to navigate the new enviorment. It was sold as an experiment but when you single out individual accomplishment to highlight, you undermine the experimental nature. Not to take anything away from these ten worthy educators, but the amount of sacrifice and flexibility teachers exhibited during the close of the school year can not go unrecognized regardless of how successful they were. Making the effort, in this case, counts for something.

POLL QUESTIONS

Let’s quickly review the responses from this week’s poll questions. The first question asked what grade you would assign to Governor Lee’s handling of the pandemic crisis. Tied, with 23% for each, was a “C” and a “D”. Close behind with 21% was “F”. Only a combined 14% awarded a grade of “B” or higher. It’ll be interesting to see if when history is reviewed, it’s any kinder. Here are the write-ins,

Fail except with testing 1
He is a total failure. Worse than imagined. 1
Grade? You have to “handle” or DO something to get a grade, even a failing one!!

Question 2 asked for your level of concern over the lack of funds to buy textbooks. 50% recognized that schools faced much greater needs then textbooks. 17% of you indicated that you were extremely concerned. Here are the write-in responses.

Not worth the purchase. 1
Concerned with great teachers leaving!!! We lost 2 best ELA to other counties!! 1
We book rooms with leveled books. Which is what we use for guided reading.

The last question asked whether in leu of the coronavirus the attendance accountability tool should be waived. 61% indicated that it should be. An additional 22% favored relaxation but not waiver. Only 6% of you indicated that it should remain unaltered. Here are those write-in answers.

think we need to get creative about teacher retention. Antioch has 20 openings 1
Account for COVID in it 1
Definitely along with testing.

That’s it for today.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy.

If you so desire to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

 



Categories: Education

3 replies

  1. Right on target TC. The earth shifted 50 years ago – I was 18. Born into a family of staunch republicans, I stepped out of my comfort zone and cast my first vote for McGovern. I, too, feel the same vibes again. Our country is at a precipice. I am once again hopeful for change. To me, Dr. Battle’s appointment symbolizes change for the better – not change for the sake of change. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics are local.”

  2. Did you know that despite the clear and consistent messages not to go into buildings other than during the times last week dictated by the district to pack up student belongings and retrieve any personal belongs you desired that school counselors were required to go into the buildings this week to make sure cumulative records were complete even though they won’t be sent out to new schools (transferring schools or students moving to the next tier) until July? They were told that it had to be completed and that if they had to be in the school building to do it (cumulative records are not allowed to be taken out of the school building), then yes, they had to be in the building.

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