"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Musical Interlude: 265 years of Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. Today is his 265th birthday.

Mozart had composed over 600 works by the time he died at the early age of 35. He wrote his first piano piece at the age of 5, his first symphony at age 8, and his first opera when he was 11.

Aside from being precocious, he was also versatile. Mozart wrote more than two dozen piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, as well as concertos for bassoon, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello, and various combinations of instruments. He wrote more than four dozen symphonies and eighty-four string quartets. For a complete list of the music Mozart composed in his short life, click here.

The first three pieces (below) were written over a period of 6 years - from age 5 to 11 - and show an amazing growth and maturity for someone so young.

The Allegro in C, written by a five year old...



...and an entire symphony, albeit a short one, written by an eight year old...



I'm not a big fan of opera, but this short piece about the recording of Mozart's first opera, Apollo and Hyacinth (written when he was eleven), gives some interesting facts and displays the beauty of Mozart's music.




The following is a video of Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major. It's a live performance so enjoy watching the musicians – soloist, orchestra members, and conductor – dance in their own special ways to the music. Most are "head dancers" but quite a few of them move their upper bodies as they play. Very few, if any, keep still.


To listen to all four of Mozart's horn concertos, click here.

Further reading and listening
Postscript
  • I wonder if Indiana would have forced Mozart to take the state achievement test...
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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

2021 Medley #2 - Privatization, the Free Market, and Propaganda

Privatization and the Free Market
Truth, Lies, and Propaganda
PRIVATIZATION, AND THE FREE MARKET

Betsy DeVos might be gone from our federal government, but she and those who support her privatization schemes for public education are still around.

It’s “School Choice Week” & I Choose…

Stu Egan, who blogs at Caffeinated Rage wrote this about school choice week. In it, he reminds us that "Our public schools are better than many lawmakers and 'pro-choice' advocates portray them to be – many of whom have never spent time as educators." The privatizers define the parameters in order to place public schools in a poor light...and then claim that public schools are "failing."

Supporters of public schools must change the narrative.
With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s March, 2018 assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was a nearsighted, close minded, and rather uneducated assessment of public schools because she was displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. DeVos has no background in statistical analysis, administration, or teaching. The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth.

The premise of DeVos’s argument was the performance of US students on the PISA exam. She was trying to control how the public saw the results. She framed the context to promote a narrative that her “reforms” were the only solutions.

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s

What is the purpose of America's public schools?

Privatizers believe that education is an individual choice. They claim that all parents must be "in it for themselves" to get the best education for their child. Education, looked at this way, is a consumer good...something that one must shop for. If that's true, then there will be winners and losers. As a society, we can't afford to maintain an education system in which a large portion of our children end up as losers.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said [emphasis added], "...I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford..." What about those who can't afford any education? Will we, as a society, have to support them if they're unhireable? It's in society's interest to make sure everyone is educated.

Public school advocates believe that public education is a common good. Let's change "in it for themselves" to "we're all in this together." As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone said, "We all do better when we all do better."
Under HB 1005, families that make up to three times the limit to qualify for reduced-price school meals – which is over five times the federal poverty level — would become eligible for vouchers in 2022-23. For a family of five, that’s $170,274 a year, more than three times the median household income in Indiana.

Families would also receive more generous voucher funding under the legislation. Currently, only the lowest-income families receive a full voucher, worth 90% of the per-pupil funding that their local school district gets from the state. Higher-income recipients get 50% or 70% of that amount.

Under HB 1005, all families with vouchers would receive 90% of local per-pupil state funding. In effect, families that make several times as much as the average Hoosier household could get about $5,500 per child from the state to pay private school tuition.

Constitutionally enshrined schools deserve our ongoing protection

The Indiana Constitution, Article 8, Section 1, states that,
...it shall be the duty of the General Assembly...to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
The only tuition-free schools, open to every child in the state, are the public schools. Private/Parochial schools can refuse students for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, gender identification, sexual preference (as well as the sexual preference of the parents), and religious beliefs.

Charter schools can, and sometimes do, choose their students based on socio-economic status, academic achievement, physical/academic disability, and the ability to provide their own transportation.

Until charter schools and private/parochial schools accept all students regardless of academic ability, economic status, or any other limiting factor, they should not receive state support. Public education dollars should go to public schools.
I have no problem with parents choosing which school their children attend. They have the right to send their children to the school of their choice, be that public or private. I willingly pay taxes to support public school education.

However, I vehemently object that my taxes also are providing vouchers to pay for non-public schools. Every dime that goes to the non-public schools takes money away from education for public schools. At the expense of public schools, taxpayers are paying for a multi-education system instead of the one system, open to all, established by our Indiana Constitution.

These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking Points

In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,
...to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal[ry] rewards...
So why are our tax dollars going to support schools which teach a "skewed version of history" and religion as science?
Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well.


Free Market Facts And School Choice

"...the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing."
...the last two months of U.S. history are more than sufficient to demonstrate why allowing citizens to make a free market selection of their own preferred facts is bad for us as a country. Free market fans like to argue that only the best products win in the marketplace. But the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing. And in the free market of ideas, sometimes the most effective marketing is simply, “Wouldn’t you rather believe this?”

There is no benefit to society in encouraging parents to choose post-truth fact-impaired education for their children, certainly not enough benefit to justify spending taxpayer dollars to pay for it. Choosing your own preferred facts from a wide open marketplace simply enables willful ignorance, and that is never good for society as a whole.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Our founders were not perfect. The US Constitution excused slavery. The Civil War ended the legal practice of slavery, but was followed by a failed "reconstruction" which ushered in an era of Jim Crow laws, punishment, and death for former slaves. The "second reconstruction" yielded some relief, but law and social pressures still worked against the advancement of political, economic, and social equality.

The first century and a half of the country's existence were also dedicated to the subjugation, through lies and deceit, of the people native to the land. The so-called treaties made in the name of the United States were ignored. The payment for the land taken was often reneged upon. Entire communities were uprooted and moved, often at the cost of human lives.

Now, nearly 250 years after our founding, we're still grappling with racism, inequality, and white supremacy. Should we lie to our students and tell them that nothing has ever been wrong with the nation or should we tell them the truth?

The following three articles from Kappan deal with teaching students the truth, how to differentiate the truth from lies, and how to protect themselves from propaganda.

The silence of the ellipses: Why history can’t be about telling our children lies
In September 2020, President Donald Trump stood in the great hall of the National Archives to denounce what he called a leftist assault on American history: “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms,” he said, and teach our children a kind of history that will make them “love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.”

Love built on a lie is false love. It achieves its mirage by making truth its victim. The goal of historical study is to cultivate neither love nor hate. Its goal must be to acquaint us with the dizzying spectrum of our humanity: lofty moments of nobility mixed in with ignominious descents into knavery. When history’s mirror intones a single phrase — that we’re the fairest of them all — it freezes us in childhood and stunts our growth. History that impels us to look at the past, unflinchingly and clear-eyed, does not diminish us or make us less patriotic. The opposite, in fact, is true: It makes us grow up. Understanding who we were allows us to understand who we are now. Only then can we commit to doing something about it.

That should be the goal of history education. Our children deserve nothing less.

Taking a reasoned stance against misinformation
In this time of widespread dissemination of alternative facts and misinformation, teachers have a responsibility to turn classrooms into spaces where reason and inquiry trump ignorance and hyperbole. But doing so often requires teachers to take a stance regarding what issues are worthy of deliberation and what information warrants consideration, and the decisions teachers make may be risky, as teachers are generally expected to be politically neutral, and expressions of their political beliefs can expose them to accusations of bias (Journell, 2016). That’s why it’s important for teachers to follow established criteria for making pedagogical decisions.

Having a clear framework that enables them to justify their decisions to students, parents, and administrators will hopefully mitigate the risks that come with opening the floor to discussion of controversial topics. More important, modeling thoughtful discernment and being transparent about which topics are open for deliberation and what information is acceptable to bring to a discussion is a valuable lesson unto itself, one that students can use outside the classroom and into their adult lives.

Understanding propaganda: A conversation with Renee Hobbs
Renee Hobbs is professor of communication studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island...

...when I started offering college courses about propaganda, many years ago, a lot of students thought this meant I’d be teaching history classes. In most secondary schools, the only time anybody talks about propaganda is in the context of the Second World War, so students tend to associate it with the Nazi era. I often have to explain that propaganda isn’t some bygone issue from long ago and far away. Actually, it’s something we’re all swimming in every day...

In 2019, for instance, the National Council of Teachers of English passed a resolution calling for a renewed emphasis on teaching ”civic and critical literacy,” including efforts to “enable students to analyze and evaluate sophisticated persuasive techniques in all texts, genres, and types of media” and to “support classroom practices that examine and question uses of language in order to discern inhumane, misinformative, or dishonest discourse and arguments.” Well, that sounds like propaganda analysis to me.

Plus, I think we’re seeing a lot of young people becoming more eager than they have in years to embrace civic life — whether they’re interested in politics, racial justice, the environment, you name it. And to participate in civic life effectively, they need to be able to speak persuasively, activate emotions, simplify information, appeal to people’s deepest values, respond to attacks from opponents, and so on. In short, they need to learn about rhetoric and propaganda. So, our students are certainly ready for this kind of instruction, and they may begin to demand it, too.
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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 315 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin is the only founding father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Most people know about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today...

THE NEWS MEDIA

Apology for Printers
If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.
ON COMPROMISE

Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania
Has not the famous political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to pass thro’ a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left, so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst.
THE EMPIRE DIMINISHED

Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One
[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.
HEALTH CARE

Referring to private hospital funding alone:
That won't work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering 'the distant parts of this province' in which 'assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.' … '[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.'
LIBERTY

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
WAR

Letter to Mary Hewson
All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other.
TRAITORS OR HEROES

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).
In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.


Franklin was one of the most well known and well-respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)...


FURTHER EXPLORATION

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

VIDEO (30 minutes): Walter Isaacson: "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post celebrating Franklin's birthday. I've added some quotes and information and corrected some links.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

DeVos Still Haunts Indiana


ADVANCEMENT OF GOD'S KINGDOM

Betsy DeVos is gone...and her boss will be gone in less than a week, but that doesn't mean that the party of low taxes for the wealthy has forgotten what Princess Betsy stood for...the advancement of God's Kingdom in the battleground of "educational reform."

The Indiana General Assembly for the 2021 session already has thirty-seven bills dealing with "school." Most notable among them is House Education Committee chair, Bob Behning's HB 1005 which would...
...create state-funded Education Savings Accounts that certain K-12 students could use for various educational services, including private school tuition.
Just a reminder...in Indiana "private school tuition" means parochial schools more than 99% of the time. Advancing God's Kingdom, indeed.

Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that it was important for anyone using vouchers to attend a public school for at least a year? Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that vouchers were for poor kids to "escape" from "failing schools?"

You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that fewer than half of 2019-2020 voucher recipients ever attended a public school.

And that thing about kids in poverty escaping "failing schools?" That was never the actual intent.
...the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes.
This year, the "advancers of God's Kingdom" in our legislature want to offer more voucher money to more, and wealthier, people. Steve Hinnefeld in his School Matters blog, explains...

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s
Under HB 1005, families that make up to three times the limit to qualify for reduced-price school meals – which is over five times the federal poverty level — would become eligible for vouchers in 2022-23. For a family of five, that’s $170,274 a year, more than three times the median household income in Indiana.
Meanwhile, the legislature will likely neglect schools filled with poor kids who need extra help.

And will standardized tests, which are good for only one thing -- identifying which schools enroll children of poverty -- still be given this year of the pandemic? After all, that's how schools are labeled "failing."

Betsy DeVos still haunts Indiana!


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