"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

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Fourteenth: We all do better when we all do better.

Today marks the fourteenth blogoversary of this blog. When I began it on September 14, 2006, I was in my late 50s and teaching Reading Recovery in a small public school in northeast Indiana (which has since closed), the US was at war in Iraq, there had just been a mass shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, and George W. Bush was the US President.

In September of 2006, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake released their second albums and Elton John released his 29th; naturalist Steve Irwin and former Texas governor Ann Richards died; the Cubs finished last in the National League Central (a year later they would finish first); and Star Trek celebrated 40 years of television and movies (premier Sept 8, 1966).

Public education in the US was deep into the mess of No Child Left Behind. Testing defined (and still defines) everything taught in America's public schools. In Indiana, we weren't yet spending huge amounts of tax money on vouchers and charter schools, and Hoosier teachers still had seniority rights, the right to due process before getting fired, and collective bargaining for things like prep time and class size.

My blog's focus was on 1) the overuse and misuse of standardized testing, 2) the overwhelming intrusion of politics and politicians into public education, and 3) my students. I was reading education authors like Richard Allington, Gerald Bracey, Susan Ohanian, and Alfie Kohn.

Since then I've taught part-time before I retired; volunteered in three different elementary schools after retirement; joined with others to advocate for public education; moved to a new house; made a couple trips to the hospital; voted in six elections; watched the Cubs win the World Series (Bucket List item #1); signed up for Social Security and Medicare; welcomed two more grandchildren, a grandchild-in-law, and a great-grandchild into my life; made new friendships and said good-bye to some old friends and family members; drove Route 66 from California to Illinois; celebrated a fiftieth wedding anniversary; reached half-a-gross years in age; and written 1370 blog posts (this one is #1371).

Here are some thoughts about life and education that I've gathered over the last year.


The Earth is ours, not mine or yours. We're all in this together so we need to work together. "We all do better when we all do better." -- Paul Wellstone

From The Tris Speaker speech in The Sporting News (February 20, 1971), p. 44.

Roberto Clemente, Feb 20, 1971
We must all live together and work together no matter what race or nationality. If you have an opportunity to accomplish something that will make things better for someone coming behind you, and you don't do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.

Why Are Poor Countries Poor?

Media creator and author, John Greene argues for "us," not "them." We're all in this together.
If these problems aren't "our" problems, I'm troubled by how we're defining "us." I don't want to be part of an "us" that makes a "them" of the world's most vulnerable people.

Ricky Gervais' funniest ever interview | 60 Minutes Australia

Success in life is at least partly a matter of perspective. Once we realize that most of the world's (or the nation's, or of the family's) history happened without us, we can let go and start treating our lives as a holiday. This is our chance. Let's enjoy it.

Ricky Gervais
Why are we here? Well, we just happen to be here. We couldn't choose it. The chance of us being born - that sperm hitting that egg - is 400 trillion to one. We're not special, we're just lucky. And this is a holiday. We didn't exist for 14 and a half billion years. Then we've got 80 or 90 years, if we're lucky, and then we never exist again. So, we should make the most of it.

Nightfall, A Novel

The "Us vs. Them" mentality has reared its ugly head in the US and has been exacerbated by the combined health and economic crises, and lack of competent leadership that are now challenging us.

Why don't we do what science tells us to do to end the pandemic and heal the climate crisis?

Why is there a growing distrust of intelligence and rational thought?

We're living in a time of "medieval emotions."

Isaac Asimov
It's the old hatred of the intellectual that crops up whenever medieval emotions start surfacing.


Martin Luther King Jr., The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, 8/16/1967

Societal bandaids like vouchers and charter schools won't solve the problems of inequity and poverty. Poverty is like gravity...it has an impact on everything that happens. It has an impact on student health and it has an impact on student learning.

It's not enough to say, "The poor will always be with us." We have an obligation to work to eliminate poverty, if not for those who are living in poverty, then for our children and grandchildren, so that we leave them a happier, healthier world.

We all benefit from an equitable society. We must stop thinking in terms of what "I need" and start thinking about what "we need."

"We all do better when we all do better."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
...we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.

Kids will need recess more than ever when returning to school post-coronavirus

Relationships are important in the learning process. Teachers must build relationships in their classrooms. Students won't remember that you taught them the times table, the Preamble to the Constitution, or what carbohydrates are. They will remember who you are.

Students will need those relationships more than ever to heal from the trauma of the pandemic while it continues and once it ends.

Lauren McNamara (Ryerson U) and Pasi Sahlberg (UNSW)
What matters to students, first and foremost, is friendships, social connections and feelings of acceptance and belonging. And this happens through play, recreation and leisure activities — at every age.

I. Asimov

Can you learn anything outside of school?

Isaac Asimov
I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

As a teacher, if you don't care about what you teach, your students won't care either.

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
Fred Rogers remembered that when [Margaret Beall] McFarland wanted to expose the little children at the Arsenal Center to the work of a sculptor, she gave these instructions to the artist she invited to her classes: "'I don't want you to teach sculpting. All I want you to do is to love clay in front of the children.' And that's what he did. He came once a week for a whole term, sat with the four- and five-year-olds as they played, and he 'loved' his clay in front of them. The children caught his enthusiasm for it, and that's what mattered. Like most good things, teaching has to do with honesty."


I found the following quote in a comment somewhere on the internet. I don't have a link to the original article or the author's name, but it speaks to the current threat to the US Postal Service. The Post Office is a government service, not a profit-making business. It's not supposed to make money anymore than roads are supposed to make money. It's supposed to be there for us when we need it. If we insisted that it make a profit then our neighbors in rural areas won't have mail-service -- just like they don't have internet service.

Us...not me.

The Government isn't SUPPOSED to make money. It's supposed to provide services for citizens and promote the general welfare. If you only have services that are profitable, then the rural areas of this country will have no public transportation, no electricity, no roads. And therefore, no town. The horrible money-wasting Government laid the Interstate. Developed radar. Built huge hydroelectric dams that powered our rural regions. Landed on the moon. Split the atom. Created the Internet. Since convincing ourselves that the Government can't do anything, we can't fix a bridge. Because some billionaire would lose his Almighty Tax Cut. While the nations of Europe - that we call "Socialist" - have shot ahead of us in innovation and technology.

Kindness is the foundation for peace and happiness.


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