"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, August 22, 2022

2022 Medley #3 - A teacher shortage, or not?

A teacher shortage, or not?



NOT A TEACHER SHORTAGE

I've often posted teacher shortage rants on this blog, and I'll continue to do so, but the phrase needs some nuance. Peter Greene calls it...
...an exodus, a slow-motion strike, or a wave of teachers responding to the old, “If you don’t like it, then get out” with a resounding, “Okay, then.”
The point he makes is that there are enough teachers (at least for the time being) but the jobs in education are not attractive enough to get sufficient numbers of qualified people into classrooms. This is not new.

There Is No Teacher Shortage. So Why Is Everyone Talking About It?
...it’s a short step to solutions like those proposed in Idaho and other states that have simply lowered the bar so that no formal education training is required to take over a classroom...

All of these sorts of solutions rest on the premise that there is a teachers shortage, that the mine has been stripped of every nugget, that there is no crop to harvest and we must therefor change the definition of what we’re looking for. All of these solutions rest on a dogged determination to misdiagnose the problem.

...There is no teacher shortage. There’s a teacher recruitment and retention problem. There’s a “making the job attractive enough to draw in the people we want” problem. There is a problem that requires a careful, thoughtful diagnosis. There are policy and political leaders who see the current situation as an opportunity to be exploited rather than a problem to be solved. Those are not the voices we should be listening to right now.

WHERE WILL TOMORROW'S TEACHERS COME FROM?

Greene writes about the broken teacher pipeline in Pennsylvania. A similar situation exists in Indiana. Fewer students than in the past are going into education and fewer education students than in the past are actually entering the teaching profession. The situation is worse with college students of color. So if we're not in the midst of an actual teacher shortage, by the numbers, we will be soon.

In 1975, nearly 22% of the nation's college students studied education. By 2015 that number had dropped to less than 8%. The percentages for women, the majority of public educators, are even greater going from 32% in 1975 to less than 11% in 2015. And things haven't changed lately either.

Just 1 in 6 Indiana college students who study education become teachers, report finds
Only 1 in 6 students who pursued bachelor’s degrees in education at state colleges and universities ended up working as teachers, according to a new report on Indiana’s teacher pipeline that followed students who entered college from 2010 to 2012.

The outcomes were even starker among students of color: Just 5% of Black students who entered education programs went into teaching in Indiana classrooms, according to the study from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

The report followed students enrolled in education programs at Indiana’s public colleges and universities to see how many received degrees, were licensed, and got jobs in teaching.

Of the roughly 11,000 students who pursued bachelor’s degrees in education, just 16% eventually received licenses and found jobs in Indiana public schools
Why are students avoiding going into education? Why are students with education degrees avoiding going into the classroom? The answer is the same as it's been for decades.

Money and respect, not necessarily in that order.


THE TEACHER PAY PENALTY

Everyone knows that teachers don't earn enough for the work that they do...everyone, that is, except right-wing pundits and legislators who consider the job "a parttime babysitting job."

"Teachers get the whole summer off and get paid for it."

"Teachers only work until 3 o'clock."

You get the picture. No amount of reasoning or facts will change their minds. To paraphrase Jonathan Swift,
You cannot reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.
To make matters worse, there is a significant gap between the salaries of teachers and the salaries of other professionals with similar education. This gap, which is continuing to grow, is referred to as the teacher pay penalty and it, too, has been around for quite a while.

Does the pay penalty exist because teaching is traditionally "women's work" and women in the US still, after all these years, make 72 cents for every dollar that men make? Absolutely.

Does the pay penalty continue to grow because Republican legislators in state houses in Indiana and around the county are transferring funding for public education to private and charter schools? Absolutely.

Does the pay penalty continue to grow because those same legislators hate teachers unions and are doing their best to "bust" the unions? Absolutely

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high
Simply put, teachers are paid less (in weekly wages and total compensation) than their nonteacher college-educated counterparts, and the situation has worsened considerably over time.

Prior to the pandemic, the long-trending erosion in the relative wages and total compensation of teachers was already a serious concern. The financial penalty that teachers face discourages college students from entering the teaching profession and makes it difficult for school districts to keep current teachers in the classroom. Trends in teacher pay coupled with pandemic challenges may exacerbate annual shortages of regular and substitute teachers.

Providing teachers with compensation commensurate with that of other similarly educated professionals is not simply a matter of fairness but is necessary to improve educational outcomes and foster future economic stability of workers, their families, and communities across the U.S.
Are Republican legislators and their donors interested in improving education outcomes in order to foster future economic stability of workers, their families and communities?

Good question.


TO SOME, IT'S STILL A CALLING

Still, not every teacher is dissatisfied and leaving the profession. NEA, trying to post some good news for a change, posted this about teachers who were staying in their classrooms despite the difficulties.

Take this Job and Love It: Why Educators Stay
Kevin Adams has moments when he considers packing up his classroom and starting a new career...

...But then his thoughts go back to his students. He remembers what it’s like to watch them grow and evolve, to see the sparks of understanding light up their faces, to interact with their spirited young minds, and even to hear their silly jokes. There’s joy and fulfillment in each day at his middle school— enough of it to tip the scales. And so he stays.

“That is the number one reason I’m still here, hands down,” Adams says. “It’s the kids.”
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Monday, August 1, 2022

Jim Trelease, 1941 – 2022

EVERY DAY SHOULD BE TEACHER APPRECIATION DAY

No.

Today is not Teacher Appreciation Day

Or Teacher Appreciation Week

Although, every day should be teacher appreciation day. It's likely that you wouldn't be reading this if not for teachers.

Teachers help the majority of American children learn how to read.

Someone taught the programmers of this blog application how to code and how to design and construct the device on which you're reading this post.

Someone taught your dentist how to check and repair teeth. Someone taught your veterinarian how to care for animals.

...and so on...

For me, the concept of teacher appreciation brings to mind the most memorable teachers from whom I've learned. One of my elementary school teachers stands out in my mind...several of my high school teachers...and several of my college teachers. My parents, too, as my first, and most important teachers, are important...most important (You parents should remember that you are your child's first, and most important teacher).

There is one person, however, who stands above all the other teachers I've had (aside from my parents) as the man who had the greatest impact on my career as an elementary school teacher...and made an important contribution to my parenting skills.

THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK

In 1979, when I was relatively new to teaching, I ordered a booklet from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled, "Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook for Parents and Teachers."

I had been reading aloud to my students since I started teaching. One of my education school professors had emphasized the importance of reading aloud to our classes, so, from my first class to my last, I tried to make time every day for read aloud. Looking back on my 35 year career I can remember only a handful of times I skipped reading aloud...whether I taught Kindergarten or sixth grade, or something in between, reading aloud was always the most important part of my reading program.

When I saw the pamphlet on reading aloud from the Weekly Reader Book Club I decided that it might be helpful. Thus began my relationship with Jim Trelease's books and research which lasted the more than four decades I spent in elementary school classrooms (as a teacher and volunteer).

I've written about Jim Trelease often on this blog. In 2008 I posted my congratulatory letter to him when he announced his retirement (and I reproduced his response in the comments). In 2017 I wrote a Teacher Appreciation post about him and his Read-Aloud Handbook, now in its eighth edition (the seventh edition is the last one edited by Trelease).


LESSONS FROM JIM TRELEASE

Some of the books listed in the Treasury of Read-Alouds which comprises the second half of the Read-Aloud Handbook might be outdated, but the information about the importance of reading aloud to children and the tips on how to read aloud are still valuable.

There are so many lessons to learn from his book (get a copy of the book!). Here are just two...

Lesson #1 (quoted from the Reading Research Quarterly. See #3, here)
...how exactly does a person become proficient at reading? It’s a simple, two- part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Lesson #2 (emphasis added)
The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children...It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.
The second lesson was also quoted from another source. It came from Becoming a Nation of Readers published some years after the first Read-Aloud Handbook.

JIM TRELEASE, March 23, 1941 – July 28, 2022

Jim Trelease died on Thursday, July 28, 2022. I'm glad I was able to thank him for his help throughout the years I spent in classrooms. I can't imagine what my teaching career would have been like if not for his influence.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.


πŸ“šπŸ“šπŸ“š

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Random thoughts, July 12, 2016

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE AND MORE...

• Why don't politicians who think "anyone can teach" all become teachers?
• The nationwide shortage of teachers is likely caused by media and politicians bad-mouthing public schools and public school teachers. Legislatures are trying to find ways to increase the number of teachers, but there are fewer and fewer young people going into the profession. Diane Ravitch suggests that "The best way to increase the supply of teachers is to raise salaries and reduce class sizes."

So, I guess we're stuck with the shortage given that our legislators don't like spending money. We need to change our ways and make our children a priority.

• Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said about teaching, "Anybody can do it" and claimed that teacher training programs were "the dumbest part of every college." In his mind, it follows that "teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country." That attitude along with salaries more than 20% lower than other similarly trained college graduates, might have something to do with the teacher shortage. Prospective teachers either believe what they hear, or don't want to enter a profession whose practitioners are overworked, underpaid, and regularly insulted.

VOUCHERS: FUNDING RELIGION

• Instead of fully funding public education, legislators fund those who fill their campaign treasuries. Last school year Indiana sent nearly a quarter million BILLION dollars ($241.4 million) to private, mostly religious, schools in the form of school vouchers. But Article 1, Section 6 of the State Constitution says that "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." Luckily for the religious schools, the state supreme court ignored the concept of church-state separation.
• Speaking of church-state separation, here are quotes from two American politicians about the topic...

Lauren Boebert said in a speech last month,
I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk — that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter and it means nothing like they say it does.
Thomas Jefferson wrote this in 1802 -- the letter that Boebert says "means nothing,"
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Does the phrase "separation of church and state" mean nothing?

NO MORE STALE IDEOLOGIES

• It seems that the Florida legislature wants to keep tabs on the number of post-secondary students and faculty who believe in a "stale ideology." Does the new law, approved and signed by Governor DeSantis, define what a "stale ideology" is, or who decides what's stale and what's not? Stale colleges and universities might be punished by funding cuts. What's next? Loyalty oaths? A Florida House Un-American Activities Committee?

Does this mean that the funding from the right-wing Charles Koch Foundation to various Florida universities (see here for example) will have to end? Does it matter that Governor DeSantis gets campaign contributions from Koch Industries?

CIVICS EDUCATION

• Sheila Kennedy wrote about the lack of civic knowledge in the United States.
America’s political culture is the most toxic it has been in my lifetime– and I’m old. There are lots of theories about how we got here—from partisan gerrymandering and residential sorting to increasing tribalism to fear generated by rapid social and technological change and exacerbated by dishonest partisan media. But our current inability to engage in productive civic conversation is also an outgrowth of declining trust in our social and political institutions—primarily government. Restoring that trust is critically important —but in order to trust government, we have to understand what it is and isn’t supposed to do.
I would add that we've also lost the ability to see things from the "other's" point of view which makes coming to a reasonable compromise impossible. We have allowed ourselves to fall into a Gingrichian, all-or-nothing mentality that defines compromise as impossible. Currently, the loudest politicians in the country are those who see winning or losing as the only options. They see governing as a zero-sum game, a false dichotomy, a "my way or the highway" mentality. They don't understand that a free society cannot function without cooperation and compromise (think traffic laws, for example). We don't have to agree with each other, but we need to open our minds and at least listen to other points of view.
AND A COUPLE OF TRIVIAL THOUGHTS

• I love baseball...and don't care that it's a "slow" game. The pace of baseball gives fans time to do something that doesn't happen often enough -- engage in conversation -- and specifically, engage in conversation about the game. The digital revolution has damaged our attention spans. We're losing the ability to concentrate for an entire baseball game to social media like TikTok, Twitter, and texting. IMHO, the length and speed of a baseball game is a feature, not a bug.

Watch your dog when you yawn...chances are he'll yawn, too...and vice versa.
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Friday, July 1, 2022

2022 Medley #2 - SCOTUS Gets First Amendment Religion Guarantee Wrong


Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
All of today's Medley articles address the June 27 Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The court found in favor of the football coach (Kennedy) who was praying at the 50 yard line after games. The coach claimed that he just wanted a quiet place to pray after the games. The school system tried to accommodate him, but he decided that the center of the football field was the necessary location...and he was anything but quiet as you will read below.

The coach also claimed that he was fired because of this. The truth is that his contract expired at the end of the year and the school system decided not to renew it...plus, he didn't reapply. There is some disingenuous information in the court's ruling about this.

THE CASE

We can begin with a news report from the Religion Clause Blog which includes a link to the ruling. If you read the entire post you'll learn that the ruling explained away ignored the "establishment" clause in order to promote the individual "free exercise" clause. The First Amendment says, in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The Lemon Test, which the majority repudiated, has been used for more than half a century to balance the two clauses of the Amendment.

Supreme Court Upholds Football Coach's Prayer Rights; Repudiates the "Lemon Test"
In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, (Sup. Ct., June 27, 2022), the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that a school district violated the First Amendment's Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses by disciplining a football coach for visibly praying at midfield immediately after football games. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion...

Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan, filed a dissenting opinion, saying in part:
Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections for the religious liberty of students and their parents, as embodied in both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The Court now charts a different path, yet again paying almost exclusive attention to the Free Exercise Clause’s protection for individual religious exercise while giving short shrift to the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on state establishment of religion.

SCOTUS ONLY ACCEPTS HALF OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT

The coach wasn't satisfied with the accommodation offered by the school system. He wanted to proseletize and that had to be done loudly...immediately after the game so that everyone could see.

The Bremerton Football Prayer Ruling Has Nothing To Do With Protecting Religious Freedom
Coach Joe Kennedy is no hero of religious freedom. The Bremerton school district was more than willing to accommodate his desire for a post-game prayer. Officials offered Kennedy space where he could have prayed privately. It wasn’t good enough for him. He insisted on being on the 50-yard-line, with students, right after the game. There’s a reason for that: Kennedy sought to make a public spectacle of his religious activity, and he clearly hoped to draw students into participating alongside him. The photos don’t lie, and they show Kennedy, surrounded by football players, students and others, holding what looks like a revival service on the field. That’s a private prayer? Compare Kennedy’s actions to the kind of truly private, non-coercive religious expression in public schools by staff that has always been legal – a private prayer over lunch, crossing yourself before an important meeting or spending a few minutes of free time seeking solace from a religious book. None of that puts pressure on students nor was it threatened by the district’s actions.
The following blog entry by Mercedes Schneider explains how the coach promoted his post-game prayer. This was one step in coercing his players (and others) to pray with him. Student players might have though "Coach wants us to pray...if I don't do it will I get to play as much?"

In “Private Personal Prayer” Ruling, SCOTUS Bias on Full Display
On its face, the SCOTUS supermajority’s version of events leads one to believe that once the district discovered that Kennedy was praying and offering a sort of catechism with his football players in the locker room before games as well as leading a prayer midfield immediately following games, again surrounded by his players, Kennedy stopped praying all together, then hired a lawyer and decided he needed to pray alone on the 50-yard line following games, once his players left the field. Aside from what SCOTUS majority paints as students from the opposing team just coming up to pray with him of their own volition, Kennedy complied with praying alone, yet in 2015, the district recommended that his contract not be renewed, that the district was singling Kennedy out for his “private, personal” prayers.

The SCOTUS majority does not mention Kennedy’s active role in a publicity campaign in which he announced his plans to pray midfield following a game; that he did so immediately after a game, while students were still on the field; that he invited the coach and players from the opposing team to join him. Instead, the SCOTUS supermajority errantly and conveniently disposes of the greater course of events surrounding the Kennedy debacle.

In the SCOTUS dissent, Justice Sotomayor offers details conveniently and narrowly omitted from the supermajority decision. (More to come on this.) However, those familiar with the history of Kennedy’s case in the courts need only read excerpts from the Kennedy’s case with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In July 2021, the Ninth Circuit decided not to rehear the case en banc (that is, all judges hearing the case as opposed to one or a few; usually happens when a case is deemed particularly significant).

Peter Greene at Curmudgucation, explains how the majority ignored the "establishment" clause.

SCOTUS Okays School Prayer Based On Alternate Reality
In other words--and stay with me here--a prohibition against religious speech is discriminatory if it's only applied to religious speech. I'm not sure--after all, I'm not a fancy lawyer--but I think Gorsuch is suggesting that the First Amendment's Establishment clause is invalid because it only applies to religious speech. At any rate, since the District's policies "were neither neutral nor generally applicable," they don't hold. Because the District admits that they didn't want to allow "an employee, while still on duty, to engage in religious conduct," they lose.

Gorsuch acknowledges that "none of this means the speech rights of public school employees are so boundless that they may deliver any message to anyone anytime they wish" because they are still government employees, which is a nice try, but I still will cross my fingers for a bunch of teacher lawsuits claiming "My sincerely held religious belief require me to teach about systemic racism and regularly say gay."

I'm not going to try to capture the whole of Gorsuch's next point, but it boils down to something like this-- Kennedy's speech must have been private because it has nothing to do with doing his job, and therefor the District has no business firing him for engaging in speech that has nothing to do with his job."

Gorsuch goes on to acknowledge that those who say teachers and coaches are leaders and all that "have a point."
But this argument commits the error of positing an “excessively broad job descriptio[n]” by treating everything teachers and coaches say in the workplace as government speech subject to government control.
If you listen, you can hear the sound of school administrator heads exploding all over America, as they realize they will now be responsible for figuring out exactly which words that teachers say count as workplace speech.

THE LOGICAL OUTCOMES

Will this decision give teachers more opportunity to pray with their students during school time? Would this case have been decided differently if the coach had been a Muslim and put down a prayer rug on the 50 yard line after each game? What are a teacher's responsibilities as an "agent of the state" when it comes to prayer? Does the document, A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools have to be changed?

Rachel Laser, President & CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, responds to the ruling in this video. I'll give her the last word.

...Justice Alito opened and shut the decision with a reference to morality. That is disguising what is really a conservative narrow belief system that says, "My religious freedom demands that I take away yours."
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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day 2022: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

A Father's Day post...with updates and additions from last year.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from the very first day I taught at an elementary school beginning in January 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors (NOTE: when I was in Education School it was part of Indiana University at Fort Wayne). That bug was reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook (recently updated by Cyndi Giorgis) is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]


I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

In The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease wrote... [emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.
My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the seventh edition of his book (2013 - the last one edited by Trelease), Jim Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud. He focuses on fathers reading aloud to sons because fewer fathers than mothers read aloud to their children, and sons are the ones, according to statistics, whose academic achievement could use the read-aloud boost. Obviously, this does not mean that fathers should not read aloud to their daughters. The point is to get fathers to read aloud to their children.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Click for an excellent, printable pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading. Find other pamphlets HERE.)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It's more important than ever that fathers exert positive role-model influence over their sons.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," Trelease asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to all your kids every day.

Need more convincing? Check out the following online resources...




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Sunday, June 12, 2022

SCOTUS Takes on Vouchers

AMERICA'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE (STILL) NOT FAILING

Charter and voucher schools, while touted as panaceas for the "sorry state" of America's education system, don't do any better than public schools when based on similar populations of students. In fact, the so-called "sorry state" of our public education system is pretty darn good when you realize that we work to educate everyone who walks in our public school doors.

Back in 2017 Steven Singer, who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall, told us that our public schools are among the best in the world. He wrote...
Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

Here’s why: the United States educates everyone. Most other countries do not.

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.
Now is a good time to remind ourselves of that fact...especially after the difficult experience of "pandemic education" (or are we still "during?").

We should also remember that private, voucher schools don't have to accept everyone. They can pick and choose who gets to attend their school. In Indiana, more than 95% of our voucher schools are run by religious organizations. They can refuse service to religious "others", low achievers, and students with special needs.

And they can do all that while still filling their sectarian wallets with your money...and my money...which, in the past, had been earmarked for public schools, for the common good.

In other words, when supporters say that they need vouchers so they can "choose" private schools, what they mean is, they'll take our public education tax dollars and let private, religious schools "choose" which students get to attend. Your children might be able to attend because they're white, they have high test scores, or they belong to the same religion. Someone else's children, on the other hand, might not be able to attend because they are not the same religion, not white, or are more expensive to teach because they have some high-cost learning need.

Public education reflects society. The so-called "sorry state" of public education is not in our schools, it's in our commitment to the support of the public good.

Supreme Court likely to drop school voucher bombshell
Schools in traditionally operated school districts are not allowed to violate Maine’s anti-discrimination laws, but a school run privately by a religious organization may be able to under such a ruling. The Supreme Court has in recent years laid the legal groundwork for courts to require authorizers of charter schools to allow religious organizations to be granted charters without regard to their religious status.

“The Supreme Court is just a few small steps away from transforming every charter school law in the U.S. into a private-school voucher policy,” [Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s School of Education] writes. “Further, the nation may be facing a future of religious organizations proselytizing through charter schools that have been freed from obeying anti-discrimination laws — with LGBTQ+ community members being the most likely victims.”
The particulars of the case before the Supreme Court underscore why we need to prioritize public education. When a state, Maine in this case, doesn't support a system of public education (in direct violation of their state constitution), substituting private, religious schools, does not necessarily support the common good.

PAUL WELLSTONE ON EDUCATION

The late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone spoke to the concept of the common good when he said...(emphasis added)
That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children, including poor children, is a national disgrace. It is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination, that we do not see that meeting the most basic needs of so many of our children condemns them to lives and futures of frustration, chronic underachievement, poverty, crime and violence. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose, allied with one another in a common enterprise, tied to one another by a common bond. -- 3/31/2000
The primary mission of public schools is not to teach individual students what their parents want them to learn. It’s to prepare the next generation for the task of running our society. It's for the benefit of all of us...the common good.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Gun Violence is Just a Fact of Life, Like the Weather

I've noticed that there's not much -- or at least very little -- coverage of parents and activists who are badgering school board members about school shootings...other than demanding that teachers carry firearms.

Pro-gun rights lawmakers want to arm teachers, but there’s little evidence these programs work
The tragic mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last week renewed calls for stricter gun control legislation, after 19 children and two teachers were killed, and 17 others were injured in the attack. But conservatives and gun lobbyists argue the only way to solve the country’s epidemic of mass shootings is to put more guns in the hands of the public. Some have even called for arming teachers and school staff with firearms of their own.

...The idea of training teachers, whose primary job is to educate students on lessons like math and English, as an extra security defense against potential school shooters is not new and such training programs have existed for years in some form in many states.

There is also little evidence to suggest arming school staff actually makes schools safer. On the contrary, school safety advocates warn about the potential risks of encouraging teachers to carry guns at school — increasing the number of guns in schools, even if they were put in the hands of responsible educators, may increase the likelihood of gun-related harm. Studies have also shown a direct correlation between the presence of guns and increased gun violence.
Hmmm..."studies have also shown"...sounds like science to me!
Click here or on the image, to see the entire Tom Tomorrow post.

Where are all the people who threatened, bullied, spouted conspiracy theories, demanded the banning (and/or burning) of books, and screamed at school board members about masks, critical race theory (CRT), and transgender rights?

MASKS DON'T WORK?

The "masks don't work" theory of COVID-19: Masks don't protect children from the COVID virus, yet somehow they do prevent O2 and CO2 from getting in and out of their lungs. This prevents breathing and will cause permanent damage.

Why aren't they going to school board meetings demanding that ways be found to reduce school shootings?

The total number of students and school staff who died from lack of oxygen or too much carbon dioxide because they wore masks = 0.

(NOTE: The numbers of deaths quoted in the paragraph above and at other locations in this post are from a quick search of the internet and may not be 100% accurate.)

See also:

Fact check: Three children have not died from wearing masks in Germany
Mask Mythbusters: Common Questions about Kids & Face Masks

CRITICAL RACE THEORY

Teaching American history apparently makes some children feel sad, angry, or upset. But isn't it appropriate to feel that way about various behaviors of the USA over it's life as a nation? Slavery? Jim Crow? Japanese-American incarcerations? Does this mean we shouldn't teach history? (NOTE: This is not a call to teach inappropriate content, or to teach content inappropriately to children based on their age and maturity. For example, we wouldn't (and shouldn't) use graphic images of violence, or descriptions of, the brutality of slavery with kindergartners.)

Should we not mention that ten of the first twelve presidents of the United States owned slaves?
Twelve U.S. presidents owned slaves at some point in their lives; of these, eight owned slaves while in office. Ten of the first twelve American presidents were slave owners, the only exceptions being John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, neither of whom approved of slavery.
Should we not teach that the Civil War was mostly about slavery, for example, Mississippi's Articles of secession included...
Mississippi: Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth… These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
...and Georgia's...
Georgia: That reason was [the North's] fixed purpose to limit, restrain, and finally abolish slavery in the States where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity.
What is Critical Race Theory and Why is Everyone Talking About it?
Republican lawmakers in more than 20 states have introduced or passed legislation that would directly target the principles underlying critical race theory by banning schools from teaching about structural racism. These efforts to demonize critical race theory are gaining traction more than a year into a national reckoning with racism, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the ensuing protests.

Speaking at a conference held by the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 18, former Vice President Mike Pence said that “critical race theory is racism.” Senator Ted Cruz, at the same gathering, compared the theory to the Ku Klux Klan saying the curriculum is “every bit as racist” as the white supremacist hate group. “Critical race theory,” the senator said, “says every white person is a racist.”

These campaigns are not just based on ignorance of how critical race theory developed and is now applied, but also represent an attempt to stoke a reactionary resistance, rather than a broader understanding.
(NOTE: Critical Race Theory is not "taught" in America's K-12 schools. American history, on the other hand, is.)

Total number of students and school staff who died because of learning or teaching American history = 0.

TRANS RIGHTS

Do Trans girls have an advantage when participating in girls' sports? Apparently not any more than some other girls, according to this article in Scientific American (There's that "science" again!)...

Trans Girls Belong on Girls’ Sports Teams
...It turns out that when transgender girls play on girls’ sports teams, cisgender girls can win. In fact, the vast majority of female athletes are cisgender, as are the vast majority of winners. There is no epidemic of transgender girls dominating female sports. Attempts to force transgender girls to play on the boys’ teams are unconscionable attacks on already marginalized transgender children, and they don’t address a real problem. They’re unscientific, and they would cause serious mental health damage to both cisgender and transgender youth.

Policies permitting transgender athletes to play on teams that match their gender identity are not new. The Olympics have had trans-inclusive policies since 2004, but a single openly transgender athlete has yet to even qualify. California passed a law in 2013 that allows trans youth to compete on the team that matches their gender identity; there have been no issues. U SPORTS, Canada’s equivalent to the U.S.’s National Collegiate Athletic Association, has allowed transgender athletes to compete with the team that matches their identity for the past two years.

The notion of transgender girls having an unfair advantage comes from the idea that testosterone causes physical changes such as an increase in muscle mass. But transgender girls are not the only girls with high testosterone levels. An estimated 10 percent of women have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which results in elevated testosterone levels. They are not banned from female sports. Transgender girls on puberty blockers, on the other hand, have negligible testosterone levels. Yet these state bills would force them to play with the boys...
Total number of students and school staff who died because trans children played on sports teams = 0.

(On the other hand...A record number of transgender and gender nonconforming people in the US have been killed in 2020.)

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

Nearly all of the school shooters since (and including) the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in November 2012 have used semi-automatic weapons -- either rifles or handguns. Have any of the people who wanted to ban the book Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges, demanded that we ban semi-automatic weapons?

Have any of the people who argued against mask mandates in schools also argued for common sense gun laws?

Isn't there the least a bit of cognitive dissonance created by arguing against masks, CRT, or trans rights, and not doing the same about school shootings?

Total number of people who have died in US school shootings since November 2012 (including children, adults, and perpetrators) = 108.

AN OVERLAP?

Is there an overlap between people who complain to school boards about masks, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and trans children in sports, and those who identify as "pro-life."

Is there an overlap between people who complain to school boards about masks, Critical Race Theory, and trans children in sports, and those who want to arm teachers?

Opinion: Why won’t pro-lifers act against our deadly gun culture?

Are the people who called teachers "groomers" now calling for states to arm those same educators?

And they want to arm the teachers . . .
But for God’s sake then what makes the Republicans who have produced this situation think it is reasonable to expect a teacher to engage in a gunfight with the same murderer that the police are afraid of confronting ?
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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

2022 Medley #1 - School Shootings, Religion, Lead, Pedophelia

School shootings, Religion in schools,
Lead poisoning our students, Attacks on teachers

Lots of stuff below, some of it is old news...forgive me, I'm still catching up.


THE GUN INDUSTRY OWNS TOO MANY POLITICIANS

More kids were killed in the latest school shooting. No surprise. The Onion posted it's repeating story just a few days after the last posting...

No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed at least 21 individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them..."
The argument is that criminals will get guns and use them illegally, so why pass gun-control laws. They won't work anyway.

Someone might respond, why have laws against abortion? Pregnant people will ignore the laws and find ways to get abortions anyway. The laws won't work.

Why have laws against drunk driving? Drunks will ignore the laws and drive while under the influence anyway. The laws won't work.

Already we hear calls for "good guys" to arm themselves...aka give teachers guns. Even though the latest shooter got past armed police officers.

Maybe we ought to study this phenomenon. Why does it happen so often in the USA? We should study gun violence. Nope...can't do that....
...the so-called "Dickey Amendment" effectively bars the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying firearm violence -- an epidemic the American Medical Association has since dubbed "a public health crisis."

If You Don’t Support Gun Control, You Support School Shootings
We’re told that gun control is useless because new laws will just be pieces of paper that criminals will ignore. However, by the same logic, why have any laws at all? Congress should just pack it in, the courts should close up. Criminals will do what they please.

We may never be able to stop all gun violence, but we can take steps to make it more unlikely. We can at least make it more difficult for people to die by firearm. And this doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all guns. Just regulate them.

According to the Pew Research Center, when you ask people about specific firearm regulations, the majority is in favor of most of them – both Republicans and Democrats.

We don’t want the mentally ill to be able to buy guns. We don’t want suspected terrorists to be able to purchase guns. We don’t want convicted criminals to be able to buy guns. We want mandatory background checks for private sales at gun shows.

Yet our lawmakers stand by helpless whenever these tragedies occur because they are at the mercy of their donors. The gun industry owns too many elected officials.

RELIGION IN SCHOOL

The Best Question During Today’s School Prayer Arguments Came From … Brett Kavanaugh?

Justice Kavanaugh (of all people) asks the question that underscores why church and state -- especially when it comes to public schools -- should be separated. The pressure to use religion in a coercive way is hard for certain religious groups and the pressure on students to "go with the crowd" is hard to resist.

Complete separation of church and state in America's public schools would prohibit "pray to play" pressure for student athletes. Kavanaugh is right...though we've yet to see who he sides with then the case is decided.
I guess the problem at the heart of it is you’re not going to know. The coach is probably not going to say anything like “The reason I’m starting you is that you knelt at the 50-yard line.” You’re never going to know. And that leads to the suspicions by parents—I think, I’m just playing out what the other side is saying here—the suspicion by parents that the reason Johnny’s starting and you’re not is [because] he was part of the prayer circle. I don’t think you can get around that. That’s a real thing out there. That’s going to be a real thing in situations like this. I don’t know how to deal with that, frankly.
Luckily, the Constitution already provides a way to deal with that. It’s called the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Enlarging The Already-Big Hole In the Wall

The recent leak threatening to repeal Roe v. Wade, from the US Supreme Court is proof that the decision about abortion is just one more way the High Court is breaking down the wall between church and state (and if you don't think that "separation of church and state" is one of the Founding Fathers' goals, then read this: Separation Of Church And State: The ‘So-Called’ Principle That Has Been Protecting Our Rights Since 1791).

Former Republican and current blogger, Sheila Kennedy, wrote about another case before SCOTUS. It pertains to a town in Maine where no public high schools exist. The state decided to fund private schools, including religious schools. Will the High Court allow this break in the Wall of Separation or will they force Maine to fund actual public schools as required by the state constitution?
Plaintiffs freely acknowledged that the curricula of these religious schools is divisive and discriminatory.
One of the schools at issue in the case, Temple Academy in Waterville, Maine, says it expects its teachers “to integrate biblical principles with their teaching in every subject” and teaches students “to spread the word of Christianity.” The other, Bangor Christian School, says it seeks to develop “within each student a Christian worldview and Christian philosophy of life.”

The two schools “candidly admit that they discriminate against homosexuals, individuals who are transgender and non-Christians,” Maine’s Supreme Court brief said.
Justice Elena Kagan wanted to know why taxpayers should fund “proudly discriminatory” schools. The answer, evidently, is that six judges on this Supreme Court believe that when discrimination is required by Christian theology, it is entitled to special deference.
LEARNING LOSS: STILL POISONING OUR CHILDREN

Lead Poisoning: A Known Learning Loss Threat

What? You mean there's still lead in the water our students drink? 

Can we still blame our public schools for not being able to raise test scores of children who are poisoned with lead?

Lead poisoning poses a threat to children through the water they drink from lead solder/pipes, dust exposure involving old paint in homes, and living near land contaminated by old mining and smelter plants. Here’s a more complete list of objects with lead.

Often the lead problem is ignored. After the Flint water catastrophe, Republican Governor Rick Snyder discussed reading problems. From Detroit Free Press reporter Rochelle Riley:
One of the important metrics in someone’s life on the River of Opportunity is the ability to be proficient-reading by third grade,” he [Gov. Snyder] said in January 2015. “How have we done? We were at 63% in 2010, and we are at 70% today. … But 70% doesn’t cut it.”

Snyder and his administration didn’t cut it either, apparently ignoring the reading mission the same way they ignored the Flint water crisis: Third-grade reading proficiency in Flint, where Snyder allowed the water — and children — to be poisoned by lead, dropped from 41.8% in 2014 to 10.7% last year.

That’s a nearly three-quarters drop.

TEACHERS AS PEDOPHILES

And finally, this is what we're up against. Here is a person who literally accuses all teachers of being "inclined" towards pedophelia...and the danger is even greater if one is a male teacher. Does he offer any proof that this is true? any statistical evidence that teachers sexually abuse children more than the general public? more than the Catholic Church?

It's no wonder that teachers are heading for the exits.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Shortsighted -- Who will be tomorrow's public school teachers?

THE NUMBER OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS IS DECLINING

It's no wonder teachers are leaving the profession and young people are not signing up.

It's not just the low pay, the mountains of paperwork, or the lack of time to get everything done. It's the lack of respect...the constant bashing of teachers and public schools by so-called conservatives along with their plans to privatize public education.

AN ACTUAL CONSERVATIVE BASIS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: The Founding Fathers, especially authors of the Declaration and Constitution, Jefferson and Madison, envisioned public schools serving everyone. Read America’s Founding Fathers Were Against School Choice. The sources for that post are here and here.


Unfortunately, too many members of the general public believe that teaching is "easy." They remember their years in school through the eyes of the children or young adults they were when they observed teachers at work. They apparently don't understand (or believe) the hours of time spent getting to the point where, to an immature outside observer, it looks easy. They think that you just stand up in front of a class, spout the information pertinent to your subject, and the students will be held spellbound by the sheer joy of learning. They think that once you present material, students will understand and retain all that information.

Today's so-called "conservatives" are apparently hesitant to give teachers respect and credit for their work. For one thing, teaching is still widely perceived as "women's work" -- glorified babysitting, and we all know how much respect that gets. It's also true that public education is a public good -- a common good -- a concept that conflicts with the attitude held by some conservatives and libertarians that individualism is most important. Education is necessary for one to make their way in society...to take care of themselves, and to keep from being a burden on society. In contrast, more liberal public school supporters -- like me -- believe that public schools are the cornerstone of democracy. A free, equitable public education, available to all citizens, is good for everyone (see links to the Founding Fathers, above).

Teachers are disrespected. We are consistently bashed in the media. We are underpaid compared to others with the same investment in education. We are treated as incompetent. We are branded as "groomers" and "predators." We are threatened and harassed.

It's no wonder that teachers are heading for the exits.

More than half of teachers are looking for the exits, a poll says?
The National Education Association poll, conducted in January, helps quantify the stress being placed on educators right now. It found that the number who say they'll leave the profession sooner has risen significantly since August. Among the NEA poll's other findings:
  • 90% of its members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem.
  • 86% say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic.
  • 80% report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for those left
Count me in as a teacher who would not recommend a teaching career to my younger self. I know that we need more good teachers. We need young people to go into teaching now more than ever, but would I recommend teaching to one of my children, grandchildren, former students, or any other young person? No. Not now. Not in the U.S.

Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits Bottom
55% [of teachers in the survey] said they were "not very" or "not at all" likely to tell their younger self to pursue teaching as a career.

OUR COMPENSATION FOR POVERTY IS INADEQUATE

We can make the teaching profession more attractive to young people by increasing our education investment...but we, as a nation, are, apparently, not interested in that. Statistically, we're 66th in the world in spending on education as a percentage of our GDP. It's true that 5% of the US GDP is much more than the 8% spent by Norway, the highest rated OECD country in the list, but we have many more students. We also have higher rates of poverty than Norway -- greater than 20% for the US versus less than 10% for Norway. And the higher the poverty rate, the more money is needed to help students reach their potential.

The United States doesn't provide enough money to compensate for our high child-poverty rate. The inequity in American school funding is baked into the system so we spend more money on our wealthy children's education than the education of our poor children. The property tax basis for school funding is partially responsible for this as is the fact that federal spending doesn't always make up for the difference in state spending. A wealthy state, like New York, for example, spends more money per student than does a poor state, like Utah. Some of the discrepancy is mitigated by local cost of living differences, but not all (see The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools).

Beyond Burnout: What Must Be Done to Tackle the Educator Shortage
For years, educators nationwide have been underpaid, undervalued, and underresourced. Now, the pandemic and everything that comes with it—physical and mental health concerns, student learning challenges, and a crushing workload— are pushing an unprecedented number of educators to reconsider their careers.

According to a recent NEA member survey, a staggering 55 percent of educators say they are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than planned.

“This is a five-alarm crisis,” says NEA President Becky Pringle. “If we’re serious about getting every child the support they need to thrive, our elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now.”
What people say when they hear I’m becoming a teacher

I wrote above that I would not recommend teaching to any young person, but this soon-to-be (or recent) graduate of one of Indiana's colleges rejects that recommendation. For her, the benefit society would gain from her teaching is more than the difficulty she will have as a teacher. I only hope, for her sake, that as an English teacher, she's allowed to teach and is not restrained by misguided and paranoid Critical Race Theory laws. I hope that she can earn enough to live on. I hope that she learns how to take care of herself both physically and mentally so she doesn't become cynical or "burned out." At this point, I would tell her, "good luck...and thank you."
These long, full days showed me how to do the job and reminded me of the positive impact teachers can have on their students (and vice versa). They also showed me what educators are up against (in addition to the low wages everyone talks about). I heard about the staffing shortages, the untenable workloads, school funding disparities, and controversial changes, such as efforts to restrict certain conversations about race, gender, and sexuality. I realize that I’m choosing a career that many veterans, discouraged and disheartened, are leaving.

But my love for education — and desire to make a difference — propels me forward. I want my classroom to be a welcoming space that fosters learning and relationships. As graduation approaches, I eagerly await my first professional job, my first classroom, my first classroom library, and my first day of school. So when people ask me if I’m sure I want to be a teacher, I’m more confident saying: Yes, and now more than ever.
Today's children will be tomorrow's citizens and leaders. If we want an educated citizenry...if we want to preserve our free government...then we need to be willing to pay for it. Not to do so would be shortsighted.
Indiana Constitution
Article 8. - Education.
Section 1. Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
Picture the education of our children as a "savings account." By fully funding an equitable education for all our children, we're "saving" for our nation's future where the citizens and leaders are competent and well-informed.
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. -- James Madison
...establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. -- Thomas Jefferson
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security. -- Samuel Adams


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