Tag Archives: Barack Obama

The Obama Way: Sex In, God Out (Even for Kindergartners)

Obamakids

by Christopher Paslay

Under the Obama administration, the Boy Scouts, the military, and even kindergarten classes have been sexualized, while God and religious freedoms have been trampled. 

Last December, when Philadelphia School District officials announced that condom dispensers would be installed outside nurses offices in 22 high schools, I though I’d heard it all.  That was until I recently learned that Chicago pubic schools are now mandating sex education for kindergarteners.

According to CBS Chicago:

Some people may think a five-year old is too young for sex education.  Administrators with Chicago Public schools do not.  New to the curriculum this year, mandatory sexual and health education for kindergarten classes. . . .

Students will also take a look at the different family structures that exist in today’s society.

“Whether that means there’s two moms at home, everyone’s home life is different, and we introduce the fact that we all have a diverse background,” said [CPS Chief Health Officer Stephanie] Whyte.

How does President Obama feel about sex education at the kindergarten level and exposing 5-year-olds to diverse sexual orientations?  In July of 2007, speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference in Washington, he said that sex ed. for kindergarteners “is the right thing to do.”

Promoting the open talk of sex and sexuality is a recurring theme under the Obama administration.  Not only does the president support age-appropriate sex education in the early grades, but he also repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the military, and stated that openly gay men and boys should be able to join the Boy Scouts.

Now, before I’m vilified as a homophobe, which I’m not (for the record, I support same sex marriage so long as this is legislated at the state level . . . furthermore, my wife and I were married via a Japanese tea ceremony performed by a gay tea master and his partner), I’d like to point out the problem with Obama’s approach with the aforementioned issues, and it is this: kindergarten classes, the military, and the Boy Scouts do not need to be sexualized.  In other words, you can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, whatever.  This is your personal business, and you can live your life any way you want; America is still a free country (as of now).  And you can be open about your sex and sexuality almost anywhere you choose.

There are places, however, where talking about sex and/or openly flaunting your sexual preferences is inappropriate, distracting, and as a whole, counterproductive (and in some cases even dangerous and risqué).

Kindergarten classes, the Boy Scouts, and the military are such places—and as such should be asexual, or sexually neutral.  These are not the proper venues to openly promote sex or sexual preferences.  Again, Boy Scouts, soldiers, and friends and family of kindergarteners can engage in sex with whomever they so choose, but there is absolutely no need to publically advertise this.  This goes for straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folks all the same.  I may be ignorant, but how is the open discussion/display/advertisement of sex and sexual orientation going to benefit soldiers in combat or training situations?  Commonsense would dictate that this would be a distraction and impact safety and performance.  How is the open discussion/display/advertisement of sex and sexual orientation by Boy Scout Leaders good for children on a camping trip?  Ditto for five-year-olds in kindergarten classes (such discussions should be done by parents in the home).

The irony here, of course, is that while Obama is encouraging such sexual openness under the guise of “freedom,” the opposite approach is being taken when it comes to faith and religion.  As gays and lesbians are being encouraged to be open and proud of their sexuality in the military, Christian troops and military chaplains are now facing court marshals if they “proselytize” or share their faith “too aggressively.”

According to USA Today:

A Pentagon ban on proselytizing has left some conservative activists fearful that Christian troops — and even military chaplains — could face court martial for sharing their faith.

In Richland, Washington, a Christian florist was hit with a lawsuit for refusing to accommodate a homosexual wedding.  In Kansas, a law was proposed to force churches to host same-sex weddings and receptions.

The most egregious violation of religious freedoms is Obamacare.  A 2012 US News and World Report article states:

Monday the Catholic Church filed 12 different federal lawsuits against the administration on behalf of 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations ranging from local Catholic Charities to parish schools, hospitals, and colleges. The lawsuits are in response to last year’s ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services, known as the HHS, which mandates all healthcare plans must provide sterilizations and abortion-inducing contraceptives for free, with an exemption for churches only, not broader religious organizations. Only churches which serve solely the members of the same faith are exempt; religious organizations which serve the general public are not covered—the most narrowly defined “conscience clause” ever adopted under federal law.

In August of 2012, the Democrats even removed the word “God” from their party platform.  In a May 2012 speech at the prestigious Roman Catholic Georgetown University, President Obama not only failed to mention Jesus once in his remarks, but also persuaded the school to cover the name of Jesus–IHS–at Gaston Hall where he made the speech; Obama did the same thing in April of 2009 when he delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown.

In 1882, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed God was dead.  130 years later, it appears He is at least slowly dying.

Not to worry, though.  As long as religious organizations are forced to cover your birth control (and kindergarteners are well-versed in the dynamics of the homosexual family), all is well in Obama’s America.

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Obama’s Bumbling Law School Reform

Barack Obama at Harvard Law

by Christopher Paslay

A token solution from Harvard Law Review’s token president.  

How do we strengthen the knowledge and skills of America’s future lawyers and help them find jobs in lucrative firms?  By cutting a year of instruction, of course.

According to the New York Times:

President Obama urged law schools on Friday to consider cutting a year of classroom instruction, wading into a hotly debated issue inside the beleaguered legal academy.

“This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I am in my second term, so I can say it,” Mr. Obama said at a town hall-style meeting at Binghamton University in New York. “I believe that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.”

The president’s surprising remarks, made while discussing how to make education more affordable, come at a time of crisis for law schools. With an increasing number of graduates struggling with soaring tuition costs, heavy student debt and a difficult job market, a growing number of professors and administrators are pushing for broad reforms in legal education.

This, coming from a man who became the president of the Harvard Law Review because of “broad reforms” to the election process.

Consider these facts, as reported by the New York Times in 1990:

Mr. Obama was elected after a meeting of the review’s 80 editors that convened Sunday and lasted until early this morning, a participant said.

Until the 1970’s the editors were picked on the basis of grades, and the president of the Law Review was the student with the highest academic rank. Among these were Elliot L. Richardson, the former Attorney General, and Irwin Griswold, a dean of the Harvard Law School and Solicitor General under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

That system came under attack in the 1970’s and was replaced by a program in which about half the editors are chosen for their grades and the other half are chosen by fellow students after a special writing competition. The new system, disputed when it began, was meant to help insure that minority students became editors of The Law Review.

What exactly were Barack Obama’s credentials when he was selected as The Law Review’s president?  We don’t know for sure, as President Obama still refuses to release his academic transcripts from Harvard (as well as Occidental and Columbia).  One thing is clear, however.  Barack Obama’s name does not appear on any legal scholarship during his entire time at Harvard Law School.  Not a single oneZilch.  This is curious, as past Law Review presidents both authored and edited multiple articles and worked their way up the law school ladder.

Not Obama.  Somehow, perhaps because The Law Review changed their policy prior to Obama’s tenure and no longer selected presidents “on the basis of grades” (or on authoring scholarly articles, for that matter), Obama became the first African American president of The Law Review.

So it’s no wonder why Obama wants to reform law school by dumbing down the requirements—changing the traditional program from three years to two.  If he was cut slack during his tenure, why not everybody else?

Why not?  Because this is no way to reform law school and the problem of high tuition, high student loans, and growing unemployment among law school graduates.  A more practical way to reform law school, according to noted author and attorney Charles Cooper, is to admit that the legal profession has changed (the internet has rendered entry level attorneys obsolete), that real world competition dictates that “fifty percent [of new lawyers] will never practice law even in the short term, let alone as a career,” and that “third tier” law school graduates are getting left behind by the big name elite schools.

As Cooper writes in an article co-authored by Thane Messinger:

While meaningful reform would include the closure of underperforming law schools to reduce the grotesque oversupply of graduates, capping student loans for legal education to reduce costs, and removing bankruptcy protections for student lenders to “encourage” responsible student lending, a good start would be a conversation about law school—and higher education as a whole—that is honest and based upon reality and fact, rather than myth, outdated beliefs, and manipulated data that would make Wall Street blush.  That alone, and the realization that law school is overpriced, underperforming, and outdated, and that the inside of today’s legal profession is a far cry from the prestigious, stable, lucrative, and elite exterior it presents, will go a long way to forcing much-needed change—change that law schools and the ABA continue to inexplicably oppose.

Not that Obama, a man whose academic records are intensely guarded and whose scholarly accomplishments curiously lacking, would be able to grasp a real world solution to America’s law school woes.

One thing is certain, though.  Cutting law school requirements from three years to two will not decrease the pool of law school graduates, or enhance their prospects of finding work in the law profession as a whole.

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Commenter Calls Me ‘A Dangerous Presence in the Political Discourse’

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing my arguments, “social justice advocates” attempt to bully me out of the debate. 

Several days ago I posted a blog headlined “Inventing Racism in America’s Public Schools” which explored the notion that there are folks, mainly on the political left, who exploit race and racism in education for their own benefit; the Philadelphia Public School Notebook went on to link the piece in their January 23rd “Notes from the News.”  The blog also talked about the existence of racism in public schools, data on achievement and discipline, and linked no less than 17 sources as evidence—a book on racism, a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, five education policy reports by Princeton’s Educational Testing Service (ETS) that spanned 25 years of American public education, an interview with a NYT bestselling author on racism, eight newspaper articles, and two public school related websites.

My conclusion was that although episodic racism still exists in isolated cases in classrooms, systematic racism is dying and other causes of the racial achievement gap—such as culture and home environment—should be explored.

Geoffrey Winikur, a White Philadelphia public school teacher, social justice advocate and facilitator for the Philadelphia Writing Project, publicly commented on my blog that I was “a dangerous presence in the political discourse” and claimed I made my arguments “without offering a shred of evidence.”  I guess 17 sources, including five from ETS covering 25 years of public education, isn’t “evidence.”  Winikur also said, “I love it every time you write a new article, because I know I’m in for a good laugh.”  Yes, a highly intellectual response to my arguments indeed.

This, of course, is nothing short of bullying—the kind of thing that happened to Samantha Pawlucy at Carroll High School last fall, the young lady who was asked to remove her Mitt Romney T-shirt by none other than her own geometry teacher because, allegedly, the teacher claimed “this is a Democratic school.”

Ben Shapiro analyzes this topic in his recently released New York Times bestselling book Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  In his introduction he highlights how on March 10, 2011, President Barack Obama led a White House conference on the crisis of bullying:

The strategy here was simple. Obama and his friends in the media and on the organized left picked the one thing all Americans can agree on: bullying. They strategically placed President Obama at the head of the anti-bullying cause. Then came the brilliant gambit: they appropriated bullying to apply only to anything remotely conservative.

The Tea Party? A bunch of bullies. Religious people? Bullies. Global warming unbelievers, defense hawks, venture capitalists, fans of voter identification or traditional marriage, opponents of affirmative action, right-to-work advocates, supporters of Israel, haters of Glee? Bullies. Those who dislike President Obama? They were the biggest bullies of all. Liberalism and anti-bullying, it turned out, were—miracle of miracles!—one and the same.

Their twisted logic was deceptively easy. Liberals claim that they are all about protecting victim classes from bullies. Conservatives oppose liberals. Therefore, by definition, conservatives must be bullies. And bullies must be stopped.

The irony here is that the true bullies are the ones who callously attack those who disagree with their worldview, like Winikur’s statement that I’m “a dangerous presence in the political discourse.”

I’m not sure why fighting for colorblindness in society—judging people by their core values and not their skin color—is dangerous.  I’m not sure why treating minorities as equals and not as enslaved and oppressed is so worrisome.  I’m not sure why teaching young people that they are the captain of their own ship and not the victim of a corrupt system is a cause for alarm.  Or why the notion that there exist universal human values that transcend race, gender, sexuality and culture—values such as honesty, respect, integrity, loyalty, and hard work—is “Eurocentric.”

The lack of manners from disapproving social justice advocates didn’t stop with Winikur.  Another commenter wrote, “You’re doing what’s called ‘blaming the victim’ and it’s lame.”  The irony of this statement is that the issue of “blaming the victim” was addressed in the video interview I included with my blog post by NYT bestselling author of The End of Racism Dinesh D’Souza.  Interestingly, neither Winikur nor any of the other commenters took the time to click on the link and watch the video (one did, however, reference an article in The Daily Beast that smeared D’Souza because he had the audacity to respectfully challenge President Obama’s policies in a recent documentary titled “Obama’s America: 2016”).

Since none of the commenters took the time to even listen to what D’Souza had to say before smearing him, I’ll include his quote about “blaming the victim”:

“For a generation, people have said you cannot point at these problems because to do so is blaming the victim.  When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his report on the Black family in the sixties, the illegitimacy rate for Blacks was 25 percent.  He said it was a national tragedy and people said ‘you’re a racist, stop talking about it.’  And he did.  He hasn’t said a word about it since, and the illegitimacy rate for Blacks today is close to 70 percent.   So when these problems are ignored, they metastasize and become far worse . . .”

Another objection made by Geoffrey Winikur (the White uber-liberal teacher who publicly commented that I was a dangerous presence in the political discourse) was one of cultural relativism, that my idea of “colorblindness” was really an effort to push America back to a Eurocentric state.  This was not only a humongous misinterpretation of what I argued constituted colorblindness (I don’t know how judging a person by their actions and values instead of their skin color is “Eurocentric”), but Winikur didn’t bother to click on the link to the D’Souza interview either, which already addressed this objection.  To quote D’Souza:

“That’s the legacy of cultural relativism . . . which says in effect that all cultures are equal and no culture can judge another by its own standards, and cultures should not impose values on each other.  I argue that this relativism played an important historic role . . . relativism was a way to undermine the old racism, which was based on a hierarchy . . . but it’s created a new problem.”

The new “problem” D’Souza explores is one of the functionality of culture, and how relativism has come to hide the dysfunction of some cultures.  Although it may be argued that no one culture is inherently better than another and that one culture cannot judge another by its own standards, things such as quality of life and manageability of life do exist.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that certain cultures in America as a whole have a better quality of life and have lives that are more manageable and functional than other cultures.  The racial achievement gap is one example.  The wealth gap is another.  So are homicide rates within cultures.  So are incarceration rates.  Out-of-wedlock birth rates, quality of nutrition, literacy rates, dropout rates, and the rates of college graduation are still other examples.  (To read the ETS reports on this click here, here, here, and here).

To suggest that all cultures are equal in terms of quality and manageability of life is ridiculous.  To suggest that the differences in quality and manageability of life among cultures is primarily the result of racism is also ridiculous.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Americans were “a nation of cowards” because we were afraid to talk about race.  What he seems to have meant by this was that not enough Americas were willing to talk about how White people oppress minorities.  I’d like to take Eric Holder up on his proposition.  Let’s talk about race in America, but let’s really talk about it—dirty laundry and everything.

But to truly talk about race would mean many folks, like Geoffrey Winikur, would have to address opposing arguments head-on and refrain from attempting to demonize those they disagree with.

Tragically, with the exception of publications such as The Philadelphia Public School Notebook—who have recently had the courtesy and open-mindedness to link my articles in their “Notes from the News” to open-up the much needed avenues of discussion (I’d like to publicly thank them for this, by the way)—it doesn’t appear as if honest and frank talk about race and racism in America is going to happen anytime soon.

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Obamacare Forcing Colleges to Cut Teachers’ Hours

by Christopher Paslay

To avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act, adjunct professors at some universities will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.

Philadelphia School District officials are not the only ones facing tough economic times.  Across the country, America’s colleges and universities are struggling financially, especially now that the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect.  To avoid new requirements that they provide healthcare to anyone working over 30 hours per week, many colleges are cutting the number of hours worked by adjunct professors.

As stated in American Interest Magazine: “This is terrible news for a lot of people; 70 percent of professors work as adjuncts and many will now have to cope with a major pay cut just as requirements that they buy their own health insurance go into effect.”

According to The Wall Street Journal:

In Ohio, instructor Robert Balla faces a new cap on the number of hours he can teach at Stark State College. In a Dec. 6 letter, the North Canton school told him that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act…employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.”

Mr. Balla, a 41-year-old father of two, had taught seven English composition classes last semester, split between Stark State and two other area schools. This semester, his course load at Stark State is down to one instead of two as a result of the school’s new limit on hours, cutting his salary by about a total of $2,000.

Stark State’s move came as a blow to Mr. Balla, who said he earns about $40,000 a year and cannot afford health insurance.

“I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”

Maybe some of these adjuncts can brush-up on their accounting skills and apply to the IRS to supplement their hours.  Word has it the IRS is hiring 16,500 new agents to enforce Obamacare’s tax code.

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Arne Duncan Staying on as Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan

by Christopher Paslay

President Obama’s Chicago basketball buddy will continue setting policy for America’s public schools.

According to the Huffington Post:

An Education Department official says Secretary Arne Duncan will remain in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet into a second term.

The official disclosed the decision Monday on the condition of anonymity because a public announcement has not been made.

Duncan, a former head of Chicago public schools, was widely expected to stick around. He is a former college basketball player who often joins Obama on the court.

Besides shooting hoops with President Obama, Duncan has fought to:

  • Increase the use of data and standardized tests to define student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
  • Use performance pay to compensate teachers based on student performance on standardized tests.
  • End teacher seniority to give principals the autonomy to pick their own staffs.
  • Turn “failing” schools into charters.
  • Overhaul entire staffs of teachers and principals at failing schools.
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions to deal with unruly and disruptive students.

Duncan knows what it takes to reform public schools not because he has a degree in education (he has a bachelor’s degree in sociology) or because he has experience as a teacher (he never taught a day in a K-12 classroom) but because when he was a little kid, Duncan and his brother and his sister all went to his mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago.

“From the time we were born, my brother, my sister, and I all went to my mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago,” Duncan said in a speech last February at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Duncan also said in the speech that when he was little, the older students tutored the younger kids, and as he grew up, he tutored the younger kids.  He said his mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time:

“When we were little, the older students tutored the younger kids.  As we grew up, we tutored the younger students. My mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time.”

After Duncan was done his studies and chores, he said, he played basketball:

“After we were done our studies and chores, we played basketball.”

At Harvard, where he earned his sociology degree, Duncan co-captained the varsity basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American, after all.  He also participated in the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game, scoring 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing-out five assists.

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Duncan and Obama Remain, but America is Different

by Christopher Paslay

America, and its public schools, have changed.

Despite my bold November 1st proclamation, Arne Duncan remains the U.S. Secretary of Education, and Barack Obama remains president.  Last Tuesday, nearly half of all voters—some 58 million of them—called for change . . . or put another way, called for a return to the values and traditions America was founded upon.

Curiously, “values and traditions” in the 21st century are now a matter of cultural perspective.  No longer are there universal human truths that transcend time and gender and race, but a kind of orthodoxy revolving around a concept of “fairness” that has become known as social justice.  Some 61 million Americans—made-up to a large extent of minorities, agnostics, the young, the single, and those on various government assistant programs—voted for the status quo . . . or put another way, called for a bigger intrusion of government into all of our lives.

Here’s a closer look at the changing trends of America and as a result, public education.

The Institution of Marriage and Family

For the first time in the history of the United States, there are now more single women than married.  Likewise, there are now more single households than married.  One of the great pillars of America—the institution of marriage and family—is now in the minority; in President Obama’s “The Life of Julia,” the interactive website feature that showcases the benefits of various Obama-backed welfare-state programs, the 31-year-old single Julia “decides” to have a baby all by her lonesome–no husband in the equation.  Does this impact education?  You bet.  It impacts everything.  But when it comes to schools, research shows children from single parent families do far worse academically as well as behaviorally than do children from two parent families.

Curiously, the racial achievement gap is proportional to out-of-wedlock births.  On nearly every standardized test, from the NAEP to the GRE—from 3rd grade to graduate school—Asians score the highest, followed by whites, followed by Hispanics, followed by blacks.  Here is the percentage of out-of-wedlock births to women under the age of 30 by racial/ethnic group from 2003 to 2004: Asian 16%; white 34%; Hispanics 46%; blacks 77%.

Institution of Religion

Today, one-fifth (20%) of Americans consider themselves atheists, agnostic, or unaffiliated with a religion.  In fact, in August of 2012, the Democrats removed the word “God” from their party platform.  In a May 2012 speech at the prestigious Roman Catholic Georgetown University, President Obama not only failed to mention Jesus once in his remarks, but also persuaded the school to cover the name of Jesus–IHS–at Gaston Hall where he made the speech; Obama did the same thing in April of 2009 when he delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown.

What does religion have to do with the quality of public education?  Morals.  Or, the lack thereof.  Crime and violence in schools is on the rise.  In Philadelphia alone, there were over 4,500 violent incidents reported during the 2009-10 school year.  According to the Inquirer, “on an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff member were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes.”

Embracing religion doesn’t necessarily mean following a particular deity per se.  It means letting go of ego–the self centered perspective that teaches that man is the end-all-be-all of the universe, that there is no broader consequence for immoral behavior.

 Competition and Individualism

In 2010, for the first time in America, minority births (50.4%) outnumbered whites.  This is significant because the values of the dominant white culture are now viewed as oppressive by progressive education scholars.  According to Vernon G. Zunker, a noted expert on career counseling, “Career choice, for example, may be driven by goals of family as opposed to individual aspirations.  In the individualistic cultures of Europe and North America, great value is placed on individual accomplishment.  In the collectivist cultures of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the individual focuses on the welfare of the group and its collective survival.”

In other words, “individualism” and “competition” are a white thang, and should be discounted in the career and academic world.  Hence, the advent of “group work” as opposed to direct instruction, the notion of “student-centered” lessons as opposed to “teacher-centered” ones, and the great push for schools to lower admission standards to elite schools and AP courses; from this also stems the recent opposition to suspensions and expulsions of public school students–a movement which values the rights of the violent and unruly few over the rights of the hardworking many.

The results of this brand of educational socialism?  Academic mediocrity, and a horrible decline in SAT as well as AP scores.

Thanks to the systematic deconstruction of marriage, religion, and American individualism, Duncan remains, and so does Obama.  It appears Big Government–and a Marxist brand of educational socialism–is on the rise.  But hey, America asked for it.

To quote the classic line from H. L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

To those who asked for it–I’m sure you’ll get it good and hard.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Arne Duncan, Multiculturalism, School Violence, Standardized Testing

Saying goodbye to Arne Duncan (and shrinking the U.S. Dept. of Ed.)

by Christopher Paslay

Next week we will be getting a new president, and with him, a new Secretary of Education.    

With a new president comes a new cabinet.  And since October 17, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Department of Education Organization Act—which brought into existence the overbearing and bureaucratic United States Department of Education—this has included the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan, President Obama’s appointment, has fit the job perfectly, which is to say he intruded on public education like the big government politician he is.  Now, before education advocates start belly aching about the importance of federally funded education programs, know this: on average, the federal government only contributes about 10 percent to a public school district’s budget (90 percent of funds come from state and local government).

Interestingly, this doesn’t stop the federal government from bullying local school districts into following their laws and policies, like George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind or Barack Obama’s recent “National Reform Model” for overhauling failing schools; the U.S. Dept. of Ed. wants all the power, none of the responsibility, and in exchange covers a measly tenth of the cost.

But back to Duncan.  What has marked his tenure?  Duncan has fought to:

  • Increase the use of data and standardized tests to define student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
  • Use performance pay to compensate teachers based on student performance on standardized tests.
  • End teacher seniority to give principals the autonomy to pick their own staffs.
  • Turn “failing” schools into charters.
  • Overhaul entire staffs of teachers and principals at failing schools.
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions to deal with unruly and disruptive students.

After four years of such policies, the racial achievement gap is as big as ever, test scores remain flat, graduation rates haven’t moved, and hundreds of millions of dollars went down the toilet via President Obama’s education stimulus package; for those in Philadelphia, think of the three year tenure of Arlene Ackerman, and the nearly $10 billion she spent (stole/wasted).  What does Philadelphia have to show for it?  A gigantic budget deficit.

Which is why a new education secretary is going to be a much-needed breath of fresh air.  The question, of course, is who?  Who will Romney’s education secretary be?

Before that question can be addressed, there is one fact that will make his appointee better off than Duncan: Romney has talked of shrinking the U.S. Dept. of Ed. by combining it with another agency, and this may limit the reach of the education secretary; some speculate that there is still a chance Romney will abolish the Dept. of Ed.—and education secretaries—altogether.

Again, the federal government only contributes about 10 percent to the budgets of public school districts (in Philadelphia it is about 15 percent), so the Dept. of Ed.’s power should be reeled in; it should have a say in only 10-15 percent of public education policy.  But that’s not how big government and big bureaucracies operate.  They want control at all costs, and maneuver their way in via handouts (Race to the Top) and by making false promises; better to give federal education funds directly to the states, and let local districts, school boards, parents and teachers make their own decisions.

It’s interesting more public educators aren’t more agitated by the U.S. Dept. of Ed., by its intruding reach into their classrooms, by its regulations and red tape, by its out-of-touch policies and visions for reform.  Perhaps the most intrusive, frustratingly bureaucratic years in the past two decades in the Philadelphia School District were the Ackerman years from 2008-2011, driven by scripted curriculum and suffocating central office visits from the clipboard wielding Ackerman Gestapo.  This period was the direct result of Obama/Duncan’s “National Reform Model,” AKA: gotcha policies and stifling regulation trickling down from the control freaks known as the U.S. Dept. of Ed.

So who will Romney pick as his education secretary?  Here’s a list of possibilities, according to Education Week: Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, Tony Bennett (Indiana’s superintendent of Public Instruction), Tom Luna (the Idaho superintendent of public instruction), Chris Cerf (a registered Democrat who works with GOP governor Chris Christie), Robert Scott (former Texas chief), Paul Pastorek (helped schools in Louisiana recover from Hurricane Katrina), Bill Green (executive chairman at Accenture, a consulting organization), and Joel Kline (former New York City chancellor), among others.  (To read about their backgrounds on education, click here).

But the best hope, of course, is that Romney won’t pick a new secretary.  That is to say, that the newly elected president will make his first order of business to send the U.S. Dept. of Ed. the way of the blue suede shoe, and allow local school boards, parents, and teachers the true freedom to drive policies and reform.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Arne Duncan, Standardized Testing

Come 2013, teachers will be hit with a wave of new taxes

by Christopher Paslay

Last Sunday marked the start of the 100-day countdown to “Taxmageddon”—the date the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect.

On January 1, 2013, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, prompting many of my fellow teachers to say, Great!  Let the richest Americans finally start paying their fair share!  The only problem is, Bush’s tax cuts weren’t simply for the rich (as many Americans have been led to believe), but for all Americans at every tax bracket. 

According to Americans for Tax Reform:

Personal income tax rates will rise on January 1, 2013.  The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which the majority of small business profits are taxed).  The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent.  All the rates in between will also rise.  Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates.  The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

-The 10% bracket rises to a new and expanded 15%

-The 25% bracket rises to 28%

-The 28% bracket rises to 31%

-The 33% bracket rises to 36%

-The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

As a Philadelphia school teacher at the top of the pay scale, this income tax increase means I will be taking home approximate $2,500 less in 2012 than I did in 2013 (to calculate your own income tax increase, multiple your current yearly salary by .03).  As if this weren’t bad enough, tax benefits for education and teaching will be reduced:

The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available.  Tax credits for education will be limited.  Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses.  Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut.  Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed.  The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

This really stings, being that I spent over $12,000 on graduate school tuition this year (which I will no longer be able to deduct from my income taxes in 2013).  To make matters worse, all the money I spent on classroom materials in 2012—such as paper, posters, ink cartridges, CDs, DVDs, pens, markers, magazines, flash-drives, file folders, pencil sharpeners, in/out baskets, computer speakers, etc.—will no longer be able to be deducted from my tax returns. 

But there’s more.  Higher taxes on marriage and family are coming on January 1, 2013: 

The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of taxable income.  The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child.  The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level.

The Obamacare “Special Needs Kids Tax” also comes online on January 1, 2013:

Imposes a cap on FSAs of $2500 (now unlimited).  Indexed to inflation after 2013. There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children.  There are thousands of families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education.  Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education.  This Obamacare cap harms these families.

Curiously, a woman I teach with this semester is married, has a special needs son, and is in graduate school working on a Master’s in Education.  Between the rise in her income tax rate, the Special Needs Kids Tax, and the fact that she will no longer be able to write-off the tens of thousands of dollars she spends on tuition and classroom materials, her finances will be taking a real beating.

The rich may be paying more this January, but the middle class will be getting hammered as well.  Here are some other new tax hikes that will occur on January 1, 2013:

Middle Class Death Tax returns on January 1, 2013.  The death tax is currently 35% with an exemption of $5 million ($10 million for married couples).  For those dying on or after January 1 2013, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million.  A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors on January 1, 2013.  The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 23.8 percent in 2013.  The top dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 43.4 percent in 2013.  This is because of scheduled rate hikes plus Obamacare’s investment surtax.

There are twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare.  Some have already gone into effect (the tanning tax, the medicine cabinet tax, the HSA withdrawal tax, W-2 health insurance reporting, and the “economic substance doctrine”).  Several more will go into effect on January 1, 2013.  They include:

The Obamacare Medical Device Tax begins to be assessed on January 1, 2013.  Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. This law imposes a new 2.3% excise tax on gross sales – even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year. Exempts items retailing for <$100.

The Obamacare Medicare Payroll Tax Hike takes effect on January 1, 2013.  The Medicare payroll tax is currently 2.9 percent on all wages and self-employment profits.  Starting in 2013, wages and profits exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 in the case of married couples) will face a 3.8 percent rate.

The Obamacare “Haircut” for Medical Itemized Deductions goes into force on January 1, 2013.  Currently, those facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction for medical expenses to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).  The new provision imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI. Waived for 65+ taxpayers in 2013-2016 only.

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2013, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise—the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired.  These tax increases will be in force for BOTH 2012 and 2013.  The major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 31 million families, up from 4 million last year.  According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families—rising from 4 million last year to 31 million.  These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level.  The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Full business expensing will disappear.  In 2011, businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment.  Starting on 2013 tax returns, all of it will have to be “depreciated” (slowly deducted over many years).

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses.  There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place.  The biggest is the loss of the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others.  Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed.  Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA.  This contribution also counts toward an annual “required minimum distribution.”  This ability will no longer be there.

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The Disintegration of School Discipline and the Lonely Life of Julia

by Christopher Paslay

Just as men are replaced by bureaucrats in “The Life of Julia,” so are parents being replaced by schools in today’s public education system.

The Philadelphia School District isn’t the only school system who is revising their discipline code and easing up on school suspensions.  The state of New York recently announced it is doing much of the same.  The reasoning behind reshaping discipline in public schools, which is a movement that is gaining national momentum, is the belief that suspending students is ineffective and causing children to miss too much school.

The major purpose behind suspensions, however, isn’t to keep a child from learning or getting an education.  As any seasoned teacher or school administrator will tell you, school suspensions are primarily issued as a means of home remediation–they are given when the school’s limited resources can no longer adequately remedy a problem behavior and the full might of parental power and influence is needed to rectify a problem.  In other words, suspensions are a red flag to a child’s parents that they had better start circling the wagons at home in order to instill in the child–as only parents can–that school, and respecting the student code of conduct, is super, duper, important.

In all my years in school I never once was suspended.  Ever.  Not for chronic truancy, or tardiness, or uniform violations, or for talking back to (or cursing at) a teacher.  This is saying something, being that I went to 12 years of Catholic school.  If I would have ever gotten suspended, it would have been curtains for me.  Lights out.  My parents would have dropped the hammer, and I didn’t take this reality lightly.  But I mostly respected the rules because I loved my parents and they loved me, and because doing well in school and following the rules was the right thing to do; back in the day, when traditional families with common core values were still the norm, there was something known as morality.

Today things are very different.  In many cases, especially in urban districts, suspensions no longer result in effective parental remediation.  A child is sent home for a week to think about changing his behavior, and to force his or her parents to use family resources to address the situation head-on, but not much happens.  Single parents (over 70 percent of African American children are born out-of-wedlock) are too overwhelmed to become reliable agents of change.  Many parents, who became pregnant in their teens, are too inexperienced to even know what to do.

So often times, school suspensions don’t result in much of anything at all.  Kids who misbehave continue to miss school and fall further behind.  The government’s answer to this problem, as noted above, is to cut-down on suspensions.  The only problem is, schools don’t have one-tenth the amount of resources to properly rectify the kind of behavior problems exhibited by students in the 21st century.  In the end, cutting-down on school suspensions ends-up compromising the educations of the hardworking majority of kids whose rights are violated daily by a minority of violent and unruly students forced to coexist with them in the classroom.

But out-of-touch civil rights groups and government bureaucrats don’t seem to care.  In fact, the current White House believes so firmly in the nanny state that Education Secretary Arne Duncan truly accepts the notion that schools can take the place of parents.  What used to be achieved at the hands of an out-of-school suspension must now be somehow achieved in-school by teachers and other school administrators.

Such thinking is not only absurd and unrealistic, but is truly un-American.  Our country’s Founding Fathers envisioned a place where people were free to pursue their own destiny through individual achievement and personal responsibility.  When Thomas Jefferson invented the idea of a public school system, the purpose was “to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.”  Jefferson started public schools so all children, not just those who could afford to pay, could have the opportunity to receive an education.  He offered the opportunity.  Those who do not wish to take advantage of this opportunity, however, shouldn’t be free to rob others of their right to learn.

Again, today’s Big Government policy makers see things a bit differently.  An example of this is President Barack Obama’s “The Life of Julia,”  his administration’s plan to allow Americans to live off the government from the cradle to the grave.

According to The Wall Street Journal:


Barack Obama has a new composite girlfriend, and her name is Julia. Her story is told in an interactive feature titled “The Life of Julia” on the Obama campaign website. Julia, who has no face, is depicted at various ages from 3 through 67, enjoying the benefits of various Obama-backed welfare-state programs. . . .

In a column amusingly titled “Who the Hell Is ‘Julia’ and Why Am I Paying for Her Whole Life?” David Harsanyi raises an obvious objection to the story: “What we are left with is a celebration of . . . how a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency and other people’s money rather than her own initiative or hard work. . . .”

At 31, the story tells us, “Julia decides to have a child. Throughout her pregnancy, she benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” In due course she bears a son named Zachary, the only other character in the tale.

Harsanyi is right. Obama is setting forward a vision contrary to the American tradition of self-sufficiency–a welfare state that runs from cradle to grave. And it’s a dishonest vision, because it presents all of these benefits as “free,” never acknowledging that they are paid for through coercive taxation.

The most shocking bit of the Obama story is that Julia apparently never marries. She simply “decides” to have a baby, and Obama uses other people’s money to help her take care of it. Julia doesn’t appear to be poor; at various points the story refers to her glamorous career as a Web designer, and it makes no mention of her benefiting from poverty programs like Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word “bureaugamy” to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government. “The Life of Julia” is an insidious attack on the institution of the family, an endorsement of bureaugamy even for middle-class women.

Just as men are replaced by bureaucrats in “The Life of Julia,” so are parents being replaced by schools in today’s public education system.

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Obama Demands Race-Based School Discipline

In plain English, if different races have different incidences of disciplinary action, those of a favored race who act worse will be punished less, or those of a disfavored race who act better will be punished more, or both.

President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order hiring race-sensitive bureaucrats to hold meetings and mandate racial discipline quotas.

The order charges his new racial justice team, in part, with “promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools.”  In plain English, that means that if different races have different incidences of disciplinary action, those of a favored race who act worse will be punished less, or those of a disfavored race who act better will be punished more, or both.

It’s true that a higher percentage of black students than white students receive school discipline such as suspensions or expulsion.  A recent, representative study of nearly half the country’s school districts found that 17.3 percent of black students were suspended in 2009-10, whereas 4.7 percent of whites and 7.3 percent of Latinos were.  Only 2.1 percent of Asians were suspended that year.  The black graduation rate is 64 percent.  For whites, it’s 82 percent, and for Asians, it’s 92 percent.

Given these and similar statistics on practically every measure of academic success and self-discipline, the president wants to require schools to punish equal proportions of white and black students, regardless of how individual students behave.  That will mean overlooking infractions by black students or punishing more white students for pettier infractions.

Punishing students differently based on skin color — that’s not racist? . . .

This is an excerpt from an article published today on American Thinker called “Obama Demands Race-Based School Discipline” by Joy Pullmann.  Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and a research fellow in education at The Heartland Institute.  To read the entire article, please click here.

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Filed under Multiculturalism, School Violence