Education Week Blames Trump for Hate in Schools

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by Christopher Paslay

In a shameless hit-piece titled ‘Hate in Schools,’ Education Week compiles questionable data to slander Donald Trump and his supporters.

Education Week recently published a report called “Hate in Schools,” a shameless hit-piece on President Trump and his supporters.

The article begins:

Three swastikas were scrawled on the note found in the girls’ restroom, along with a homophobic comment and a declaration: “I Love Trump.”

Found inside the backpack of a Latina student, a note that said: Go back to Mexico.

Two other hate-filled incidents—invoking Donald Trump’s name and using swastikas—were also reported that same day.

The school: Council Rock High in this mostly white, affluent Philadelphia suburb.

The day: Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election of President Trump.

Notice the hate-incidents described in the opening mention Trump’s name not once but three times. Why? Because Trump is a hateful racist who inspires hate.

Several paragraphs later, the article states:

The hate-fueled incidents at Council Rock in the wake of the divisive 2016 presidential election, and the school’s rocky path to addressing them, are not unusual.

Concerns about a rise in hate crimes and bias incidents have surged since the campaign and election of President Trump, who has frequently used coarse language and racist rhetoric when describing immigrants, people of color, and women. In schools, similar worries are echoed by some students, parents, and educators who suggest that Trump’s influence has emboldened some children, teenagers, and even school employees to openly espouse hateful views.

Never mind the fact that Trump hasn’t used racist rhetoric when describing immigrants and people of color, but that his statements have been purposefully repackaged and misrepresented by the media. For example, CNN wrote this headline in April of this year: “Trump Basically Called Mexicans Rapists Again.” When you read the article, however, Trump simply speaks about a merit-based immigration system over a lottery-based system.

In the article Trump is quoted as saying:

“With us, it’s a lottery system — pick them out — a lottery system. You can imagine what those countries put into the system. They’re not putting their good ones.

“And remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower, when I opened. Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough,’ and I used the word ‘rape.’ And yesterday, it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that.

“So we have to change our laws. And the Democrats, what they’re doing is just — it’s insanity. I don’t — nobody understands what’s going on.”

Trump’s not calling Mexicans rapists. He’s explaining that there are some rapists among Mexicans, just like any population of people, and that if we were to use a lottery system for immigration, there’s a chance the Mexican government would dump its undesirables into that system, and as a result America would not end up with hard-working, law abiding immigrants, but with some criminals.

Still, the Education Week article is clearly a hit-piece on Trump, shamelessly peddled under the guise of trying to accurately document and remedy the problem of “Hate in Schools.”

The article continues, giving examples of hate speech:

The most common words were: “the n-word,” various versions of “build the wall” and “go back to [insert foreign country name here, usually Mexico].” The most common hate symbol: swastikas.

So now the phrase build the wall is hate speech? Really? A policy that the majority of Americans agree with? A policy aimed at securing America’s border in order to make the country safer and the issue of immigration less complicated? I wonder if Education Week realizes that Addison Barnes, a senior at Liberty High School in Portland, Oregon, recently settled a lawsuit for $25,000 when he was sent home from school for wearing a T-shirt promoting a border wall? It’s called freedom of speech, not hate speech.

“But is it fair to lay all the blame on the words and actions of President Trump for the vitriol spewed in schools?” the Education Week article asks, in a laughable attempt to remain objective. At this point in the article, of course, the damage has already been done, and giving the reader a generic “opposing view” is quite pathetic. Because by the end of the piece, the crosshairs are back on Trump. Take this paragraph for example:

Marialis Vasquez, who graduated from her New Jersey high school in 2017, said a white male teacher told her and her classmates that he agreed with Donald Trump that Mexicans are bad for the country, calling them “pigs” and “lazy” the day after the election in 2016.

Again, Trump never said Mexicans were bad for the country. He simply said we need an immigration system based on merit, so we can get Mexican-born foreigners who are productive members of society, not criminals or members of gangs; in fact, many times Trump’s suggested that Mexicans can be good for the country.

But Education Week’s “Hate in Schools” is only interested in “hate” that fits its politics, and their research leaves much to be desired. Partnering with a media collaborative group called ProPublica, their documentation of hate was limited. According to ProPublica’s website: Hate crimes and bias incidents are a national problem, but there’s no reliable data on their nature or prevalence. We’re collecting and verifying reports, building a database of tips for use by journalists, researchers and civil-rights organizations.

Interestingly, this special report doesn’t include any hate speech in schools aimed at police officers or the children of police officers, or the hate speech espoused by the Black Lives Matter organization, which teaches western white society is at war with black people; such rhetoric has sparked a number of racial incidents in schools and resulted in the killing of a half-dozen police officers right before the 2016 election.

What about the hateful concept of “white privilege” and “implicit bias,” the ideas that all white people get special, unearned treatment, and that all whites are inherently racist and harbor racial prejudices, even if they are not aware of them? The Education Week article doesn’t consider this “hate.”

The piece states:

“We really start off with the understanding that everyone has bias, and it doesn’t make you a racist,” said Allen Smith, the Denver district’s chief of culture, equity, and leadership, who is black. “This conversation does not need to be about blame, shame, or judgment, which does ease the tension a little bit, and gives permission for people to talk.”

He brought in Jennifer Harvey, a professor of ethics and religion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to speak to students and district employees about institutional racism and white privilege. Harvey said the term “white privilege” is often off-putting, but she believes the concept behind it is true—that people who are white have had major advantages, over people of color in how American society functions.

So there you have it. Education Week’s wonderful report “Hate in Schools.” Trump is a hateful racist who inspires hate, and all white people have a privilege and are institutionally racist. Bravo, Education Week. Bravo.

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‘Philly Teachers for Trump’ Facebook Page Reaches 100 Follows

Philly for Trump

The Facebook page has reached 100 follows in its first 13 days.

Although 100 Facebook follows in a little less than two weeks doesn’t shatter any records, I’m reminded of the quote by Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism, who said, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So is the quest to reach Trump supporters who’ve been intimidated into silence, especially members of the education community in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Statistics show there are quite a few of them. In Pennsylvania, 2.9 million people voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election (105,000 from Philadelphia), another 1.5 million in New Jersey, and 2.6 million in New York; Delaware had a modest 185,000 Trump supporters. Nationwide, nearly 63 million Americans voted for our President.

But you wouldn’t know it by the press coverage our POTUS has received over the past 18 months, 90 percent of which has been negative. You wouldn’t know it by the ignorant remarks made by entertainers like Jimmy Kimmel, who consistently stereotype and mock Trump supports, or the comments made by politicians like Maxine Waters, who recently called on people to publicly harass the President and his people.

Although many Trump folks have indeed been bullied into keeping quiet, there’s a growing silent majority waiting patiently below the surface.

“Philly Teachers for Trump,” a Facebook page launched on July 25, 2018, serves as a platform for this silent majority. Here is the page’s mission statement:

A Refuge For Those Who Support Our President

Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, the fact that teachers, parents, students, and administrators in the Greater Philadelphia education community cannot openly voice their support for the POTUS without facing hostile blowback is a cause for concern. It’s bad enough Trump supporters are ostracized in public, but the existence of such behavior in a learning environment should not be tolerated.

The gatekeepers of our culture—academia, the entertainment industry, and the establishment media—are hell bent on smearing Trump 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and on silencing and/or humiliating anybody who dares to publicly support him. Amazingly, over 90 percent of the broadcast coverage of President Trump has been negative, and it just keeps getting worse.

This page is dedicated to conservative educators and Trump supporters in Philadelphia and elsewhere, and serves as a refuge from the constant bullying and harassment we face whenever we choose to openly voice our politics and values. As Winston Churchill once said, “A society where men may not speak their minds cannot long endure.”

Those in our education community courageous enough to openly support our President, please like the “Philly Teachers for Trump” Facebook page @phillyteachersfortrump. Our goal is to reach 1,000 follows by November 1st, just in time for the all-important mid-term elections.

Thanks for your support.

Christopher Paslay

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Trump Signs Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act

wlncte-CTE

by Christopher Paslay

The legislation is a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a $1.2 billion program last overhauled by Congress in 2006.

On Tuesday, President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which provides funding for job training and related programs for high school students, many of whom may be seeking postsecondary options other than a four-year college degree, as well as for students in higher education.

According to Education Week:

The legislation is a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a $1.2 billion program last overhauled by Congress in 2006. The new law allows states to set their own goals for career and technical education programs without the education secretary’s approval, requires them to make progress toward those goals, and makes other changes to federal CTE law.

Trump celebrated the bill signing at a “Pledge to America’s Workers” event on Tuesday in Florida designed to showcase the administration’s focus on workforce development.

In a speech at Tampa Technical High School in Tampa, Fla., after the official bill signing at the White House, Trump said the new CTE law would contribute to the “booming economy.”

Thanks to the law, Trump told the crowd, “More than 11 million students and workers will have greater access to better training and more jobs.”

Career and technical education is attracting new attention and support, but it’s also facing new challenges as programs try to evolve to meet changing labor force demands. . . .

The Trump administration made reauthorizing Perkins a priority this year, and dispatched the president’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump to Capitol Hill to push senators to approve a bill. Shortly thereafter, the Senate education committee considered and unanimously passed a Perkins reauthorization bill, which was written by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Last week, the Senate then passed the legislation, and the House quickly agreed to a Perkins reauthorization bill as amended by the Senate.

Business groups, the National Governors Association, and education groups like the Council of Chief State School Officers praised Congress’ quick work on CTE legislation over the past month.

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Education Icon Diane Ravitch Calls Me a ‘MAGA-Nut’

Ravitch Comment

by Christopher Paslay

When I disagreed with Ms. Ravitch on her blog about our POTUS, she surprisingly resorted to name-calling.

For those who don’t know Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University and prestigious historian of education, allow me to give some background information. She’s the Founder and President of the Network for Public Education (NPE), author of 11 highly acclaimed books and editor of 14 others, and her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including New York Magazine and the Washington Post. According to her website:

From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. As Assistant Secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards.

From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy. Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

(For a full biographical sketch of her numerous awards and achievements, check out her biography here.)

And she called me a MAGA-nut.

Why? Because I challenged a post on her education website headlined, “Listen to Giuliani to Learn What Trump is Thinking.” The post, which has nothing to do with education (she too has gotten sucked into the muck of American politics) analyzes remarks made by Rudy Giuliani during recent television appearances. She quotes several paragraphs from the Washington Post, but basically, her thesis is that “there’s a great value to Giuliani’s appearances. They tell us what the president is thinking about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the Russia scandal — and what he’s afraid of.”

The conclusion Ravitch draws is that because Giuliani mentions “collusion not being a crime,” the inference we can draw is that there was collusion between Trump and Russia. (To read her entire post click here.)

After reading the post my reaction was this: when it comes to “Russian election meddling,” why does everyone always focus on the who, and not the what? The what at the center of it all, of course, are Julian Assange’s Wikileaks—the nearly 50,000 leaked documents that showed that the Democratic National Committee, including Hillary Clinton and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, rigged their party’s primary in favor of Clinton and against Bernie Sanders.

The leaked emails also showed that Clinton’s campaign colluded with CNN political commentator Donna Brazile, who amazingly went on to become interim DNC Chair when Wasserman Schultz was forced to step down. This is a point I’ve made multiple times lately, including in an article I recently wrote for the American Thinker titled, “The Who and the What of Russian Election Meddling.”

So I posted my comment, which was basically an abridged version of the American Thinker piece. About 10 minutes later, Diane Ravitch responded with the following: I get comments like this one from time to time, and I usually delete them because this is not the place for pro-Trump rantings. But every once in a while, it is necessary to pay attention to a MAGA-nut.

That’s how the compassionate and tolerant Left handles a discussion when someone disagrees with them: they call names. For the record, I didn’t personally attack Ravitch or her followers. I simply asked the question: Why do we continuously harp on the who of the so-called “election meddling,” and not look at the what at the center of it all?

After the Ravitch comment came a lengthy response from a guy named Lloyd Lofthouse, who began his rebuttal with the following: I have one word for another obvious sockpuppet troll. “Idiot.”

So there you have it. Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University and prestigious historian of education, responds by calling me a “nut,” and a member of her blog community calls me an “idiot.” Do you see the irony here? This is the exact behavior I’m talking about when it comes to the treatment of supporters of President Trump. The American Left has become so emboldened by the continuous smear operation on our POTUS—in the classroom, in the entertainment industry, and in the establishment media—that they forget their own rules of civility. Granted, Trump has an abrasive style and is an easy target, but there’s still no excuse for the way he’s been maligned and purposely misrepresented, and there’s definitely no excuse for the way Americans are labeled “nuts” or “kooks” and often intimidated into silence in regards to the support of our POTUS.

Ms. Ravitch, as a well-respected historian and professor of education, you should know better.

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Why the Term ‘Implicit Bias’ Has to Go

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by Christopher Paslay

It’s negative, hypocritical, and does nothing to open minds and solve problems.

Earlier this week, Texas high school English teacher Melissa Garcia wrote an article for Education Week headlined, “Why Teachers Must Fight Their Own Implicit Biases.” In it she cautions teachers not to judge a book by its cover when dealing with new pupils, which is good advice; as educators, we should be proactive instead of reactive, and remain fully present with our students by staying in the moment without labeling or judging them.

Only Garcia doesn’t use the words don’t judge a book by its cover, or be proactive rather than reactive, or be fully present without labeling or judging. She chooses the phrase implicit bias, which not only carries a negative connotation (I don’t know a single person who is proud of having a so-called “implicit bias”), but is also inherently political and dualistic, and in my experience tends to make teachers defensive, causing them to close their minds rather than open them.

Still, Garcia seems genuinely interested in helping improve education, and goes on to write about the importance of first impressions at the beginning of a new school year. She states:

In these moments, as students mingle and shyly interact with one another, we the teachers begin to make the very crucial observations that will affect our perceptions, and thus inform our expectations, of each student that school year.

Research has shown that before teachers even have a conversation with a student, they have already formulated a number of opinions based on that student’s race, appearance, and other factors—and begun to form a certain set of expectations. . . .

Regardless of how much we may like to think of ourselves as progressive educators, the reality is that our subconscious is at work. . . . These subconscious thoughts and feelings are known as implicit biases. Whether our perceptions are positive or negative, they have an impact; they determine expectations, and these expectations dictate how we teach. Studies show that teacher expectations are closely linked to student achievement and success.

In a nutshell, Garcia isn’t saying anything we haven’t known for decades: teachers make observations about their new students, which lead to expectations that have an impact on student achievement.

What is relatively new, however, is the term “implicit bias,” and the idea that an educator can filter out these so-called negative subconscious prejudices by learning to be more aware of them. Also new are the implicit bias training sessions that are popping up everywhere—from Starbucks to the Philadelphia School District—which are being run by lawyers, CEO’s, and activists with little to no training in clinical counseling or psychology; amazingly, input on the Starbucks training came solely from lawyers, CEO’s, and activists, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

From a clinical standpoint, the new phenomenon known as “implicit bias” is junk science. Especially the notion that the extraordinarily popular Implicit Association Test (IAT) can measure either real bias or predict human behavior with any accuracy.

Last year, New York magazine published a lengthy article debunking the IAT, stating:

A pile of scholarly work, some of it published in top psychology journals and most of it ignored by the media, suggests that the IAT falls far short of the quality-control standards normally expected of psychological instruments. The IAT, this research suggests, is a noisy, unreliable measure that correlates far too weakly with any real-world outcomes to be used to predict individuals’ behavior — even the test’s creators have now admitted as such.

The notion of “implicit bias” is clearly more about politics than it is about counseling. Ask any psychiatrist if you can suddenly become aware of the complex language of your subconscious simply by deciding to notice your “implicit biases” and they will laugh you out of the building; traditionally, analyzing the subconscious is done through psychotherapy, hypnosis, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), among other approaches.

From a clinical standpoint, an educator’s tendency to make a snap judgement of a student is much more related to that teacher’s conditioning, not the complexities of his or her subconscious. The root of conditioning is something called learning. According to B.F. Skinner, Learning is an adaptive function by which our nervous system changes in relation to stimuli in the environment, thus changing our behavioral responses and permitting us to function in our environment. And those of us who have any clinical training (I’m a certified secondary school counselor in PA and my wife is a licensed clinical social worker in three states) know that there are three main types of learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning.

So it’s conditioning that causes an educator to make a rash judgement of a new student, not technically “subconscious thoughts and feelings,” but I digress.

The point is this: the whole “implicit bias” theory is oversimplified gobbledygook, and although some educators have adopted it with good intentions, the fact remains it’s inherently political. Specifically, it can be used to set policy and control the narrative on race, among other things.

Take the 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that showed Black students were more than three times as likely as their White peers to be suspended or expelled. Why was this the case? Because America’s teachers, which were 84 percent White, were racist. Were there any documented cases of discrimination in the classroom? No, but the teachers were institutionally racist. Or, according to today’s buzz phrase, they had an “implicit bias”; the fact that Black students were three times as poor as their White peers didn’t seem to factor into the equation.

So President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan chastised American teachers for being racist and implemented a bunch of strangling regulations that made it harder to suspend students of certain races (robbing many children of their right to an education in the process), and guess what happened? Nothing; in 2018, Black students are still more than three times as likely as their White peers to be suspended or expelled.

But at least politically, you can absolve certain races of responsibility and blame others.

Which is why the notion of “implicit bias” has to go. It’s negative, hypocritical, and does nothing to open minds and solve problems. If we as teachers want to remain fully present with our students and stay free of judgements, why don’t we keep things simple and say instead: Be proactive, not reactive. And never judge a book by its cover.

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Why Teachers’ Unions Are Losing Membership (And Dues)

Teachers Unions

by Christopher Paslay

Surveys show that many teachers see their unions as too leftist.

America needs organized labor, especially when it comes to our country’s educators. For decades, teachers (most of whom were women with no political rights) were offered low pay and had no control over their working conditions or the direction of their profession.

In 1857, forty-three educators came together in Philadelphia to change all of that. Forming what would become the National Education Association (NEA), the new union focused on raising teacher salaries, reforming child labor laws, and educating emancipated slaves.

A half-century later, a sixth-grade schoolteacher from Chicago named Margaret Haley came along. Frustrated by her low wage and the treatment she was receiving from her principal, Haley joined a group of elementary schoolteachers from Chicago in 1916 and went on to form the American Federation of Teachers, whose goal was to unify educators across the country.

Throughout the 20thCentury, the NEA and AFT would go on to fight for the rights of teachers, women, and minorities—not only revolutionizing the education profession by securing fair wages and safe working conditions—but also helping to bring equality to America’s marginalized groups along the way.

But in 2018, America’s two biggest teachers’ unions find themselves in a challenging situation. According to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization, teachers’ unions may be losing power. She writes:

Make no bones about it. Teachers unions are reeling from a game-changing decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. . . . The public may not have much noticed, but unions feel they are standing at a precipice, not at all certain they can maintain the power they’re long accustomed to wielding.

After the high court sided with Janus in Janus vs. AFSCME, public-sector workers will no longer be required to contribute to their unions, something nearly half of all states — including Minnesota — require regardless of whether teachers choose to belong to the union. The nation’s largest union, the National Education Association (NEA), having just held its annual convention in Minneapolis, expects to be hard hit. It’s anyone’s best guess how many of the 78,000 active teachers who currently contribute to the Education Minnesota union will opt out in the years ahead, but the initial hit will almost certainly include some 7,000 teachers who have already registered their discontent over having been forced to contribute.

Internal documents from the NEA predict the union could lose up to 300,000 members nationwide. The AFT, which has 15 of its 22 largest state affiliates in former agency-fee states, will be affected even more by Janus.

So why are teachers’ unions having such an issue with dues and membership? Union officials will undoubtedly point the finger at the Janus ruling, but this is by no means an adequate answer. The recent Supreme Court decision doesn’t bar educators from joining unions or paying dues, it simply gives them a choice. The real question that must be addressed is this: Why, if given the choice of joining a union and paying dues, are so many teachers opting out?

One major reason, other than simple finances, is that teachers’ unions have become far too political as of late. More specifically, they’ve veered too far left. According to Walsh, independent surveys consistently report that only half of all teachers see their union as “essential” and that many see “political activity as too leftist.”

Incredibly, only half of all teachers voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is quite concerning, given the fact that the NEA and AFT combined to donate $33 million to political campaigns in 2016—over 93 percent to Democrats. But the fact that the Democrats lost the Presidency in 2016 (and over 1,000 total seats, including the House and the Senate, during the Obama years), doesn’t seem to register with union officials. Instead of taking stock of the diverse political affiliations and interests of their members, the NEA and AFT have done the complete opposite: they’ve doubled-down on their polarizing agendas, becoming even more political and even more leftist than ever before.

At the NEA’s annual convention in Minneapolis early this month, the union presented former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick with their highest honor—the NEA’s President’s Award. Perhaps awarding Kaepernick, a man whom many see as disrespectful to law enforcement and the military, wasn’t the best choice when trying to increase union membership? That wasn’t the only thing that could be seen as polarizing by new teachers trying to decide if they want to become NEA members. According to the National Review:

The NEA adopted 122 total New Business Items, including commitments to promote the Black Lives Matter Week of Action (including supporting BLM’s demand that “ethnic studies be taught in pre-K-12 schools”), to support “a strategy postponing confirmation of a Supreme Court justice until after the mid-term election,” and to encourage teachers to assign readings that “describe and deconstruct the systemic proliferation of a White supremacy culture and its constituent elements of White privilege and institutional racism.” The NEA also promised to respond “in support of and in solidarity with immigrant families who are separated, incarcerated, or refused their legal right to request asylum due to the heartless, racist, and discriminatory zero-tolerance policies of the Trump administration.”

Basically, the NEA is saying screw you to any current or future member who supports the President, which is quite mind-boggling, being that nearly 63 million Americans voted for Trump in 2016—over 105,000 of them from Philadelphia alone.

The AFT went hard left as well. They unanimously endorsed a “public investment strategy for health care and education infrastructure,” which includes free tuition at all public colleges and universities, and “taxation of the rich to fully fund” a raft of education programs.

Again, doubling-down on a socialist agenda might not be the best approach when trying to court future dues-paying union members, especially if the AFT is interested in any political diversity whatsoever (which clearly they’re not).

Remember: The Janus decision merely provides America’s teachers with a choice: To join/pay dues, or not to join/pay dues. The fact that more and more teachers are opting for the latter might be a wakeup call to union officials to become a little more politically diverse, or at least soften some of their left-leaning political agendas.

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Did Trump Win the Presidency Because American Students Lack Thinking Skills?

RUSSIA-POLITICS-VOTE

by Christopher Paslay

New Jersey music teacher Marc Weber thinks so.

In a recent Education Week commentary, New Jersey music teacher and Rutgers doctoral candidate Marc Weber put forth a novel idea: Trump won the 2016 presidential election because Americans were bamboozled by Russian trickery. Weber argues that too many Americans are graduating high school without the critical thinking skills to see past political propaganda, and that if we as teachers can show kids how to think for themselves, Russia will never again be able to steal an election.

But Weber might be wise to note the heavy dose of bias in his own article. He begins:

Today, the majority of Americans agree that the Russians attempted to influence the outcome of our 2016 presidential election. Officials from across the U.S. intelligence community have publicly confirmed that this interference took place.

As a teacher, I’m worried that Russia ever thought it could get away with interfering in the first place. According to the information that’s been released to the public (so far), foreign powers weren’t able to actually penetrate our voting systems and change votes. . . .But it ought to give all Americans pause that a foreign government thought it could change the outcome of our presidential election through social-media manipulation—and that, from all appearances, they turned out to be correct. How did we get here?

First of all, there’s zero evidence that social-media manipulation had any impact whatsoever on the election. The center of the Russian “election meddling” controversy are Julian Assange’s Wikileaks—the nearly 50,000 leaked documents that showed that the Democratic National Committee, including Hillary Clinton and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, rigged their party’s primary in favor of Clinton and against Bernie Sanders. This is a fact laid bare in the very emails contained on the server of the DNC, which, interestingly enough, was never turned over to the F.B.I. for forensic analysis.

Clinton, Wasserman Schultz, and other DNC officials actively conspired against Sanders, targeting his Jewish heritage and slandering Jeff Weaver, his Campaign Manager. The leaked emails also showed that Clinton’s campaign colluded with CNN political commentator Donna Brazile, who amazingly went on to become interim DNC Chair when Wasserman Schultz was forced to step down. So here you have irrefutable documented collusion and election rigging of the highest degree, not between Russia and Trump, but between Hillary Clinton, CNN, and the DNC.

Yet somehow Weber’s thrown all this down the Memory Hole. And in its place, in spectacular Orwellian fashion, comes the narrative that Trump’s illegitimate—that Americans were bamboozled by Putin’s agents. “Are the beliefs and values of Americans so pliable that they can be shifted by a few fake news stories on Facebook, planted items in the press, and rogue Twitter bots?” Weber asks.

Is Weber serious? Fake news stories on Facebook and rogue Twitter bots? Russia meddled (reportedly) by exposing the rigged DNC primary, which ended up turning the Democratic National Convention on its ear. Remember how badly Bernie Sanders’ supporters were treated? Remember how the Clinton people basically bullied them into silence? Remember when Wasserman Shultz was booed off the stage at the Florida delegation breakfast for being a cheat? Or when Donna Brazile was booed at the opening of the Democratic National Convention?

That’s not a rogue Twitter bot.

But it’s clear Weber’s commentary is disingenuous from the start (or tragically uninformed). He not only suggests making citizenship as important as college and work readiness (a good idea if it doesn’t include political indoctrination, which it appears Weber’s version of “citizenship” does), but he also feels students should be taught to question authority—as if teenagers need more instruction on how to rebel. Weber states:

Well, sorry to be contrary, but citizenship often requires us to be contrary. The American workplace, for better or worse, is mostly hierarchical. Yes, employees can create and debate inside the parameters given to them. But most American workers ultimately must submit to an authority: the boss, the customer, or the governing power. A democracy, however, requires its citizens to challenge authority. Democratic institutions should be where citizens act, not where they are acted upon. We, as educators, need to teach our students how to exercise their powers as citizens responsibly, which means teaching them to question those in authority and the arguments made on behalf of that authority.

No, actually, we need to teach students cooperation and how to respect authority; again, there’s no shortage of resistance from American young people.

But let’s take Weber up on his premise that students should be taught that a democracy “requires its citizens to challenge authority.” Why don’t we start by questioning the objectivity of Jim Rutenberg, the New York Times columnist who wrote in 2016 that the biased news coverage of Donald Trump was justified, because Trump was so “dangerous”? Or how about analyzing the fact that the mainstream media’s coverage of Trump has been over 90 percent negative for the past two years and counting? That no one, outside of conservative news outlets, has a single good thing to say about the man and his family?

“Unfortunately,” Weber states, “it appears that Russia, and likely many of our other rivals (and allies) in the world, believe that many Americans are incapable of the level of critical thought necessary to question what they are being told by authorities in the media, business, or government. As a matter of national security, we need to assess what we are doing in our schools to promote this type of thinking.”

In other words, we must teach student how to think, not what to think. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for over 20 years. Perhaps Weber will follow suit.

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Filed under Free Speech, Politically Neutral Classrooms, Uncategorized

Trump Set to Give Career-Technical Education a Major Boost

CTE

by Christopher Paslay

President Trump prepares to sign a bipartisan overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, strengthening funding and support for CTE programs across the country.

Although the Philadelphia School District recently cut admission standards at its four CTE schools—sparking a “quality vs. equity” debate—there is some good news on the vocational education front: President Trump is set to sign a bill that will reenergize the $1.1 billion program and help America’s young people enter the work force with the skills they need to succeed.

According to Education Week:

Congress passed a bipartisan overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on Wednesday and sent it for signature to President Donald Trump, who has made career and technical education, or CTE, a priority for his administration.

The $1.1 billion program, last reauthorized in 2006, provides funding for job training and related programs for high school students, many of whom may be seeking postsecondary options other than a four-year college degree, as well as for students in higher education. The Senate bill to revamp Perkins was co-authored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and is called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The House, which passed its own version of a Perkins reauthorization last year, approved CTE reauthorization as amended by the Senate version. The legislation passed via voice vote.

Momentum behind the Perkins legislation has grown in recent weeks, after a lobbying effort by the Trump administration on Capitol Hill that included presidential senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who is Trump’s daughter. The legislation sailed through the Senate education committee last month and was lavished with praise by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Some highlights of the bill include:

  • The secretary of education would be barred from dictating states’ CTE assessments or standards. States would also set their own goals under the legislation.
  • States would have to make “meaningful progress” toward meeting their own goals under the proposed bill.
  • The legislation creates “core indicators” for the performance of students concentrating in CTE, including their graduation rate and the percentage who continue on to either postsecondary education or advanced training within a certain time frame.
  • It also requires schools to align career and technical education programs with the needs of the state or local communities.

The reauthorization of the bill has been a priority of the business community as well as America’s teachers’ unions. Interestingly, the American Federation of Teachers and the Council of Chief State School Officers praised the legislation’s progress, including AFT President Randi Weingarten, who’s been lobbying lawmakers to increase spending on CTE.

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Do Students and Teachers Have a Right to Support Our President?

President Trump

by Christopher Paslay

Of course they do. But doing so publicly is a different matter altogether.

Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, the fact that members of the education community cannot openly voice their support for the POTUS without facing hostile blowback is a cause for concern. It’s bad enough Trump supporters are ostracized in public, but the existence of such behavior in a learning environment should not be tolerated.

A case in point is what happened to Addison Barnes, a senior at Liberty High School in Portland, Oregon. In January he wore a pro-Trump shirt to school, and was told by a Liberty High School official that the shirt was offensive and that Barnes must cover it or go home. Barnes went home, and his absence was listed as a suspension.  According to Education Week:

An Oregon high school student disciplined for wearing a T-shirt promoting a border wall reached a settlement of his lawsuit against the school district, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The case highlights the struggle among schools to balance free-speech rights with keeping students safe, as acrimony intensifies over America’s immigration policies and enforcement.

Under the settlement announced Tuesday, the Hillsboro School District in Portland’s western suburbs must pay $25,000 for attorney fees and the principal had to write an apology.

It’s not surprising a student would face such hostility over voicing his support for boarder security. Besides the fact that the establishment media recently published photos of “caged” immigrant children from 2014 and pawned them off as a product of Trump’s administration, Trump’s stance on immigration and calls for a secure border have been completely maligned. Likewise, his statements on the danger of Mexican gangs and the need to keep Mexican criminals out of America have been taken out of context and neatly repackaged into the following false statements: Trump hates all Mexicans. And: Trump thinks all Mexicans are criminals.

The reality of the situation, of course, is that most Americans agree with Trump on immigration. According to a Harvard University poll, a majority of Americans actually support Trump’s immigration proposals, including securing the boarder.

The gatekeepers of our culture—academia, the entertainment industry, and the establishment media—are hell bent on smearing Trump 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and on silencing and/or humiliating anybody who dares to publicly support him. Amazingly, over 90 percent of the broadcast coverage of President Trump has been negative, and it just keeps getting worse.

According to the Washington Times:

Coverage of the White House on the “Big Three” broadcast networks — ABC, CBSand NBC — remains 91 percent negative, according to a new study by the Media Research Center, which has been tracking the phenomenon since Mr. Trumphit the campaign trail in 2016.

It was over 90 percent hostile then — and remains so now. The trend is unprecedented, according to the analysis.

Granted, Trump’s abrasive style makes him an easy target for negative coverage, but the mainstream media’s obsession with smearing him has gotten totally out of control.

Here’s another example of the over-the-top hostility for Trump. Last spring, before my English class started, two students of mine placed a three-inch paper cutout of Donald Trump on my desk with the quote Build the wall! on the bottom of it. Although I didn’t see who did it, it was obvious from the giggling and snickering coming from the second row that it was two boys, Henry and David (names have been changed for the article).

IMG_2171Instead of crumpling the miniature Trump into a ball and tossing it in the trashcan (like a number of my colleagues would have done), I stopped and took a good long look at it. That’s when my adrenaline kicked in and the voice in my head said, You better get rid of that before anybody sees it. You don’t want any trouble. But then I thought, No, I’m not going to do that. He’s the POTUS and I support him.

“Cool,” I said. “A mini Donald Trump.” I put it on the edge of the desk next to my nameplate. The two boys were clearly tickled by this, and I began to sense they came from pro-Trump families and perhaps had heard I was pro-Trump, too.

“Do you support Trump?” Henry asked me.

“On some things, yes,” I said, feeling the need to qualify my response because of our pop culture’s penchant for purposely misrepresenting his ideas.

“So do I,” Henry whispered. He glanced around and smiled. “Did you vote for him?”

“Yes, I voted for Trump,” I answered. But I’d said it a bit too loud, and a number of students overhead it. Within moments there was a rumbling through the classroom, and soon students were asking if it were true. Did you actually vote for Trump, Mr. Paslay? No way, you’re just playing around. Seriously? How could you do that? One student even said, Man, that’s messed up. I can’t believe you voted for a rapist. They shook their heads resentfully, looking at me in a hostile new light, like I was some closet racist who’d suddenly sold them out.

It took a few minutes before I got everyone focused on the lesson and back on task, but the damage had been done: I’d been temporarily branded the enemy, a label which hurt me and made me wish I’d just kept my mouth shut about voting for Trump. I wasn’t a sellout, was I? Of course I wasn’t.

I didn’t throw the paper cutout away, however. I put it on my bookshelf way in the back, where no one could see it. But a few weeks later someone did see it—a female student who was looking for computer paper. She spotted the mini-Trump and said to me in a very disapproving, accusatory tone, “What are you doing with this?”

My adrenaline started to pump, as it always did when I was forced to defend my support of the POTUS. And that’s exactly how I felt, like I had to defend myself, like I’d done something wrong and had to explain my actions. And this was to a student, mind you.

“That was a gift from a student,” I told her.

“Well that student must be a delinquent,” she said ignorantly.

I shrugged. “He supports the President. What’s wrong with that?”

“Do you support the President?”

“Yes, I do.”

She rolled her eyes and left in a huff, mumbling something derogatory under her breath I couldn’t hear. All at once I thought of the same situation playing out under President Obama. Imagine if a student was labeled a delinquent for supporting him? That would be national news indeed, and would probably end with some kind of protest or the blocking of a road.

Not with Trump, however. It’s universally accepted to slander him and his family, encouraged even. And if you dare support him or any of his policies, well, you’d better keep it to yourself, or face the harassment and intimidation that comes with it.

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Philly’s New Grading System Doesn’t Allow Teachers to Override Final Grades

frazzled

by Christopher Paslay

Brace yourself.  Report card mayhem is coming to a school near you.

Recently it was announced that the Philadelphia School District’s new online grade book program, designed by a Minnesota software company called Infinite Campus, will not allow teachers to override final grades when the system opens this week.

According to a memo from District officials:

Teachers will NOT be able to put in overrides for final averages and should keep this in mind when posting. They can see how the Term 4 Posted Grade will affect the final average by changing the Grading Task drop down from “Term Grade” to “Final Grade.” Every class should have a posted percent that matches the score. (This includes P/F courses). Make sure teachers hit POST and then SAVE on every section!! For a refresher, they can watch the Posting Grades video.

Bombshell revelation?

You better believe it.

Whether this information was made known in September is unclear, but the fact remains that stripping teachers of the ability to tweak and adjust final grades is mind numbing (if this is indeed the case).  For those unaware of the situation, here is a summary of how finals grades will be calculated by the District’s grade book, at least as it appears now from the information available.

First, the difference between a “composite percent” and a “composite grade” must be made clear.  A “composite present” is the actual grade the student earned (the mathematical calculation of the quarter grade based on the assignments in the teacher’s grade book).  The “composite grade” is the grade that showed up on the students report card for the quarter (which includes grades that were rounded-up or overridden by a teacher).  For example, a student’s first quarter “composite percent” might have been a 77, but the teacher may have rounded it up and given an 80 via an “override,” and this 80 would be the student’s “composite grade,” and appear on the report card.

The way it appears the District’s grade book will calculate a student’s final grade this year will be by averaging the composite percent—NOT composite grade—on each of the four quarters.  Which means the override grade will not be factored into the final average, only the original base number.  So that 80 that the student received on the report card will really go into the system as a 77 and affect the overall final grade by making it lower than anticipated (at least this is how the system is currently computing the grades, according to what is currently on Infinite Campus).  Oh, and the teacher can’t override it, which is the real kicker.

As you can imagine, this is going to cause some major headaches for teachers, not to mention students and their parents (and of course principals, who will have to deal with the irate students and parents).  The magnitude of the blowback will be both small and large, depending on the situation and how badly the student was misled about his or her grade.

For example, a student may lose little to no points and be none the wiser.  If a student’s teacher didn’t round his or her grade up more than a point or two during the first three quarters, the difference will be negligible, and no harm will be done.  However, the more points a teacher gave a student via the “override” feature during the first three quarters, the more there will be a disparity between the grades on the first three report cards and the student’s final grade.

Take this situation: a student with an IEP or a 504 plan is putting in an honest effort but still struggling nonetheless.  His percentage grade is only a 50 for the first three quarters, but he is making progress, so the teacher gives him a 60—the minimum passing grade—for the first three quarters out of good faith.  The student’s final grade will be based on the three 50’s, not the three 60’s.  Which means that in order for the student to pass for the year, the teacher will need to give this student a 90 for the fourth quarter to make the percentage come to an average of a 60, which is passing.

Should the student receive a 90 if they are nowhere near that level of achievement?  Normally, a teacher in this situation would give the grade the student deserved for the fourth quarter, and tweak the final average according to the individual situation of the student.  But since the District’s new grading system doesn’t allow a teacher to override the final average, what is the alternative?  Fail the child?

Basically, every single teacher in the Philadelphia School District who was liberal with giving students extra points via the “override” feature during the first three quarters (and all of us has at least one or two students like this, and for very good reasons), is going to be put to the squeeze.  Should I let the child fail, or give him or her an outrageously high fourth quarter grade? 

And what about the fact that the child was misled the whole year about his or her actual grades?  If the “composite percent” was the only true grade that counted toward the final average, what was the purpose of the override feature for the first three quarters?  And what if the points added via the override weren’t simply given for free?  What if students earned them?  For the past 20 years, I’ve added my students’ participation grade—points they earned through engaging in the lessons—directly to the report card at the end of each quarter; many times my best students’ quarter averages go from 88’s to 92’s because of participation.  This would mean they’d be robbed of up to 12 points they’ve earned over three quarters because of this new screwy system.

Finally, there’s the case of this working in reverse.  What about a student who games the system by getting a 70 percent on the first and second quarter, and then becomes chronically absent for the next five months, not completing a single assignment.  As it stands now, because the system doesn’t allow a teacher to give below a 50, and because there’s no override feature for the final grade, this student will pass the course with a 60, and not have learned much in the process.

Why in the world the District would allow students and teachers to be misled for nine months about their grades is beyond comprehension.  If the override feature is not available for the final grade—and the grades posted via the override function for the first three quarters don’t count toward the final average—why was the override feature available at all?  Seriously?  What in God’s name was the point?  To mislead and confuse?

Even now I’m hoping the information I’ve received about the District’s fourth quarter grade book is somehow inaccurate, and that the flaws and mind-boggling inconsistencies I’ve mentioned above are the result of some kind of miscommunication, either on my part or the part of the District.

If, however, what I’ve been told is true, brace yourself for some serious fallout from parents and students, especially from the special education department (and their lawyers).  This year’s fourth quarter grading will be historic.  Get ready for report card mayhem!

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Filed under Differentiated Instruction, Grading Policies