A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste …

Woe the poor high school senior living in the U.S. who, looking forward to graduation in May or June, already accepted to the college of her choice, is now told that the schools are closed for the rest of the year and her plans will have to be scrapped.  She will likely have to repeat her entire senior year next year, or perhaps even the year after, since the U.S. seems intent on scrapping life in general for the rest of this calendar year.

First, let me assure you that I’m not necessarily arguing against the closing of the schools.  We must protect our young people as best we can.  What I’m arguing is that there appears to be absolutely zero amount of planning for the education of our youth … it seems that nobody is considering alternate means for these young people to complete the school year that they have already spent 6 months of their lives on.  Where is the common sense???  Must we keep throwing out the baby with the bathwater?  Does nobody in our government think any more?  Just because we have a fool in the White House shouldn’t preclude other elected officials from using their brains for something other than holding their skulls in place.

Once again, state governors have shown their immense capacity for willful ignorance by closing schools through the end of the school year, despite the fact that it is only March, and with callous disregard for both students and parents.

“The governor told California parents the SAT and other standardized testing would be canceled and the state would help with supplies to homeschool.”

Say WHAT???  The entire SAT is cancelled?  Whose brilliant idea was that?  So, even students who technically completed their course work at mid-term will not be able to take the SAT in order to enter college in the fall?  What would you do if you were a student in that situation?  I think many will say, “Screw this, I’ll just go work for the sanitation department,” else “I’ll just kill myself now.” I don’t suppose it occurred to the dolts in the Department of Education that the SAT could, with appropriate safeguards, be administered online???

And “the state would help with supplies to homeschool”?  So what?  Most parents whose children are beyond about 5th or 6th grade are not going to be able to homeschool their children in many subjects.  Only those with advanced degrees plus the time and patience will be able to do so … likely about 10% of the population.

Common sense is seriously lacking in the United States today.  Now, if the states thought shuttering the schools for the next 6 months was such a brilliant move, then they could have had teachers teach their classes online, from the comfort of their own homes, in their jammies if they wished.  Students without access to a computer, modem or WiFi, could have been provided one at no cost by the Department of Education.  Without the distractions, perhaps they would have learned even better, but noooooo … it would have required thought processes that no government official today seems capable of.

The quality of education in the United States had hit an all-time low, even before this.  We no longer teach young people that wonderful art of thinking, but rather teach them technical skills.  We teach little about history, literature, and how governments function, but rather how to program in C++, or how to build furniture.  And now … we teach … nothing.  For at least the foreseeable future, we teach nothing.  Way. To. Go.

To reiterate, just so nobody misunderstands my point as happened in a post last week:  I am not arguing against the schools being closed if that is what the medical community believe is the best way to save lives.  The medical community, not public officials who are sans common sense in the midst of this pandemic.  My point, however, is you don’t just shutter the schools for the next six months without a backup plan to ensure these young people are able to complete this school year.  I, who am not even an educator, can think of a number of ways this could be done, but nobody … not a single person … in our federal or state governments has even bothered to try.  I want our Department of Education employees to get off their arses and earn the money We the People are paying them!  Yo … Betsy DeVos … are you listening?  It’s your turn to earn your keep!

What You May Have Missed

If you go looking in the usual places for news that has nothing to do with a) coronavirus, or b) the stock markets, or c) 2020 presidential race, you will be out of luck.  That is all the news that exists in the usual places such as The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Politico, ABC News, Time, The Guardian, BBC, AP, and others.  Mind you, all those stories are newsworthy and I am definitely NOT downplaying the importance of any, especially the coronavirus.  But once you’ve read the same ol’ same ol’ about 60 times, you begin to wonder if the rest of the world is locked in a closet somewhere.  However, Filosofa does not give up easily.  Filosofa is sick and damned tired of reading the exact same information about coronavirus, the financial melt-down and the Bernie & Joe Show.  So, I stuck a carrot in my pocket for the wabbits, grabbed my shovel and went digging …


Is Betsy complicit?

Betsy DeVos was made Secretary of Education in 2017 as a reward for the large campaign contributions she and her hubby made to Trump’s 2016 election campaign.  As I said in 2017, DeVos was, like so many of Trump’s cabinet picks, the least suited for the job.  She had little respect for public schools, instead supporting the charter schools that can accommodate very few students in need.  But she had money, she had a rich husband, and that mattered more than qualifications or competency.

Well, now it turns out that Betsy’s brother, Eric Prince, is somewhat of a nasty character.  Like his siter, Prince is a Trump supporter with close ties to the Trump gang.  According to a New York Times article last weekend, beginning in 2017, Prince started recruiting former spies to infiltrate Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump ‘agenda’.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation.  They secretly taped the union’s local leaders and attempted to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization.  This and other covert operations were conducted under the auspices of Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups.

According to the Times report, though both Mr. Prince and Project Veritas have close ties to the Trump family, it is “unclear” whether any of the Trump clan are complicit in the operations they have been conducting.  My bet?  Take a wild guess.  But … a question of equal concern is whether Miss Betsy is involved.  Again, my bet?  Hell yes.

An independent watchdog group has asked the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate whether Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had any involvement in her brother’s efforts to spy on the Michigan teacher’s union.  DeVos has long had a hostile relationship with teacher’s unions.  According to the letter the group wrote to Congress …

“It stretches the imagination to the breaking point to believe her brother never at least mentioned his intel operation to her. At the end of the day, who would benefit more from this ill-gotten information than the Education Secretary at war with the union?”

Prince is under investigation by the Justice Department over whether he lied to a congressional committee examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, and for possible violations of American export laws. Last year, the House Intelligence Committee made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Mr. Prince, saying he lied about the circumstances of his meeting with a Russian banker in the Seychelles in January 2017.  Care to make any bets about whether Prince will ever be convicted?

Keep your eyes on this ball, my friends.


A day late and a dollar short, but still …

On Tuesday, in a 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Judith Rogers wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Thomas Griffith that the House of Representatives may see redacted passages in the public version of the Mueller report that was issued, heavily redacted, in April of last year.  Said Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi …

“This ruling is an unequivocal rejection of the President’s insistence that he is above the law and his blanket refusal to cooperate with Congressional requests for information. It is also another rebuke of Attorney General Barr’s brazen efforts to prevent evidence of Presidential wrongdoing from being uncovered, which the Courts continue to challenge. … Yet again, the Courts have resoundingly reaffirmed Congress’s authority to expose the truth for the American people.”

In her opinion, Judge Rogers wrote …

“The courts cannot tell the House how to conduct its impeachment investigation or what lines of inquiry to pursue, or how to prosecute its case before the Senate. The constitutional text confirms that a Senate impeachment trial is a judicial proceeding. The term ‘judicial proceeding’ has long and repeatedly been interpreted broadly.”

This follows on the heels of last week’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton that  excoriated Attorney General Bill Barr for distorting the findings of the Mueller Report before its redacted release to the public, saying …

“The Court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report. The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump [emphasis added] despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary.”

Too bad these rulings weren’t handed down back when the House was still conducting its impeachment hearings and before the U.S. Senate thumbed their noses at We the People and at the U.S. Constitution.  But, better late than never.  And, there is no law that says there cannot be yet another impeachment, if it is deemed right and proper.  Leave that door open, folks …


Okay, folks … that’s the news that didn’t make the headlines this week.  Let us now return to the center of gravity …

A Comic Break From The Darkness

Whew … it’s been quite an onslaught of news these past few days, very little of it anything to cheer about.  I think it’s time for a comic break, don’t you?

Betsy DeVos is well-deserving of being the center of a joke, and Andy Borowitz doesn’t dissapoint:

Betsy DeVos Says She Was Planning to Close All Schools Anyway

By Andy Borowitz

borowitz-andy

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—As an increasing number of schools and universities closed down because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, revealed on Monday that she had been planning for years to close every school in the country anyway.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, DeVos said, “When I took over as Education Secretary, I came with a simple mission: to shut down all of the nation’s schools. It turns out that I was just ahead of my time.”

Noting that schools are where students learn math, science, and history, DeVos said, “I have long believed that schools are where all the bad things happen.”

Deciding to “wipe out the scourge of education once and for all,” DeVos said that, within days of taking office, she drew up an ambitious plan called No School Left Open.

In a reassuring message to the nation’s parents and students, DeVos said, “Amid the current crisis, many of you are wondering how we will close every American school overnight. Let me just say that this is the job Betsy DeVos was born to do.”

And who better than Stephen Colbert to inject a bit of levity into an otherwise humourless situation?

Remember, folks … no matter how dark things seem … we need to find balance.  Let yourself find something to laugh about today in order to keep your sanity, okay?

jollyLove ‘n hugs from Filosofa … and Jolly!

A ‘Letter’ From Trump to MAGA’s

These days, we often find ourselves saying, “You have to laugh about it, else you’ll cry”. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written a great bit of satire in the form of a letter from Trump to his ‘fans’, that I think will give you a chuckle … at least until you stop and think about it. Thank you, Jeff, for adding a bit of humour to our day!

On The Fence Voters

A confidential letter from Donald J. Trump to his supporters … P.S, please don’t tell the fake news.

Dear MAGA’s,

Hello everyone. As you know, in a few days we’ll be celebrating the anniversary of the most miraculous day in the history of modern civilization. That’s right. Thanks to all of you and my pal Vladimir, I was elected to serve as your President of the United States of America. Almost instantly, our country went from being the laughing stock of the world, to well, a bigger laughingstock of the world.

Soon though, our calendar will switch to a new year, 2020. And you all know what that means, right? Yes, your favorite little President is running for reelection, and I’m going to need your help again to stave off the radical socialist Democrats. I know I can count on you.

From time to time over the next year, I’m…

View original post 1,184 more words

‘Toons

I think it’s about time we found some humour in all the muck going on in this country today, don’t you?  Three things are big news this week:  ACA, also known as Obamacare, and the republican’s urge to ensure that some 20 million people will have no access to health care; Jussie Smollett’s sudden and mysterious exoneration; and of course the Mueller report, Barr’s slowness in releasing the entire report, and Trump’s false claim that he was cleared of any wrongdoing.  Let’s see what the talented cartoonists have done with these …

First, the Smollett case …

Escaping chargessmollettsmollet-3amollett-2

ACA?  Obamacare?  Trumpcare?

aca-1aca-2aca-3aca-4aca-5

And of course the biggest news of the day spawns the most ‘toons …

barr-1barr-2barr-3barr-4barr-5barr-6barr-7barr-8barr-9barr-10barr-12

And a few random ‘toons …

boeingBruce Plante Cartoon: A Betsy DeVos SpecialMike-LeeSelf-regulationtrump-1trump-2

They Just Keep Coming … Snarky Snippets

While I’ve always been known for having a quick comeback, and rarely at a loss for words, sometimes snarky, acerbic words, I have never in all my life had as much cynicism and snarkiness bubbling from my being as I do these days!  I hope you aren’t tiring yet of snarky snippets, for they just keep rolling right off my fingertips!  Whatever will I do if things ever return to a semi-normal state in this world?sarcasm-quote-1


Surely you jest!

This morning, when I opened The Washington Post’s website, the first headline I saw was this:

With social program fights, some in GOP fear being seen as the party of the 1 percent

And I darn near choked on my coffee!  “Seen as the party of the 1 percent”?  No, they are the party of the 1%!

“A spate of policy moves in recent weeks by Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials has driven the party’s agenda hard to the right, giving new fodder to Democratic presidential candidates eager to shift the national debate to such issues as health care and jobs ahead of the 2020 election.

The administration’s budget released this month, for example, includes massive rollbacks of programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance, as well as cuts to the Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, and programs related to autism and other developmental disabilities.

The policy blitz reflects the deeply conservative agenda at the core of Trump’s administration. It is led by many influential aides and appointees who are unflinching ideologues, even as Trump prefers to call himself a “nationalist” or a businessman with “common sense.”

Coupled with fallout from the 35-day government shutdown that ended in January and a GOP tax plan that delivered major benefits to the wealthy, Republicans once again find themselves on the defensive — fending off Democrats who say they’re not just the party of Trump but also of the rich and powerful.”

class-systemThus far, ever since 2010, I have not seen so much as an ounce of compassion for those who are, shall we say, less than wealthy, from the Republican Party.  I think that what Bill O’Reilly said after the Las Vegas massacre speaks their motto best:  “This is the price of freedom.” No, republicans, this is the price for letting a bunch of greedy, wealthy old men run the country.


Who does he think he is???

Did you hear that Trump wants The Washington Post and the New York Times to have their Pulitzer prizes rescinded?  Why?  Because the joint prize was awarded for their coverage of the Mueller investigation.  Ahem. Who does he think he is and in what country does he think he is living?  Would one of his staff please slap his face a few times and wake him up?

“So funny that The New York Times & The Washington Post got a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage (100% NEGATIVE and FAKE!) of Collusion with Russia – And there was No Collusion! So, they were either duped or corrupt? In any event, their prizes should be taken away by the Committee!”

fascism.jpgThe New York Times’ communications team tweeted: “We’re proud of our Pulitzer-prize winning reporting on Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Every @nytimes article cited has proven accurate.”

Don Junior re-tweeted Trump’s tweet … of course … he is naught but a parrot.


NEVER another Trump in the White House!!!

Kushner IncSpeaking of Junior … a new book was published two weeks ago by British-born author Vicky Ward, titled Kushner, Inc., about Jared and Ivanka’s “rise to power”.  I have not read the book, nor am I likely to, but one thing I found interesting in the synopsis I read is that Junior and Ivanka are in a bit of a dispute … over which will be the next Trump in the White House.  I was horrified!  One Trump in the White House has been one too many!  NEVER AGAIN!!! 

According to the summary of the book …

“Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are the self-styled Prince and Princess of America. Their swift, gilded rise to extraordinary power in Donald Trump’s White House is unprecedented and dangerous. In Kushner, Inc., investigative journalist Vicky Ward digs beneath the myth the couple has created, depicting themselves as the voices of reason in an otherwise crazy presidency, and reveals that Jared and Ivanka are not just the President’s chief enablers: they, like him, appear disdainful of rules, of laws, and of ethics. They are entitled inheritors of the worst kind; their combination of ignorance, arrogance, and an insatiable lust for power has caused havoc all over the world, and may threaten the democracy of the United States.jared-ivankaWard follows their trajectory from New Jersey and New York City to the White House, where the couple’s many forays into policy-making and national security have mocked long-standing U.S. policy and protocol. They have pursued an agenda that could increase their wealth while their actions have mostly gone unchecked. In Kushner, Inc., Ward holds Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump accountable: she unveils the couple’s self-serving transactional motivations and how those have propelled them into the highest levels of the US government where no one, the President included, has been able to stop them.”

Go figure.


Betsy, Betsy, Betsy … 🙄

Ms. DeVos may have been thrown under the bus regarding her budget line that would have de-funded the Special Olympics, but that doesn’t stop her from coming up with still more really ridiculous ideas.  The latest?  She has decided, contrary to decades of study and data, that a higher student-to-teacher ratio (ie., larger classes, fewer teachers) is actually better for students.  But then, remember, this is the same woman who long ago advocated guns in classrooms in case of a bear attack!

“There is no evidence that the Federal taxpayer investments in existing professional development programs or class-size reduction have meaningfully improved student outcomes. In fact, students may be better served by being in larger classes, if by hiring fewer teachers, a district or state can better compensate those who have demonstrated high ability and outstanding results.”

When asked where she got that information, DeVos was unable to cite any research or study.  Take a look for yourself

And THIS is the Secretary of Education???  Seriously???  Oh my aching head.


Okay folks, I’ve taken up enough of your weekend, so I now return you to your regularly scheduled … or preferably spontaneous … weekend activities!  Have fun!

Betsy DeVos As Cruella DeVille

Trump and his minions surely do know how to win friends and influence people, don’t they?  The latest slap in the face by the current bunch came from Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, who has decided she would like to end the Special Olympics!

Special Olympics in the U.S. began in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action.Eunice-Shriver-Special-OlympicsSoon, Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision began to take shape. She held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities – and not dwell on what they could not do.

Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver continued her pioneering work. She was the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with ID. She directed the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for justice grew into the Special Olympics movement.

Special-olympics-1

For the first time in history, people with intellectual disabilities were placed on a podium and publicly rewarded in recognition of their athletic abilities.  Courtesy Special Olympics

The first Special Olympics hosted 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada. In the years that followed, the event achieved greater recognition from the Olympic Committee and from athletes and advocates around the world, and it expanded to include winter events as well. By 2006, by the sponsoring organization’s official count, there were 2.5 million participating Special Olympics athletes worldwide.specialy-olympics-2The proposal to cut all funding for the Special Olympics came as a part of DeVos’ budget proposal that would cut $8.5 billion, or about 12%, from the department’s budget.  What makes anybody in their right mind think that cutting funds from education is a good idea???  This country has been slipping in the worldwide rankings for education for years now, and ol’ Betsy wants to cut it more?

In addition to eliminating the Special Olympics program, other programs to be cut would be after-school activities for children in impoverished communities, as well as a grant program for textbooks, equipment, counseling services and other needs for schools, as well as school safety efforts, including mental-health services and safety equipment.

Note, however, that her budget proposal does include $5 billion to help children attend private schools. She refers to the initiative as “education freedom.”  The proposal would give individuals and corporations a 100 percent tax credit for contributions to state-sanctioned scholarship funds, meaning that donors could get back their entire donation through federal taxes. The money would be given to students to help pay tuition at private schools and other expenses.

Betsy DeVosSo, let’s put this in context.  Children with disabilities do not matter.  Children from families who are not wealthy do not matter.  The safety of our children does not matter.  Education in the United States, under the Trump administration, under the uber-wealthy Betsy DeVos, is for the children of already-privileged, wealthy families.

Fortunately, DeVos’ budget proposal is likely to be shredded in Congress and Betsy will be told to go back to the drawing board and try again.  Some comments from members of Congress:

“Cuts to autism funding and ending all for @SpecialOlympics is outrageous. When I was chair of the House Budget Cmte, we worked to balance the budget & these types of programs were off limits – for good reason. Hope ldrs in DC stop this ridiculous proposal.” – John Kasich, former Governor of Ohio

“I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget. It’s appalling.” – Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative from California

“I believe this budget is cruel, and I believe it is reckless. I really am left with a very serious question for you: How can you support this budget? I mean that genuinely.” – Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Representative from Connecticut, and Chairperson of the education subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee

special-olympicsAlso fortunately, the Special Olympics in the U.S. do not depend entirely on funding by the Department of Education, but losing federal funding would certainly deal a blow to the program.  The bigger picture is that Ms. DeVos – the entire Trump administration – obviously views education as a ‘privilege’ for only the wealthy.  Since when was it decided that children who, simply by luck of the draw, were born into families with lots of money, had more value than others?

It should be noted that DeVos and her husband’s net worth is estimated at $5.5 billion. Pick on someone your own size, Betsy DeVos!

 

Your Tax Dollars To Buy Guns …

I think that most of us with reasonably sound minds agreed some time ago that arming teachers, having guns in schools, was just a bad … really bad … idea. Those of us, that is, who believe the purpose of schools is to educate.  Those of us who do not believe the NRA mantra that “a good guy with a gun …”. Those of us who have not fallen prey to the horseshit that has been spewed by the NRA that more guns make for a safer society.

We The People also realize that our current education system is falling into disrepair, that not enough money is allocated to do the job our schools need to do, and since Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education, money has been diverted away from public schools and into her own pet projects, mainly charter schools that serve very few.

gun-pointingSo, what next, you may ask?  Ms. DeVos is proposing to take more money away from schools and use it to buy guns to arm teachers and staff in schools.  After the Parkland school shooting, students and activists urged the government to implement gun regulations, to make guns harder to get, but instead, Donald Trump who is a boot-licker to the NRA, called for more guns in schools!  A child could tell you this makes no sense.

“I want a hardened school. I would like to see true people with great talent at guns, being adept at guns, of which there is only a percentage of people. You can’t hire enough security guards.”

Oh for Pete’s Sake …

Research has shown that arming teachers or increasing the number of armed guards in schools will not keep students safer and may actually lead to more shooting deaths.

  • Armed personnel would have little chance of stopping a shooter
  • The more guns in schools, the higher the chances of deadly accidents or unintended casualties

In March, a month after the Parkland shooting, the House of Representatives passed the “Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018” that would have authorized grants to train students, law enforcement and teachers to identify the signs of school violence before it occurs.  Sensible legislation, especially given that in the case of the Parkland shooting, there were warning signs that were overlooked or misunderstood.  Such training might have saved the lives of those 17 students and teachers who died that day.  But the bill died in the Senate.

The Department of Education currently controls $1 billion that is set aside for Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants.  The grants are intended for academic and enrichment opportunities in the country’s poorest schools, and can be used for three specific purposes:

  • Promoting a well-rounded education
  • Improving school conditions
  • Ensuring the effective use of technology

None of these would cover the purchase of guns in my book, but in the mind of Ms. DeVos and her fellow fools, they believe that it would be classified as ‘improving school conditions’.  Oh yes, by all means, more guns floating around in lockers, teachers’ desks, and untrained hands will almost certainly lead to improved school conditions.

I no longer have children in school, but as a taxpayer, parent and a grandparent, I have knowledge and am entitled to my opinion.  Frankly, if I did have a child in a public school that was either arming teachers or hiring armed guards, I would remove my child from that school immediately.

The purpose of schools is to provide education, not to become a firing range.  Money allocated to schools should be spent wisely on hiring excellent teachers, purchasing textbooks, renewing and upgrading equipment, providing materials so that teachers do not have to spend their own money to do so.

For once, Congress was spurred to action and yesterday morning (Thursday), Senator Chris Murphy introduced an amendment to a massive funding bill up for a final vote as soon as Thursday afternoon that would block the Department of Education from allowing school districts using federal funds to purchase firearms.

“I’m introducing legislation today to block the arming of teachers, and I do so knowing that earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass a bill that expressly opposed putting guns in the hands of teachers. Congress doesn’t think this is a good idea. Parents don’t think this is a good idea. Teachers don’t think this is a good idea.”

A voice with some common sense, but Senator Murphy is a democrat.  Will this proposal fly with the republicans in Congress?  I suppose it depends on how strong the link between them and the NRA still is.  The ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia, said granting state requests to use federal funds for firearms would be “openly violating the spirit of the law as well as common sense about gun safety.”

“Redirecting that money to arm teachers and school staff will recklessly endanger the safety of both students and educators, while robbing underserved students of the support and opportunity they deserve.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said …

“We knew Betsy DeVos would try to do the bidding of the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers, but to even consider diverting resources used to support poor kids to flood schools with more guns is beyond the recklessness we believed she was willing to pursue.”

There was a time that this notion would have been laughed off the table and DeVos would have been quickly replaced for even suggesting such a thing.  But then, that was a time when DeVos would never have been given the position she is in.  That was a time when we had a legitimate government that remembered to whom they answered.

What Next???

trump thinksWhat is he thinking???  Oh wait … Donald Trump does not think; Donald Trump acts purely on the emotion of the moment, said emotion typically being profit or revenge.

Today it is announced that he plans to ‘overhaul’ the federal government and the core of this ‘overhaul’ will be to combine the departments of Education and Labour.  Please note that while the fruits of one ultimately feed the other, these two absolutely do not go hand-in-hand.  It would be impossible to find a person to lead this new department, for what qualifies one does not the other.  Oh … that’s right … qualifications for a position are irrelevant in Trumplandia.  According to Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the two departments are “overlapping and duplicative”.  Mick, obviously, is not the brightest bulb in the pack.

Now, here is the really disturbing part for those of us who believe that the goal of education is to open minds, to teach young people to think, to understand the world (or at least try to) and to develop into active citizens who can participate and contribute to the democratic process and American society. The main goal, apparently, of this departmental merger is to “allow the Trump administration to focus its efforts to train students in vocational skills in one place.”  In other words, start preparing them at a very early age for their ‘vocation’ in life.  Rather than introducing them to a wide world of possibilities, train them, give them the skills for a job when they leave school.  Does anybody else feel a chill here?

school to workPicture this:  The ‘labour’ portion of the department determines that in ten years there will be a shortage of … oh, say bricklayers.  So, the ‘education’ side of the department begins focusing more on teaching bricklaying skills.  Yes, yes, that is a ridiculous example, but … you see my point?  Rather than opening young people’s minds, the focus appears to be on directing, or guiding young people into the bins the government decides they belong in.

The Education Department is the smallest Cabinet agency in number of employees, with just under 4,000, and a $68 billion budget. It oversees federal student loans, distributes K-12 education funding, and enforces federal civil rights laws at public schools and colleges.  Think about this:  your son/daughter is about to graduate high school and is planning for college.  He is undecided just what path he wants to take in life, so is planning to begin with a Liberal Arts program to gain some insight.  But … he cannot get a student loan.  He could get a student loan if he were interested in studying brick-laying, but the government directs what academic pathways it will or will not support.  So, the young person who wishes to study philosophy or history will only be able to do so if he can fund it himself.  The only people, ultimately, who would be well-educated enough to hold high public offices would be … wait for it … the wealthy!!!

I focus here on the effects this plan would have on education, but there are also concerns by trade unions and others that such things as worker safety, minimum wage laws and fair labour laws would suffer.

The Republican Party has long wanted to do away with the Department of Education altogether. In 2016, Donald Trump said that the Department of Education “is massive and it can be largely eliminated.”  This from a man who is ‘largely’ uneducated and cannot manage to string together a coherent sentence! And his choice for Secretary of this department, Betsy DeVos, has long advocated elimination of the department. DevosDetails have not been made available, so I can only generalize here, but I have grave concerns, knowing the mentality of the current administration, of any reorganization attempts.  We have come to understand that the intentions of Trump & Co are not pure, do not have the best interests of the nation and its people at heart, and that we are being lied to multiple times every single day.  Think about this one for a moment:  It is much easier to pull the wool over the eyes of the un-and-under-educated than those who have been exposed to a wealth of ideas and know how to interpret data and think for themselves.

Most analysts believe that Trump’s attempt to merge these two departments will fail, for it requires the approval of Congress, and with the mid-terms on the horizon, it is not likely to be a popular proposal.  Nonetheless, I am disturbed that it is even being proposed.  What next?

Schools Say ‘OK’ to Racism under DeVos/Trump

African-American students in Bryan, Texas, are four times more likely to be suspended than white students.  Even black preschool students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended from school. Why?  Well, the Department of Education was investigating to try to find the answer to that question.  Was.  And then along came Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVosWith more than 1,500 complaints of racial discrimination in schools across the nation between 2011-2017, the Department of Education under President Obama launched investigations nationwide, from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Oakland, California.  And yes, even Bryan, Texas.  It is nothing short of systemic racism.  DeVos, however, ordered at least 65 such investigations halted, and ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them.

Bryan, Texas, has a history of discrimination.  When the Supreme Court ordered school de-segregation in 1954 as a result of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the town of Bryan thought the law excluded them, and refused to comply.  Only when one parent filed and won a federal lawsuit in 1963, nearly a decade after the Brown decision, did the courts order Bryan to de-segregate … one grade per year.  Progress comes slow, especially to small, southern towns.school racism-2Which brings us to today, where black students in Bryan are four times as likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled as their classmates with lighter skin.  Black students are also less likely to be selected for honours classes or given awards.

When DeVos was asked during her disastrous interview for 60 Minutes about institutional racism in the schools, she replied, “We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.”  Would this ‘studying it carefully’ be the same studies that she has ordered to be halted, such as the one in Bryan?

And now, let me tell you what happened to 13-year-old Trah’Vaeziah in Bryan last October.

Trah’Vaeziah Jackson, a student at Arthur L. Davila Middle School in Bryan, was frequently a victim of bullying – so much so that her mother, Yvola Polk, made frequent trips to the school to protest that the school was doing nothing to keep her daughter, and others like her (black) safe.  The school eventually sent a police officer to Ms. Polk’s home where he issued her a warning citation for trespassing. Trah_Vaeziah JacksonBut back to Trah’Vaeziah and her ordeal on a Friday afternoon last October.  The class was doing some sort of craft project involving hot glue guns and popsicle sticks in the hallway outside their classroom.  The teacher was inside the classroom and could not see the children.  As will happen when children are left unsupervised, a bit of horse play, some joking around started.  Long story short, Trah’Vaeziah accidentally burned another child’s arm with a popsicle stick that had hot glue on it.  The burn was not serious, the other child stated that they were just playing and teasing, but guess where Trah’Vaeziah was sent.  Yes, to the principal’s office, but only long enough to wait for the school police officer to come and escort Trah’Vaeziah to the Brazos County Juvenile Justice Center.

Once there, she cried as employees patted her down, cut off her hair extensions, and took her photo and fingerprints. She was served dinner — chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and an apple in a plastic container with a carton of milk — but had no appetite.  Trah’Vaeziah had not yet been allowed to contact her mother – remember that this is a child of 13 years!  In the shower room, guards applied thick anti-lice shampoo to Trah’Vaeziah’s hair. As she washed and combed it, clumps fell out. Afterwards, she reluctantly changed from her school clothes, a T-shirt and jeans, into the detention uniform, an orange shirt with matching shorts. Then she was locked in her cell, which contained a sink, a toilet, and, instead of a bed, a stuffed blue mat atop a brick base. High on the wall was a sliver of a window, but she wasn’t tall enough to see outside.

It was after 8:00 p.m. when she was finally allowed to call her mother. She was held in the juvenile facility for three days until a judge finally released her on condition that she do 20 hours of community service and write an apology letter. She also stipulated that Trah’Vaeziah would have to keep a clean record until the next court date and couldn’t access social media, cellphones or cash. Any violation of the agreement would result in further detention.  All this for an accident that could have been avoided had the teacher been doing her job.  But wait … there’s more.

The following week, the school held a hearing on the incident, where Trah’Vaeziah was sentenced to five weeks in the district’s disciplinary alternative school.  Her mother argued and was able to get her sentence reduced, but I ask you … if that had been a white girl, would the consequences for an accident have been this severe?  I think not.

Before the investigation was halted, no less than 10 incidents where black students received harsher punishment than their white peers were discovered.  The importance of bringing a stop to institutional, or sanctioned racism in the schools cannot be stressed enough.   When our African-American students are bullied, are treated less fairly than their white counterparts, they feel that they do not belong here.  The dropout rate rises among those students, and when jail or juvenile detention is a part of their ‘punishment’, it is a mark already on their record.  They tend to give up at an early age.  It is what sociologists call the school-to-prison pipeline, a process of criminalizing youth that is carried out by disciplinary policies and practices within schools that put students into contact with law enforcement.

It should come as no surprise that Betsy DeVos is not only oblivious to the situation, but also unconcerned and uncaring.  Ms. DeVos, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, does not, even by her own admission, visit any of the troubled schools for which she is responsible.  She was, after all, the one who referred to historically black colleges as “pioneers of school choice”!  She has no teaching or public school experience and does not even support the idea of public schools, but has expressed her strong preference for charter schools that serve only a few, while draining money from the public school system that serves the majority.  She has called for massive budget cuts to the Department of Education at a time when schools are in desperate need of repairs, new textbooks, and teachers are supplying many of their students’ needs out of their own meager pay.DeVos caricatureBelow is a sample of one page from the investigative report as it stood at the time it was shuttered.  It is plain to see that there is definite evidence of racial disparity, despite what DeVos and her underlings claim.  And, as we all know, it is not just in Bryan, Texas, but all across the nation.  Now the question is:  what do we do about it?  investigative-report.gif