Tag Archives: education

So We Elect a Republican President…and all We Get Is This Lousy Wall?

19 Aug

Do you know that more than half of the funds raised by the Republican candidates for President of the United States so far has come from just 130 families? If we imagine those families to be families of 4 then 520 people or .00000173 of the American population is funding half of the Republican party.

Just about all of the Republican presidential candidates and certainly Donald trump, think that illegal immigration is the number one problem facing the United States today. So much so that probably only a wall will solve the problem and keep the Spanish horde that is draining our economy of its life blood, out…So imagine that a Republican president is elected in 2016. A wall is built. Illegal immigrants are deported…even children born in the USA…until finally the USA is illegal immigrant and bogeyman free.

Once that happens what’s in it for you? Will the Republican President and Congress together, then:

Fully fund The Affordable care Act for all US citizens? NO (they plan to repeal it)

Provide proper Medicare and Medicaid funding? NO (they plan to underfund both programs)

Support and Strengthen the Social Security Trust Fund? NO (they plan to raise retirement age and cut benefits)

Safeguard all US pension funds? NO (they look forward to the continued pilfering of such funds)

Protect, support and strengthen the rights of all US women? NO (they plan to limit a women’s right to choice)

Fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help feed our hungry citizens? NO (they plan to cut SNAP)

Raise the Minimum wage for all US citizens? NO (they plan to limit or do away with minimum wages)

Help for our college students and their ever increasing student loan debt? NO (they plan to cut financial assistance)

Strong Consumer Financial Protections? NO (they plan to role back restrictions on the big banks)

Seek peace in the Middle East? NO (they plan to repeal treaties and increase military spending)

Reform prison sentencing and our prison system of 2.2 million prisoners? NO (they plan on building more prisons)

Protect the environment and seek to reduce greenhouse gasses? NO (they see no need to reduce fossil fuel usage)

Raise taxes on the very wealthiest US citizens to help pay for the wall, the wars and the debt? NO (they plan to cut taxes on the wealthiest US citizens)

So what do we get? Besides another day older and…you know what? …And what is in it for us; the everyday, ordinary, hard working, American citizen? Confederate flags and down home religion? Safety and security in the knowledge that all of the poor, hungry, homeless, indebted or imprisoned souls in the United States are at least 100%, bonafide, certified, Grade A American Citizens?… And a nice big wall to keep us all safe and cozy inside?

And what will those 130 rich American family donors to the Republican party get do you suppose? Anything worth their while? Because make no mistake about it. Everything I’ve mentioned above is in the Republican platform, regardless of which one of their candidates gets elected! They make no bones about it and are not even pretending to make you believe otherwise.

So If the Republicans win and that wall goes up… Please don’t fool yourself.

Because if and when that day comes…It won’t matter which side of that wall you are on.

How to Succeed Without Really Trying?

16 Aug

Up, up and away! Over the past 50 years American students have increasingly grown confident not only socially but also about their own writing and intellect skills and their confidence in leadership ability

 

The American Freshman Survey, has been asking college students to rate themselves compared to their peers since 1966.

And since that time there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being ‘above average’ in the areas of academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability, and self-confidence. In fact, Over 70% of all students now taking the survey view themselves as above average academically…Which of course, if you are an academic, you know is a mathematic impossibility!

Researchers now call this aberration “ambition inflation”. Which is an actual condition that students suffer from…good grief! It seems that their increased ambitions accompany increasingly unrealistic expectations….and incredible tuition fees I might add…causing parents to suffer from income deflation…and causing colleges and universities and banks to…well, rejoice!

But I digress because researchers have also found a disconnect between student’s opinions of themselves and their actual abilities. For example, while students are much more likely to call themselves gifted in writing, their test scores actually show that their writing abilities are far less than those of their 1960s counterparts. So all of our students’ recent poor test scores that have caused consternation throughout the free world (The USA) haven’t affected how our students feel about themselves. Parents…Isn’t that good news?

And get this…Also on the decline is the amount of time students spend studying, with little more than a third of students saying they study for six or more hours a week compared to almost half of all students claiming the same in the late 1980s. But even though students are studying less, the number that said they had a high drive to succeed rose sharply!

So how is that possible???

Well, a separate study has shown that there has also been a 30 per cent increase towards narcissism in students since 1979. And that our culture here in America before the millennium, used to encourage modesty and humility but now here in the 21st century tends to promote bragging about yourself, as the way to go. So while today’s students tend to feel good about themselves and like to brag about it, the end result has shown a corresponding increase in anxiety and depression in America’s students since those 1970s.

And why is that? Well, researchers say that when an unrealistic number of young people think that they are above average and going to achieve great things, and then a much more realistic number don’t, because, well, let’s face it…most people really are average. And when reality finally sets in, depression isn’t far behind…not to mention those hefty student loans with interest due!

So is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes! And the lesson is: Despite the idea that we can achieve anything if we believe we can, there’s very little evidence that it actually works in the real world. Educational Research still shows that when it comes to academic success nothing works like being humble and unpretentious while employing self-control and hard work!… Who knew?

But if you are a parent and you are worried that today’s kids are too darn full of themselves don’t despair because the American Freshman Survey also revealed that along with having an inflated sense of their own abilities and talents today’s students also describe themselves as being less individualistic, less co-operative, less understanding of others and finally, less spiritual than students in the past! Which in my mind makes this one of the most unsettling surveys to come along in a while, especially if you are a parent.

However if you are a College or University official then this survey all but predicts smooth sailing ahead for a future of expanding enrollments and overflowing coffers. Which is ironic because it has been the colleges and universities of our country that have decried the poor skills of incoming freshmen so vociferously that it has drastically changed the way in which we test, evaluate, and rate today’s students. Back in the old days colleges and universities would simply not have accepted poor performing students into their hallowed halls…but that was back before education was all about making money…

Now while inflated egos, narcissistic attitudes and ambition inflation coupled with mass enrollment, high interest student loans, and tuition inflation may lead to dashed dreams, crushing debt and a life living in your parents house…it just might also be an insidious, and one hell of… an excellent business strategy.

Let’s Just Sing a Simple Song of Freedom

14 Jul

“That flag has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. It doesn’t symbolize hate unless you think it’s hate – and that’s your problem, not mine.”

This is what some of the thousands of folks at the rally for the confederate flag in Central Florida had to say about their beloved confederate Flag. It was an event that was being held in support of a decision to return the Confederate flag to a display outside the Ocala government complex.

Participants talked of defending Southern traditions and southern heritage and said that their rally wasn’t about hatred and racism but rather about the rights of free people. Just like the Civil War wasn’t about slavery but rather about rights too… I suppose. And what rights would those be except the right for one to live free while buying, selling and owning people who could not live free? And what great heritage does the confederate flag represent except the heritage of slavery and oppression and human degradation and treason and secession and the Un-United States of America?

Imagine the world today if the south had been successful and had won their rights to live in their own separate country with that wonderful southern heritage and those lovely southern traditions left intact. How would the world have made out during World wars 1 and 2 without the might of the 50 United States to defend it? And Whose side would the south have been on during those momentous conflicts… do you suppose? How different might your world and mine… and theirs, be today had the south and “their rights” prevailed?

Perhaps southerners should think about that every time they think about displaying their most sacred symbol of antebellum disunity and dysfunction: The confederate flag. Because that’s what it was. It didn’t value humanity. Think about it. had they won It would have edified the demeaning and devaluation of all human life everywhere, especially in the south! Where was the benevolence, humaneness, compassion, fraternity, kindness, consideration, tolerance, charity and mercy in the confederate cause…except for themselves and no others? That’s a cause, history and heritage worth reverence and remembrance? Is there anyone in the world alive today who doesn’t thank God for the confederacy’s utter and complete defeat????? Seriously there are just these confederate ancestor wannabees…which should tell you all you really need to know about the confederacy.

They are without a doubt… THE ONLY ONES IN THE ENTIRE WORLD… who think that the confederate flag has value in a MODERN world.

All in all this sad and sorry demonstration to defend southern history spanned 8 miles with 4,500 supporters and an estimated 2,000 vehicles, mostly motorcycles and trucks adorned with Civil War-era flags…and of course guns! What good old southern get together wouldn’t include guns? Police say that even some shots were fired during an argument over the flag, but no one was injured, and overall the event was peaceful.

Now imagine that same motorcade of revelers all being comprised of people of color who were flying flags to symbolize their African heritage and their history of protest of the United States for their long denied rights…8 miles… of honking horns, beating fists in the air and shouting and the shooting of guns…and all while driving thousand of vehicles through white suburban neighborhoods.

That would have gone off quite peacefully, while the police stood by and waved them on…don’t you think? Because overall, if we have anything here in America, 150 years after the Civil War, it’s the end of racism…isn’t it?

Why War Is (Still) Stupid

26 May

I wrote this almost 3 years ago, early on in my blogging days, but sadly it still seems to be ringing truer than ever…

During Desert Storm, the first war in Iraq, a student in my class raised his hand and asked me a question.

“Hey, Mr. Picone, did you see that general on TV who was showing the video where a cruise missile tracks down an Iraqi truck and blows it up right there on a bridge?”

“Yes, I replied. I did.”

“Well, continued the student, how much do you think that old Iraqi truck was worth?”

“Oh about 20 to 30 thousand dollars,” I guessed

“And that bomb with the camera inside that tracked it down and blew it up. That cost a few hundred million didn’t it?”

“Yes, I think you’re right.” I said.

“So my question is, said the student who was about to give me something very interesting to think about, If our country is Spending 200 million dollars to blow up a 20,000 dollar truck how long can we keep that up before going broke?”

He asked me that question in 1992 and although I had no answer for him then, apparently my answer should have been, “Oh, I’d say about 16 years!” War is stupid because eventually we all go broke. You can bet money on it! Just ask Egypt and Greece and Rome and Persia and Spain and England and France and the Soviet Union and…now…US.!

We owe 18 trillion dollars and have no plans for paying off that debt except for the proposed dismantling of our Social services, pension systems and national infrastructure. Some plan, huh?

All civilizations eventually either spend all of their money on feeding the wealthy’s appetite for more wealth or on war, neither of which is an ingredient in any recipe for the extended prosperity and growth of a civilization and its people. And we here in the United States are doing both…at the same time!

Education however, no matter how expensive it may be for a civilization’s inhabitants to fund, sustain and expand never leads to the end of anyone’s civilization. When will we ever learn that?

Parents, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys

25 May

As Memorial Day arrives we take time to reflect on the liberties and freedom we all share due to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. My father served during World War II, My grandfather during World War I, and my great grandfather during the Civil War. They all saw action and survived while others did not and we can say today without any doubt that those who gave their lives in service to their country did so in valiant efforts to preserve what we so cherish here in the United States today…

But which of those wars was the war to end all wars? And will that war ever be fought? When I was young one American dream that was a big time favorite but by now really should have run its course was that of being a soldier. Whenever adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would always say “I want to be an army man!” That was back in the 50s and early 60s when playing soldier was a common pastime among young children. Once my father, a WWII veteran, explained to me that war involved fighting and possibly dieing, I soon changed my mind and as the Vietnam War loomed in my teenage future I wondered if perhaps my childhood boasting of wanting to be an army man would become an inevitable and now unwanted reality. Fortunately for me the draft and then the war ended and the country’s views toward wars and fighting them seemed to change for the better but now here in the 21st century we seem to have turned back towards war as a viable alternative to peace or perhaps even more insanely as a partner of peace!

Remember when you would get into a fight and your school principal or your teacher would tell you that fighting is wrong and that no matter who started it, it still was wrong to fight? When did we ever stop teaching and learning that lesson? We should no longer be encouraging any of our children to aspire to fighting or war. When will we ever learn that war is counterproductive to life? It seems like such a simple lesson to learn.

In my New Jersey high school we have a JROTC program. That stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and it is a class or series of classes and after school activities that help prepare high school children for a career in the military. Some believe that this is a good idea and I have seen many students proudly enroll in the program, graduate and continue on in a successful military career. However, that was back in the days when the United States was not actively involved in any wars and the graduating JROTC students went on to enjoy careers in a peacetime military. Today, most of these students are being groomed and prepared for active military duty in a wartime military and  many if not most of these young adults actually believe that they are preparing for something that will be fun and rewarding and once they develop their military skills they become eager to actually test themselves under real combat conditions. They look forward to becoming the new modern day cowboys of America.

This is something that I find very disturbing because these students are still children and we who work in the public schools are not just responsible for educating children. We are also responsible for protecting children. And part of what it means to protect our children involves making sure that they understand what it is that fighting and going off to war really means. And so as educators and citizens and community members we should all know better, and here’s why…

I took my own children shopping at Old Navy one day. You know that great American clothing store that sells the kind of clothes that young Americans just love to wear and have to have. As they were browsing I began browsing also and noticed that all of the clothes were made, not in America, (Gasp! Who else has an old navy?) But rather in Vietnam! Vietnam was the communist country America had fought over 40 years ago where we desperately tried to fend off communism and save democracy from the falling red dominoes that would crush us all one by one. And here today were my children happily sorting through the latest fashions in American clothes made by one of our most recent enemies, the Vietnamese! And then it dawned on me…apparently this is what our soldiers had fought for. 56,000 Americans fought and died and countless others were injured and forever scarred to ensure that someday a cheap labor source would be available to help put Americans out of work. Young adults of my generation studied hard, graduated high school, were randomly selected by our government in a lottery and sent halfway around the world in order to kill their own future jobs! Ain’t that a kick in the cargo pants?!

Is this possible? Am I remembering history incorrectly? The United States invaded Vietnam to stem the tide of communism. The war escalated. American teenagers were then drafted to bolster the armed forces desperate fight. The war continued for 10 years. Vietnam was devastated. 56,000 Americans were killed. Millions of Vietnamese citizens were killed. We eventually evacuated our forces in 1972. The communists prevailed and took over the country…and soon they began happily making clothes for Americans to wear! How did that happen? And what does this all have to do with your high school children and cowboys? Well, let’s see…

Back in the 1960s, when I was a teenager in high school, we all worried about the draft. During the year when a boy turned 18 he officially became a man, at least in the government’s eyes, and was required to register for selective service in the armed forces which meant that if your number came up in the subsequent draft lottery you would soon be headed to the war in Vietnam where your life would almost certainly be changed forever. As the casualties in Vietnam mounted, so did the public opposition to the draft. To randomly select recent high school graduates and send them off to war no longer seemed fair and although we all knew that it was all about fighting communism, and keeping the world safe for democracy, and serving God and our country and doing our duty etc., the prospects of going off to war no longer seemed exciting, just frightening. We probably have television to thank for this change in public opinion because that same medium that was bombarding us with advertisements and images of sex and violence that was surely going to rot our young brains was also showing us the truth about real violence and the real horrors of war. It was television and its pervasive sounds and images of real death and violence, along with the undeniable unfairness of a draft that could randomly pluck your children out of your home and end their lives at a moment’s notice, which brought about the end of the draft and the end of the Vietnam War.

So, what does that have to do with buying clothes made in Vietnam? Well, its 40 years later and we still have wars but now however, with an all volunteer army, it is harder to complain about those wars and how we as a country use our military because the government can always say, “They volunteered. No one made them join. They’re patriots proudly doing their duty.” That is a position that is very hard to argue with but still I am going to try to make my point and my point is this.

As teachers we need to present to our students all of the facts about history and especially the facts about the affects of war on the people who fight them, namely our children who become our soldiers, and who we send off to foreign lands to inevitably end the lives of someone else’s children. So here are some facts to consider…

In 1776 we fought the hated British for our liberty and freedom and the right to establish our own government. Then they invaded our new country again in 1812 and burned down Washington D.C. Later that century in 1863 they even considered aiding the Confederate states during our civil war to help divide our nation forever, but they decided not to so we eventually became friends again, saved their asses with massive invasion forces during two world wars and today we’re BFF!

In 1844 we invaded Mexico and fought the hated Mexicans who massacred Davey Crockett at the Alamo. Today, it’s the Mexican army (or so it seems) who shows up to fix my roof or cut my lawn or patch my sidewalks or trim my trees whenever I hire an American contractor to do the work. In 1898 we fought the hated Spanish in the Spanish-American war, remember that? Or rather remember the Maine?! Today, Spanish is the fastest growing language spoken in the U.S.A.

In 1918 and 1945 we fought the hated Germans who wanted to take over the world and kill us all, and yet by the 1960s every family in America it seemed owned at least one Volkswagen Beetle, the most affordable car of its time, made in Germany.

Who hated the Japanese more than us in 1941? If you had told my father and his WWII buddies in 1945 that someday a Japanese man nicknamed “Godzilla” would play the beloved Joe DiMaggio’s position in centerfield for the New York Yankees and win the World Series MVP while doing it, they would have plotzed! Right there in their pants! Right after their heads exploded!

My point is this. War isn’t hell. It’s stupidity! The people we kill today will tomorrow make our clothes and take our jobs. Why not just cut to the chase and just all be friends and go shopping? We need to teach our children to stop volunteering and to stop thinking that war is going to be fun. We need to teach them to stop believing that we’ve got to go over there to keep them from coming over here. They’re here already! And if not they’ll be here eventually and either with our soldiers help or because we simply invited them! Do you seriously doubt that “Made in Iraq” will be seen somewhere in your house in the near future or that a 7ft. something Afghani will be starting at center for the NY Knicks this decade and making 10 million dollars a year? I don’t.

We need to teach our children that going off to war today will only mean that if and when they come home it will most likely be with a shattered body and a rattled mind and the inability to enjoy as adults what they were sent off as children to protect in the first place.

So parents, don’t let your babies dream or grow up to be cowboys, unless they’re the kind who play in Dallas and get paid big bucks to wear their helmets and protect their heads when they do…although unfortunately that’s another story all together…

It’s All In the Head!

19 May

My best advice for education reform now and in the future is to take care of the children and simply this…”Parents and children of the world! Protect the head!

Forget about mandatory seat belts and car seats and bicycle helmets for young children. It’s too late by then. I say mandatory helmets for all newborns, not to be removed until the age of ten! We’ll have to develop some new age material that will be form fitting and fashionable of course and impervious to assault from small animals, siblings and adults who like to shake, shake, shake… shake their kids silly, but we can do it!

How did I arrive at this startling realization that the head is our most important teaching and learning tool? One day during class it occurred to me to ask one of my lower track freshmen classes, after a particularly hard day of trying to get them to understand the concept of sitting still, if perhaps any of them had ever suffered from head trauma as a young child? Blank stares filled the room and not one hand was raised. Briefly confused myself, I quickly realized my mistake and explained that trauma meant getting smacked upside the head.

That’s when every hand shot up into the air.

“Oh sure, said one boy, my brother hit me in the head with a baseball bat!”

“When did that happen?” I asked.

“Everyday when I was 6!” came his answer.

“Me too!” Said another boy, but it was my dad who hit me. Mom tried to protect me though. She said, hit him in the ass you idiot.”

“I fell down the stairs! Lots!” said a young girl.

“I fell out of the car.”

“I ran through the sliding door window!”

“I liked to hit myself with my shoes! Said another girl. That’s when I got my first pair of sneakers and went to the “Little Genius Academy”. I used to be a genius you know.”

And that’s when I knew I was on to something. All of my poorly performing, low achieving, attention demanding students had all suffered head trauma at an early age and some consistently! In every class, when I asked my students this question, almost always, all hands went up. It was their one common bond (besides being scatterbrained).

So I say this to all parents and children everywhere. Protect the head! At all times!  It’s the only one you’ve got and you’re going to need it every day!

Born in the USA?

27 Mar

Ted Cruz is the first Republican to announce his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2016 election. Did you know that Mr. Cruz was born in Canada and that his father is Cuban? So how come he is eligible to run for the presidency of the U.S. let alone serve as a Senator in the U.S. Senate?

Well, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, A child born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship at birth under Section 301(g) provided the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for the time period required by the law applicable at the time of the child’s birth. Mr. Cruz was born in 1970 and for births between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, the child’s parent must have lived in the U.S. for a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen, in order to transmit U.S. citizenship.

So Mr. Cruz is a United States citizen because his mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. So that made him a U.S. citizen at birth, and therefore eligible to be president.

So what was all the fuss about President Obama!? President Obama was born in Hawaii. And for those who might be geographically challenged, that’s actually in the United States. And the president’s mother was born in Wichita, Kansas, which is also in the United States where she lived for the first 25 years of her life. So, even if President Obama had not been born in the U.S. it would never have made any difference anyway because his mother was a U.S. citizen and so the president’s citizenship, just like Mr. Cruz’s, was never, ever in doubt and never, ever should have been, birth certificate or not!

So why didn’t anyone in the Republican party, especially those 47 Senators who decided to take Iran to school on the constitution, or any of the Tea Partiers or any of the reporters on Fox News, or anyone in the American media for that matter, point that out to everyone in the country and put all of this racist hate mongering immediately to rest?!… can someone riddle me that?

And in addition, Mr. Cruz has also announced that his first order of business, should he be elected president, will be to dismantle the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as the Republicans are so happy to call it…but, since his wife is taking a leave of absence from her job to help him campaign for the presidency, the Cruz family will be without healthcare so…wait for it…Mr. Cruz is going to sign his family up for…the Affordable Care Act!

When asked why he wouldn’t just purchase healthcare for his family on his own and avoid The “Obamacare” exchanges in protest of the healthcare law that he so thoroughly loathes his answer was…(you can’t make this stuff up)…”It’s too expensive that way and using the ACA exchanges is much more affordable for my family”. !!!!!!

So here we go ladies and gentlemen. Start your engines…the only way you’ll ever know if these candidates are lying to you will be if they move their lips. Maybe someone in the media will raise their hand and call them out on it, but the chances of that happening are probably slim and none. It’s going to be a long election cycle but I guess, as we U.S. citizen’s like to say, “one hell of a show!”

J.R.Goldrich

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