CONNECTING ENDS AND MEANS

May 23, 2015

CONNECTING ENDS AND MEANS

 

It is easy to consider where one wants to go.  But getting there is hard to do.  Politicians and voters need to keep that in mind.  But neither politicians nor voters consider the difficulties involved in “getting there” and we wind up being disappointed by many different outcomes caused by governments, local, state or national.

Let’s consider the stated National Objective related to ISIS, one articulated by our President well over a year ago.  Simply stated it was to degrade and eventually destroy ISIS, a virulent form of radical Islam.  How well have we done in achieving such objectives, the demise of ISIS?  Not very well obviously unless you believe the press statements of the administration of late.  But let’s not get into an argument over just how well we are doing with ISIS and look instead at how the President suggested we degrade and ultimately defeat (destroy?) that rogue Islamic group of fanatics.

America will employ air power against ISIS and we will support other nations to send in the ground forces to achieve the ultimate goal.  In Syria we have relied on Kurdish ground forces and in Iraq it has been a combination of Iraqi army and Shite militias working together.  The only foreign elements in ground combat in either Syria or Iraq appear to be Iranian elements or Shite variants of such, along with foreign Sunni personnel (Including Europeans and maybe an American or two) supporting and fighting with ISIS.

Yes American air power has dropped countless bombs on something, but those ISIS ground forces keep taking more territory than they lose it seems.  If Americans need another lesson in military matters, they are getting another one in daily news today.  Air power alone does not win wars where sustainable control of territory is the objective.  It takes boots on the ground, Roman, English, German, Russian or American boots to “take the high ground and hold it” so to speak.

I heard an astounding statistic lately.  The Iraqi Army has some 250,000 men.  ISIS at best consists of some 50,000 or so volunteers.  So why in the hell does ISIS keep winning territory and we see (on TV) fleeing pickup trucks carrying Iraqi troops to safety, leaving behind $ Millions of dollars of equipment provided to the Iraqi Army by you know who.

There seems to be something really simple going on in the Middle East but America has yet to learn to lesson.  America alone with all its military technology can take any and all the ground it wants to take but America will never hold that ground unless the people want to hold it themselves.  We should have learned that very serious lesson in North Korea or at least Vietnam.  But we keep trying to control ground around the world, post communism world if you like, and losing it back to indigenous people over the long haul.  Consider that a lesson in the repeated failure of nation building if you like.

The last time we allowed a nation to recreate itself after being overrun by despicable tyrants was Germany.  We defeated the Nazi horrors, held the communist hordes at bay (the Iron Curtain) and today a free Europe remains the result, so far.  But American power, diplomatic, economic and military has not put a dent in the spread of Islamic radicalism that is just as bad (or worse) than the Nazi horrors of yesteryear.

9/11 was a clear wake-up call to America.  But America has thus far failed to wake up and do something effectively to respond to continued threats from radical Islam around the world.  OK, maybe that is a little too harsh, saying we have done nothing effectively.  We have in fact circled our own wagons to prevent more major terrorist attacks on American soil over the last 14 years or so.  But when one considers just the financial cost (a $ Trillion or so?) the cost/effectiveness comes into question for sure.

One of the oft heard objectives of American foreign policy has been to make the world safe for democracy.  Have we not learned that is an impossible task unless the people in a particular part of the world want democracy themselves?  If they are not willing to fight for a particular set of national objectives for themselves, we will never be able to take THEIR high ground and hold it for THEM.

I would also suggest that America come to grips with how best to deal with Islam as a social force, like communism.  No thinking American would accept Sharia Law for example.  Yet Islam, be it Sunni or Shite wants to impose that law on all citizens in any country subject to Islamic social norms, Islamic society if you like.  My point that Islam itself, the social form of Islam demanded through the “law of the land” in an Islamic country is the fundamental threat to freedom, American style, it seems to me.

But what are we doing today to attempt to deal with ISIS?  We are struggling to pick the correct side in that fight and look who our biggest ally has become, Iran, at least in Iraq and maybe even Syria.  And in fact by using American air power in Syria against ISIS it sure seems like we are becoming the Air Force for President Assad, and thus Iran, in the war in Syria.  Opps!!

Just think about that for a minute.  Since 1979 Shia Iran has been our greatest enemy in the Middle East.  But Al Qaida, a Sunni sect of Islam, attacked America, brutally, on 9/11.  Both Sunnis and Shias paraded joyfully in the streets when that happened.  Then we immediately went to war against Al Qaida (and the Taliban) in Afghanistan and later Iraq.  And now we provide air support against Sunnis (ISIS) that want to overthrow President Assad in Syria.  And those same Sunnis (ISIS) want to overthrow the government in Iraq as well, a government America wants to remain in place!!

Is it fair to ask now “Whose side is America on in the Middle East right now”?  Is it also fair to ask our President that question?  But you see, so far he has only told us who we are against in Iraq and Syria.  Well maybe not.  Perhaps he would say we are for the Syrian and Iraqi “people”!!!!

I suppose America politicians used to say (during the Cold War) that we supported the “Russian people” or the “Chinese people”.  But we sure as hell did not bomb Russia or China during the Cold War to support the “people” in those countries.  So why are we now bombing both Syria and Iraq during the longest running hot war in American history to date?

By the way, who exactly have we been fighting against during the longest hot war in American history?  If you don’t say “Islamists” that are trying to do us great harm while they in turn try to govern as much of the world as they can hold on to; well I suggest you rethink your reply.

DEALING WITH HYPOTHETICAL ISSUES

May 13, 2015

DEALING WITH HYPOTHETICAL ISSUES

 

Any nominee for the Supreme Court knows full well to never respond to questions about hypothetical issues, legal “what ifs”.  But presidential candidates, particularly now Jeb Bush have yet to learn that trick.  So how does Bush III untangle that mess created when he tried to provide a canned answer to a different question than the one asked by Ms. Kelly, the sharp (looking and thinking) lawyer on Fox News.

In hindsight the answer is just so simple.  IF Iraq had nuclear weapons or chemical/biological weapons on hand would there be justification today to invade that country to remove those weapons of mass destruction from any possible use by the Iraqi government?  Put that in context with the immediate post 9/11 time frame and there would be the same 80% approval rating for such a decision as the mistaken decision in 2002.

Of course arguing over that clearly hypothetical situation, a WMD possessing Iraq in 2002 (like Syria in 2013) opens up a long and contentious debate today, arguing not about reality but simply a “what if”.  When such arguments take place I only know that Nancy Pelosi believes that we must “pass the bill” (invade a country) before we know what is in it (see what unfolds after the country has fallen to American military power).  Or we could be like the President, draw a red line, threaten mayhem, but duck when someone crosses that red line and await Russia to bail our asses out of the situation!!  Or we could be John McCain/Graham and just level the countryside with mass bombings and see what happens next as well???

Geopolitics is hard enough to decide what to do in the real world.  Arguing what to do in a hypothetical world is only good in an academic environment to test a student’s knowledge over things that have worked in the past or new ideas with really solid analysis (PhD level analysis) about what will happen, IF…..   Even in the latter case, solid analysis of the truly unique sort, it takes real guts and perseverance to make the results really happen.  Take icons like Lincoln and Churchill, in matters of war and peace.  They got it right but only when the country united behind them and became willing to endure terrible things to gain victory.

Today Americans are no more willing to endure terrible things to gain geopolitical goals than fly to the moon.  The only thing that unites Americans today is getting more and more stuff, each to his own needs and demands, to hell with where the resources come from to provide for his or her demands!!

Would anyone care to argue a “hypothetical” that is a real what if as it has not happened yet.  Try this one for any and all candidates to answer regardless of party affiliation.  What will you do as President after the nuclear arms deal with Iran fails to materialize and conditions between the two countries remain the same as before any agreement was reached to begin such negotiations?

I hope the careful reader recognizes that the last question is very similar to the question before the country in 2002.  Given the possibility of possession of WMD on the part of Iraq (Iran) should we invade Iraq (bomb Iran) to remove those WMD to the extent possible and destroy any manufacturing facilities as well.  Most liberal will scream no way today (in the case of Iran) and most conservatives will startup a bunch of B-2 bombers to launch against known enemy positions to manufacture WMD in Iran.

LYING, CHEATING AND STEALING

May 12, 2015

LYING, CHEATING AND STEALING

 

A casual glance at AOL News on my computer this morning raised the issue of the character defects listed in the title above.  They are also explicit infractions forbidden at most educational institutions and businesses.  If someone lies, cheats or steals discipline may be awarded, sometimes.  Simply stated honorable men and women (how about kids?) should never lie, cheat or steal.  Yet most of us do so, sometime in our life.

Today I see a former CIA employee was sentenced to three and one half years in prison for telling a reporter classified information about a CIA program to thwart Iranian development of nuclear weapons.  The convicted felon denies any wrongdoing.  As well we all know about the recent revelations in “Deflategate” and punishment handed down on Tom Brady and the Patriot’s organization.  Brady’s agent retorted that the punishment was “ridiculous”.  Or was it the investigation that was ridiculous?  Not sure about that but so what.  People getting caught doing something untoward don’t like it, anytime.

My question is why do people knowingly lie, cheat or steal?  Let’s just take the first character defect, lying, intentionally or knowingly.  Most people do so to avoid being caught or punished for violating the other two offenses it seems.  “You stole my money.”   “I did not.”  Assuming of course if you stole the money, you just lied about your actions.  On the other hand if the person whose money was stolen knew you did not steal it, he would have been lying, on purpose.  Or maybe no money was stolen in the first place and someone was lying in order to “frame” another person.  False accusations happen all the time in politics and are just as wrong as other outright lies.

Yet when people lie, cheat or steal they deeply resent being accused of such malfeasance and will then either lie, cheat or steal to cover up the original misdeed(s) or pay others to do so for them.   Brady’s situation is probably such a case.  He liked footballs inflated to pressures below league rules, say 10 psi instead of 12 psi.  He may have expressed such a preference for softer footballs but never told anyone to purposely break the rules.  Well that person he told may have told someone else, who in turn told someone else, etc. until the man putting air in footballs got the word to lower the pressure.

Certainly that whole chain of events is very hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, or even preponderance of evidence (more probable than not).  So the accused, Brady in this case and then only through his agent so far, screams about a “ridiculous” investigation, or penalty for violating a rule, or outright denial of any wrongdoing in the first place and the rants go on and on.

I wonder if that is a good example for our kids, seeing a sports icon all wrapped up in such a mess.  The same can be said about a government employee doing the same thing.  How much better would society become if people just did not lie, cheat or steal in the first place and admitted their failure, dishonesty, when they were caught doing so?

We hear all the time about long and tortuous investigations and sometimes court battles to lay blame for wrongdoing.  Rarely do we hear of someone admitting dishonest actions.  Why?

More important we now see politics based on spin that is extraordinarily destructive for our political system of governing.  Spin is telling only one side of the truth, the side you want people to hear.  Never does a spinning politician try to make the case from the other side, the truth of what might happen if such and so is done by government.

Then of course we see, locally, the politics of personal destruction that has been going on now for at least three years in Joplin.  Citizens are so caught up in laying blame on particular people for bad government that they fail to see or understand the deeper and underlying causes of bad government.

What kind of examples are such words and actions by citizens in a democracy for our kids that see it happening all the time now, in Joplin?  Then is it any wonder that kids react in great anger and denial when they are caught doing something wrong?

No doubt, dishonest people raise dishonest kids.  That is the easy path to take in life, just lie about your actions when they are wrong rather than doing the right things when such is hard to do.  If a home is filled with dishonesty it is extraordinarily difficult to create a sense of honesty in a child by outside organizations.

On the other hand, honest people that are timid (or just lazy) about holding others accountable can be trapped into creating an environment in a home where dishonesty is tolerated simply because it is ignored.  It is far easier to let a “little white lie” go unnoticed and thus uncorrected than it is to tell It like it is and demand better behavior in the future by a child.  Teachers do that, let “little things” happen even though they are wrong things.

Only when honest people hold others accountable for dishonest actions can such a value of honesty begin to prevail in a society.  As well the punishment for dishonesty should be greater than the punishment for wrongdoing in the first place.  As well repeated wrongdoings should receive greater punishment than one time shortcomings as well.  When I espouse such actions by “authorities” I do not mean legal authorizes.  I am talking about how parents hold their kids accountable or teachers hold students accountable.

It all starts with total honesty, doing or saying only that which is right.  Once an individual begins to learn to regulate their own behavior in such a manner, internal honesty if you will, then society becomes far more self-regulating.

The CIA agent failed to do so, Tom Brady and a whole host of New England Patriot employees failed to do so, the news reporter that received the information from the CIA employee knew that providing such information was illegal and maybe that long list of wrongdoings by many people could go further.

When do we see public examples of people standing tall to only do the next right thing and always tell the truth when confronted with their actions?  When such people stand as examples to our kids rather than kids seeing icons that fail the honesty tests time and again, then and only then can kids see a society that stands for what is right, not just what is popular.

We are a long way from setting such examples for our children today in America.  Why?

THE NEXT MEMBER FOR THE BOE

May 11, 2015

THE NEXT MEMBER FOR THE BOE

 

What are the characteristics needed for the next member of the local BOE to fill a vacant seat for only one year?  Six members of the BOE will begin to evaluate applicants for that job and ultimately select one new member.  A total of six people have applied so far and the cutoff date for applications is tomorrow.  At least one more applicant is expected to apply creating a field of seven from which to choose.

The best choice would be someone that understands the long term and systemic shortcomings of public education, in general.  .  Any candidate for that position must be articulate and demonstrate a deep understanding of problems in public education.  Just being able to enunciate sound bite solutions to systemic problems will not be a benefit.  Too much of that has been taking place for too long now, locally and nationally.

All candidates should do their homework before the interview.  As such they should reflect a deep understanding of current problems and public issues related to Joplin public education.  What exactly is wrong with Joplin public education must be understood by all candidates?  As well each candidate should be able to state solutions to those problems, solutions that are sustainable and really address the root causes of the various problems.  What is not needed is candidates that only parrot the solutions espoused by others.  Candidates must show original thinking and understanding of such education issues and their own creativity to improve that system.

Each candidate must reflect a sense of prioritization to address and correct a multitude of public education problems.  Some are more important than others.  As well some are very important but will never be corrected over a short term.  It will take steady effort, steady application of financial resources for example, to correct systemic issues.  Good members of any BOE must have the ability to visualize and articulate such a long term and steady application of corrective actions to remedy decades long failures in public education.

Finally any member of any BOE must be able to critically evaluate both systems and the people operating such systems, ways of doing business.  Is a teacher a good or bad teacher, a principal a good or bad principal, or a student a good or bad student are evaluations that must be made by members of any BOE, at both the individual or group level.  The accuracy of such evaluations, not the popularity of them, is what is vitally important for schools.  If individual BOE members cannot (or will not) conduct such evaluations and be extremely articulate and persuasive when they announce the results of such evaluations then schools suffer.

For the current elected members of the BOE your job is not to find someone that already agrees with your own views of what is needed to improve Joplin public education.  Instead your job should be to find the best thinker, the best analyst, the best read individual on matters related to public education, the individual that has a demonstrated professional record of conducting detailed evaluations of people, places and things as they relate to performance in any professional endeavor.

The new BOE needs to regain the trust of the citizens in Joplin such that the majority of those citizens will be confident that improving public education is the only agenda.  A diversity of initial opinions on how to best identify and then correct problems is needed, not a preconceived notion of which people need to be fired or disciplined.

Make no mistake; one political side in the current divisiveness over public education has made its decision.  That side wants Jim Kimbrough to be appointed to the vacant seat and solidify a 4-3 bloc for BOE voting in the next year.  Such a decision would be a disaster for public education.  Jim is a good man in my view.  But he has been in the trenches too long in the local public education battles and has taken a decided side against efforts on the part of the current R-8 administration to improve public education.

I also know of one other candidate for the BOE that has stated, unequivocally, that Dr. Huff can no longer conduct business as the Superintendent of R-8 schools.  The reasons for that view are complex and too long to articulate herein.  But the final conclusion reached by that candidate is premature in my view and thus I would not recommend such a selection.  I leave it to the current members of the BOE to determine who that second candidate might be, one with a preconceived notion of who to fire first, if you will.

That leaves 4 or 5 unknowns, to me at least.  I hope the current members surprise me with their choice for a newest member to bring fresh ideas to the BOE and not the anger and division seen of late.

DRIVING AWAY PINK ELEPHANTS

May 1, 2015

DRIVING AWAY PINK ELEPHANTS

 

I once heard of a man walking down the street waving his arms frantically in the air.  Someone stopped and asked him why he did so.  He replied that it was to keep the pink elephants away.  The questioner stated “I don’t see any pink elephants”.  That man replied “See, it works”.

This is a blog to continue to attempt to keep Turner on track, like trying to keep pink elephants away.  I also am fully aware that while Turner will never comment herein, nor I will do so now on his blog, I can’t keep a stupid elephant away, right Ben!!

Once again I got my whole blog, sort of on today’s Turner Report.  In this one I have been accused of using information fed to me about a year ago concerning Debbie Fort’s performance as a principal in R-8 before she left the teaching profession after 34 years.  According to Turner I was once again a mouthpiece for Dr. Huff.  Wrong again Turner and others, dead wrong.

I have said it before and do so again.  I carry only my own water, no one else’s.  What I say or write may displease some and please others but I could give a fat damn either way.  I write only to get my views, analysis, opinions into the public arena in an attempt to make a contribution to change things for the better.

OK, there is a second reason that I write as well.  It helps keep my mind active, helps me continue to think about complex and important issues and make recommendations to resolve such issues.  Contrary to the most recent accusation against me by Fields, I do not suffer from dementia of any sort, still read and think with clarity, use the same types of analysis and problem solving that I used professionally with some degree of success, all of those capabilities remain sound for now at least.  Am I still able to run a 7000 employee company handling 57 tons of the most dangerous material known to humans now?  Probably not, today.  I could not exert the physical effort and stamina needed then and now to do so.

But I remember still quite well the issues I faced then and both the successes and failures that happened as I faced them all the time as well.  2000 very angry union members without a negotiated contract comes to mind as a “problem”, one that we all worked through, got a contract and some union leaders  actually thanked me for my “service”.

Again, I carry no man’s water, Rohr, Huff, any politician anywhere.  I speak my own mind once I think through an issue and reach a conclusion, even maybe a tentative one.  Then I post it under the above 7 or so year title, unchanged, to this public blog, “I’m Not Sure, Are You”.

Let me make this even clearer.  I do not have a single person in the system of public education in Joplin (I do have a step daughter who has taught for 30 years in Georgia) that I consider a friend or an enemy as well.  I don’t know anyone in public education that well to put them into such categories.  But you can bet your bippy I consider some to be good professionals and others, well not so good, professionally only, not in terms of personal characteristics (OK, Ben is different now.  I really don’t like Ben or Turner now on any level).

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of my “investigative reporting” (Ha!!) on Debbie Fort, a little over a year ago when she was running to be on the BOE.  As with any new face on the public scene I wanted to know, professionally, who Debbie Fort was or had been, professionally.  Unless she was a convicted felon I could have cared less who or what she was or had been personally.  Have you stopped beating your husband, Debbie, was not what I was looking for and had someone told me no she has not I would have ignored them.

So once the race, the campaign was on, I tried to find out all the available information on Debbie but only all the professionally related information as well.  Guess where I went first to find out about Debbie.  Yep, the Turner Report who treated her like a saint.  And of course that caught my eye and got my attention for sure.  If you run for office and get Turner’s support and that of his crazy supporters, you can bet that such will peak my interests.

So, once I found out that “Saint Debbie” was running, a woman I knew nothing about whatsoever, I started asking around in LOTS of places.  I have no idea who Turner’s sources (and don’t care) might be and he has no idea who’s mine are as well, though he did take a shot at guessing in a recent blog about me.  Wrong, Turner, again.

So “Who is Debbie Fort?  What can you tell me about her?” was a topic I bounced around with lots of people I know that are interested in public education in Joplin.  I also got some answers or actually opinions from a variety of people as well.  Not a single one, other than the Turner Report told me she was St. Debbie.  But no one told me she was a ……. In any way as well.  Several people, not just one person, however suggested I look into problems available in the public record about the 10 year performance record of that school while Debbie was the principal.  And yep I did just that.

Turner has now resurrected that over a year old blog of mine showing the results of my own research about the performance of Irving Elementary during Debbie’s last three years as a principal therein.  As far as I know what I wrote then remains factually true today.  The academic record at Irving and based mostly on MAPS test results was very low in comparison to other Joplin elementary schools for a long period of time.

Turner does not try to dispute that record it seems.  He just says that I only wrote it to support Huff, for crying out loud.  He also gleefully notes that my blog made no difference in election results which it did not.  But the matter was at least there in the public record to consider before the election but mobs never do that, think about or read opposing views.

But let me ask any readers, other than the stupid one, would the factual professional performance of a 34 year veteran public educator be important to you if that former educator was up for an influential position related to public education?  Note I do not attack her check book, recreational activities, sexual interests (Turner probably loves that one so he can write better books), etc.  Was she a good principal and really resolved some fundamental problems in public education seems pertinent for political discussion it seems to me?

As well, what Turner does not report and never will is my efforts to speak with people during BOE election campaigns.  I spent about two hours with Debbie during her run for office and we had an open and frank discussion, a good and open and frank discussion I would say.  I have not hidden anything I know about Debbie, from Debbie.   My guess is when I challenge her views in a blog, which I rarely do now, she already knows it is coming, or should know at least because she received a “why did you do or say THAT”, kind of email from me beforehand.

Do some people in public education tell me stuff to achieve some of their own agendas?  Of course they do so, many of them.  No they are not friends or enemies either.  They are just people in public education with their particular pet peeves or agendas and some of them talk to me about them.  Rarely do I use such information in my public writing efforts however.  You see I am NOT an investigative reporter, not at all.

I consider important (to me) public matters, read about them, think about them, talk to people about them and sometimes then write about them, the issues, not the people, most of the time at least.

So once again I write for myself and readers.   I am not the mouthpiece for Dr. Huff and I do not like or dislike him, love him or hate him or have any personal relationship with him in any way, period.  But I have talked with him a lot over about now 6 years about important (to me and Dr. Huff) issues related to generic public education, not Joplin specific public education.

Having held such conversations on an issue about which I care a lot, I have found that he knows how to do many things to improve public education, MANY things if you will.  In fact Dr. C J Huff knows more about the fundamental and underlying problems in our system of public education than anyone I have ever met, period.  EXCEPT, I would add Admiral Hyman Rickover to that list even though he has been dead for about 30 years now!!!  Truth never fades with age.

None of the mob and probably Turner as well have any idea the Rickover ideas about education.  You would have to go back and read volumes of Congressional testimony from 50 years ago to get an inkling of Rickover’s approach to education.  If Turner wants to accuse me of being a mouthpiece for someone he should attack me for supporting Admiral Rickover’s views, not the views of Dr. Huff.   Hell’s bells Dr. Huff hardly knew Rickover from Adam until I hit him between the eyes with some famous but old views from Rickover.

Do Dr. Huff and I focus on Turner, or Fort or any individuals in particular when we talk together?  Nope we do not.  Instead we have long discussed dysfunctions in the system of public education, honestly and with real openness and candor.    In my view Dr. Huff knows about what he so speaks, a lot about it and he has given me ideas to consider as well, lots of ideas.

So, if Dr. Huff knows so much about dysfunctions in public education, why does he not show all of us his brilliance and fix them???  Are you kidding me?  I know a bunch of dysfunctions in our justice system but fix them all, are you kidding me!!!  As I wrote in the last blog, all have to “go fix the mobs” before real changes can happen in complex matters today!!

As Dr. Huff and I began, 6 years ago to “talk, of course discussed, right out of the gate so to speak,  were my experiences and observations as a substitute teacher for 10 years.  No we did not go into great detail about why I stopped substitute teaching.  He already knew about it and it was water long over the dam for me, not worth discussing in any way.  But once that minor issue was cleared, we began to address my observations as a substitute teacher.  Those were vicious and powerful negative observations of two school systems and he knew it.

But he sat right there and took them, each and every time I raised an observation like “why would any teacher (I NEVER named any names), ever do this or that”.  Why do students do ……., all the time” were other observations, anecdotes.  Again he sat there and LISTENED to me tell him some really bad news about HIS school system.  And he did NOT in any way get defensive or try to discount my observations as one time mistakes that rarely happen.

It did not take very long for me to realize that here was a leader of a big organization ready, really ready, to engage in substantive, private discussion about both real problems and possible solutions.  He placed no restrictions whatsoever on what we discussed as well.  He allowed me to rack his system over the coals so to speak and he LISTENED.

THEN we began and continue our discussions about real and fundamental solutions.  I have no idea how many times I have offered a “Rickover solution” or a “Navy way of doing business” and he did not just rejected them out of hand.  Instead he has said things like “how would anyone be able to sell that solution to …..”.  And he was invariably correct in trying to face such difficulties, the “politics” of how to get students to behave or teachers to teach, better.  Many, many time as well I would agree that I could have done something on a nuclear submarine but could never do so in a public school.

So once again I refute the crazy and vindictive Randy Turner.  I do so only to not allow him to continue to grind Dr. Huff into the mud of public disdain using my name.  I speak only for myself and my own views and opinions and never do I attempt to praise where I do not consider praise deserved based on professional performance, which I have observed closely all my adult life.  As for my associations with Dr. Huff well all of such associations since 2008 have been simply open and honest exchanges of ideas about how to improve public education, almost all of the time.

Have I ever suggested to him how to deal with “that ….. Randy Turner”.  Yes I have but not often.  And as you can guess my advice falls into the category of politically incorrect (but not illegal either) as well.

There are other good men and women in our local system of public education as well.  I have spoken with some from time to time and have great respect for them, professionally again.  And I see their names cast in despicable disdain by Turner and his crazy followers.  That makes me sick, and yes angry as well.

I am however currently patting myself on my own back.  I have yet to rip down all the BS posted herein by Fields and just censor his ass from this blog.  I refuse to do because I saw Duane do it a few years ago and screamed about such censorship at that time.  I refuse to go back on those comments and am confident that Fields will just get tired of vomiting where the output is ignored.  He too will go away just like the white supremacist that I refused to censor a few years ago as well.

Whale shit may float for a while and be smelly.  But it always sinks to the bottom of the sea later on and just dissolves in the universal solvent of seawater.

AGREEING FIRST ON THE PROBLEM

May 1, 2015

AGREEING FIRST ON THE PROBLEM

 

I know that Geoff Caldwell is too far to the right for some and thus they generally don’t like his columns in the Globe.  I on the other hand read each and every one of them as he does good research and careful analysis almost always.  No, I do not always agree with his conclusions, but so what.  He does not agree with all of mine as well.  But we respect each other and learn from each other.

Today’s column in the Globe by Geoff was exactly along the lines of what I have been thinking about related to BOTH the situation in now Baltimore (after Florida, Ferguson, NYC, etc., etc.) and the disputes locally over public education in Joplin.  Obviously one, the Baltimore situation, is far graver than our local arguments, but to me the underlying causes of the problems, the disagreements, are quite similar, if not the same.

Having said that, I disagree, respectfully, with Geoff’s conclusion wherein he said the breakdown of the American family was the underlying cause of the situation in Baltimore, and by implication other areas of deep civil unrest around the country in the last year over lack of justice concerns.  I fully understand the anger, the frustration, the violence of the people shown on TV in response to perceptions of unequal justice.  But what I NEVER see or hear from ANYONE, on TV or elsewhere, is how to best resolve the issue(s) that cause people to riot, burn, etc., etc.  Even the “peaceful” protests lack any sense of what to do next.

Just fixing families won’t fix that kind of problem.  We must fix how people think and act instead.

We are faced with “mob violence” right now in Joplin but in a decidedly different form from Baltimore.  It is all verbal and written “violence”, to stretch the definition of that word.  Violence destroys things.  It does not take just physical violence to do great harm.  The kind of violence surrounding our public education system is not mobs destroying property for sure.  But the failure of those mobs seen on social media and now starting to appear before or on the BOE to solve perceived problems is as wrong as the same mobs on the streets in Baltimore being unable to provide a path forward that makes sense to anyone.

The people that follow and support Turner seem to be very much of a mob mentality.  And some BOE members now pay a lot of attention to that mob, even getting guidance from the “mob” via text messages, maybe, during meetings.   Just read the scurrilous comments on any blog of Turner’s that is another attack on someone, personal attacks.  You need not look very hard as almost every day Turner continues to try to demean anyone that fails to follow his lead on matters related to public education.  But you see that blog is just like the Baltimore mobs.  The mobs in both places scream their heads off and call for personal destruction of people.  But no mob is capable of rational analysis and constructive solutions that are very hard to implement, anywhere.

As well in just this blog that some follow, a few, but few rarely comment upon, I get attacked every time I post something by a self-appointed one man mob, the Fields guy.  I don’t know if he feels he must be a self-appointed sheriff for the Turner crowd or any other crowd that wants to just fire Dr. Huff and clean house on the BOE or if he feels I am so important in the school debate upon us that he has to rip me apart, metaphorically, like any mob tries to do to people, places or things a mob does not like.

Wake up Ben.  My views are not all that important and I have little influence in Joplin.  All I am doing right now is my best effort to inject some sense into the mob action I see around us all.  It is typical mob action to tear down, not build up anything.  And most important the people associated with the mob have no idea how to actually build up our local system of public education

There are plenty of things in America that need attention, need some form of “fixing” if you will.  But screaming about them on the streets does nothing to fix anything, constructively.  All protests do, peaceful or violent, is bring attention to issues.  But mobs fix NOTHING, ever.  All mobs are MINDLESS.  There is no way anyone can get 100 people or 10,000 people, or a million people in a mob to think clearly and all alike, all proposing the same and doable things to really fix anything, big or small.

What generates any protest or mob?  Anger, frustration, fear, hatred, is all a part of the mob mentality and other destructive human emotions can be added to that list.  But I challenge anyone to add constructive human emotions to a list that motivates mobs or protests.  Read the signs, talk to individuals in any mob or protest group and see if you read anything or hear words that are constructive as opposed to destructive (against something).

There is something common between the mobs in Baltimore and the disagreements in Joplin right now.  Both disagreements, one over justice (or is it racism, or civil rights, or equality, or black lives matter, or…….) and the other is over a dysfunctional public education system?  We see mobs trying to scream their way to solutions and their way is destructive to the two systems they are screaming about fixing, justice and education systems.

Remember the mobs in Ferguson screaming to clean out the whole city government and police force, all white (or black) fat cats, racists, etc., etc.  And for sure let’s throw that white cop in prison, even hang his white ass and when that did not happen fast enough the mob was encouraged to and tried hard to “burn this bitch down”.

That is exactly the kind of mob mentality found on the Turner Report each day, directed at hard working men and women trying hard to fix dysfunctional schools.  Let’s just fire all their incompetent asses and replace them with other incompetent asses that think and act like we do!!!  Man that is real progress, right????

So readers, and Geoff, I do not agree that the root cause of what we see all over America today is primarily the breakdown of the American family.  Sure it is a big contributor to the problems seen, but not the fundamental one, at least in my view.

Fixing our system of public education so that all citizens receive a good K12 education, all citizens can read, write and do math proficiently, effectively to live, work and play (in that order of priority as well) in a modern society is the key to just begin to resolve some really deep seated issues in America.

Note:  Did you catch that last point?  (Ben won’t but some will, I hope).  If just students could learn that going to school meant WORK comes before play and then followed that creed each day, our system of public education would take a huge leap forward!!

However there is almost insurmountable difficulty is fixing public education or the justice system as well.  People in the public education system and the justice system must themselves be model citizens, professional model citizens, to begin with.  Students must first and foremost learn to be good students.  Students are in fact “people in public education” the last time I checked.  Well want does it take to be a good student?

If you cannot answer that question, Ben, you need to once again go have you head examined, again!!  What does it take to be a good teacher?  Are we going to argue over that as well??

What does it take to be a good cop, a good prosecutor, a good DA, a good judge?  Do you believe a mob can answer those questions?  Can the right Reverend racists do so as well?????

For the mobs in Baltimore any of those leaders within the justice system need to start by being black I suppose.  But even in that minority/majority (God almighty where did the media come up with that one I wonder) community of Baltimore with black all over city hall (in mourning right now I suppose) that is not enough.  They have to be “mob compliant black” as well.

I just hope Baltimore has paid attention to Detroit of late, the in the ditch of real bankruptcy Detroit, and see just how that city reached that state of affairs over the last 50 years.  How far behind Detroit might Baltimore be today would be a good but politically incorrect debate for CNN I suppose!!

I also wonder how far behind some inner city ghetto school system Joplin might be today.  Pretty far behind as long as we keep good and hard-working leaders in R-8.  But why not just let Randy Turner take over R-8 and run it as he sees fit, letting all teachers teach as they so choose.  Hell let’s make Fields the Principal of JHS and Dr. Fort go back to Irving to see if she can improve things there this time around.

And for sure we need to put new yes men and women on the BOE so the Turner crowd has no mobs in their face to change things, again!!  At least for a couple of years at least with no mobs, until the current mob finds our new schools burned to the ground or all the kids just watching porn on their Iphones all the time.  Let’s see, what is a sexual act that is like eating a Popsicle?  The “new superintendent” sure knows.  Hell he wrote about it in a book.

EXAMINATION OF HEADS

April 30, 2015

EXAMINATIONS OF HEADS

 

Well I am almost as famous as Dr. Huff for the moment.  I got my own blog on the Turner Report.  Actually it was not my blog, but a full blog all about me.  Sorry for all the commenters thereto as I did not read any of your comments.  I consider them blather just as posted herein by some guy (I assume) calling himself Ben Fields, whoever that may be.

But be assured I did read the blog written by Randy Turner.  I read his “report” on a daily basis just to continue to understand my political enemies in Joplin.  I don’t like Randy Turner at all and he feels the same way about me.  But we do agree on ONE THING, and only one thing.  Public Schools in Joplin are in terrible shape and need drastic improvement.  Randy you can post that quote in headlines wherever you like and I will stand behind it.  But any comments that follow that I am sure we will strongly disagree and call for some heads to be examined if someone agrees with either of us in terms of HOW we improve public education in Joplin.

I reached that conclusion about the condition of public education in Joplin (and Henry County, Missouri as well) in about 2003, maybe 2004 while substituting in both school systems.  Never in my life had I observed dysfunction as systemic as seen in those years trying to teach something in public school classrooms.  I kept on trying however, for a while and even considered returning to school to get a teaching certificate, which was laughable in terms of “requirements”.  But that is a different blog of criticism so don’t try to challenge that view, how we try to educate teachers, herein.  “Laughable” is a good sound bite however so go for it Ben as you can only go deep enough to understand sound bites.

OK, so sometime in the early part of this century Randy and I (we certainly did not know each other then) reached the same conclusion that public education was terrible and getting worse.  NCLB seemed to have triggered Randy.  I have not made the effort to research his old blogs or books for that matter to understand why he felt that way but I think I understand that he certainly did not blame either teachers or students for the failure.  He instead hated No Child Left Behind and anyone in education that liked that effort, a first of a kind effort to begin to improve the “standards” or goals to be achieved.  As a teacher Randy did not want anyone, anywhere, telling him how or what to teach in HIS classroom.  I can understand that sense of ownership for doing your job by the way, as long as the job is done well.

It was only when Turner became a public “case” when the R-8 began its efforts to dismiss him as a tenured teacher that I began to pay attention to Randy Turner in any meaningful way.  I had been blogging since 2008 or so that bad teachers were part of the problem in public education, but I had not named any names, etc. in doing so.  It was simply a generic approach, a call to “fix bad teachers” if you will and one that certainly any teacher might well find objectionable for sure.  But I felt that as long as I did not get personal saying fix that “bad teacher” it might make some sense.  I still feel that way and Turner objects for sure.  “Let teachers teach” is his call, which I believe is stupid to say the least.  Let good teachers teach is fine with me but………..   If you can’t fill in those dots (Ben) then go have your head examined again is my advice.

Ultimately I considered the action taken by R-8 and the BOE to dismiss Randy Turner from Joplin schools was appropriate and I blogged and “columned” in the Globe to that effect.  Of course I immediately was placed on Turner’s shit list and have remained there now for a long time.  Little did I know how virulent he could become when opposed but we all now know that point.  Fine if that is his style and I can both take the incoming from him and others and return fire as well until it just gets stupid to comment further, Ben.  Add that to the list of things to check, stupidity, for your doctor if you take my advice.

OK, that is enough personal disparagement, from me at least.  Let’s get to something more concrete, perhaps more meaningful to someone that really wants to understand why Randy and I tangle all the time now.  It is beyond personalities and goes to matters of substance related to just public education and nothing else.

Randy wants to replace people he does not like.  I instead want to understand the basic and systemic errors in the system of public education and fix those flaws, not necessarily any people (unless Ben worked for me for about a minute!!).  Ops, sorry.

Huff is NOT the problem in R-8.  Even the poor little old BOE is not the problem, a bunch of citizens that want to help but have not much of a clue how, specifically to help.  No Superintendent of any School is going to really fix any school in America.  We have to fix some deep and systemic issues first and doing that is HARD, seemingly impossible, to do, anywhere.

Does the reader really UNDERSTAND what I just wrote??  We have deep and systemic issues in America that prevent resolution of many problems and public education is in that same category of being intractable, unfixable if you like.  Right now America can no more “fix” criminal justice grievances than it can “fix” public education concerns, yet.

Half or more of our students are not proficient.  THAT is the big problem.  How to fix that problem is the point.  Turner says fire Huff and don’t let anyone tell any teacher what or how to teach or even think about giving outside tests to measure student achievement and all that will fix the problem.  Hell, I suspect Turner disagrees that half or more of students in R-8 lack proficiency, specifically the ability to read, write and do math at one grade level before moving on to a higher grade level.

If you read Turner carefully he seems to suggest that if all this outside testing is stopped then we won’t have a problem with over half our students being less than proficient.  Now does that make any sense to anyone that has actually sat down with a student of late that is behind and said “read this to me” or “work this math problem for me”?  Do that, just that and you will be astounded at the lack of academic ability demonstrated by student after student after student, all the time, in Joplin High School at least.  Again such dysfunctions, repeatedly shown are just astounding and Turner thinks that cleaning house on the BOE and firing Huff will fix that problem.  Not a chance, Randy and if you think about it you know that.

Well he is correct in that if you don’t test students the problem goes away!!!!!  But if anyone with any sense tests students in our public schools, just common sense, “read this to me and tell me what it means” tests, they will find exactly what I found for 10 years substituting in public schools.  As I have written time and again, you don’t get what you expect (hope for).  You only get what you inspect.  Any “good nuke” will tell you that and I submit any good teacher should say the same thing.  Many good teachers always tested the living hell out of me, under stress all the time as well!!!  On the other hand the bad teachers let me get away with many bad things and I failed to learn as much as I should have learned.

Turner NEVER suggests systemic problems that need correction at least that I have found.  OK, he does challenge federal solutions like NCLB or other broad approaches like Common Core Standards.  But in challenging something that sets and measures standards he never says what should replace them, standards and measurement systems imposed on a school.  His solution is let the schools decide, I guess which is crazy to me.  Go read the Bell Curve, a book that set the stage in part for my concerns about public education.  Turner I am sure does not like that book but I have never read a reasonable critique why he might feel that way.  Poor Ben doesn’t either but I doubt he could even read that book much less understand it!!  Opps sorry again!!

If Turner really wants to improve public education I suggest he spend more time NOT reading law suits to find as much dirt on people as he can find.  Turner loves personal destruction and attacks people all the time.  Earn his disdain and he will write all the dirt he can find about you.  For Huff he even makes it up as he goes along and calls it good investigative reporting.

Anyone that knows investigative reporting knows that you start in a neutral position to find out what is going on from both sides, both sides in a disagreement.  Then you develop an understanding of why the side disagrees on a professional level, not a personal one.  Then and only then do you write about your opinions of professional disagreement and not some inane personal critique of a person.  Turner NEVER does that, calls himself a good investigator and many anonymous people agree with him, people needing their heads examined in my view!!!

What Turner will do however, and the mob loves it, is tell you such and such is wrong simply because the man proposing it is a scumbag.  He then shows why the man is a scumbag because his ex-wife called him such in a law suit a few years ago!!!  My, my, what wonderful analysis!!!

Here is one for Turner, Fields or any Turner supporter to chew on, a specific solution that I have offered publicly.  If teachers actually grade all students accurately, consistently and fairly there would be no disagreement on the problem we have in terms of academic excellence, something even Koch and Fort agree is the number one problem in public schools in Joplin.  If or when students are graded in terms of grade level performance, honestly, then we will know the problem – the number of students that cannot perform at grade level (which I interpret as “less than proficient”).

My position on that point is that far MORE than half of high school students in Joplin fall well below that metric of proficient grade level performance.  I base that on observations in classrooms as well, not just some outside test.  But outside tests are useful to confirm my real world observations as well.

So tell me, Randy Turner, just how many of your 11, 12 and 13 year old students in Joplin could read and write at grade level, when they entered your class to start, and after you passed all of them to the next grade.  If 50% were below grade level when you got them and 100% were at or above grade level when you passed them on I will want to interview a portion of those you passed before I agree.  But if you actually got 100% to be at or above grade level before you passed them (a grade of C or higher) then I will salute you as an excellent teacher in your own classes.

For Ben, please note, I did not ask Randy how many grades of C or above he assigned all students.  I asked how many were proficient when he passed them to higher grade levels.

But to return to personal things to close, I still believe you (Randy Turner) showed terrible judgment to write “the book” and publish it in the first place as a professional teacher.  You should at least have used a pen name.  That is your right to do so for sure but I get the right, along with Huff and the BOE at the time to judge your judgment in doing so.  Good teacher or not, I have no idea.  But I remain convinced the “BOE got it right” a few years ago in your specific case to be decided in a formal hearing.   Your disdain for NCLB and the people supporting it became so virulent you wrote a book, calling it satire, which got you in real professional trouble.    And now that I have repeatedly said such things about you in my blog I wonder if you have been in contact with my ex-wife who could give you a whole ton of new things to write about me.  Hell don’t go to all that trouble.  Talk to my current wife as well!!!

I gained your animus because I agreed with the judgment of the BOE, not your judgment or the defense of your judgment mounted by a competent lawyer.   As well I cannot now more strongly disagree with your professional judgment, again.  Your disgusting and personal attacks on men and women trying hard to do difficult jobs is misguided and in some cases pure fabrication to gain personal revenge against them.

But most important, Randy Turner and his supporters, stop just calling for cleaning house and firing people.  Tell us all what, specifically should be done when replacements are put in place.  I have yet to hear a single concrete and substantive action that should be taken to improve anything coming from Turner or people he supports on the BOE, other than to improve “something”.

Hell’s bells, the whole system of public education needs fixing, big time.  But HOW to fix it, well I am listening.

OK, closing on a positive note with Randy Turner.  Yes, I liked the debate in the Tuesday evening BOE meeting and the 6-0 vote on all issues of substance after the debate.  You are correct, Randy, that I have been calling for just that kind of debate for a long time now.  Debate can and should resolve issues in a democracy.  That is far different from just letting the loudest side win however, hint, hint.

As well the approval of the new assessment computer program concerned me but I am ready to support it for a while.  My concern has nothing to do with the $100K expense either.  I am just concerned about, surprise, why our teachers cannot properly evaluate student progress without some computer program.  Any teacher that cannot (or will not) thoroughly evaluate the performance of a student and be able to justify that evaluation before anyone, angry parents, the kids, an administrator, etc. is lacking a critical skill to be a good teacher.

THE PATH FORWARD FOR THE BOE

April 29, 2015

THE PATH FORWARD FOR THE BOE

 

I attended the first part of the BOE meeting last night and saw the inevitable 3-3 split for election of the president.  I left for family reasons soon thereafter but watched the remainder of the meeting on TV.  Not a bad final outcome in my view but there remains oh so much to do over the next few months to even begin to move forward to improve public education in Joplin.  Simply stated the BOE still must get its act together to gain public trust but last night was a small step forward, mostly.

But then I turned to this morning’s Turner Report to find a scathing article accusing Dr. Huff of abusing women and numerous anonymous supporters agreeing with him.  Sickening to say the least and if any member of the BOE believes Turner and his gang have any real contributions to make to our public schools then you are as nuts as this jerk Ben Fields that continues to hang around this blog.

As far as I am concerned, any Turner supporter, be they teachers, students, BOE members or people in the administration simply need to have their heads examined and if his voice is used to promote change in our public schools then I will resist such changes as best I can, all the time.

So the BOE in its entirety, to move forward you must earn my trust at least that you have no relationship with Randy Turner or his anonymous supporters be you teacher, student, parent, administrator or for sure a member of the BOE or a wanna-be member as well, Jim Kimbrough.  Turner has accused Dr. Huff of cheating on his taxes, now being an abuser of women, a liar, a cheat of all sorts, and the list goes on.  If people that support such positions have any significant voice in how our BOE conducts business then this BOE will NEVER unite this community, period.

The BOE, because of all of the political acrimony over the last two years, to actually unite itself or the community, it must move forward to improve public education in the details, not the political sound bites used so frequently.  I was encouraged last night to see a politically divided BOE vote 6-0 on every issue of substance brought to the BOE for a vote by the administration.  One of those, the assessment issue was particularly important and I thought it might well have been voted down by the AHA crowd.

NOTE:  As written earlier AHA stands for anti-huff administration and SR8 stands for support R-8 crowds, Fort, Koch and Martucci are in the first group and Steele, Landis and Banwart in the second one.  That is only a general categorization as well.  I am sure that the SR8 group would be utterly disgusted with Turner’s most recent attack on Dr. Huff.  But Fort and Martucci might well snicker in private.  Koch I don’t know about yet.  He says the right things most of the time, but what he really thinks, I have no idea yet on matters of substance, not sound bit bullshit.

 

Look if you will at that assessment issue.  What was the real substance found in that good and lengthy discussion over whether or not to approve that new assessment program?  To me it affirmed what I have been saying for years now.  People in our school system have no idea how to assess students, accurately and effectively and they need more help to do so.  If you think about that failure to be able to assess other people, particularly students, fairly but accurately, “tell it like it really is” so to speak as a systemic issue in our local schools and nationally as well, you get a view of a real hard problem to solve.

While one new assessment program may help for a while, look deeper if you can.  (I exclude the ever present Fields in that request as he can’t see farther than Turner!!).  Teachers say they need help to assess where students struggle.  Is that not an astounding statement for teachers to make as a group?  They admit in other words that they need help to assign grades to students, the ability to see the weaknesses and difficulties in the performance of their students.  They cannot do so themselves and need some anonymous computer programs to do the assessments on their behalf.  Astounding, simply astounding, but honest for sure and I respect that honesty.  Admitting a problem is the first step in correcting a problem and teachers and R-8 officials now admit they need help to assess student performance.

WHY then becomes the deeper problem.  Why cannot trained and supposedly professional teachers assess student performance accurately and then write down on paper such evaluations?  Is that the problem, inability to properly assess performance?  OR is the problem deeper than that, the unwillingness to document mistakes made by students and write it down as a matter of record to BEGIN the process of improving student performance?  If you don’t know what is wrong (in a nuclear plant or a school) you will never be able to fix wrong things.  Is that a surprise to anyone!!!

I believe it is the fear of accurately assessing students, not the inability to do so by most teachers.  Sure there are some young ones that have little experience assessing others accurately and I doubt much emphasis is placed on that in colleges teaching teachers how to teach.  As well, a whole host of teachers are always told that only positive reinforcement will work which is a bunch of BS in the real world.  If you only tell someone the correct things they are doing, those young people will gladly believe you and never learn they are doing some things wrong.  If they have no idea they are doing things incorrectly, they will never learn to fix such shortcomings.  Welcome to public education today, all over the damn country and right here in Joplin.

Want more?  At least 50% of our kids lack proficiency in high schools, at least 50%.  But each kid lacking such a degree of education and the parents of that kid may very well not know that is where they stand.  OMG!!  On the other hand if both the kid and his parent(s) know that information but do nothing to fix that failure on their part, or make lame excuses for that failure to blame others, well again, welcome to public education in Joplin and around the country today.

It is like I said in my recent LTTE.  If we don’t’ grade each and every kid honestly, fairly and accurat3ely in terms of their performance each and every day in school we will never know the extent of the problems much less how to fix them.  The BOE correctly agreed to delete some extraneous assessment programs and put in place a new one for about $100K a year.  OK, I agree with that vote for a while.

But I want to BOE to tell me why teachers cannot do their own assessments of students accurately enough to know at least whether the student is proficient at grade level for a particular class and have the courage and willingness to grade each student accordingly on each and every report card.

And if an administrator feels compelled to change any such grade assigned by a teacher there damn well should be a full investigation to term who was correct, the teacher or the administrator.  Every change in teacher assigned grades should reflect who did changing, why, why the teacher was incorrect and a written agreement by the teacher that he or she was wrong.  Otherwise do a third party investigation to sort out the issue, period.  And the BOE should know about each and every case where grades are changed by administrators.

I know if I was a teacher and called student performance for what it was in assigned grades I would be more than happy to defend such grades to any and all that that wanted to raise hell.  If any administrator overrode my own judgment as a teacher you can also bet that he and I would be having a very long and private talk to begin with.  If I was wrong I would admit it and move on.  But if I felt the administrator was wrong my next step would be to the superintendent, formally and officially and then the BOE if needed as well.

Until the people within the bureaucracy can learn to assess the performance of others accurately then that bureaucracy will fail to perform as demanded by taxpayers

I submit that voting to obtain another computer program to assist teachers in doing assessments of student performance fails to ask how to fix the real issue, teachers being unable or unwilling to properly assess students themselves.  Again, I am willing to agree in the short term for another computer program, but I remain demanding that all teachers, not computers, teach and assess students on their own all the time as well.

One other point.  The BOE should NOT have to endure another 3-3 spilt to fill the vacant seat.  That is the first challenge for the team of Koch and Banwart, two people i really want to learn to trust, to make sure that does nt happen.  Jim Kimbrough is very much an AHA and he garners support from the Turner gang as well.  Add him to thje BOE and you will have a 4-3 split and all manner of harm may well come the way of public educatgion in Joplin if eaither an AHA or a SR8 majority is set in place.  We need another Banwart as the 7th member of our BOE but I don’t know anyone able right now to fill that role.

TELLING IT LIKE IT SEEMS TO BE

April 25, 2015

TELLING IT LIKE IT SEEMS TO BE

 

Having followed local public education issues for at least 10 years, I am disappointed in the current lack of both good news coverage by the Globe and considered public debate over such issues.  This blog or essay tells the story at least as I see how we got to this divide in how to best govern our schools.

At least since 2000, when I first became familiar as a substitute teacher with Joplin Schools it was apparent who was in charge of running the schools.  It was the administrators, the people that could demand how students and teachers behaved and taught.  At least from the perspective of students, parents and teachers, the school principals were the focus of disagreements when issues arose and that was not very often.  As best I could tell, each teacher pretty much ran his or her own classroom and as long as no one was disciplined there was little or no concern expressed.

I see that as management by not telling anyone they are doing anything wrong.  Some would call it the reverse, positive reinforcement I suppose.  I recall only one public spectacle associated with firing a tenured teacher in a public BOE hearing.  A teacher’s desk caused a drug dog to alert, drugs were found, an investigation ensued and she was ultimately fired by the BOE sometime shortly after the turn of the century.  Other than that no big controversy publicly it seemed and BOE elections were low key events for sure.

Then a new Superintendent arrived on scene in 2008.  Initially there was no major outcry of discontent about public education.  Some publicity related to low standardized test scores was being noted by then, but again, no big outcry about low student performance, teacher moral, etc.  Then the tornado hit.  That certainly caused the public to take notice, very positive notice of how the new Superintendent led efforts to reopen schools and keep them running during the long recovery and rebuilding effort.  Joplin had a short-lived public hero in Dr. Huff, for a while.

Them he and his administrators decided to fire a teacher for exercising poor judgment.  That was not a cut and dried legal issue associated with drugs.  It was a judgment call about compliance with written BOE policies and alleged failure to conform to those policies.  The outcome was another dismissed teacher by the full BOE, a 7-0 vote.  But the fallout was different by a long shot and Joplin began to see politics intersect with public school operations.

That dismissed teacher, Randy Turner, immediately launched a tirade against Dr. Huff and the BOE soon afterwards.  There were some angry teachers and students as well that protested against his dismissal.  That outrage has continued for now three years and BOE elections have become controversial to say the least.  And the “side” or opposition to the old BOE way of doing business, which was to support the administration, has become the loser in public opinion now.

In now two years of BOE elections, the old guard if you will has been defeated and now three new members are on the BOE that call for change.  The public wants that to happen no doubt now, maybe.  But what does the public really want in the details?  That becomes more difficult to determine unless one only listens to the loudest and the anonymous public speakers or writers.

Here is where the Globe has failed to fulfill a public service of keeping the public informed about the real disagreements surrounding public education in Joplin over the last three years.  It has totally ignored the outrage expressed at least on a weekly basis against Dr. Huff and the BOE in the public blog, the Turner Report, written in virulent and persistent form by the dismissed teacher.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Globe has ignored that blog is because Turner is virulently critical of the Globe itself and it focuses that criticism on the editor, Carol Stark.  While she does not receive the same headline treatment such as Dr. Huff in that blog, she is occasionally held in high disdain therein for sure.  The only writer published in the Globe it seems is me in most cases.  According the Turner, one of the big mistakes made over the years by the Globe is to publish my columns under my name from time to time.

Whatever the reasons maybe that the Globe ignores Turner and his ideas, there is no doubt that ideas related to public education coming from one side are Turner ideas however.  His ideas cannot now be ignored.  Instead they should be exposed in the full light of public debate, both in the Globe and in public debate on the part of the BOE in all of its meetings.

If you have read the Turner Report for a year or so at least here are some key issues and how Turner advocates their resolution:

  1. Let teachers teach, whatever and however they choose to teach anything and grade student performance according to the judgment of each teacher only.
  2. Abolish any State or Federal control or mandates related to student performance, or teacher performance as well. No Child Left Behind or now Common Core Standards, and any State tests to measure student performance to those standards are anathema to Turner and his supporters.
  3. Huff should be summarily fired immediately.
  4. Turner has filed his own complaint against Dr. Huff to the Missouri Ethics Commission. He also submitted numerous accusations against Dr. Huff and R-8 administrators to the recently completed State Audit of R-8.
  5. Three now current members of the BOE, Fort, Koch and Martucci have received strong support from Turner during their campaigns. He also has supported the former BOE member, Jim Kimbrough, in the past couple of years.

There is more of course about who and what Turner supports but I won’t write them all down now.  But make no mistake, he disdains Steele and Landis, current and longer term members of the BOE and supports the above three members.  Ms. Banwart remains unsupported and not attacked as well, for now, by Turner.  He is hoping I am sure that she joins his “side” in the current 6 member BOE lineup.  If she does not and a 3-3 tie vote over who becomes the next President of the BOE or who is selected by the BOE to become the replacement for Roberts, well Ms. Banwart will undoubtedly be ridiculed by Turner, virulently if he follows his normal path to show disagreement with his views.

There are now two very clear “sides” on the new BOE.  The side that has demanded changes has three ardent members, Fort, Koch and Martucci.  You can be assured that they will move quickly to change a lot of things in R-8 once they achieve a clear majority with a 4th member.  If or when that happens, by getting Ms. Banwart to vote with them or putting Kimbrough in the currently vacant seat, then you will see at least a 4-3 vote on major issues affecting R-8.

The first “test” will be who becomes the BOE President, Fort or Steele.  That is a big so what to me as the President has no political power other than press coverage.  If minority members want to speak, inject debate into BOE meetings, etc. they can do so without the support of the President of the BOE.  They can also speak publicly for themselves in opposition or even select a spokesman for their “side” to speak on their behalf if they like.  But the crunch time vote will come in about 2-3 weeks when the vacant seat is filled.  The “Turner side” will be a rock solid vote for Kimbrough, come hell or high water and if a 3-3 tie prevents filling that seat with Kimbrough you will hear at least Koch announce again how the other “side” just wants to maintain some form of status quo.  Of course Koch is wrong.  The opposition to Koch’s views is simply because he has promulgated not specific views other than “support academic excellence”.  As if any sane member of any BOE would object to academic excellence I suppose!!!

Once a President is elected and the vacant seat on the BOE is filled THEN we will see how things work out on issues of substance.  Take for example the current issue of funding a contractor to help improve student performance on upcoming Common Core related State testing.  One assumes the “turner side” will vote no to that contract approval.  Saving money for schools will be the public reason for that vote for sure.  Then we will see if any initiatives that required BOE approval to spend money coming from the “Huff Administration side” will gain approval from the new BOE.

You see there may well be two obvious sides on the current BOE.  I will call them, as above, the “turner side” and the “huff administration side” until proven wrong by actual BOE votes.  Of course both sides will disclaim such titles.  Both will claim they are only on the side of the students, to which I reply “Oh Bullshit” to be frank.

So whose side am I on, one should ask.  I am on the side of people that can clearly articulate the best path forward to improve the quality of the product of our schools, the students that graduate therefrom after a full dose, 13 years, of K12 education.  I demand each and every graduate to be a capable of becoming a productive citizen in a modern society the day they graduate from High School, period.

That means they are ready in every way to go the college without remedial training and do well in college.  Or they are ready to attend trade schools or community colleges and do the same.  Or they are ready to assume the responsibility of a full time job and be able to quickly move beyond entry level wages to wages that can support raising a family later on.

I want public schools to only graduate students that are READY to live as productive adults in our society.  If students fail to demonstrate such readiness after 13 years of K12 education, the public schools should provide a certificate showing their shortcomings, why they are not yet ready to enter society as functioning adults.  If they have failed to demonstrate the ability to read and write at the 12th grade level or do math at that level or behave as expected of an 18 year old in society, then they do not graduate with a high school diploma.  They are simply allowed to move on into society once they reach the age of 18 without a “trophy”.

I hope you can see from my description of what I “want” from public schools the real challenge of ever getting such an outcome from every graduating student.  It requires telling a lot of people, students first and foremost, that they are NOT READY to move on and upward.  They are NOT READY for the next grade, next course in high school, etc.  The must first “do ……” satisfactorily to DEMONSTRATE their ability to perform each step of the way thru K12 education.

Once you tell students such information you must also tell parents, who will raise as much hell as the students probably.  And if a teacher says one thing and the “school” says differently then you have a fight on your hands with teachers as well as students and parents.

Hmmm.  According to Turner and his supporters we have just such a fight in Joplin right now.  Some students, parents and teachers are mad as hell against Huff and the R-8 administration.  That is simply because Dr. Huff and some of his associates have started telling some people that they are not performing as required, starting with Turner three years ago, or was it four?

Dr. Huff said it clearly not long ago it seems.  He is quoted in the Turner Report saying in essence that R-8 is not firing too many teachers.  Instead it is not hiring the right ones to teach in our public schools.  Wow, that out to make the NEA happy as a clam, right!  Think the “turner side” will support the NEA?  You bet your bippy they will so get out you checkbooks are you happy campers when you get the changes headed our way from the “turner side”.

Or will it be the “fort side”, etc.??

AGREEING ON PROBLEMS BEFORE ARUGING ABOUT SOLUTIONS

April 14, 2015

AGREEING ON PROBLEMS BEFORE ARGUING ABOUT SOLUTIONS

 

The title can be applied to many issues before Americans, locally and across the country.  For example, local controversy over how public schools are being managed has resulted in at least two, maybe three new faces on the BOE that will call for radical changes.  On a broader national scale the continued deaths of black men at the hands of police is continuing to stir distrust, anger and calls for change.   However in both cases the problems have not been clearly identified and agreed upon by citizens.

No, one might say.  One candidate for the BOE clearly said that student performance needed strong improvement.   He based that assertion on static or even declining “test scores”, grades received by students on standardized State of Missouri tests.  Yet many professional educators will emphatically state that such test scores do not accurately reflect what students learn and many teachers become very angry if bad student test scores are used to evaluate teacher performance.  My point is not to pick on one new member of the BOE, Jeff Koch, who campaigned heavily on the issue of poor student performance.   Hell I agree with him that such performance is terrible.  I just want all involved in local public education to come to agreement on how to best measure student performance and THEN decide what is needed to be done.  State the problem with clarity and then come to agreement on how to fix the problem.

But in this blog I have bigger fish to fry than more on local public education issues.  I turn to the furor over media scrutiny and public outcry over the deaths of black men in instances where law enforcement actions come into play.  Most of such deaths have been at the hands of police officers.  But it all began with public anger over the death of Travon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood watchman, a civilian brown on black confrontation, initially.  That incident was ultimately resolved legally but many citizens felt then and now that something was wrong with our laws and demanded more justice for black men.

Then Ferguson, a white cop killing an unarmed black man, landed in our national debate.  Again the matter was resolved legally, with no charges against the white cop.  When that happened it was not just peaceful protests however.  Angry mobs were incited to “burn this bitch down” (the City of Ferguson) and multiple businesses in fact were burned to the ground.  Deep resentment and anger remains throughout America over events in Ferguson some nine months after the shooting.  Then NYC, Cleveland, now South Carolina and Tulsa and I may have missed some other shootings of black citizens at the hands of cops reported of late.  Clearly many in America are outraged now over this particular problem.

But, what specifically is the problem, I ask?  I agree there in fact is a problem.  But I doubt that we could all agree on a definitive statement of the problem.  Without such agreement no solutions can be determined.  Permit me if you will to list some ideas for a statement of the problem.  Feel free to add your own if you believe I missed or attempt to mislead anyone’s thinking on this important matter.

  1. Police kill too many citizens and remain unpunished for such actions.
  2. Police kill too many black men and remain unpunished for such actions.
  3. Racist, white policemen kill too many black citizens and get away with murder in doing so.
  4. Too many criminals attempt to resist arrest and get killed by police officers for doing so.
  5. Too many minority criminals attempt to resist arrest and get killed by police officers for doing so.
  6. Police officers are unable to make reasonable judgments on the use of force, particularly deadly force, when any citizen argues with police or resists arrest attempts.
  7. Police try to arrest far too many citizens for trivial matters.
  8. Police try to arrest too many minority citizens for trivial matters.
  9. Police harass black citizens far too much and violent resistance by black citizens is justified as a matter of self-defense.
  10. Far too many police officers are racist today. Elected officials and courts violate the law to attempt to protect such police officers.
  11. The laws that regulate police activity are fine but elected officials and/or courts interpret the law improperly, resulting in murder by cops that goes unpunished.

Of course I could go on constructing such a list of problem statements related to cops on blacks violence consuming public attention.  I also fully recognize that some items on the above list are not politically correct to even list such possibilities.  Just suggesting, in writing in public that just maybe too many criminals try to resist arrest becomes an insensitive act of blaming a victim, according to some.

But take just the first three items above listed as potential problems.  Do “police” cause the problems against “citizens” or is it just “police” against “black citizens” or is it just “racist, white cops” that cause the problem.  You see in the first case all police in America have to be “fixed”.  But if only the third case is true then the solution becomes more easily bounded.  “All” that has to be done is find a way to identify any “racist, white cops”, fire them immediately and the problem is solved, right?

But the current debate, in part at least, is a complaint that police confront citizens far too much for trivial matters.  A traffic stop for a broken tail light results in a driver fleeing the scene of the traffic stop and ultimately a dead black driver.  No trivial traffic stop, no dead black driver.  OR, of course, don’t resist arrest by fleeing from a police officer, no dead black driver, either.  OR, of course, just let the offender of a trivial matter go ahead and run away.  Or, if the offender runs away the single traffic cop can call for pursuit by half the police force in North Charleston, SC for a fleeing criminal that had only a broken tail light, for starters!!

OK, enough.  If any liberal reads this I am sure you are already angry with me for even hinting that some problems exist within criminal elements of our society that exacerbate the violence employed by police officers in an attempt to control, mitigate, such criminal behavior.  Believe it or not I am not trying to pick another fight with liberals.  What I am trying to do however is to get the liberals to clearly tell me and others what they really think the problem is that causes the deaths of some black men at the hands of police officers.  Just how many police officers have NOT been held accountable under the law for killing black men, or minority men, or any citizens for that matter?

There is no doubt of course that some cops are flat out racist cops, bigoted people that hate blacks for whatever reason(s).  Such cops will lie, cheat or otherwise act dishonorably to hide their behavior, their real biases, from others.  I detest such dishonorable cops as much as anyone else and would like to see administrative or legal action taken against them.  But if we have say 1000 police officers in a given area, how many of them are in fact dishonorable men and/or women?  Just how big is the problem?

On the other hand if there is an area with 1000 criminals, how many of them are dishonorable people?  That percentage is 100%, like it or not, as criminal behavior is by definition dishonorable, is it not?

One final point.  ANYTIME a cop fires a shot while on duty I am rather certain there is a formal investigation.  So there is or should be a paper trail showing who exactly did what to whom, who reviewed the matter and what if any results or conclusions were reached.  I don’t care how racist a police department might be, there must be some sort of paper trail associated with any incidents of shots fired by cops in any community, anytime, anyplace in America.

If a group of people believe grave injustice has been perpetrated by racist police forces, dishonorable, lying, cheating cops and lawyers supervising them, then there must be evidence available to support such grave claims.  So the only challenge would be to find enough honorable man and women to review that evidence and provide unbiased results to we the people.

Well who are those honorable men and women, where can we find them, where can we find the money to pay them to conduct a truly honest, independent third party investigation into such matters that strike at the heart and soul of American character, American honor, American ideals of equality for all before the bar of the law?

Now reread that last paragraph again.  THAT is what concerns me so much about my, our, country today.  I worry a lot about the honor of all Americans today.  Everything that I have read in history shows me that democracy without a critical mass of honest and honorable citizens will fail.  I have also learned that honor comes with both good education and good experiences.  No one is born honorable.  It must be taught and learned by any man or woman.

I began this blog with a short example of confusion in stating the exact nature of the problem associated with public education concerns.  But I then went into some detail about law enforcement, criminal activity and racism, as honestly as I could write about such ideas.

In doing just that, where did I wind up again?  Surprised that I wound right back with education and the lack of it for many of our citizens today being at the root of many problems in our modern society today in America?  If you have read my ideas for any time over the last several years I continue to be very concerned about the honor inherent in American citizens and the lack of sound and comprehensive education for our citizens to advance the ideas of honorable conduct by all Americans in the future.

Our debates only put an exclamation point to my concerns.  We attack any and all people now, their ideas, views of issues, their proposed policies to remedy perceived shortcomings in society and those attacks are deeply and destructively personal and vicious.  Those people, the “attackers” if you will, demonstrate the worst in our society and the utter failure of a good system of education that makes people think carefully before ………..

That is not to say that reasonable disagreement is wrong.  Hell, it is as right as any America idea, to be able to disagree and still live as a good society.  But the irrational, vindictive disagreement I see around us locally and nationally today is as bad as I have ever seen it and it is getting worse.  Incidentally I do NOT include the Erstwhile conservative, Duane Graham, or his blog in such condemnation now.  After some seven years of battles in blogs with Duane we have reached a form of stalemate, even truce perhaps.  We still disagree on most political matters today at the national level but can still “talk to each other” without throwing kitchenware around as well.


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