Month: <span>August 2016</span>

Poisoning classrooms, Trump-style


Donald Trump may never be elected president, I hope, but he already has poisoned not only the political debate in the United States but also the atmosphere in some classrooms. He is one of the last individuals any young person should select as a role model, but some students apparently have.

The summer issue of NEA TODAY has an article about a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project confirming that “the hostile tone and bullying behavior like that seen at Trump campaign events is having a profound negative effect on individual students and entire school communities.”

“Nationwide, educators have reported alarming cases of student bullies spouting anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric they have heard during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign – primarily from Trump and his supporters,” Amanda Litvinov wrote.

Here is a sample:

# High school students in Iowa yelled “Trump, Trump, Trump!” during a ballgame against a rival school whose student body was heavily Hispanic.

# Last spring, two third-graders in Virginia taunted classmates by saying, “When Trump’s president, you’ll be deported.”

# One teacher reported hearing a fifth-grader tell a Muslim schoolmate that “he was supporting Donald Trump because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president.”

# Nearly 70 percent of educators responding to an online survey said students – including many Muslims, immigrants and children of immigrants – had expressed concerns about what might happen to their families after the election.

# More than half of the teachers in the survey said they had observed an increase in hateful language, especially anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant remarks.

# There have been reports of students not wanting to attend school because they believed their classmates hate them.

# Forty-three percent of teachers surveyed said they were hesitant to teach about the current presidential election for fear they might stir students up.

“Last election was amazing in my class!” a teacher from San Antonio was quoted. “We even learned about electoral votes using other first-grade classrooms. Not this year! Not touching it!”

Trump is nauseating. Yet, people who should know better, including some of Texas’ top elected officials continue to support him. What kind of role models are they?


What about STAAR doesn’t the education commissioner understand?


In published comments this week, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath seemed confused about the STAAR testing regime and its negative impact on students. Either that, or he was talking out of both sides of his mouth.

In a visit to Abilene this week, Morath promoted his T-TESS teacher evaluation system, which is to be partly based on STAAR scores, raising the stakes on standardized testing as parental and educator opposition to high-stakes testing is growing. T-TESS is a punitive evaluation system that TSTA and other public education advocates have gone to court to try to stop.

Interestingly, in the same visit, Morath either contradicted himself about STAAR, or indicated he doesn’t really understand how bad the testing regime has become for students.

According to the Abilene Reporter News, at the end of a story linked below, Morath also said: You cannot allow assessments to become debilitating. You can’t allow them to become a point of stress, and you certainly cannot tell a child your life depends on an assessment.”

Didn’t he just describe STAAR?

Morath added, “It’s important to have a balanced view on what they (assessments) can and cannot do for us.”

He said the state must not lose sight of its goal to educate students beyond just a test. I agree, but when is state policy going to free educators to start doing that? And why did Morath add testing to the teacher evaluation system?



Trump’s low standard of education


If there is anything that Donald Trump says that you can believe it is his statement, initially made several months ago, that “I love the poorly educated.” That’s because then – and now – a major source of his support comes from people without college educations, as well as, of course, Hillary-haters of all educational levels and pedigrees.

With supporters like those, it is small wonder that Trump apparently thinks he can utter just about any whopper and get away with it, such as his claim, made again this week, that Hillary Clinton wants to “abolish” the Second Amendment, the right to own and bear arms.

In the interest of education, I would point out the president of the United States cannot repeal the Second Amendment or any other amendment to the Constitution. Neither can a judge appointed by the president.

There are two ways to formally propose amendments to the Constitution. Congress can propose an amendment, which must be approved on a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate, or Congress can call a national constitutional convention if two-thirds of the states request one. And that’s just the first step.

Amendments approved either by Congress or by a constitutional convention must then be approved by a majority vote in the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by special conventions in three-fourths of the states.

Now, this civics lesson won’t change the thinking of must Trump supporters. But if you bothered to read all this, you will know much more about the constitutional revision process than Trump does. That’s a pretty low standard though, isn’t it?



Who would like a classroom full of Donald Trumps?


Donald Trump knows only slightly more about education than my pet puppy does, and he is less well-behaved. Trump demonstrates just about every bad character trait that educators warn their students against. He’s a bully, a bigot and a liar, and now he has suggested to any number of mentally unstable fools out there that it would be OK to physically assault his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The political climate in Texas is such, however, that Trump is still likely to carry the Lone Star State even while, we better hope, he loses big time in most of the country.

This is mainly because of Texas’ partisan tradition and the animosity that many Texans, including educators, have toward Clinton, even though she has a strong public record of advocating for educators, school children and their families.

Another factor is Trump’s continued support by state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, all of whom represent a disaster for public education but who also were elected with the votes of many educators.

Abbott, Patrick and Bush all should withdraw their support of Trump, but they won’t, because they fear being seen as disloyal to the ideological zealots who have taken over their party.

They all should be ashamed of themselves, especially Bush, whose father, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, was mercilessly ridiculed and bullied by Trump during the GOP primaries.

Abbott, Patrick and Bush aren’t on the ballot this year, but remember their cowardice when they come up for re-election in 2018. Also, remember that Abbott and Patrick are two of the main reasons that Texas public schools remain woefully under-funded while students are still being over-tested.