Month: <span>October 2017</span>

Free speech is essential, even when it is self-serving


Private donors at the University of North Texas had every right to recruit Donald Trump Jr. to deliver a speech this week to raise money for university scholarships. They had every right to pay the president’s son $100,000 for his time, even though that probably is a lot more than most students will realize from any scholarship.

The audience also had every right to listen to the confused rhetoric that Trump Jr. dumped on them. If they believed him, which many apparently did, that’s a shame. But free speech carries with it the right to be underinformed, misinformed and noninformed, and Trump Jr. carried on the family tradition.

Here are some excerpts as reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram story linked below.

Trump Jr. accused some universities of becoming “captive to political hatreds” and said they had turned “traditional values” into “hate speech.” In the view of some campus leaders, he said: “Hate speech is anything that says America is a good country and our founders were great people, that we need borders. Hate speech is anything faithful to the moral teaching of the Bible.”

He said not a word – if so, it wasn’t reported – about the real hate speech spewed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis at the deadly white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Va., or his father’s attempt to equate their hatred with the actions of peaceful civil rights counter-demonstrators. He said not a word about how white supremacists have been emboldened by his father’s rise to the White House.

And he said not a word about the juvenile-style of hate-mongering that his father regularly tweets at the slightest provocation or perceived insult to the thin presidential skin.

Trump Jr. described himself and his father as “nationalists,” while claiming that many people are confused at the meaning of American nationalism. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender or class, he said, is “contrary to the ideas of nationalism.”

He apparently said nothing though about discrimination on the basis of religion, which, in Trump’s “nationalistic” view, must justify the ban on immigrants from many Muslim-majority countries.

Trump Jr. said when all countries are governed by nationalist principles, “they’ll act in the best interest of their people. That means they are less likely to engage in foreign wars.”

I guess he forgot about the nationalist extremists who started World Wars I and II. Like it or not, we live in a world of international relationships that can’t be oversimplified by nationalistic rhetoric.

This, incidentally, is the same Trump son who eagerly attended a meeting during the presidential campaign with a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Not surprisingly, he didn’t address the pending investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. election.

Trump Jr. scolds universities during UNT speech, a fundraiser for scholarships


Trump, DeVos target college loan forgiveness program


Despite all his ill-informed hyperbole, President Trump’s knowledge about the lives and concerns of everyday Americans, including young school teachers and other college graduates, is hugely deficient. I don’t think he comprehends, for example, what it means to be saddled for years with student debt.

He never had any. So he apparently doesn’t care if millions of other Americans do. If the president did care, he and Betsy DeVos, his education secretary who is equally out of touch with the needs of the middle class, wouldn’t be trying to end a college loan forgiveness program that is a lifeline for more than 600,000 teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and other public-service employees.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, created 10 years ago, forgives large portions of college loans for graduates who take public service jobs and make loan payments on time for a required number of years.

The National Education Association story linked below cites the example of Greg Cechak, a 31-year-old teacher in Pennsylvania who is married to another teacher and owes about $80,000 for his state university education. Under the program, Cechak will see much of his debt erased after making 10 years of monthly payments on time.

According to the article, the average student loan borrower in the U.S. has more than $30,000 in student debt after graduating from college. Some graduates with advanced degrees have more than $100,000.

This is a major challenge for teachers and other public employees on modest salaries who perform jobs that are essential to our country’s future. They deserve and have earned a break on their loan repayments, and that is why the loan program was created.

If the program is axed, many of these teachers fear they will be forced for economic reasons to leave the classroom, a consequence that apparently is of no concern to Trump and his anti-public education partner.

NEA has joined a bipartisan congressional effort to save the loan forgiveness program. This story includes a link on how to take action by contacting your own members of Congress.


School kids once had role models at the top


Let us count the titles emanating from the West Wing: Tweeter-in-chief, bully-in-chief, liar-in-chief, pouter-in-chief, narcissist-in-chief, moron-in-chief. Outrageous and demeaning.

Commander-in-chief. Terrifying.

Role-model-in-chief? No way. And that is shameful.

There was a time when just about any school teacher would have been overjoyed at the prospect of the president of the United States – of either party — visiting his or her classroom or campus. Maybe not so much anymore.

Two judicial views of education, school kids


This is an abbreviated tale of two judges. One was a legal and civil rights giant who opened the doors of public schools to millions of children. The other is better known as a conservative Tweeter who has neglected the needs of school kids.

It may be absurd to contrast Don Willett with the late Thurgood Marshall because the historical deck overwhelmingly is stacked in favor of Marshall, but that’s the way my mind works some times. I am prodded by the coincidence of Willett’s nomination by President Donald Trump to a federal appellate court coming only a few days before the 50th anniversary of Marshall taking his seat as the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Even before his Supreme Court appointment, Marshall had made history as an NAACP attorney who convinced the high court to outlaw segregation in U.S. public schools in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. Marshall, the grandson of a slave, later became U.S. solicitor general and made history again when President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the Supreme Court. He took his seat on Oct. 2, 1967.

Because of economic discrimination, housing patterns and not-so-subtle racism, the fight over segregated schools still isn’t over, but the landmark court ruling that Marshall won has given millions of children of color access to public educations they otherwise would not have known.

Willett, one of Trump’s choices for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was one year old when Marshall joined the nation’s high court. More recently, Willett has been a conservative justice with an active Twitter account on an all-Republican Texas Supreme Court. Last year, he and his colleagues had the opportunity to strike an overdue blow for the school children of Texas. All they had to do was uphold a strongly worded, well-thought-out opinion by a lower-court judge that the state’s woefully underfunded school finance system was unconstitutional.

Instead, Willett and his colleagues reversed the lower court and upheld the school finance law, with Willett writing the majority opinion. Willett compounded the court’s failure by admitting that the funding system was very bad but just wasn’t bad enough to order the Legislature to do anything about it. I guess you could call that a political-judicial handwashing.

The court’s free pass gave Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all the encouragement they needed to beat back attempts by Speaker Joe Straus and the House to improve school funding during this year’s legislative sessions. School children and local taxpayers in under-funded school districts will continue to suffer the consequences.

Although Willett tweeted several criticisms of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump included the Texas judge’s name on his first list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Now, Willett is settling for a seat on the 5th Circuit instead.

He tweeted that he was “honored and humbled” by the Tweeter-in-Chief’s decision, leaving a less-than-historic judicial record behind in Texas.