Month: <span>November 2017</span>

Trump fails to connect with science and Nobel scientists


If you still are able to tolerate childishness in high office or see nothing wrong with the dumbing down of America, you may want to stop reading now. Otherwise, here goes.

I recently learned, courtesy of The New York Times, that President Trump recently broke with another presidential tradition. He didn’t invite the latest American winners of Nobel prizes to the White House. The winners of this year’s Nobels in physics, chemistry, economics and physiology, all Americans, were instead honored at the Swedish Embassy in Washington.

The White House claimed the president’s travel schedule as an excuse. But who knows? As the Times article suggested, maybe the president “isn’t big on research’s value to society.” He, after all, continues to deny the science behind climate change and has advocated budgetary and tax policies to undermine public education.

The Nobel winners apparently weren’t upset at being dissed by the White House.

Biophysicist Joachim Frank, the Nobel laureate in chemistry, said he was “relieved” at not having to visit with Trump. Referring to the other winners, he was quoted, “I strongly believe that as thinking, intelligent people, they will have a similar attitude as I.”

Richard Thaler won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. According to the newspaper article, the Nobel committee said Thaler’s research into human behavior explored “the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences and lack of self-control.”

Almost sounds as if it were a thesis on the Tweeter-in-Chief.

Dear Nobel winners, Mr. Trump has all the brains he needs


It’s a war; refuting the school privatization lies


The Atlantic recently published a story about the bum rap that school privatization advocates continue to give public education. The article, linked below, is well-worth taking the time to read, although I believe the headline misses the boat, which I will explain in a bit.

The story refutes the lies in the privatization narrative, including the falsehoods that traditional public schools don’t perform as well as charters or private schools and that teacher unions protect “bad” teachers.

Author Erika Christakis, a public-school certified teacher, recommends steps that can be taken to improve public schools, including higher teacher pay, forgivable student loans and housing subsidies to enable teachers to afford to live in the increasingly expensive communities in which many public schools are located. Austin ISD immediately comes to mind.

Christakis also urges education policy makers to save and, where necessary, bolster instruction in social studies and civics education. She writes that schools historically have served a key role in “integrating both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry.”

But now, she adds: “At a moment when our media preferences, political affiliation, and cultural tastes seem wider apart than ever, abandoning this amalgamating function is a bona fide threat to our future.”

The article is headlined: “Americans have given up on public schools. That’s a mistake.”

I think that first sentence is wrong because I don’t believe most Americans have given up on our public schools, despite all the noise to the contrary coming from high places. Betsy DeVos, Dan Patrick and other privatization advocates would like us to think Americans have given up on public education because that would play into their deliberate campaign to under-fund public schools, declare them “failures” and privatize them.

Christakis writes that most parents give high marks to their own children’s schools, and that is important to note, but parents worry about other schools. That’s where the smear campaign being waged by the school privateers is having an overblown effect on public opinion. And that’s why we have to keep fighting the privateers and their lies, even as we continue to advocate for more support for our public schools.

The war on public schools


A lot of votes, including educators’, are being taken for granted


If you are an educator or just about any other middle-class, working Texan, you can find a lot about government to complain about. Your local property taxes continue to soar. You may be discovering the added irritation and growing expense of toll road bills, even as you continue to spend hours every week trying to crawl through clogged traffic.

You may have lost count of the officeholders, including the Tweeter-in-Chief, who deny proven facts, including the science behind global warming, in favor of embracing political fantasy. And if you are a teacher, the U.S. House of Representatives just gave you a big slap in the face by voting to kill that very modest $250 tax deduction you have been getting for buying school supplies for your under-funded classes.

I could go on, but you probably get the idea.

All problems that negatively affect our daily lives and our children’s futures are the consequences of elections, the consequences of electing officeholders who would rather preach ideology or pander to fear and ignorance than actually try to govern. They also are the consequences of not voting, which thousands of Texans fail to do, because of indifference, frustration or intimidation.

Property taxes are sky high because officials like the governor and the lieutenant governor would rather waste political energy trying to tell a handful of transgender school kids where they can’t use the bathroom than adequately pay for classrooms for everybody’s children. They want to preach their own perverted brand of “morality” and pass the buck on what really counts.

Texas roads and highways are overloaded partly because of our growing population but also because of the refusal for years of most elected officials to raise the taxes necessary to address the problem. Instead, they stole some tax revenue from education and health care, transferred it to highways and suckered the public into thinking that would help speed up your drive home. It hasn’t.

They also embraced tolls and now are wailing crocodile tears because tolls have soared and become so unpopular with toll-payers still stuck in traffic.

These inane government “leaders” who neglect our schools, highways, health care and basic childhood safety – Child Protective Services also is under-funded and many kids still are vulnerable – nevertheless are shameless. To distract from their own deficiencies, they may quote the Bible. Then they bully and spread hate against law-abiding, hard-working immigrants, transgender citizens and low-income women in need of health care. I am not talking about abortion rights. I am talking about basic, life-saving health care that no longer is available to many women because clinics were shut down under the guise of fighting abortion.

Who elected these officials? Lots of people did. Look in the mirror. You may have been one of them.

If so, they have been taking your votes – or your indifference about voting — for granted. They have been doing it for a long time. And if you are a teacher, the U.S. House majority just did it again by taking away your $250 tax deduction.

If you are tired of all this, there is something you can do about it. There are elected officials and candidates out there who really do want to meet our education, transportation, health care and other important public needs, but they have been out-numbered by those who take your votes or indifference for granted. Another election is around the corner, beginning with the March party primaries, and it is time for more educators and middle-class Texans to start voting in their own best interests for a change.



Taking Confederate names off schools is not denying history


Austin ISD’s announcement that it will rename several more schools that have long carried names associated with the Confederacy has fanned more controversy over how we address that period of  our country’s history. Intentionally or not, some protesters to the name changes continue to misunderstand or misstate what the issue is all about.

One commenter on TSTA’s Facebook page accused AISD officials of trying to help children forget history, and a couple of other commenters seemed to agree.

“Changing the name of a school is like the Civil War never happened…and teaches kids that you can change history to fit your narrative,” she said, missing the point entirely. The reason that the schools were named for Confederate figures in the first place was to deny history, to deny or downplay the fact that the reason Texas and the other southern states fought the Civil War was to protect slavery, a particularly extreme form of racism.

AISD is not denying the Civil War or the roles that many Texans and other prominent Southerners played in it. AISD, instead, has decided that it will no longer honor the memories of those individuals.

If you don’t like that change in policy, that’s your prerogative, but don’t claim it’s a denial of history. The real deniers of history were the 20th century defenders of the Confederacy who tried to whitewash the real reason the Civil War was fought.  Many years after the war had ended, these individuals and groups  supported erecting statues and naming schools for Confederate figures in an effort to cover up history with their own self-serving fiction.

There is nothing heroic about defending slavery or racism, and AISD officials recognize that.