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Location: California, United States

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Proposition 82

According to the California Teachers' Association, teachers in this great state promote proposition 82, the preschool initiative. I am long-standing CTA member who does not support proposition 82. Of course I am in favor of free public education for our children, but I've heard nothing about the curriculum or administration of this program. Will the testing frenzy be pushed down little four year olds' throats? Developmental learning is gone from our state standards for kindergarten and I haven't heard it promoted for preschoolers through this initiative. Will our already overwhelmed administrators have yet one more huge program to oversee? Where in our crowded schools will preschool classes be located? Why can't Headstart be bolstered instead of replaced for those most needy of our children?

I agree that preschool children deserve our state's attention. Wouldn't the money be better spent on pre and post-natal education for parents? Think of the possiblilties. We could have in-hospital teachers sharing their insight with new parents. Librarians could offer guidelines, model reading, and give free books to parents and children of preschoolers. Every community could have teachers, nurses, and counselors who would make free home visits and provide classes with advice and goodie bags full of nurture for our little ones. These same people could help make sure that those same children live in a safe and healthy home.

Preschool is a great option for three and four year olds, but a child's first teacher is the parent. Let's make sure those parents have the tools and wisdom to provide a nurturing environment for their children.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Swords or Plowshares?

So much for the poor, the tired, the huddled masses, as long as they happen to be of the Mexican persuasion. George Bush plans to send 6,000 troops to the Mexican border to guard against any more Mexicans crossing the border. I have no idea how much it costs to guard the U.S. border from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas, but surely it will be in the billions. Here's an alternative plan. How about sharing those billions with Mexico. The Mexican government could surely use all that cash to start an infrastructure work program for Mexican citizens so they could thrive in Mexico. It could be modeled after the Roosevelt WPA program. Instead of buying uniforms, tanks, night vision binoculars, and guns, Mexico could invest in paintbrushes, forklifts, road graders, and construction equipment. Artists, teachers, nurses, and construction workers could be trained and put to work in the noble effort to refurbish Mexico. Hey, now that I think of it, let's bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan to rebuild the crumbling society in this country. When the infrastructures of Mexico and the United States are back on track, we'll have thousands of people trained to build rather than to destroy.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gas Hike

I've heard several proposed solutions to the "gas crisis" in recent days. Should we give motorists a $100.00 rebate? How about searching online for the cheapest gas stations. Should our oil barron president investigate oil company profits? What about drilling for more of the crude in Alaska?

Here's my sure-to-be-unpopular proposal. Let's raise gas prices to $6.00 per gallon for all but mass transit vehicles. Let's also investigate oil company profits, but that henhouse should not be investigated by the fox himself. Surely we'd have a several extra dollars per gallon. Think of the revenue! We could recreate the mass transit system that once ran this country. Amtrak could be back on track (and on time). Commuters might decide they need to live within reasonable distant from their jobs. Car buyers might finally blow off cars the size of third world houses. We might wake up to the fact that this Texas Tea is not exactly a renewable resource, at least not for the next couple million years. We might not invade another country, causing chaos just to feed our automania.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Encounter at Smart and Final

I had a lovely encounter today at Smart and Final. While wandering the aisles with my mega cart, a young man with a store nametag approached me to ask if I was a teacher. It was 17 year old Oscar, a student I had 7 years ago in my special ed. class. At the time Oscar did poorly with reading and writing, having severe language disabilities, and living in a non-English speaking family. He was rather incorrigible, getting into trouble with other children and authority figures at the school. Because of his language disability, he had been yanked from his community in Pomona and bused to the special needs classes in Claremont for his entire childhood.

Oscar was not only a child with disabilities though, he was a funny little boy that loved to play and had a smile that could only warm my heart. He also loved working outside. Not only did it bring him pleasure, he was remarkably good at it. Fortunately we had a little garden outside my classroom that he tended with great skill. He was also very good with tools, so he fixed anything in the classroom that needed attention. My classroom had a lifeskills focus, so there were many occasions for Oscar to work with his hands.

On the weekends, he went to work with his dad who was a gardener. Oscar worked hard, both physically and serving as translator to his father and customers. Child labor? No, Oscar spoke often about this work with fondness. It was his other classroom, and he was an apt student. Oscar is now working part time at Smart and Final, through the high school ROP program. He'll graduate from high school on time in June, then look at options for full time work. Meeting Oscar again meant so much to me. Most of the students I taught in Claremont are lost to me forever, because they were yanked back to Pomona for the rest of their public school years. Most of the stories I've heard have been stories of hardship, some in the crimelogs of the newspaper. Oscar's story is one full of hope. He is a kind and polite young man, working hard to achieve his goals. He's outshone my highest expectations.

What's to become of the Oscars in our school system, both in and out of special education? With vocational ed progams cut in favor of academic drill and kill, and the focus on test scores instead of authentic learning, we are pushing out these alternative learners. Oscar has a lot to give the world: hands-on intelligence, drive, and his laughing smile. He'll make it. In spite of it all. Thanks, Oscar, for reminding me why I am a teacher.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Martyr in our Time

The body of Quaker peacemaker Tom Fox was found in Iraq a few days ago. He was part of the Christian Peacemaking Team in that country trying to make a positive change. His own words are much more powerful than any commentary I might contribute. This is his blog site. http://waitinginthelight.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Simpsons and the First Ammendment

A recent poll found that Americans know more about the characters on The Simpsons than they know about the First Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution. While I do think that program has more merit than most of what television has to offer, I find this quite troubling. I suggest that all of us commit this first part of our grand Bill of Rights to memory. Perhaps in doing so, we will commit ourselves to the preservation of this important American ideal. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Real Estate and Test Scores

There has been much debate about student test scores in the L.A. Times, from the front page to the editorial page. Little noticed in that controversy is the valuable information in the real estate section. Each Sunday the Times features a community on page K2. In addition to interesting information about the communities, the median price for homes and local Academic Performance Index scores from annual school testing are reported. A score of at least 800 is expected on API scores. Here is a sample:
Rancho Palos Verdes median price: $1,165,000.00, average API score: 915
Solano Beach (San Diego) median price: $1,126,000.00, average API score: 900
Fontana median price: $425,000.00, average API score: 690

While there are many factors that influence test scores, the fact remains that until we remedy the economic disparity of our communities, the problems within our schools will continue.