Charter schools: In the beginning

Charter schools were relatively new when I first learned about them and visited one in Akron, Ohio. It was during the time I was in Leadership Akron, and education was the month’s focus. I went on a tour of a charter school that was just west of downtown, operated by White Hat Management.

By way of background, my husband spent his K-12 years in a Catholic school in Memphis. I attended public schools in California and in Memphis. Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.46.25 AM

I feel strongly about public education. Always have. I believe we have a responsibility to teach the next generation and the ones that follow. We decided early on that our child would attend whatever was the best option available.

Our son attended public schools in Stow, Ohio, and in Akron. He graduated with a strong resume, a National Merit Scholarship and an International Baccalaureate diploma.

Of the three of us, our son made the most of his K-12 education.

I noticed pretty quickly, many of the most successful students had supportive parents who stayed in touch with the teachers and principal. So we did.

I remember people grousing about inner-city public schools. The teachers were bad. The kids were bad. The buildings were bad. So it was easy to deny funding via tax levy. And, boy, did Northeast Ohio know how to deny funding public education. Wowza!

But then these “charter” schools starting popping up. They were supposed to be the saving grace for those poor, sad inner-city kids. People bought into it without even asking for details. I didn’t know much about the concept until my tour, which happened during the 1998-99 school year.

The building was old. Really old. I think it had probably been built initially for apartments or offices, 50 or so years prior. The inside of the building was a jumble of small rooms, smaller hallways and steep staircases.

I wondered to myself why the school wasn’t ADA compliant. Surely they couldn’t get tax money to run a school that couldn’t accommodate someone with a physical disability.

Because it’s a public school, right? The staff from White Hat loved talking about the good they were doing. I asked a few questions – and left with more. Like, how can something be for-profit and nonprofit? I had two different White Hat staff people tell me contradictory information.

As much as I dislike the whole charter school scam today, I truly didn’t know much about it when I took that first tour. My gut was telling me something wasn’t right.

When my gut tells me something isn’t right, I should listen.

Next post: Too good to be true?

 

Tea Party post five: Our downward spiral

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Eric Cantor was defeated in yesterday’s House primary. Oh, the cliches bouncing around my brain…

“Be careful what you wish for”

I have never liked Eric Cantor. Not that I know the man. All I know is what I read or see on TV. He seems like a sincerely douchebaggy person. He has a snarky demeanor that gives me the creeps. Like our former president, he grins inappropriately in a way that mocks everything.

And I disagree with his politics.

That should be enough, but his personality is too icky for words. Yes. I said “too icky.” I had dinner with a friend last night, who told me he wishes Cantor wasn’t Jewish because it makes all of them look bad.

I’m somewhat satisfied to know I am not the only one who dislikes Cantor. I’m surprised at how many of them are members of his own party.

Cantor was defeated by a Tea Party puppet named “Brat.”

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”

Congratulations, Virginia Republicans. Your Congressman won’t be taking over as Speaker of the House, a real option with so many opposing current Speaker John Boehner. I’m not a fan of Boehner, either, but I’m kind of ok with him continuing as speaker. At least I know the b.s. he spouts tomorrow will be pretty much the same as the b.s. he spouted yesterday. He’s the devil I know.

The role of House Speaker is important. The Speaker presides over House sessions and acts as a spokesperson for the entire body. The Speaker of the House is also second in line to succeed the president in the occasion he or she is unable to serve.

You want to be really frightened? If our democratically elected president and his or her vice president are unable to serve, the job goes to the Speaker: A man or woman elected by a single district in a single state and chosen to be Speaker by his or her peers in a completely partisan process.

“If it looks like a duck”

What we won’t know until November is whether this was a ploy by Virginia Democrats to oust Cantor. Virginia has an open primary, so any number of Democrats could have voted for Dave Brat just to tip the scales.

Media reports show Brat winning with largely grassroots support and no money from Tea Party PACs. I would bet money the Tea Party PACs are writing checks right about now. They won’t want a Democrat taking Cantor’s place in the House, and, who knows, maybe a few million well-placed dollars could convince Brat to become the Koch brothers’ new best friend.

What happens in Virginia politics affects all of us. The U.S. House and Senate are fashioned from men and women throughout the country. Virginia isn’t the only state with a Tea Party candidate heading into the mid-term election. The existing caucus shows no inclination to vote with the rank-and-file GOP. As the caucus grows, we will see even less agreement between legislators than we have today. That’s actually kind of hard to fathom, but I believe it is our fate.

Technically, we continue to have a two-party system. Until the fractured party heals, we will see nothing but gridlock in the legislature. And it will heal, but we are going to have a helluva bumpy ride.

Sources consulted: Real Clear Politics, Politico, Fox News, The New York Times, NBC News, Wall Street Journal

Catching up and shifting gears

The last couple of weeks have been a mixed bag of tears, laughter and massive frustration. The tears and laughter are entirely personal, so I’ll begin with my frustrations, as they are directing my next few posts.

Has the world gone mad? No… not the world. Just Americans. Have Americans gone mad? I think I’m beginning to lose count of the number of mass shootings. Las Vegas, Seattle, Santa Barbara. These were just the ones that made the national news. Thirty people were shot in Chicago – JUST THIS WEEKEND. Four of the victims died. Chicago had 30 shootings the previous weekend, with seven dying from their wounds.

I get that a dude going bonkers on a college campus because he can’t get laid is different than gang violence. What I don’t get is that so many people have so little respect for human life. If you don’t like what someone else is doing or how someone else looks at you or makes you feel, shoot ’em. This, in the greatest country in the world?

I’m frustrated, too, with this brouhaha over Bowe Bergdahl. First of all, if there is criticism to be leveled at our elected officials, I’m all over it. (Especially if the right needs to be criticized.) But why are there so many people blasting tirades all over Facebook about how President Obama should be impeached? I don’t know what happened with Bergdahl or how or why he was held captive. The Commander in Chief of the United States has a responsibility to bring soldiers home.

And then there’s my frustration with the chipmunks tunneling through my yard and garden. Oy vey.

Regarding the tears and laughter… Tears because I lost the alpha female of my kitty pack. Wylene was a member of the family for more than 17-1/2 years. She had been in renal failure for the past six months, and, at the end, her body was just shutting down. She had two strokes in two days and wasn’t eating at all. We chose to have her euthanized. Thankfully we have a kind, conscientious vet who came to our home. A box of her ashes now sits on a shelf with six others we’ve loved and lost.

Before I start to bawl again, let me think about the laughter. I had two terrific days in Orlando with my sister, nephew and brother-in-law. Being able to go was definitely bittersweet – I planned to be at home until Wylene died. The miles and distractions helped my mood immensely. And now it’s time to shift gears. I realize I need to do another post on the Tea Party. Primary season is over, and a lot of money has changed hands to replace a Republican with another Republican. “A house divided…” and all that.I also owe many, many blog posts to charter schools, aka, the destruction of the American public education system. Stay tuned.

Smart is cool

This weekend a friend shared a story from Maclean’s – “Canada’s only national weekly current affairs magazine.” The title of the story: “America dumbs down.”

“The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?”

I was beginning to think nobody else had noticed.

On Feb. 4, Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” and Creation Museum founder Ken Ham met at the museum to “argue how the universe and life began” (Cincinnati.com). When each man was asked what would change his mind about evolution and creationism, Nye said, “we would just need one piece of evidence.” Ham said that no one would ever convince him “the word of God is not true.”

According to Salon, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s show “Cosmos” has Creationists flipping out all over the place. Apparently Tyson’s science doesn’t mesh with Creationism.

And the Maclean’s story begins by telling how a South Carolina legislator could not endorse a state fossil because he couldn’t figure out where the Columbian mammoth fit into the Bible. Simple. It doesn’t.

An 8-year-old child proposed the Columbian mammoth because “fossils tell us about our past.” The South Carolina house approved the bill in February, but the state senate insisted on adding a bunch of Creationist mumbo jumbo that tied up the bill until last week. After a joint house and senate committee worked out a compromise, South Carolina now has a state fossil.

So have we lost our mind? Is stupid the new black? I don’t want to be stupid. I don’t want to follow along with blind faith, while ignoring science. I don’t want our country’s leaders to be stupid. Stupid isn’t cool. Smart is cool.

 

Use your words – correctly!

There are a handful of words that are too often abused and misused by otherwise intelligent people. Because I don’t want to be considered an uppity bitch in every corner of the world, I make a point of not correcting everyone. Yes, I do correct some people, but they love me.

A former president sounded like an idiot every time he referred to “nukuler” weapons. Why? Because there’s no such thing. There are nuclear weapons, and I believe they are quite dangerous. Maybe even more dangerous than idiots.

If something is unique, it is the only one of its kind. It’s like nothing else. Therefore, nothing can be really unique, very unique or truly unique. It’s like being pregnant – a person either is pregnant or is not pregnant. Something is either unique or is not unique.

Realtors help homeowners buy and sell homes. That’s pronounced “reel-ter.” Not “reel-i-ter.”

My father had prostate cancer, which is a disease of the prostate gland. He did not have prostrate cancer, which would be some sort of illness related to lying facedown on the ground.

Finally, the Florida peninsula is not the Florida “pin-in-chula.” Yes, the words “spatula” and “tarantula” have that “chula” sound at the end. Not “peninsula.”

I’ll stop there for today. Talk amongst yourselves.

 

I friend. You friend. He/she friends*

I think a lot about friends. I’ve never had an abundance of friends. I have hundreds of acquaintances – I’ve been collecting them for nearly half a century – and a handful of true friends.

Friendship is built around many things: common interests, shared experiences, mutual respect. And Facebook.Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.57.42 PM

Facebook?

Heck, yeah! Facebook – where I have 332 friends. We’re close. Sometimes I see pictures of their pets, learn about what they had for dinner, hear the latest family news.

Sometimes they post pictures of abused animals. They go on racist rants about black Americans or Muslims. They say everyone’s right to carry a gun supersedes anyone’s desire for background checks.

And that’s where it gets weird because my real friends know I don’t want to see pictures of abused animals. I don’t want to hear racist rants. I don’t carry a gun, and I believe anyone who does should be thoroughly vetted and trained in its use.

Yet I feel so guilty about “unfriending” people on Facebook. There are lots of people I like – even some I love – with what I consider to be completely absurd notions of the world. I still want to know how they’re doing. But some of those people really wear me out.

Still it feels sneaky to “unfriend” someone. What kind of friend does that? The kind that doesn’t want to have a conversation. The kind that doesn’t ask why you have a certain opinion. The kind that takes the easy way out. (Yes, I’m thinking of you, the once-dear friend who sent me a friend request, shared life updates and travel plans, promised to call when you were in town and then unfriended me after a couple of months for reasons I do not know.)

It’s all good, though, because in this age of “everyone gets a trophy” having 332 friends is a real boost to my self-esteem. So even if I’m not one of the cool kids, I can still pretend to be popular.

*”Friend” is not a verb. It’s a noun. Add an -ly and it becomes an adjective. But you can’t conjugate the word “friend.” It’s nothing more than another sign of Americans’ incessant need to verbalize the language. See… I just did it.

Tea Party post four: Traditional family values

The Tea Party has a list of 15 “core beliefs” on their website. The last one says, “Traditional family values are encouraged.”Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 4.17.39 PM

Huh?

What does that even mean?

What is a traditional family? One mom, one dad, 2.3 children, a dog and a tract house in the suburbs? 2014 is not “Leave it to Beaver.”

I have friends with beautiful families. Some of those friends are single. Others are married, divorced and have been married prior to their current relationship. Some of them have kids. Some have dogs. Some live in the city. They have birthday parties, jobs and second mortgages. And they’re families.

I consider my own family and my own values. In many ways, I have very traditional values. I support my husband; he supports me. We married in 1985 and had a son in 1987. We own a home. He cuts the grass; I grow stuff in the dirt. He golfs. I sew. We vote. We pay our bills. We donate to charities. On the other hand, we have just the one kid. I think it might be traditional to have more than one.

Growing up, I lived with  my biological mother and father, who were married before I was conceived in 1964 – very traditional. My older sister and brother had a different dad. My mom was married before she met my father. My little sister is my older sister’s daughter. She’s my niece, and my parents adopted her when she was 3-ish.

Not so traditional.

Yet that environment created me. I have strong family values. I believe families come in all shapes and sizes. I believe in love relatives, not just blood relatives. I have “sisters” I’m not even related to.

I am a heterosexual woman, and I believe two women or two men can parent a family as well as I can.

The whole concept of “traditional family values” is false. It’s illogical. There is no such thing as a traditional family. There are, however, values.

Values – like morals – are within. They’re based in respect and kindness; knowing right from wrong. Values can come from family, but they don’t automatically come from family. That’s why I say the concept is false.

Of course I know what the term means in relation to the Tea Party.

They’re trying to court the Ward Cleaver family.

Tea Party post three: Cross this line…

Just a few years ago, the Democratic Party seemed hell-bent on infighting. They were their own worst enemy. The middle was arguing with the left-of-middle, who was arguing with the left. And nobody wanted to make a stand. Say it’s “my way or the highway.”

Thankfully, the Tea Party came along. Democratic infighting is nothing compared to the battles between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party. I’ve read two articles this week about the battle between the regular conservatives and the uber- conservatives. Apparently Tea Party supporters won’t stop until they’ve stopped ALL progress in Washington.Image

John Boehner is too liberal, apparently. Wow. I can’t believe I typed that. It turns out that the uber-conservatives don’t like that the Speaker of the House has made compromises with Democrats, particularly the President.

And to what end? They passed a record-breaking 57 bills in 2013 – making the 113th Congress the least productive in history! And they tried so hard to get stuff done. Just look at the number of times they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act! Fifty votes and they still can’t get it done.

Somebody once said – who, is debatable – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out differently. 

I hear people talking about getting rid of career politicians for new, better options. Yet the newly elected members of Congress are doing less than the ones they replaced. And all of a sudden, members of the GOP establishment are scrambling to keep their jobs. (The Boehner-haters are back with a vengeance. The future of Tea Party-GOP infighting. The GOP establishment turns a ‘firehose‘ on Virginia Tea Partiers.)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Both factions should consider these words, spoken in 1858 by another Republican.

Abraham Lincoln.

Tea Party post two: Who is the Tea Party?

This could take a while.

Whenever I am looking for information on a topic, I first turn to Google.

“who is tea party?”

I review the Wikipedia page, which says “The movement has been called a mix of conservative, libertarian and populist groups.” Scratching my head, I read about Republican libertarians – not the Libertarian Party. They are NOT the same. Still scratching my head.

Not putting much stock in Wikipedia, I go to teaparty.org. The homepage includes pictures of Democrats. Lots of pictures of Democrats. Scratching my head and beginning to draw blood.

Move on to the “about us” page. Here we go! Pictures of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. (Or as I think of them, three horsemen of the apocalypse. Fourth is Michele Bachmann.)

I encourage you to visit this page. Some of this stuff will blow your mind. Check out the “15 Non-negotiable Core Beliefs.”

I wonder if this is the “real” Tea Party, so… back to Google.

“tea party official website”

Tea Party Patriots. Tea Party Express. Here we go: Official Tea Party of America Web Site. Zero pictures of Democrats or apocalyptical horsemen. Just a huge photo of what I can only assume is a professional wrestler – stage name, Uncle Sam.Image

What about affiliate groups? There’s the National Tea Party Federation. TheTeaParty.net. Patriot Action Network. There’s more, but I’m not giving them any more space here.

Back to my original question: Who is the Tea Party?

Searching again, I find a list of in-depth news and magazine articles from – mostly – 2010. “The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.”

I know those people. My husband and I went to high school with them. They scare me.

 

Tea Party post one: Devolution

The Boston Tea Party led to the American Revolution. Today’s Tea Party is leading America toward “devolution.”

The term “devolution” has more than one meaning. In a biological sense, devolution means degeneration. I believe the Tea Party is the primary reason behind the devolution of the Republican party.

I know what you’re thinking… But you’re a Democrat! To be sure, I am liberal. I believe in equal rights for all. I believe in public education. I believe the Affordable Care Act is not only appropriate but necessary. I believe W’s military actions in the Middle East were bullshit. I support the troops and believe the U.S. government does not support them enough.

I refer to devolution as the opposite of evolution. Not evolution as in Darwin, but evolution as a natural process. Water flowing down a hill will erode the dirt and change the topography. (And if you don’t believe that’s a fact, you should really look at my back yard.)

Evolution is natural. Everything evolves. What’s in fashion today is not in fashion tomorrow because our tastes evolve.

Our country has evolved. There was a time when women could not own property. They couldn’t vote. They didn’t make as much money as men in the workplace. Oh… wait. That’s today. So we’re still evolving, and we’ve got a lot of growth still ahead.

That growth can happen only if all of us are looking to the future.

Next: Who is the Tea Party?