Bake-sales for Bombers–The Annual Spring Pledge for Public Schools

“It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber.”

The author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things, Robert Fulghum, is credited with this quote. His quote, however utopian, seem apropos for this time of year.

It’s the beginning of spring, otherwise known as the annual public school pledge drive.

News headline

While news headlines scream that Trump is proposing a 10 percent increase in military spending, school districts across the country are gearing up for the annual fight between proposed funding promises and the realities of their actual budgets. Many school districts are compelled to instruct the public on the disparities in public school funding. Here is a recent press release:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Public education is a complex issue. Each and every day there are new proposals and mandates that will not only impact a student’s education but also every community member when it comes time to pay taxes.

Across New York State, school districts are just starting the annual budget process, and the balance between providing students with the best education while being fiscally responsible to taxpayers continues to be a challenge.

That is why the Liverpool Central School District and the North Syracuse Central School District are co-hosting a Community Legislative Forum on Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the North Syracuse Junior High Auditorium (5353 West Taft Road, North Syracuse). The topic is “How Equitable Funding Promotes School Success.”

New York State’s highest court has ruled that schools must receive enough state aid to provide a sound basic public education. For the past 10 years, New York has ignored that court ruling, depriving Liverpool and North Syracuse students of almost $300 million….

“How Equitable Funding Promotes School Success.”

And that is the rub, New York does not have equitable funding. No school, district, county, or state has parity. Across the United States, we are facing what author Jonathan Kozol coined as savage inequalities. Since, 2008 and the impact of the Great Recession, these inequalities have only increased.

The consequences of inequality include, but are not limited to:

  1. Larger class sizes.
  2. Less hiring of teachers.
  3. Less hiring of teaching assistants — changing the make-up of certain classes to meet student’s needs.
  4. Canceling of pre-K programs (but not in every district, causing some neighboring districts to provide very different educational journeys).
  5. Fewer BOCES programs, including vocational opportunities.
  6. Canceling of GED programs.
  7. Large and distant bus stops.
  8. Fewer sports and music programs.

Less is less.

If we continue to treat public school funding like a charity it will continue to be underfunded and undervalued. If we allow for inequity in the resources of our public institutions we only bolster the argument for privatization. If we continue to have savage inequalities between rural, suburban, and urban schools we are failing our children.

The conversation needs to change.

Please join me in actively promoting a new dialogue about funding, educational opportunities, and school reform. How? Follow this publication on medium.com, make comments, ask questions, click the like icon, write for Teaching in Trump’s America, and spread the word.

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I Label My Students

“Today’s lesson is going to begin in a weird way,” I tell my students.

A student snickers: “So today will be nothing new?” I take the comment as a compliment.

“Have you ever played headbands? Today is a version of that game. I will place a sticky note on your forehead. Please do not tell anyone what the note says. Once everyone has been labeled, I want you to walk around the room treating each other only according to the label.”

The colorful labels include phrases like: I’m so popular, I’m a bully, I have no friends, I like to gossip, I love sports, I have tons of school spirit, I am very sassy, I like to joke, etc.

The students giggle, the classroom is loud. I instruct them to take their seats but keep their label stuck to their foreheads. The image of twenty plus adolescents with post-it notes on their heads is hilarious.

After a series of warm-up questions, I go in for the kill. I comment: “You were very gifted at treating each other according to your labels. Why do you think humans label? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this human behavior?”

Of course, this lesson is about the Holocaust. This lesson is about the creation of “other.”

I instruct the students to write in a chart, labeled with five categories: the creation of other, prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, and persecution. We discuss definitions and I give examples of how the Jews were systematically moved along this continuum until extermination. I point out that Hitler called it the Final Solution.

All day long I bite my tongue. I do not bring current events into the lesson. I keep it historical. The staff has been warned to keep our political opinions to ourselves. I try to keep the current political climate out of my classroom.

But I fail.

A student says: “Mrs. Brown, have you heard about the bomb threats and the cemeteries?” He is, of course, referring to the bomb threats on Jewish Community Centers and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, one incident which was in neighboring Rochester, NY just last week.

I still refrain from drawing conclusions for my students. I don’t analyze or connect. I simply let the class discuss with one another. The students are thoughtful. They make poignant correlations. Some students are silent, all are engaged. This is the world we, the adults, are showing them. These will be our future voters.

As for me, I will continue to label my students.

Daughters

I cried when the sonogram technician told me what I dreaded, embarrassed by my fear.

In my head, I imagined hearing reactions to the news: “Oh, another girl in the family.”

I internalized their displeasure of increased femaleness.

He said: “You are crying? Why are you crying?”

I explained: “I feel like I am letting you down. I thought you wanted a boy.”

He replied: “You don’t know boys. I like you, why would I not like our daughter?”

I giggled, but I didn’t trust his love.

Men leave daughters. They keep their sons.

Predictably, when I told my mother there would be another girl she was not surprised. She was excited for a second grandchild but forecasted that I was in for a mother/daughter relationship similar to our own.

When I met my first child, I knew her face — it was a mirror. Behind the cesarean drape, I saw her bright alert eyes and the tears of his. I was so excited to meet her.

He never left our sides. My mother marveled at how he cared for her and changed her diaper. The basic meeting of an infant’s needs afforded him praise and the admiration of my female relatives. I was cautiously optimistic that his love would endure. I was semi-confident that he would stay the course.

She cried for two hours every evening for three months. From 5–7 every evening she arched her back and wailed. I walked her, soothed her, yelled back at her, and tried to nurse her until he came home.

He found me reeking of my dried milk, hair pulled back, exhausted and destroyed. I was nasty and short-tempered, and then he asked me a rhetorical question.

“Do I need to wear a t-shirt that says that I am not going anywhere?”

He knew my darkest fear. He recognized my struggle. He, with his gentle blue eyes, was not the abandoning type.

Three years later I told him there was little chance I would get pregnant again. She was difficult to conceive, so “it” was not a problem. Two months later our daughter read a note to him (with my help) that informed him that she would be a big sister in the fall. After a six-hour car trip, a junky transmission, and lots of booze, he reassured me that he was happy for our news.

I adored our daughter, so I thought I was immune to the gender discussion that continued with almost everyone I shared our happy news. Most people were remarkably confident that we would have a boy, even a psychic in California confirmed it. This time a boy would enter the female family. It seemed important to so many like a prophecy fulfilled.

And then I cried again. This time it was in the delivery room.

We named our second daughter after my great grandmother and introduced her to her sister. It was a blissful time.

I remember a relative visiting who asked me if we would keep trying for a boy. I convinced her that I was content. I was. I am.

Daughters

I cried when the sonogram technician told me what I dreaded, embarrassed by my fear.

In my head, I imagined hearing reactions to the news: “Oh, another girl in the family.”

I internalized their displeasure of increased femaleness.

He said: “You are crying? Why are you crying?”

I explained: “I feel like I am letting you down. I thought you wanted a boy.”

He replied: “You don’t know boys. I like you, why would I not like our daughter?”

I giggled, but I didn’t trust his love.

Men leave daughters. They keep their sons.

Predictably, when I told my mother there would be another girl she was not surprised. She was excited for a second grandchild but forecasted that I was in for a mother/daughter relationship similar to our own.

When I met my first child, I knew her face–it was a mirror. Behind the cesarean drape, I saw her bright alert eyes and the tears of his. I was so excited to meet her.

He never left our sides. My mother marveled at how he cared for her and changed her diaper. The basic meeting of an infant’s needs afforded him praise and the admiration of my female relatives. I was cautiously optimistic that his love would endure. I was semi-confident that he would stay the course.

She cried for two hours every evening for three months. From 5-7 every evening she arched her back and wailed. I walked her, soothed her, yelled back at her, and tried to nurse her until he came home.

He found me reeking of my dried milk, hair pulled back, exhausted and destroyed. I was nasty and short-tempered, and then he asked me a rhetorical question.

“Do I need to wear a t-shirt that says that I am not going anywhere?”

He knew my darkest fear. He recognized my struggle. He, with his gentle blue eyes, was not the abandoning type.

Three years later I told him there was little chance I would get pregnant again. She was difficult to conceive, so “it” was not a problem. Two months later our daughter read a note to him (with my help) that informed him that she would be a big sister in the fall. After a six-hour car trip, a junky transmission, and lots of booze, he reassured me that he was happy for our news.

I adored our daughter, so I thought I was immune to the gender discussion that continued with almost everyone I shared our happy news. Most people were remarkably confident that we would have a boy, even a psychic in California confirmed it. This time a boy would enter the female family. It seemed important to so many like a prophecy fulfilled.

And then I cried again. This time it was in the delivery room.

We named our second daughter after my great grandmother and introduced her to her sister. It was a blissful time.

I remember a relative visiting who asked me if we would keep trying for a boy. I convinced her that I was content. I was. I am.

Quit Your Marchin…

janusz-korwin-mikke

Women and men have told me that they did not see the point of the women’s marches in Washington, D.C., across the United States, and in the rest of the world. The evidence of sexism exposed in this video, however, demonstrates why the marches occurred, and gives ammunition to increase resistance.

Do you know which was the place in the Polish theoretical Physics Olympiad, the first place of women, of girls? I can tell you — 800th. Do you know how many women are in the first 100 chess players? I can tell you — not one. Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent, and they must earn less. That is all.

Unfortunately, this alt-right Polish member of the European Parliament is not wrong, his truth gives more explanations to offer to those people who ask why people continue to march.

  1. Women are not performing well in the Polish theoretical Physics Olympiad, or in any other STEM competition.
  2. Women are weaker than men and are victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  3. Women are paid less than men and are in professions that continue to be female dominated and thus undervalued.
  4. Women are smaller than men. Women are smaller in power, in wealth, in position, and in political participation.
  5. Women are less intelligent than men because we have allowed men to dominate for far too long.

DON’T POP MY BUBBLE!

We all live in our own fragile bubble. Bubbles give us a false sense of safety, but they also shape our identity and politics, or lack thereof.

Upon reflection on how my first post on medium.com, “I am a Feminist, but I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton,” was received on Facebook I felt humbled.

Did I just admit to my liberal friends that I was not part of their club?

Will I be forced to forfeit my long-sleeve, purple Womyn’s Action Coalition shirt?

Did I reveal too much?

Will my religious relatives pray for me?

Did I hurt my mother?

How will my honesty effect my professional life?

Will my husband lose customers?

And then a person came to me to share her dirty little secret: She voted for him! POP!

She has also felt left out. She told me I was brave. She made me cry.

I felt a mixture of apprehension and elation that entire day. The apprehension that my words exposed me too much. Elation because I was authentic.

And then the next day another person approached me and told me how she connected to my writing — she told me her story. A story that led to the best political conversation I have had in a good, long time. I conversation I would never have had the pleasure of experiencing if I had not popped my own bubble. POP!

I began to think about how many people might be out there fearing ridicule from their friends, family, or co-workers.

I returned home and my husband shared with me an anecdote about a man who rejected a date with a woman solely because she voted for the “other.” He didn’t inquire as to why. He didn’t have a conversation. This man did the same thing he rages about–he judged a person narrowly.

Such rigidity is what made me write my first (and horribly transparent) piece. That piece brought people into my intimate bubble.

Many of us bash the extreme views of the right or left, especially when that extremism is modeled by politicians or celebrities. And yet, how will we move forward in this brave new world if we instantly dismiss someone solely on their political views. These people have value.

If we don’t value other’s stories they never become part of our own.

I remember the first time I faced my own rigidity. Sarah Weddington, the attorney that argued for Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade, spoke at my college campus. In the post-lecture discussion, a young woman came out as a pro-lifer. There was a collective gasp until another young, brave women spoke up. That brave soul said to that pro-life young woman: “At least you are consistent, you support both the unborn, and you are against the death penalty.” That is when my definition of Feminism expanded. That was the moment my consciousness grew. POP!

I wish that I was always perfect and saw both sides to every person and issue. I am not. Mostly I am a judgmental jerk. However, my intention from now on is to give the people I interact with a chance for me to enter their bubble.

Hesitate-Trust in Trump

via Daily Prompt: Hesitate

Punch me in the face and tell me you love me.

After Trump’s first address to Congress, I feel like we (the American people) are in an abusive relationship with the President of the United States.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

This all sounds good. Yes, I want him to love me, the American people. I want roads, jobs, tax reform, great schools, health care reform, safety, the defeat of ISIS, and general prosperity. I want that kind of love. However, I fear that Trump’s love comes with sunglasses and scarves to hide the bruises.

Trump’s address was positive. It was filled with messages of unity and progress — both in terms of economic and political growth. I saw a president who’s message was one of Puritan work ethic leading to the American Dream. I grew uncomfortable, however, when he shined a spotlight on certain “average” citizens in the audience. It felt raw, exposed and false. It felt like the family that lives in a beautiful McMansion in the suburbs who appear to have it all but are trying too hard to convince others. I felt like he was exploiting the recent widow and the college success story. I laughed to myself (sort of hysterically), that I could hear the collective crying in thousands of households where people were touched by these sad and heroic stories.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all. Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5. On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life. Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.

He began his speech discussing the threats and attacks on Jewish community centers and the shooting of Indian engineers in Kansas City:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

It was appropriate to begin with these events and it was necessary. His message was positive and just. However, I was crouching on my sofa thinking that Trump helped to make a climate for these attacks to increase. I grow apprehensive that his rhetoric will morph again and attacks will become common place. I also wonder if the reported uptick in hate group membership has peaked, or are these groups just gaining speed? Ultimately, I wanted to release a primal scream that called out the victim’s name. His name was Srinivas Kuchibhotla! But that name is hard to pronounce and foreign, and how do you say it?

And then, President Trump discussed my sweet spot — education. That is when I began to listen. He said:

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

I know some very cute kids in Akron, Ohio that have benefitted from a school choice program. Children should have access to the best schools. De facto segregation has gone on for far too long. So, yes show me this love of education, but also tell me what will happen to the public schools that these children exit from?

Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather. As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice. But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college. Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.

Denisha Merriweather’s story is important. She is a very good example of the need for quality education. I have a similar story. However, I was able to benefit from a strong public school system. Although President Trump is expressing his love and concern for America’s youth, I fear that President Trump’s love for school choice will lead to the privatization of education. Schools, like governments, are not businesses. If schools are run like businesses they will fail like many businesses do.

President Trump ended his speech with the following message to his beloved American people:

Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America.

All I could think of is the archetype of the wife beater who tells his battered wife that he will stop. He will change. It will be better this time. Just have faith. Just give him a chance.