Presidential Timber

If you don’t believe Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, is covertly running for the 2024 Republican nomination, you’re not paying attention. The Former Guy is and he’s not pleased. The gov will not publicly state that he won’t run if the guy does. TFG is coming for Ron and that makes for one very interesting 2022 governor’s race.

How does Ron do it? One way is throwing raw meat, bloody and dripping, to the party’s base. Meat like convening a special legislative session to bar local school boards from implementing mask mandates as a public health measure during a pandemic.

Water Oak Tree 2-3' image 1
Water oaks grow fast which makes them weak.

Even as school systems backed off of mask mandates, some say under threats from the Department of Education to cut funding, others because the summer wave of Covid infection, hospitalization, and death has been receding, the governor needed to be sure the mandates would never happen again.

DeSantis frames it as a parent’s right to decide what are the best practices for their children’s health. As a result, school employees are receiving messages like this one that Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) received from his superintendent:

Employees,

Today, Governor DeSantis signed into law HB-1 which passed during Special Session yesterday.  The new law specifically applies to school districts, school boards, and superintendents and places restrictions on our ability to require students to wear masks or facial coverings. Specifically, the new law prohibits mask mandates for students and restricts districts from requiring a parent to opt a student out of wearing a mask.  This means that effective immediately, parents may still allow their child to voluntarily wear a mask; however, the district can’t require a family to submit an opt-out form. Therefore, all requirements for student opt-outs are immediately terminated. 

We will continue to do our part to keep our schools, employees and students safe by ensuring other COVID-19 mitigation measures are continued.  Specifically, we will continue to ensure hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and other PPE are available to schools.  The district will continue the application of anti-microbial protectant spray in high touch areas and enhanced cleaning schedules.  We have also committed to ensuring nursing staff and school health aides are available in schools.  Finally, we will continue to offer opportunities for employees and eligible students to receive COVID-19 vaccines through our ongoing partnership with the Florida Department of Health.

I know that some of you may not support the new requirements.  As a district, rest assured that we are doing all that we can to keep you safe while concurrently complying with the law.  Thank you for all that you continue to do to care for our students and each other.

Kind regards,

Parents rights! The rallying cry these days for tearing apart public education and dividing the spoils among … edupreneurs, hedge fund investors, and TFA champions who signed up to spend two years in a classroom because they hadn’t figured out what to do with their lives and realized that they had staked out a claim to a gold mine.

DeSantis defends parents’ rights, among them the right for parents to spread sickness and disease to other people’s children.

It’s no surprise to GOT that he has had several children home in quarantine during November. It’s no surprise that he is receiving daily emails from students that they will not be in school. If they don’t say they have Covid, they say they don’t feel well, are running a fever, or having other symptoms.

Some mention a diagnosis of strep throat. It’s not only Covid that’s now running through the bodies of children. But we have discarded the lessons of the pandemic, that a simple mask and common sense regarding classroom practices go far to keep children healthy.

None of that matters to DeSantis, who spreads his branches and dreams great dreams of occupying the White House. He denies it by saying that he is focused on re-election to his current office and has not thought beyond that.

Trump objects as he strives to remind us that he made Ron DeSantis. That is true. DeSantis was an obscure, little-known Congressperson (did you catch what GOT did there?) from north Florida. When he decided to run for governor, he had no chance until Trump endorsed him.

Like a water oak, DeSantis grew fast and thus he grew weak. Water oaks are an undesirable tree as they tend to fall over in storms when the ground is saturated, but they also are subject to rot in their cores. The outside looks good, but the inside is rotten.

He certainly is like Trump. He has little interest in governing, but a great interest in traveling around the state to brag about his (questionable) accomplishments. While he insists that schools be open regardless of pandemic case counts, that Florida’s children must be in schools, and with the latest legislation, have no protection against what other children bring into the building, he continues to shield his children. Tours of the governor’s mansion are limited to the legislative session, which GOT must admit is better than nothing that was the rule for much of the pandemic.

No masks, no vaccine, DeSantis is the cancerous version of that Vegas cliche: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

He wants to be president. If that doesn’t frighten you, this should: he would likely bring Richard Corcoran to Washington to be his Secretary of Education. Trust GOT, that would make you nostalgic for the days of Devos.

Peek-A-Boo

One of the earliest games parents play with their children, Peek-A-Boo exploits the fact that infants who are nascent toddlers, believe that whatever they do not see cannot exist.

PEEK-A-BOO! You play the game by covering your face with your hands, and whoosh! you’re not there. Then you throw your hands open, show your face, and say peek-a-boo. The baby sees your face, you’re now there, and giggles. You laugh and cover your face again.

I say Peek A Boo

It’s not a fun game when we see the same game being played by school boards and superintendents, in which they cover their faces with their hands and pretend that the pandemic never happened.

They may throw their hands open every once in a while and acknowledge the struggles of their employees as they admonish them to practice self-care. They might send flowery messages about how hard this has been for everyone. But then it is ‘Game On!’ as teachers continue to have their time wasted in meetings called to discuss testing data, progress monitoring, ongoing classroom inspections by admin, &c. &c. all to answer the big question that has devastated education more than a pandemic ever could, “How will they score on the test?”

THE Test. There is no vaccination, no medicine, no social distancing, or mask that can protect American schoolchildren against it. No sneeze guard, HEPA air filtering, or UVC light zapping of viral particles that can end it. No opening of windows, distance learning, or other mitigation measures will deter school boards and superintendents from their obsession with test results.

Why? Because their jobs depend on it.

Years ago, when Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was running a back office for a real-estate sales operation, he had an employee whose job was to collect back payments on outstanding loans. The employee often complained about resale companies, who convinced people that they could resell their now-unwanted property (the reason for the delinquency) for them. The resellers never delivered, but they did collect listing fees.

One day he changed his tune. The resellers offered an essential and wonderful service. As I inquired for the reason, it came out the resellers were paying him a $50 referral fee for every listing he sent them.

Yes, GOT put a stop to that practice immediately.

But it was a fascinating insight into human behavior. Money talks and drowns out other voices. When the Test asserts itself, it’s all that matters. All other concerns fall away.

Peek-a-boo! If school boards and superintendents cover their faces with their hands, the pandemic never happened. Everything is normal. Kids aren’t hurting, there’s no trauma to be addressed … get out the whips and drive them forward to the scores we need. Or teachers, feel the lash on your backs.

Peek-a-boo! Open the hands and here’s a spa coupon. Pamper yourself, but be sure to take the backlog of grading with you as you soak in the tub. Multi-tasking, ya know?

Peek-a-boo! Close the hands and the long, slow exodus of professionals AND essential support personnel won’t be seen. It doesn’t exist. Nothing to worry about, keep that long line of automobiles belching carbon monoxide into the air moving … because bus drivers are as rare as hen’s teeth these days … have you seen the latest progress monitoring results? What’s wrong with our teachers? If they really cared, they wouldn’t complain about losing planning time (we pay them, right? Don’t answer that question, we might not like the answer.)

Peek-a-boo! Keep those eyes covered, lest a long look or even a quick peek in the mirror might reveal something the movers and shakers don’t want to see. They could do much to change the impossible demands upon classroom teachers, support personnel, school leaders, counselors, and others even being under the constraints of state statutory requirements, but they don’t.

Peek-a-boo … how long can this game go on?

A Birthday Cake for Mr. Washington

Several years back, Scholastic Publishing Company published a children’s book titled as you see above. The book told a story about how George Washington’s slaves baked a cake for him to celebrate his birthday. As you might imagine or remember, controversy erupted.

A Birthday Cake for George Washington - Wikipedia

Although the author defended the story as well-researched and one that captured the complex relationships between the enslaved and the enslavers, it only took 12 days for Scholastic to pull the book from its catalog.

It was described as an “incomplete, even dishonest view of slavery” and “offensively sanitized version” of the history of slavery to be told to children.

It fell into the Happy Slave trope, one that walks hand-in-hand with the Lost Cause theology. Black people were better off as slaves, they were fed, clothed, and housed, they were grateful and loved their enslavers, they were valuable property and would never, ever be mistreated because who would damage their property …

Looking for the vomit emoji to insert into the text.

Real history says otherwise. The Federal Writers Project collected the narratives of the formerly enslaved to preserve them for future generations. There are the speeches of Frederick Douglas and others. There are the stories passed through the generations of Black people.

Black people were not happy slaves. Whitewashing their history helps no one for the history of Black people, the enslaved, is the history of white people, the enslavers. We must admit that. The institution of slavery in America is the history of white people, too.

But there are those who would deny that, which brings us to the controversy du jour in education–the chef’s special, you might say: Critical Race Theory (CRT).

CRT is not taught, nor has it ever been taught, in K-12 grades of any public school. It is a way of understanding history that was developed in the 1970s for graduate-level (master and doctorate university students) debate. This is a fact that is irrelevant to the protestors who storm school board meetings to demand an end to CRT in public schools, irrelevant to the politicians (hello, Glenn Youngkin) who don’t care because it’s a useful means of stirring up the kind of hatred that will storm the polls and deliver votes, irrelevant because the anti-CRT controversy has nothing to do with the actual theory itself.

CRT these days has become a catch-all label for any teaching about race that deviates from the traditional history text that deals with the slavery issue as one that had white people arguing in the 19th century lead-up to the Civil War (North good, South bad), a mention of the 1820s Nat Turner rebellion in Virginia (which frightened white people), and a wrap-up that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved Black people (spoiler alert: it did not).

Beyond that, nothing else was taught. Even 50 years ago, there was too much to pack into one course and students moved on to Manifest Destiny, which ignored the post-Civil War wars against indigenous peoples to settle … er … move across … er … conquer … er … take over all territory between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean south of the 49th parallel.

Manifest Destiny, the only history that the far-right, the nice-white, and the rabble-rousing elite want taught, all for reasons that promote privilege and wealth. God gave us this continent and it is our destiny to rule, which enables and authorizes any evil needed to do so, which we will not speak of. We forbid others to do so.

It is useless to ask the protestors what CRT is. They don’t know and they don’t care. The question is irrelevant. They want Manifest Destiny taught and anything that would challenge that viewpoint must be suppressed.

The enslaved were happy. They weren’t oppressed; they were being civilized. They were fortunate to encounter the white race and have this chance at being bettered. That’s the narrative and the far-right, nice-white crowd is sticking to it.

And … if you don’t like it, they will smash Mr. Washington’s cake in your face.

Pop Quiz: Grit

What is grit?

  1. An obscure, newspaper-style magazine that advertized for carriers in comic books.
  2. A Southern food spelled in the plural.
  3. A character trait popularized by Angela Duckworth.
  4. A small particle of stone or sand.
  5. All of the above.
The Lair of the Silver Fox.: True Grit? ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post
And you thought Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was making this up.

Grit, as a human character trait, is not hard to understand although we usually call it perseverance.

Grit is the ability to throw off discouragement when one has failed and to try again.

Grit is the belief that one can succeed if one only sticks to a task, a goal, or an objective until one has achieved it.

Those who have grit will keep at it whereas those who do not will give up.

The ability to persevere until finding success, a/k/a grit, is one of those common-sense concepts that everyone gets until we have to mess it up, mostly because perseverance like all character traits is not taught. It can be learned, but it cannot be taught.

Grit goes hand-in-hand with another trait, the growth mindset. Oh, how excited everyone was when Carol Dweck first published her book. The problem came when district administrators caught on to the fad, went to seminars to catch the lecture and purchase the resources, and returned home to mandate that classroom teachers would now teach children how to have a growth mindset, including scripted lessons and assessments.

GOT understands the power of having a growth mindset as well as perseverance, but the problem is that these things cannot be taught. That needs repeating and in all caps (yes, GOT is shouting): THEY CANNOT BE TAUGHT!

Like all social-emotional learning, it must be experienced and absorbed. Formal lessons with stupid quizzes at the end … because anything worth doing in a classroom must produce data at the end for endless handwringing of local and district administrators … is stupid.

Classic Buttered Grits Recipe
The real Mason-Dixon line: That looks yummy vs. you people really eat this?!

Good teachers know this. Years ago, GOT noted how the freshmen in his math classes would give up and not try again if they did not understand something or got it wrong.

They did not persevere. It was not a character trait, fixed or acquired, that they were lacking.

They hadn’t yet caught on that GOT is a teacher of second chances, even a third or a fourth, if only a student will keep trying.

The key to grit or perseverance is that it cannot be taught; it is learned through experience, which means that a wise teacher creates a learning environment that encourages children to keep trying. This is true for all levels, pre-K to college level and beyond. If children are in an environment where they are encouraged to risk failure because failure can be a great teacher, they can take that risk because there is always another chance to try again, and eventually the sweet, sweet taste of success will be in their mouths.

That is grit. That’s it. No fancy academic lecture, book, or Ted Talk is needed.

Looks rather sharp. How did this become the symbol of trying again?

GOT has no athletic talent. None at all. So he gave up, even as a child, at playing any sports although as an adult, he spent many futile years trying golf. GOT still was awful.

GOT supposes you would say he lacked grit. All that stood between him and a high school letter jacket and an athletic scholarship to college was grit. You ain’t got it, kid, now get outta here.

Or you could say that maybe GOT realized that athletics wasn’t his thing and turned his time and attention to more fruitful endeavors that brought him accomplishment and satisfaction.

But when it comes to grit and school, we’re not talking about sticking to a line of inquiry until a Nobel prize is awarded. We’re talking about the basic knowledge that every human being can gain and master.

There came a time when GOT was visiting his sister and her family. His nephew was out back shooting baskets and asked GOT to come play. He demurred, saying he didn’t participate in sports. In the ensuing conversation, his nephew, about 10 years old at the time, told him that he could be good at it if he would practice two or three hours a day like his nephew did.

His nephew was right, of course. If GOT practiced shooting baskets three hours a day, he could achieve some level of competency. But the environment would have to be right to encourage that and GOT was now an adult with a job and professional obligations. That kind of time wasn’t possible. The environment was not there.

That’s the wonderful aspect of childhood. By law, our society has made the choice to ban child labor until they have grown old enough. Even as teenagers, we limit their hours until they are adults to give them the time they need to learn and develop. By limiting work hours, we create the environment whereby that can take place.

Once a person enters adulthood, they will never have that chance again until they retire.

Once upon a time, children acquired social-emotional learning naturally, not formally, and someone finally wrote it down:

The book is thirty years old. In those days, before kindergarten became the new 7th grade, nine-year-old children were expected to master calculus, and newborns needed to enter the world being able to sightread new words, people read this book by Robert Fulghum and said he nailed it.

How the Word is Passed

The angry buzzing of hornets whose hive has been disturbed marks what passes for civil discourse in these days of our lives.

RESCUE! BugBlog
They sting to kill. If you’re allergy free, you might stand a chance. Then again, murder hornets!

One thinks of Joan Rivers and her comedic schtick, “Can we talk here?” But in these days, the answer is no, <insert your favorite swear word> no, <insert a worse one> no, we don’t talk, we shout you down to shut you up. A few even go further than shouts.

The metaphor of a hornet’s nest is an apt one. All it takes is one throw of a stone and all hell breaks loose, which is what happened in the summer of 2020 when a conservative activist by the name of Christopher Rufo chanced upon an obscure academic theory known as Critical Race Theory and seized it as a weapon to be deployed on the favorite jousting field of conservatives, the Fox News Channel.

That fed into the erasing-history hysteria over taking down monuments to a failed insurrection. Even now, social media is filled with the rants of conserva <cough, cough> white supremacists about erasing history.

No one wants to erase history. But history is not what people think it is. Herodotus is called the Father of History, not because of his meticulously reporting of the facts of past events, but because he invented the science of history, the science that demands an interpretation of past events so that the living can understand what happened before they dropped upon the Earth and how that shapes the times they live in.

No one can erase history, but they can suppress its telling to new generations. Taking down Confederate monuments will not rub out the men who fought for an economic system of oppression, who fought to keep an enslaved class of people exploited in many ways, some too terrible to mention. Funnily enough, the removal of the monuments will not erase the history of why they were there. Those advocating for the removal want that history remembered for it is their history as well to which they add their stories, their background, and their survival.

That brings us to Clint Smith and his journey across America and the Atlantic to bring us a few glimpses of a history that the can’t-erase-history crowd are trying their damndest to erase.

He opens with an examination of Thomas Jefferson and the Sally Hemmings story that he unraveled during his visits to Monticello. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was aware of that history, but then Mr. Smith brings to our attention the dichotomy between the stirring words of Jefferson’s Magnus Opus, the Declaration of Independence, in which he declares that ‘all men are created equal’ and Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, in which he expressed his view that Black people were inferior to white people.

GOT did not know that. It seems Thomas Jefferson did not believe that all men are created equal or worse, perhaps he regarded Black people, like most of the white population, as something less than.

Smith moves on to his visit to Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, a historical site not dedicated to picture-perfect backdrops for overpriced weddings or admiration of antebellum architecture, but a site dedicated to telling the story of plantation life from the view of the enslaved. He tells of his steps inside a cabin that was not weathertight nor did it have any creature comforts. The enslaved were left to sleep on the hard floorboards.

Smith visited many places on his journey, not all of which he includes in his book. But a few chapters later, he gives a picture of New York City during colonial days, when one out of every four persons was a Black slave.

Oops! That was left out, one could almost say erased, from the history of America that GOT was taught.

Smith finishes his book by describing what he learned when he sat down with his surviving grandparents, one grandfather and one grandmother. They passed on living history, the stories of people who lived through the Jim Crow days and the terrorism of the KKK.

And that is how the word is passed. That is how history will not be forgotten, even though some would suppress its teaching in the schools. History will find a voice for its telling, even if it is just whispered among the reeds as the wind blows.

Go ahead, anti-CRT people. Storm those school board meetings and remove all the books you don’t like. But as you like to say, “No one can erase history.”

This nation was built upon Black slavery. The day of reckoning and, hopefully, reconciliation and reparation is near. Because, and isn’t this what really drives the panic of the dying white supremacy view, they really haven’t been birthing enough babies.

GOT may not live to see the day, but he knows that it is coming.

And by all means, get yourself a copy of the book, not only for the story he tells, but because Cllint Smith is an outstanding writer. His descriptions, the way he forms his word pictures, … GOT wishes he was that good.

Opting Out

Sarcasm alert: This piece is dripping with it and, if you’re not careful, will ruin your clothes.

An Opt-Out form for parents to instruct teachers about the instruction they wish their instructees to be instructformed.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) really should have thought of this years ago. How much easier his life would have been and how far fewer the many, many hours he has put into teaching would have been.

Why struggle the entire year to cram an overloaded curriculum into a short-circuited school year? Why sweat out the pacing guide that says a 13-year-old child will outrun a racehorse over the course of nine months? Why put in 10 or 11 or 12 hours a day, arriving at school two hours before the first bell rings and staying until the last child who has come for after-school help has to leave?

All it takes is one simple opt-out form given to parents at the beginning of the school year with all the year’s topics listed. Check off everything you don’t want your child to learn in Algebra or Geometry.

Proofs are hard? Check it off. GOT will excuse your child.

Too many defnintions to learn? Check off half the topics on the list. It really doesn’t matter which ones; pick them at random. But your child will only have to do half the learning.

Theorems? Schmeorems. Check off the ones you don’t want taught. GOT will respect your orders.

In return, his long day will dwindle into those obscenely-short, but in the contract, hours that makes teaching the laziest job in the world. In fact, even during those must-be-on-property hours, GOT can finally, finally … HALLELUJAH! … become that tired cliche that never really existed and sit at his desk, feet up, cup of tea in hand (GOT is not a tea drinker, he loathes the stuff unless it’s on ice, but let’s not spoil a long-held false idea that namby-pamby, liberal teachers don’t drink real American beverages like coffee) reading the newspaper.

They still print newspapers, don’t they?

All because the world of education has become one of parents checking off a list of what children should learn. Father knows best, amiright? Amiright? AMIRIGHT?

Let’s time-travel back to the 1950s, a decade of segregation, a decade of long-faded TV shows that featured no black people, a sterile world of white-people-only …

Go ahead and make checks on that list. GOT double-triple-dog-dares you.

An end-of-year bonus awaits GOT. When the test scores come in and are atrocious, the administrators, state inquisitors, and district staff like the assistant deputy nepotistic washes-the-board’s-cars-on-the-weekend in charge of raising test scores superintendent show up, all GOT has to do is pull the forms out of his desk.

The parents opted out.

Charged for a Crime That Does Not Exist

When Hamlett came up with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another” as a possible charge, there was a problem. It’s not an actual charge. There is no such crime. It is rather a basis upon which someone can be accused of a crime. For example, a person who caused someone else to commit robbery would be charged with robbery, not “criminal responsibility.”

Meribah Knight, Nashville Public Radio, and Ken Armstrong, ProPublica

The actual events took place in 2016. Pro Publica, an independent, non-profit newsroom performing investigative journalism, dug deeper into the story. At the outset, know that you should read the actual story. It’s long, but it’s worth your time. Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) purpose in writing about it is to amplify the Pro Publica piece. Linking to it three times in one paragraph ought to give you an idea of how important GOT believes it is.

Here’s your Civics education, kids. You know, the education that politicians, elected officials like governors and legislators, believe is essential to your functioning as an adult member of our civil society. So essential that in Florida, we have a new test (don’t make me deaf with your groans) and a new requirement for ‘civic literacy’ in post-secondary education. We’re talking college here.

State college and university students will be required to take an assessment in addition to a civics literacy course as a graduation requirement. Currently, college students are only required to complete one. 

Rachel Fradettte, Naples Daily News

What do we really learn from the Pro Publica article? We learn that prisons-for-profit is an institutional fact in at least one Tennessee county, which leaves us wondering how many more are there that have avoided the publicity?

Rutherford County markets itself and its ideas to other counties as having the capacity to jail children because it’s for their own good, ignoring established research and federal law that recognizes that incarceration of juveniles never produces a good outcome. Instead, it leaves children to grow into adulthood traumatized and struggling to live productive lives.

We see yet one more example of the overwhelming racism baked into the structure of our civics, which is to say, our system of governance. Beyond the shocking statistic that Rutherford County locks up 48% of the children referred to juvenile court versus a Tennessee average of 5%, we also see that it is mostly black children who fall into this tough love program.

We see that the judge, elected to preside over cases in juvenile court, sees herself as an advocate for the reforming of children. She’s on God’s mission according to her words. So here’s another civics lesson in real-life America: the bleeding of religious beliefs into the functioning of government.

Normally, judges shy away from publicity and media lest an expressed opinion might taint the perception of impartiality in a future case. But this judge appeared weekly on a radio segment to explain her agenda. Another civics lesson in how the courts are becoming politicized.

What are we to make of our constitutional protections? There is a right to counsel, a right to a timely day in court, a right to a jury decision, a right to demand a warrant … but the idea that a jurisdiction would make up a crime that does not exist and arrest children (8, 9, 10 years old), is so preposterous that the Founding Fathers didn’t think a specific provision in the Bill of Rights was needed.

Mack Trucks shares market outlook at NACV | For Construction Pros
Do they still make Mack trucks these days?

That’s a hole we can drive a Mack truck through. GOT remembers that expression from his youth.

So yes, kids, yet another lesson in civics in real-life America. Elected officials, even those who serve as judges, can abuse their offices if no one is around to say no.

It is time to say no. Isn’t that what the politicians are telling us?

Junk Mail, Yet Again

How to Filter Spam With Apple Mail
There ought to be a law! Wait, there is. Maybe there ought to be a tax, which would suppress the spam, support government services, and shift the attention of the anti-vaxxermaskers to a new target. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

In this series about email spam that regularly shows up in teachers’ work cyber-boxes, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) has looked at typical pieces like survey invitations (Junk Mail) and professional development come-ons (Junk Mail, Again.) In this third piece, it’s time to look at a type of spam that targets teachers in particular–the union-busting message.

Let’s quote the message in full:

Why do people choose to join a union? Typically, it’s to secure better working conditions, get a better deal from your employer, or have a workplace representative that has their back when things get tough. A well-functioning union should represent the interests of all their members and stand behind them.

Do you feel like the Florida Education Association (FEA) is living up to your expectations?

When management unilaterally imposes working conditions, it’s the unions job to push back and protect their members.

Is your union just paying lip service or are they standing up for you?

If you believe that they are not on your side, you have options. Removing your bi-weekly financial donation to them is a powerful motivator to take you seriously. It’s time to play hard ball.

From Samuel Cohen or sam@optouttoday.com.

Look at the email address and no, don’t think for a moment that the person’s name is real. But ‘optouttoday’? That’s a slick move to co-opt the wellknown name of the anti-testing movement, Opt Out. In Florida, see here.

Opt out of testing? Opt out of your union. In particular, the Florida Education Association, the statewide umbrella organization that union locals join for the purpose of organizing collective action across the state.

But hold the phone! No one joins the FEA directly. Teachers join their local unions, who in turn belong to the FEA. The FEA is funded by the locals, who remit a specified percentage of local dues to the FEA.

It’s a funny appeal that lacks this basic knowledge. No one makes a bi-weekly donation directly to FEA. So why does the email target FEA and not the locals?

In the interest of research, GOT went to look at their website and received this message from Malwarebytes:

Website blocked due to reputation

http://www.optouttoday.com

Malwarebytes Browser Guard blocks pages that come from websites with relatively light traffic and have been reported to have malicious activity. If you trust this website, please click CONTINUE TO SITE. Otherwise, choose GO BACK.

But fools rush in … the site seems to have been created in the wake of the Janus decision. It is the brain child of the Freedom Foundation. The light traffic is most likely due to the fact that the site seems ancient (at least, in internet years.) And it’s full of propaganda, like the calculator that will try to show you how much your union dues would be better invested in a retirement plan at 6% interest.

Darla (also most likely a fake name paired with a fake quote) shows up on every page thanking them for telling her about her ability to opt out of union dues. They couldn’t find another person? Or are they merely lazy and thinking teachers are too dumb to notice?

So why the spam email now? Years ago, when GOT was a child and the nation worried about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, he remembers adults saying that both nations had programmed their computers to retaliate. Long after everyone was dead, the computers would continue to fire nuclear missiles at each other.

That’s what this spam reminds him of. Long after its time has passed, the Optouttoday website’s bots keep firing off messages to annoy teachers who are moving through a busy day and limited planning period time.

Not a great way to promote a failing cause.

___________________________________________________________________________________

PS: For a laugh, know this about the Freedom Foundation and their high-handed morality: During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the group received assistance between $350,000 and $1 million in federally backed small business loans from Commencement Bank as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The nonprofit stated it would allow them to retain 82 jobs.[40] Their loan was seen as notable, since they campaign against excess government spending and are small-government advocates. The Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat noted that the Freedom Foundation has “been rallying against government spending and taxes since the early 1990s”, and noting the organization’s website states “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived. We accept no government support.”

(Source: Wikipedia. Scroll to the end.)

Junk Mail, Again

One Year in American Junk Mail | TakePart
85% of all email is estimated to be spam. Cue Monty Python …

The next specimen of junk mail that is hitting teachers’ school cyber-mailboxes is one that comes from ‘Teachers of Tomorrow.’ Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) might almost (do you hear the dripping sarcasm like you would react to fingernails dragged across a blackboard? Oh, you young people and your whiteboards, you have missed out) fall for it if the spammer had bothered to disguise their identity.

They did not. It’s SimpleK12, an online company offering practical professional development. From their website:

“Our mission is to help educators inspire their students, engage their learners, perfect their craft, and share their experiences to help others do the same. Never stop growing. Never stop learning. Never stop sharing.

Online professional development. Anytime. Anywhere… even at home in your pajamas! We call it PD in your PJs. So put your bunny slippers on, and come join us!

We help motivate, inspire, and enrich more than 800,000 teachers per year. In turn, these teachers are also there for each other. They are all in the same boat. They stay up late and get up early. They grade papers in the car, make lesson plans while making dinner, email parents while folding laundry, run the school newspaper while watching ballet practice… and SimpleK12 gives them the ideas and support they need to never give up.”

PD in your PJs? Put your bunny slippers on? When GOT posts this on social media, please, please, please, comment with your best laughing emoji.

That last paragraph brings to mind this old song:

Do work while cooking dinner or folding laundry? Would they dare say these things if their audience wasn’t mostly made up of women?

In GOT’s day, we would call this a guilt trip. Rip up your ticket; don’t get on the plane. Take off your cape if you’ve ever worn one. This psychological manipulation of teachers must stop.

Let’s see what they have in mind in return for offering $100 off a SimpleK12 membership. But that’s mindboggling! How much does a membership cost that they are offering $100 off?!

Ha! They are soliciting people to follow them on Instagram. Their handle is @texasteachersACP. They claim they are the place to “keep up with the latest classroom trends, program updates and giveaways!” In the small print, they have this to say: “You are receiving this email regarding your enrollment in our program. Check often for important updates on your certification.”

GOT did not enroll in their program. Further research reveals that these people are preying upon, oops, offering people an alt-cert path into being a public school teacher.*

Then, why are they soliciting existing public school teachers?

Too many unrelated links in a junk email. GOT’s head hurts and he will stop here.

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*Anyone who did not pursue a traditional path via earning a teacher degree from an accredited college and is interested in a teaching career should contact the public school district for which they want to work for more information about alternate certification and entering the profession.

Junk Mail

One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Unwanted Mail - The New York Times
“You’ve got mail!” lost its allure years ago. Sorry, AOL.

In Florida, teachers’ email addresses are a public record, a fact that is a spammer’s dream. Usually, that means an index finger workout to keep pushing the delete button, but recently Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) mailbox got a few typical and recurring pitches.

First up, this pitch from … oh, GOT will cut and paste for you: Imagine Learning, a provider of supplemental solutions for K-12, is conducting research to gauge your reaction to proposed names for its suite of instructional materials. Teachers and administrators are invited to complete the survey to provide feedback on preferred names.

In return for entering a drawing for one of TEN, count them, TEN gift cards worth $100, Imagine Learning asks for five minutes of GOT’s time. And what did they want to know?

  • Whether Spark, Plus, or Max would be a good brand name to attach to their corporate moniker of Imagine Learning. How relevant, impactful, contemporary (modern and reflective for our times), and postive association does each option have? Oh, and how engaging?
  • Then, point by point, describe the reation to each brand: easy to understand or confusing, not clear at all; excitement for learning or boring, not exciting at all; engaging for learning or not engaging at all; inspires learning or uninspiring name for learning; memorable for using in classrooms or forgettable name; confidence for learning or the name does not inspire confidence; unique name or ordinary, like other products; novel, sounds fresh or tired, old-fashioned.
  • Now, they want to know if any of these negative responses are evoked by the name: racial or ethnic concerns; it does not promote high expectations for educational outcomes; it evokes association with groups/ideas contrary to educational values; no concerns; other–write in the comment box provided.
  • Rank the proposed names with an explanation.

Following that, they want more demographic information to add to the information they gathered before getting to the actual questions. They solicit interest in participating in future research. Finally, do you want to enter the drawing? Then give us your name, employer, and email address.

A typical junk mail solicitation with a prize, not really a prize, but a prize promise. Let’s cost that out. (Never solicit a math teacher, IJS, right?) If 2,000 people answer the survey and 10 receive a card, that gives GOT a 10 out of 2,000 chance of winning, or 1 out of 200, or 0.5%. Multiply that times the value of the card, $100, and the expected return of participation is 50 cents.

Two quarters. Two rounds of “shave and a haircut, two bits.” If that is the reward for 5 minutes of time, Imagine Learning is offering teachers $6 an hour to answer their survey, far less than federal minimum wage.

All because they can’t figure out the obvious: if you want to pitch your edutech product, it doesn’t matter what you call it. The customers only ask two questions:

  • Will it raise test scores?
  • You got some data to back that up?