Part Four: Florida Called …

This is an unexpected part four to a three-part series about Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis’s proposal to replace FSA testing with state-mandated progress monitoring tests. Part One: Warp Speed, Mozart, and Page Not Found, Part Two: Warp Speed, Mozart, and …, and Part Three: Warp Speed … comprised the series until today.

Among us older types, Boomers et al., Seinfeld was must-see-TV in the 1990s. So many enduring jokes and tropes came out of the series. One of the most famous was George getting dissed as he scarfed down a bowl of huge shrimp:

Sorry, George, but Jerk Store doesn’t begin to cover what Floridians have to suffer.

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, has released a proposal to end annual, which is to say once-a-year testing, in Florida’s schools. While questions abound as to how much testing is going to be replaced with more-often, three-times-a-year progress monitoring … such as:

  • Will the End-of-Course exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology, U.S. History, Civics, and the new U.S. Government test also be replaced?
  • How will the progress monitoring assessment results be used in accountability for schools & districts (grading law), teachers (evaluation law), and graduation (student law)?
  • What company will run the platform for the assessment? Who will develop it? Who will own the questions?
  • How will the new progress monitoring tests impact Florida’s law regarding the closure of schools that do not score high enough on the tests?

One thing is clear. The Governor cannot change Florida law and its testing requirements by fiat. These testing changes require action by the legislature and passage of new laws to change the mandated testing.

The screen shot is from the fsassessments.org website. Click on FSA, Students and Families, Practice Tests and you will find it.

Thus, it is very interesting that Florida is already implementing this new ‘Adaptive Progress Monitoring.’

The screen shot shows you that Florida’s current testing platform, run by Cambium Learning Group, already has a practice test up for the math and reading tests pictured.

So, question number one seems to be answered. The new APM applies only to the reading and math tests for grade levels 3 to 10 and 3 to 8, respectively. End of Course exams will not be affected.

But it goes further than that. Grumpy Old Teacher has been administering retake exams for Algebra 1 and 10th grade Reading these past two weeks. On the operational side, the same tests show up. Yes, you read that right. Somewhere in Florida, schools are already administering the APM tests.

Because Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) school has not been notified to do so, GOT assumes that the state is field testing the new idea with a sample of selected schools. Even without the legislature meeting and passing a new law, the Governor and his henchman, Ed Commissioner Richard Corcoran, are moving ahead with the change.

Hey, Ron! Hey, Rich! Florida called. We want our Constitution back.

UPDATE: Apparently, GOT is getting ahead of the actual story. The APM that is found on the testing platform was implemented last year as a free service for Florida districts needing to do ‘robust progress monitoring’ and needing the assist to meet the FLDOE emergency order requiring the same.

Of course, that is what gave DeSantis and Corcoran the idea in the first place.

And it will be a good starting point for what they have in mind.

Part 3: Warp Speed …

The third in a three part series picking apart Florida’s governor’s B.E.S.T. and maybe-not-so-brightest (and for those keeping score, that’s a slick reference to another Florida promise that its legislature feels no need to uphold with its soon-to-graduate young people.) Part One looks at the ongoing and apparently unsolvable problems Florida has with operating online platforms. Part Two looks at the unfulfillable promise of customized and unique testing experience to every student.

At last we get to the most disturbing part of the Governor’s famblasting with confuzzles, trumplebumples, and whovillians blamburbling a la the most delicious nonsense Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) ever served up.

Eliminating the once-a-year FSA with three-times-a-year progress monitoring will give schools two opportunities to improve.

Nice sleight-of-hand, Gov’nor, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is watching the cards.

Over the years and especially during the DeSantis (gov’nor) and Corcoran (House Speaker) era, Florida has tightened the thumb screws on its public schools. Under current law, a school that receives a D or F grade gets ONE year to improve. Get it up to a C or face the profiteering of a law that enriches ed management consultants, charter school operators, or … oh, hell, just shutter the damn building and let the parents figure it out.

One year.

But now, Governor DeSantis magnimously gives two chances.

Except those chances come every three months.

A school facing sanction used to have one year–ten months–to produce the test scores.

Under the new proposal, those two chances coming every three months means that schools only have half that time.

Florida’s drive to privatize all its schools was already moving at a fast pace. But if DeSantis and Corcoran have their way, we’re kicking the process into warp speed.

All that stands in the way is JEB Bush’s (please clap) ego, He may call in his many markers in the legislature to sabotage DeSantis.

Florida Man (Men) upping their game and moving to a new level.

What can a GOT say? We allow the rest of the country to say, “At least we’re not Florida.”

Part 2: Warp Speed, Mozart, and …

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) continues his thoughts on Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, and his testing initiative. Part One may be found here.

Algebra? Reading? Dammit, I’m a musical prodigy. I don’t have time for that <ahem>.

This is the second of a series about the news from Florida that the governor will propose legislation to the 2022 legislature to do away with the annual Florida Standards Assessments and replace them with progress monitoring assessments that are given three times a year: Fall, Winter, and Spring.

In the first part, GOT looked at the sorry record that Florida’s state government has in obtaining and operating internet platforms that actually work halfway decent.

In this second part, GOT will take up the claim that the new F.A.S.T. (Florida Assessment of Student Thinking) will actually deliver a test that is “customizable, unique to each student.”

Mozart was not only a genius, but a child prodigy. He wrote his first piece of music when he was only FIVE years old. Whatever his personal problems, he had a celebrated career that ended upon his death at 35 years of age.

The hype of computer-based education is that it can customize its offerings to every child, assessing their unique needs and delivering exactly what they need to maintain their educational progress.

But no one need delve into the messy details of how that happens to understand the philosophical conflict between the promise of a customized, unique education and tests that demand the achievement of standards. Standards by their very definition mean something that everyone has to demonstrate to receive a seal of approval.

Given Mozart’s talent, it would have been the waste of a millenium and a life to slam the piano cover down upon the keys and his fingers and insist that he study algebra. If we are truly customizing education to the individual’s talents, interests, and passions, we would excuse a Mozart from an Algebra End of Course exam.

Please stop laughing. Okay, GOT’s belly is shaking, too. Like we are ever going to do that in American education.

So what does the Governor and Florida Department of Education mean when they say the test is ‘customizable, unique to each student”?

They’re thinking along the lines of iReady, which has a defined learning path for students in its computer-delivered instruction, and the only customizable feature is what place in the path the software’s diagnostic assessment will put them.

These assessments work via algorithms that start students with test items that match their grade level. Based upon right or wrong answers, the algorithms move students up the grade-level standards (as determined by a human, what GOT humorously calls carbon-based intelligence vs. cyber devices or silicon-based intelligence) or down.

Believe it or not, GOT has seen sixth-grade students moved to second-grade standards only because they could not determine the time from an analog clock.

Now here’s the dirty secret about iReady; as originally designed by Curriculum Associates and presented to teachers, it was meant to be a tool for the classroom.

GOT doesn’t know if this is true anymore because he moved from a middle school to a high school seven years ago, but he does remember when iReady first came to his district and was implemented. GOT was the school’s math coach at the time, something he now recognizes was a waste of time and talent, but that’s fodder for another post.

After the iReady people presented their professional development at a meeting of the district’s math coaches and lead teachers, the particular rep for his school visited GOT in his office.

In the ensuing conversation, the iReady rep had this to say: iReady in the classroom is meant to support the teacher. A student can do an iReady lesson two times. If they are not successful, the program shuts down their access to that lesson and notifies the teacher that intervention is needed.

After the teacher works with the student, they have the ability to turn the lesson back on. Also, the teacher can review the student’s placement on the learning path and, if they determine that it is not appropriate, they can change it. They can move the student.

I was about to explain that to the room when your district shut me down. They did not want teachers to know that they could use their professional judgment and change what the computer algorithms had done.

This is why GOT has always supported programs like iReady IF AND ONLY IF they are given to teachers as tools to use, not dictates to follow.

Alas, it is not meant to be. When a Ron DeSantis or a Richard Corcoran brag about a customizable test, unique to each student, from which they will extract standardized data, know that they belong in the ‘shut teachers down’ crowd.

The words sound good, but they are phoney. The progress monitoring tests they have in mind will only result in students being plopped all over the standardized, everyone must do the same but not at the same time, map.

Warp Speed, Mozart, and Page Not Found

Every "Star Trek" USS Enterprise, Ranked
To boldly go where no governor has ever gone before …

By now the world of education knows and most have discussed the announcement Florida’s governor made Tuesday, September 14 that he would propose legislation for the 2022 session to end once-a-year state assessments in favor of three-times-a-year state assessments.

We’re moving at warp speed into a new era of testing, one that is not unanticipated by those of us who pay attention. Ed reform has been talking for several years about moving away from the once-a-year test into continuous testing, a/k/a progress monitoring, that is delivered through ed tech companies like Curriculum Associates (iReady) or NWEA (NWEA, whatever the initials initially stood for are not now known.)

Many Florida school districts already have contracts with one or the other. The Governor’s proposal is not quite there yet, though. He wants Florida to build a progress-monitoring platform that the state would own.

Currently, states administering either the Smarter Balance tests (previously administered by AIR, the American Institute of Research, but recently spun off into a stand-alone group, Cambium Assessment) or the PARRC (administered by Pearson, everyone’s favorite company to take to the whipping post) do not own the actual tests. They pay these companies to do their testing, but the copyright rests in the hands of the corporations.

In 2017, Florida passed its annual education bill that did another makeover of its state public education system, including charter school expansion and accountability requirements. But this time, the new law also required that Florida begin releasing actual FSA tests in three years to give everyone their first look at what children actually encounter. While Florida could pass this law, it did not own the actual tests. It would have to negotiate with the testing consortiums and pay for the release.

Then, 2018 brought the election of Ron DeSantis, who enticed the legislature into authorizing a new set of standards known as B.E.S.T., or Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), now under the leadership of the former House Speaker, who is among the most hostile to public education ever, Richard Corcoran, promptly abandoned the obligation to release copies of a test that was heading for the exits.

Thus, since 2019 when the new standards were authorized, the Florida Standard Assessments (FSA) had an expiration date put on them circa 2023. The question was what would replace them. Most of us anticipated a BEST test as in la plus que ca change, the more it’s the same thing.

Except, if Ron DeSantis has his way, it won’t be. Shorter, more frequent tests will be the order of the day. The state will operate the testing platform, which means it will own the test items and the copyright. That might be good news except …. cue the shark theme from Jaws.

Runs through the head of every student who is told, “We need you to take this standardized assessment.”

Recently, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) had to renew his driver’s license and the old one did not satisfy federal law for identification purposes. It wasn’t gold-star worthy. (Yes, that’s a very obscure joke thinking about Elaine Bennis of Seinfeld during the episode when she had to decide who was sponge-worthy.) GOT had to dig out all his ‘I’m a real person’ documents, including his birth certificate (really, at 64, someone doubts this?), social security card (soiled and faded because it’s about 50 years old), and utility bills, &c. &c. to verify the address.

When he arrived at the site where he had made an appointment and after he had moved through the security checkpoint, including walking through a metal detector, GOT noticed that the location had posted signs that the state’s computer network was wonky. They promised that if the state’s systems were down and people couldn’t complete their business, they would receive a priority appointment to come back at a later time. For your understanding, GOT made his appointment in late July and the first one available was in mid-September.

Then, there is the huge failure of the CONNECT system, which is what Floridians must use to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. It was so bad at one point that the state allowed people to fill out paper applications instead. CONNECT has been described as a system designed to fail, which surprised no one as it was the brain child of former Governor Rick Scott, who has built a political career on celebrating his escape from poverty and making it impossible for anyone else to do so.

This past week, GOT has been involved in putting students through a retake test for Algebra 1, for which students must earn a pass or they will not receive a diploma. As usually happens, someone decided right before this crucial computer test to change something. The software broke and chaos ensued as we spent hours reconnecting student laptops to all the needed networks so they could access the testing platform.

All of which is to say that no one should have confidence that a testing platform operated by the state of Florida will perform as needed. Indeed, assuming the opposite is the B.E.S.T. (pun intended) way to go.

End of Part One. GOT knows that screen reading is tiresome when the post grows too long. At 800+ words, it’s time for break.

When One Window Closes, Another Opens

Types of Windows For Your Home – Forbes Advisor
Time for Testing! All you slackers who stayed home because of Covid and would not show up last year … we got you.

Peter Greene of Curmudgucation fame recently published a piece on the Forbes website, Schools Should Not Succumb to Testing Panic.

The sentence that leapt out at Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was this one: “The danger at the moment is that instead of trying to lift the state of student education, states, policy-makers and school districts will decide to put all their effort into raising test scores.

While Florida has yet not put all their effort into raising test scores (they probably don’t have to–read on,) GOT knows that the test grind goes on, hand-in-hand with the pandemic and, unlike past years, there will be no waivers.

That is a point of confusion for some parents. For the senior classes who graduated in 2020 and 2021, Florida waived the requirement to pass the 10th grade FSA reading/writing test and the Algebra 1 End of Course exam. That made sense given that no exams were given in 2020 and many students were kept home in 2021 due to Covid concerns. Seniors missing out on their final chances to pass these tests were not prevented from graduating. The situation was not under their control.

BUT! For future graduating classes, 2022 and beyond, the requirements were not waived even though many of those students missed the opportunity to sit for the exam. Thus, while there is not overt pressure for raising scores*, we are still staring down the barrel of a cannon in that we have unusually large numbers of students needing to sit for and pass state assessments.

It is easy to imagine Florida’s Commissioner of Education, whom GOT will not name as he knows how to stay out of trouble, channeling the famous Soup Nazi from the TV show Seinfeld shouting, “No diploma for you!” to kids in future graduating classes.

Thus, as we have barely opened for the new school year, it is time for the Fall Retake window and students who have spent their summers doing what high school teenagers should be doing over the summer and that is not hitting the books to prep for state tests … need to sit for state tests.

Could we give the students a break and let this window stay closed? We could, but there are not many opportunities during the school year. Florida does not administer state assessments upon demand (there’s an idea for improvement.) There are only four opportunities for students to retake these crucial graduation-necessary exams: September, December, Spring, July.

Given the impact on the future of a young person who does not receive a diploma, we have no choice. When a test window opens, we have to schedule, pull from class, and sit students to take them.

That works against student learning. Those who struggle the most get pulled from the classes where they are learning what they need to know to pass the exam. Some students miss 12 or more days of vital instruction taking these retake exams, which have to take precedence over remaining in the classroom with their teachers.

You might be thinking, “That’s crazy! That’s stupid!”

GOT can only reply with a Forrest Gump quote: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

This is Florida after all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*GOT is speaking from a high school perspective. Elementary and middle school teachers may be receiving pressure to raise scores due to Florida’s school grading scheme … oops, law.

SEEN

Seen
Inspired by real events in a city that prides itself by saying, “It’s easier here.”

Seen is the debut novel by Julie Delegal, a well-known writer and social justice advocate who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

The book tells the story of Jason Royals, a 15-year-old black, male teenager who runs across an intersection to beat the light and traffic, but is then mistaken as a neophyte gang member who, having committed his first murder, is running from the scene.

We follow Jason into his enmeshment within the criminal justice system, in which police decide he’s guilty because they have no one else, confinement in adult prison because that’s the way we do it in DUUUVAAALLLLL, and his extraordinary luck in having a family that has the resources to fight back.

Jason reminds Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) of the many black boys that he has taught in the last decade and a half. Some are cagey, careful around other people with code-switching and other behaviors meant to be cooperative, some are caught in their lives and circumstances and dealing with it as best they can, and many are innocent, still young children in their teens who might have an intellectual understanding of how society looks at black males but haven’t yet had the gut punch that makes it real.

One thing, though, that GOT has learned across his career is that beneath the surface, they are all boys. Like all of us, they have the same hopes and dreams for their lives: a good job that provides an income sufficient to attract those to whom they are attracted. Yes, a good life with money and love, something universal to all of us.

Jason got that gut punch. Although she did not explore it explicitly in her book, the author took care that the story implicitly included the systemic racism that marks the America we live in. The key detail is in the black lead homicide detective. Some would say that would disprove there was anything racist about the detective taking advantage of a naive, hungry, hypoglycemic boy in a medical crisis and getting him to sign a false confession. GOT avers the opposite. That is the proof of systemic racism; the race of the system’s agent does not matter. The system and the people who work for it, be it the police, the justice system, or even the schools, will regard a black male more skeptically than anyone else.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Systemic racism in America lives because we will not examine it. We prefer to quote half-century old speeches from Martin Luther King about color-blindness even as we ignore everything he had to say to white America.

But in 2021, we are no longer allowed to talk about that in schools. New laws and state rules forbid the teaching of anything about race that might make a white person uncomfortable.

GOT has news for you: NOT talking about it makes him, an old, white male, uncomfortable. Not examining the full history of the last 400 years, it was not merely slavery that oppressed black people, makes him uncomfortable. Ignoring the brutal suppression of civil rights in the late 19th century, the epidemic of vigilante lynching, the redlining that denied black families the opportunity to build generational wealth that white families had, and the destruction of black wealth because of the resentment of white people … all these things now forbidden to be mentioned in a classroom … that ban on academic freedom and the acknowledgment of past wrongs … that makes GOT very uncomfortable.

Poor Jason. All he was doing was going to see a girl that he liked to ask her how to get a job in the store where she worked. Then, his world fell apart.

It was hard to read Part One of the book. GOT hurt. He knows too many boys that this might happen to.

Part Two was better. At one point, GOT was thinking he had picked up an Erle Stanley Gardner novel featuring another Perry Mason case. But he was also still thinking about his students. However the case went, the outcome would not be the end of the story. As a teacher, GOT knows how a traumatic experience lives on for many years.

Trauma changes people. Whether Jason is acquitted or convicted, his experiences will remain with him. They have changed him. GOT wondered about the effect on Jason even as he kept flipping the pages to see how much more story there would be. The Perry Mason part was reading like it would end 100 pages short of the novel’s end.

And that is where Julie Delegal came through in telling this story. She is not done. There is a Part Three, perhaps the most important part of the book, where she explores the aftermath and how Jason was not done with his anguish.

Read this book. It might change you. GOT would recommend that his school system incorporate it into the classroom, but oh yeah, it might make white people uncomfortable.

Maybe they need to be.

A Free Lunch for All

Recently, the Waukesha, Wisconsin school board rejected continued participation in the pandemic-created federal program under which all school children are eligible to receive a free lunch regardless of their family’s wealth or income.

The reason the school board offered is that they didn’t want families to get spoiled. Mm-hmm, hold that thought.

In the ensuing uproar, what got lost in the noise and confusion is that Waukesha did not end all federally-funded school lunch programs, but that they returned to the pre-pandemic program of providing a free or reduced price lunch only to families who qualified because of low income. To access the benefits, the families have to apply as they did previously and be approved for the program.

OPINION: School Lunches Have Been Getting Worse | SweetwaterNOW
Honestly, what parent wouldn’t provide a better lunch if they had the means to do so?

Once we stop throwing pejoratives like ‘free-loader’ and ‘socialist’ at one another, maybe we can take counsel together about what we have turned our schools into and what we want them to be.

Like it or not, our schools have become the safety net, not of last resort, but of the only resort. Schools are expected to provide full services for children, including counseling, health-screening, trauma treatment, mentoring, health treatment, menstrual products for girls, and even laundry.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) supposes that doing laundry for parents may be spoiling the family, but it has been shown to reduce truancy. A lot of kids don’t show up because they are too embarrassed to be with their peers in dirty or smelly clothing.

That gets to the heart of the issue. There are intellectual arguments to be made and debates to be had about the nature of liberty and personal responsibility. But America historically has been a pragmatic country; it throws aside the ivory tower debates to determine what end must result. Do we want children adequately fed, clothed, and housed or not–regardless of their parents’ income or wealth?

If you believe that children should go hungry, dirty, smell, and be ill because their parents did not provide for their basic needs, GOT doesn’t know how to convince you that you’re wrong. Don’t hide behind your religion, either. Hear the words of the Gospel: “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and you did not look after me … whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

A great society (GOT is using those words deliberately) cares for the least of their members. If the wealthy shirk their responsibility to provide a lunch for their children that they can afford, the solution is not to make their children go hungry.

Schools should provide meals for all children. The wealthy, those with high incomes, can do their part by paying more taxes to support schools.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript: As an added bonus, the pandemic-brought federal funding of a free lunch for any child who needs or wants one has brought the end of lunch-shaming. Isn’t that a good thing?

The Covid Charge of the Teacher Brigade (2021 version)

The Charge of the Light Brigade - YouTube
Younger, sicker, quicker.

This is a rerun from last summer. It seems appropriate to publish again as the fourth wave crescendos. It has been updated for this year.

“Someone had blundered:
Theirs not to make reply
Theirs not to reason why
Theirs but to do and die.”
—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Three million! Three million
Teachers in play
As the Delta variant works through
Our states today.
Schools must reopen
Governors have thundered
Ignoring the data, the scientists,
Because people must work.
But teachers and staff have not wondered (that)
Someone had blundered:
 
Fearmongerers all, or so
Anti-vaxxers did mock
As they echo social media
Disinformation talk.
Forward, then, the teacher brigade!
Though the future you cannot scry
Safety your concern
But your masks a muzzle
Fearful are your children, but fie!
Theirs not to make reply
 
Onward and open!
Forward, Teacher Brigade!
Into a mess you have not made
Bow down to the anti-mask crowd
Vulgar, angry and very loud
Ignore the data, the positivity rate
And the unvaccinated's fate
People must work, the economy calls.
But what of their children’s lives?
Theirs not to reason why
 
About a virus that invades
The body’s organs.
An asymptomatic child
Nevertheless could end
With life-long health problems.
But with the school year nigh …
What of our teachers?
They must go back
Their voices despised,
Theirs but to do and die.

	

On Communion

Before beginning, readers should know that Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, M. Div., class of 1996.

Events move fast in the never-ending 24/7 news cycle. Another Big Lie rally, a condo collapse, and a suspension pending disbarment divert our attention from the newsworthy events of the week prior. But GOT is a reflective blog, not the place to find breaking news or in-depth research (at least, not now while GOT remains a working teacher). Occasionally, you will find a humorous piece; hopefully, you end your read wanting to have a conversation.

GOT took his time to reflect and think about U.S. Catholic Bishops debating and advancing a policy about withholding communion from politicians and leaders who do not adhere to church doctrine. In particular, those who support a woman’s right to control reproductive choices that involve her body, more traditionally called abortion.

In a not-well-reported update, the bishops announced that there would be no national policy regarding the withholding of communion from politicians.

Problem solved, right? Let’s move on. But then, in a moment of excellent critical thinking, you might ask why GOT is bothering with this post. Thesis: Actions are guided by beliefs and, if we do not understand that people believe different things that lead them to adopt very different attitudes and behaviors, we will not understand much of the conflict that divides our society and why it threatens to devolve into violence.

350+ Holy Communion Pictures | Download Free Images & Stock Photos on  Unsplash
“Do this to remember me.” -Jesus of Nazareth

When it comes to the Eucharist, the name for the rite popularly known as Communion, there are different understandings of what takes place during the rite. Those different understandings are the basis for the different approaches to who may participate and who may not.

Many social media reactions that GOT observed questioned why the Church believes it should control access to the elements at all. They mainly had a Protestant perspective. GOT does not opine whether they were right or wrong, but merely observes that there was a failure to understand Catholic doctrine.

Let’s look at the different understandings. The Catholic doctrine is called transsubstantiation, in which the bread and wine are literally changed into the human flesh and blood of Jesus even though they still seem to be bread and wine. This change occurs at the moment of consecration as the priest reads the Mass over these elements.

If you are going to allow someone to drink the very blood of God, wouldn’t you have a concern that they are worthy? Don’t argue; think about it and why Catholic practice is that the priest may deny communion to someone in the line. Much of religion is about the separation between the holy and the profane, the sacred and the sinful. If someone has embraced sin, that is, advocated and worked for a policy that offends the sanctity of life, why wouldn’t the sacred be withheld? Especially something so sacred that it is the very essence of life itself?

Again, GOT is not arguing for or against, but demonstrating how different beliefs guide different actions.

But that is not the only view of the Eucharist. There is consubtantiation, which holds to a dual nature. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, but their spiritual nature, as opposed to their material existence, is such that they become the body and blood of the Lord once the priest performs the ritual.

This is the position of the Lutheran church, not surprising given its historical revolt against medieval Catholicism, in which the Pope’s earthly authority was disputed.

Then, there are those who aver that the bread and wine are only symbols. They represent the theological truth that Christ spoke (as recorded in the Gospels,) but they don’t change in substance or form.

Some say they are mere symbols, while others say there is a divine presence that they cannot explain.

Different beliefs lead to different practices. If you are at a United Methodist church, you are invited to the table and to partake regardless of your status. John Wesley, the founder of the sect, said that even a sinner, encountering the presence of Christ in the elements, is led to repentance. Therefore, let all who are willing come.

Easier to do when you believe the juice is only a symbol rather than the very blood of God.

In a way, Joe Biden is more welcome to participate in a Methodist church than a cathedral of his own faith. But that is a function of how each denomination understands the ritual and what they believe is taking place.

The entire issue is complicated by how different churches understand their source(s) of authority.

Much of the social media reaction to the news was posting scriptural references to refute the position of the Bishops. That works if you fall along Lutheran and other Protestant lines: sola Scriptura, or the Bible is the only authority.

But the Catholic Church has a different view. It holds that the Scripture and their tradition are equally authoritative; in other words, they can ignore the Bible for their centuries-long practice and polemics. Therefore, they are immune to criticism because they can rely upon their tradition.

The post grows long–nearing 900 words and certain to surpass that by the end. GOT’s purpose is not to argue for one belief or church or another, but to illustrate how different beliefs and understandings of authority lead to policy and action.

And now, as you’re wondering how any of this has to do with education, this is at the heart of the education wars.

What one believes about education, the good and the bad, determines the practices and policies one advocates. What is the source of authority? Ed reformers discard child development experts in favor of their own research, their ‘tradition’ if you will, and do not listen to those who think differently.

What is education? What is learning? How does it happen? There is no agreement, and yet, what one thinks leads to what one demands for schools.

The education wars rage, on battlefield after battlefield, until all despair of ever reaching a Peace of Westphalia.

But if we don’t, um … did you know we have a really good teacher at my school if you want to learn how to speak Chinese?

Survey Monkey

The title writes itself as news comes of the latest wacky act of the most Florida man of all Florida men, Governor Ron DeSantis. He has signed a bill that now requires Florida universities to conduct surveys of student and staff viewpoints to ensure that indoctrination is not taking place, a vague claim that the Survey Monkey cannot back up.

Go ahead and laugh. Florida’s governor collects nicknames like a philatelist collects stamps or a numismatist collects coins. He has many: DeathSantis, DumbSantis, DuhSantis, DeSastre, moRon DeSantis, the internet is full of them.

(BTW, for those not-in-the-know, Survey Monkey is an online platform for administering surveys.)

SurveyMonkey Logo
“Be the person with great ideas. Surveys give you actionable insights and fresh perspectives.

That’s a quote from the website. Florida’s Survey Monkey is proud to be the person with great ideas (arguable, at best) and loves the actionable insights that will come. [Emphasis by GOT (Grumpy Old Teacher.)] But fresh perspectives? Meh, Florida’s Survey Monkey is having none of that.

No, the entire idea is to stop indoctrination a/k/a a fresh examining of accepted wisdom that might no longer be true.

You know, the kind of thing that universities exist to do.

Like Galileo averring that the Earth revolves around the Sun. In his time, nobody, a/k/a the Catholic Church, was having any of that <ahem> and Galileo was forced to recant. From Wikipedia:

In February 1616, an Inquisitorial commission declared heliocentrism to be “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture”. The Inquisition found that the idea of the Earth’s movement “receives the same judgement in philosophy and … in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith”.

Eventually, Galileo was put on trial and condemned for his ‘heretical’ views. He is reported to have said at the end, “And yet it moves [referring to the Earth.]”

Like Darwin, proposing his theory of natural selection. Oops, did you think GOT meant evolution? No, the idea of evolution was under consideration and discussed for decades before Darwin published. Darwin was the first, although not the only and that’s a fascinating tangent this space doesn’t have room for, to expound a theory that seemed to fit the scientific observations of his age.

He, too, was met with great opposition and ridicule for his ideas. The prevailing orthodoxy and conventional wisdom of the day condemned his theory. The problem is that Darwin offered the best explanation of the fossil record and the variety of life on Earth. But, <ahem>, we’re not having any of that <ahem> in our schools.

Darwin’s groundbreaking work has been improved and now is largely set aside. His theory of natural selection has been replaced by theories of sexual selection, because those following in his path observed puzzling characteristics in species that worked against their survival, but did attract the other in ways that enhanced their breeding success.

That’s the process of science. Like Freud, whose theories (as weird as we now regard many of them) established psychotherapy and yet mental illness is now understood as biologically based and able to be treated, as tricky as it is, with medication. Yet, talking therapy is also an important part for those who are managing a disease of the brain.

We wouldn’t be where we are today if our universities weren’t free to propose new ideas, forced to defend them, and, in the process of peer-reviewed research, discard the rabbit trails. In that process, students are challenged to defend their ideas. It’s not indoctrination; it’s learning.

Irony of ironies, the Harvard and Yale graduate Survey Monkey of Florida is having none of that <ahem.> You would think, given his education, that if indoctrination was taking place at universities, he would have plenty of personal history to share to support his allegations.

Alas, earwax and the Florida man of all Florida men was hoping for a toffee.

He learned from the best, our Survey Monkey. If he can’t make the argument, he’ll fake the argument.

Oh, Florida! You wonder what those surveys will reveal. Maybe our Survey Monkey will make it interesting and do a half-hour game show like Family Feud!

If we have to put up with this stupidity, the least our Florida man can do is make it entertaining.