Water is Wet

A white person telling a black person about racism is like telling a fish that water is wet.

Fish know that water is wet. They live in water, they swim in water whether it is placid, turbulent, warm, cold, full of currents that shove them into places they don’t want to go or push them deeper into oxygen-depleted zones, … waters full of plastic they ingest to the detriment of their health … red tide threats that kill them … dangerous bacteria … mercury that stores up in their bodies …

Fish live in water. They have to. They know its qualities and what it means to live their lives in water. They know the impact on their lives and health.

They also know that they must live their lives in the water. To leave the water means death.

Now comes someone who walks on dry land and wants to explain to the fish that water is wet.

That is what it is like when white people try to tell black people what is and is not racism.

Black people know. They spend their lives swimming in it and do not need anyone to explain it. They are the experts.

The Group

I get the research; I have gone to Kagan. Put kids into groups because that’s how they learn.

In my early years, that’s what I did and then experienced the frustration of every teacher of why the groups did not work.

Oh, I assigned the roles: leader, timekeeper, scribe, and so forth. It didn’t work.

They socialized and blew off the work … or one kid did the work and everyone else copied.

Not much learning going on.

I get the research: homogenize groups and focus on the strugglers or blend the groups and let the advanced kids move the strugglers up.

Pbbbt. It didn’t work.

Maybe because kids have different learning styles and in a room of 25, there are too few to blend them right in any way.

In the last few years, I haven’t bothered. I have allowed kids to sit where they want and to form groups if they want. I encourage it, but I don’t enforce it.

The introverted kids who hate being put in a group and will shut down–they are much happier and work at their learning.

The extroverted kids who can choose who to associate with … actually focus on the work, talk about it, and come up with solutions. They are not off task.

(Of course, there is always the cell phone to deal with, but that’s another post.)

Point being, now that I allow students to make the choice, I get better results than when I acted as the Supreme Being who will force everyone to learn as I dictate.

Something to think about.

Bierman v. Dayton

Oh you spammers! Do you really know who I am?!

I received an email asking me to give money to an advocacy group who wants to take an case to the Supreme Court: “You see, the Bierman v. Dayton case would lay the foundation to end one of Big Labor’s biggest and most coercive government-granted powers, so-called “collective bargaining.”

Sorry, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, I am not going to contribute to your mission to make unions illegal.

Background: About five years ago, Minnesota passed a law that said home-care providers could form a public service union. SEIU (Service Employees International Union) was lawfully selected as the union to represent employees who work in that industry. The election of SEIU was challenged because plaintiffs argued that it forced them into an association that they did not want and their constitutional rights were violated. A district court found against them as the plaintiffs were not forced to pay dues to the bargaining agent (Janus rears its ugly head) and were free to form their own advocacy groups if they wished. The 8th District Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s decision.

That is the case the spammer named above (NRWLDF) wants to move to the United States Supreme Court.

What is shocking is the scope of the decision they hope to achieve: to end the collective bargaining rights of all unions.

If that happens, unions effectively cease to exist.


Full text of the email message:
Mark just gave me a quick call to provide an update on a groundbreaking new Supreme Court case that’s in the works.
And it’s not good.
So he asked me to fill you in right away, Greg.
You see, the Bierman v. Dayton case would lay the foundation to end one of Big Labor’s biggest and most coercive government-granted powers, so-called “collective bargaining.”
Collective bargaining, more accurately described as monopoly bargaining, corrals folks against their will into Big Labor’s ranks.
Not only does it strip workers of their freedom of association by forcing individuals opposed to unionization under union bosses’ so-called “representation”…
… it forces workers into contracts dictated and controlled by Big Labor bosses.
We know from past experiences and victories that legal costs can skyrocket amidst a heated battle at the Supreme Court.
So to be ready to file this writ of certiorari petition and take the Bierman v. Dayton case all the way to the Supreme Court, your National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has set a goal of raising at least $120,000 by December 13th.
You see, a positive ruling in the Bierman case would free thousands of families from feeding Big Labor parasites — sucking in people as pawns to push their agenda.
I hope you will dig deep for your most generous tax-deductible contribution right away.


I haven’t thought of Charlie in years. He was my neighbor in Boca Raton during my time in that part of Florida. Charlie was in his eighties; I was in my thirties.

We watched each other’s properties when we were away. One summer, Charlie and his wife were on a long vacation so I cut his grass to prevent the city from fussing about it being too high. When the opportunity came, he returned the favor.

One Thanksgiving, Charlie’s wife was away visiting family and two lonely men went out to a local restaurant to share a meal together. At the end, Charlie refused to leave a tip for the waitress because the restaurant paid her to bring our food. I ended up throwing money on the table for the both of us.

Charlie also hated school taxes. He told me that his kids had long passed through the school system and received their education. He hated that he had to pay to educate other people’s children. He believed he was getting nothing out of continuing to pay for schools.

Ah, Charlie. Oh, Florida! There are so many more Charlies than me.

Florida educators believe that if only the voters really knew what the politicians were doing, they would vote them out of office.

The voters know. They do not hold Florida’s politicians accountable for the dismantling of the public school system because they are Charlies. Their children are educated and they do not want to pay to educate other people’s children.

The irony, of course, is that they will continue to pay. The difference is that the politicians are taking a cut in many, many ways: spouses that run charter schools, holding jobs with charter chains, campaign contributions from charter operators that fall into the shadows … Florida has shown no lack of imagination in how to turn its Department of Education into Tammany Hall.

Charlie would approve because he would believe that although he is still paying, he is paying less than if Florida would fully fund the needs of its schools. In fact, even in his retirement, Charlie was always looking for a good return on investment and the charter game would interest him greatly.

He made his money with a truck and a warehouse listening to a police scanner for shipping accidents. Once a wreck happened, he would show up first and buy the scattered cargo for pennies on the dollar.

Then, with the goods in his warehouse, he could take his time to make his deals and profit.

Isn’t that the game plan of Florida’s politicians for Florida’s public schools? Once they can wreck one through a rigged system of testing and school grades, they can swoop in, buy the students and the FTE dollars for pennies, and profit.

But the scale of it is staggering. I bet Charlie wishes he was alive today to watch it … oh, what am I saying? Charlie would be in on it.

Reblog: Masquerade

From a year ago: an essay about the new tests for math that students have to take.

In one of the all time favorite Broadway shows, Phantom of the Opera, we get this stupendous chorus and dance:

The Masquerade: where everyone hides behind a mask and pretends to be someone different.

But who is that fellow who appears at the end? None other than the phantom, who has something to say about the theater.

Today that is me. Let’s talk about the masquerade of the standardized testing, Common Core-styled, a/k/a PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and variations on the theme as it pertains to mathematics, in particular, the technologically-enhanced items that have you convinced that at last, at long last, the states have a test to measure student achievement in a meaningful way.


This type of item tries to do away with the test-taking technique of narrowing down multiple choice answers until there is one obvious answer to choose. The student must evaluate a number of choices and select each one that is correct.

An example:  What is 4 + 3?

() 7

() 3 + 4

() 5 + 2

() 43

() 12

() 1

How does a student need to tackle this problem? By looking at each choice and deciding if it is correct or not!

This is not a new type of question: It is an old-fashioned TRUE/FALSE quiz item.

Drag and Drop:

This type of item presents open boxes and circles to be filled with numbers, variables (letters), and symbols from an answer bank.

An example:

Fill in the blank! Generations of school children have dealt with this type of quiz question and hated it because they had to think up something for the blank. But wait! Our newfangled CC tests give them an assist: all they have to do is grab something from the bank for the blank.


Let me quote from Florida’s Item Specifications for Grade 8 mathematics to give you an idea of this one: “The student checks a box to indicate if information from a column header matches information from a row.”

Which, as every student knows, can be worked out by making all the obvious matches and then seeing what’s left. Since these item types don’t ask for more than 3 or 4 matches, once the student works out the obvious ones, all that’s left is to connect the one pair they don’t know but have to go together.

Drop-Down Menu:

    Meant to mimic “Cloze Reading,” this time asks students to complete a paragraph by choosing the correct response from a drop-down menu.

An example:

    Sorry that the screen capture is small, but hopefully you can see that all a student has to do is select one of the choices presented. Yes, this type of question is really multiple choice.

Equation Editor:

    At last, an item that requires a student to determine a correct answer without a list of choices or a 50-50 guess. Perhaps we finally have an item that truly measures student understanding and skill. But wait, take a look at this:

We are asking students to generate original thought, but there are two problems with this. One, the interface. The equation editor is hard to use and students frequently ask for help during testing to get their desired response entered correctly. To which every smart teacher says, “I cannot help you,” for fear of being accused of cheating. Two, student don’t understand the response required. Once, a student asked me how to enter his response when the screen showed ‘y =’ and then the response box. He asked, “Do I put ‘y =’ into the box?’ That would have resulted in an incorrect answer because the computer would have seen ‘y = y=.’ Yet, the student had the correct answer. So these items don’t measure student understanding of mathematics as much as they measure the student’s ability to navigate the interface.

Free Response:

    At last, an item worthy of testing students. An example:

But this requires a human to score it, which negates the argument for computerized testing. In fact, it suggests that the best person to score a response is the student’s teacher. Oops! We can’t have that. So we’ll advertise on Craig’s List and other places for warm bodies to read and assign a grade. I wonder how much time this item’s response will get when we have previously had reports from persons grading writing test that they get about a minute per essay.

The Take-Away:

You have been told that computer testing has eliminated the limitations of standardized testing in which students eliminate possibilities and guess/select the best answer. Nonsense. Most of these item types are old wine in new wineskins. The only types that are new come with limitations that make them of limited use: the interface gets in the way or we simply ask less qualified persons than professional teachers to evaluate the responses and assign a grade.

Why does anyone think these Common Core era tests are better than what was done in the past?

Why does anyone think that these tests measure anything other than the test-taking skills a child possesses?

It is nothing more than a masquerade.

Demolition Derby

If you’ve been wondering about what Florida’s Republican governors and legislature have been doing to public schools for the last 20 years, this will give you a good idea:

I especially like the background noise of the crowd cheering as that represents Florida’s voters well: they keep electing the same politicians who are hell-bent on destroying the schools they say are important and should be maintained.

Lately, the governor-elect Ron DeSantis interviewed three persons to be the new Education Commissioner, a position he does not directly appoint; the commissioner is hired by the State Board of Education.

Why is the governor-elect even interviewing people? It is not his choice.

But wait, this is the era of the neo-robber-barons, where laws and constitutions don’t matter.

DeSantis interviewed three people for the position, Pam Stewart and two others whose names I cannot now find via internet searches. I suppose that’s because the fix is in.


Corcoran, the abusive House Speaker of the last two years, a self-styled Oliver Cromwell who will not honor a bipartisan agreement on an education bill, but will gut it to force his will upon an unwilling state, to put into place a new scheme for new charter schools.

A scheme, by the way, that died in committee as it could not find support for its own merits even among the charter-loving politicians in the Florida legislature. That is how HB 7069 came to pass.

One of the most, if not the most, powerful politicians in the state becoming Commissioner of Education? Answerable not to the governor, but the state board of education?

What a step-down.

Why would this happen?

Demolition Derby. The privatizers are ready to take down Florida’s public schools … forever.

No more nibbling around the edges of the cookie.

It’s time to crumble it and let the crumbs fall on the floor.

Arizona’s voters turned down a proposal (actually, a law passed by their legislature but Arizona can put laws on the ballot for a decision of the voters) to establish education savings accounts, whereby the money allocated for each child is turned over to parents to spend as they will with little to no oversight.

That’s what a Corcoran appointment will mean.

And did you know, Florida? We can’t put it on the ballot.

The endgame has started and Mozart is dead. No one is left to write the requiem mass.

Secret Santa

I must confess that at this time of year, I am the secret Krampus.


You got it; the grumpy Christmas demon not really in the spirit.

Now comes the usual workplace Secret Santa gift exchange. The others really get into it. They like the fun of finding gifts and watching the joy light up a co-worker’s face. That is cool.

But I would rather not because I am old enough to have arrived at a position where anything I want, I can get. I don’t need to wait for Christmas. I don’t need anyone trying to find that special gift. My brain won’t get a dopamine rush. I might even feel bad that I put someone into a panic trying to figure out how to get past my grumps.

However, I would like to not be that person, that one guy who always dampens the party, at this moment.

I was going to opt out (pay especial attention to that language; it’s a deliberate choice even if not too subtle), but then I decided I will participate.

Only when I fill out the form about my hobbies, favorite movies, etc., etc., I will do something else.

I am going to list my favorite charities.

Anyone trying to figure out how to give me a gift, pass it on.

Puerto Rico is still hurting.

Florida Panhandle Counties need help to recover from Hurricane Michael.

The Heifer Project helps the poor to gain a means of production that gives them a means of earning the income they need.

World Wildlife Fund is trying to save species from extinction.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Like the Wicked Witch of the West, you could melt Krampus and find the true Santa within if only you bypass a useless token of esteem and direct the money to a place where it will truly help to meet the needs of the powerless, broken, and despised.