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.


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.

The Sound of Silence

June 10, 2021: Florida Board of Education passes a gag rule to prevent teachers from “indoctrinating children” about disturbing topics such as how racism has shaped American institutions and history.

“The rule is clear in telling teachers what they can teach and what they cannot teach.” Ben Gibson, Florida State Board of Education member.

The rule passes as amended to specify exactly the history Florida teachers are to teach. The indoctrination insult passes with it as a corollary, but no one wanted to address that.

The last board member to speak, Monesia Brown, channeled her best Betsy Devos as she talked about the need for professional development to help teachers understand what they are to teach and what they are not.

In previous posts, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) has discussed the politics behind the rule, The Weeping Angels, and whether the facts of Reconstruction, the Civil Rights era, and the contributions of non-white people will actually be allowed under the rule given its ban of specifically identified interpretations of that history, Strange Fruit.

But the new rule is more insidious than that. It includes this language, “Efficient and faithful teaching further means that any discussion is appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students, and teachers serve as facilitators for student discussion and do not share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view that is inconsistent with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards.” [Emphasis from GOT.]

The rule is quite clear that teachers may present facts as was the discussion surrounding the adoption of the rule, with its specific ban on teaching from the 1619 project and Critical Race Theory that is further specified as meaning that racism is limited to individual prejudice, racism may not be discussed as inherent in societal systems, and should not ever, ever, ever be intimated that there’s such a thing as white supremacy. Don’t take GOT’s word for it; read the rule as amended for yourself.

Let’s get real. Let’s get down and dirty about what really takes place in a classroom.

Teachers who bring up controversial topics for discussion are subject to parent complaints when their children get home and report on their day. It’s not what the teacher said or didn’t say; it’s not what the teacher did or didn’t do. It’s that some parents object to the topic appearing in the classroom at all.

And they complain–loudly.

As a rule, given their institutional nature, school systems react to criticism by wishing it hadn’t happened. Ambitious admins don’t want trouble; they want their higher-ups to think they have their school well-managed and under control.

They do! But that doesn’t mean that controversy will not surround them unexpectedly.

This is when the true impact of the new rule will come. Silence will fall.

Take a look at the big picture. Since 2011, ten years ago, no teacher in Florida is able to be hired except under an annual contract. That means that they must receive a renewal or new contract every year to keep their job. Teachers who change districts must go onto annual contracts. They cannot transfer the job rights they have under an existing professional services contract to the new district.

A principal, acting on their own or under district pressure, needs not to give a teacher an excuse for non-renewal. As the school year ends, all they have to say to the unfortunate teacher is that they are not renewing the contract.

The teacher is fired. Finis, turn out the lights, let the door hit you in the <ahem>, it’s over. No reason need be mentioned.

In the whispers that mark those brief in-the-hallway meetings, teachers exchange the advice that the best course of action is to ‘fly under the radar.’ Or even better, stay off the radar completely.

Don’t believe for a moment that the governor, commissioner, or the state board members are unaware of this. They publish rules whose words seem to give permission for teachers to present the entire history. But in truth, they know that won’t happen.

How many teachers will or, more realistically, can afford to buck the system? GOT is lucky to be close enough to retirement not to have to worry. But for too many, the sound of silence will be heard in their classrooms.

“Hello darkness, my old friend … people writing songs that voices never share and no one dared disturb the sound of silence.”

The original. No disrespect, Paul & Art, but I like Disturbed’s cover better.

Strange Fruit

(Oh, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) knows exactly what he’s referring to.)

How do you take bad and make it badder? The yellow highlighting offers more than a clue.

In the end, the proposed amendment to Rule 6A-1.094124 wasn’t specific enough for Board Member Tom Grady. Teach the facts, not the truth, won the day as if the two are separate and distinct and have no relation with one another.

The study of history is not about the narrative that explains what happened and how it impacts the present, which is news to Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE), the “Father of History,” who did that very thing.

Nope, for the State Board of Education and its Commissioner, doing the bidding of the Governor, and to drive home that fact, today’s meeting opened with a video address by the Governor*, who couldn’t be present because he was on the West Coast raising cash for his upcoming campaigns, history is nothing but the recitation of facts.

No wonder kids are bored in school. If ever they get interested and want to discuss what something means, the adults shut down the conversation.

“Curiosity is not a sin,” said a famous fictional headmaster. But now, after today’s meeting, it certainly is–at least in Florida. One can almost imagine Joe Friday sitting up on that dais, “The facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Now, teachers have no choice. Systemic racism, the type that played out in today’s State Board of Education meeting, must be denied. Different interpretations of historical events and what they mean will not be allowed. Only the official version of history, the whitewashed version as many public commenters called it, is acceptable in a Florida classroom.

You might say that’s strange fruit from a body of appointees who only have the best interests of students in mind. But the tools of oppression have taken many forms in American history, including the policy passed today in Florida, which lynched more black persons per capita during the Jim Crow era than any other state.

That’s a fact. Can Florida teachers teach it in their classrooms?

Maybe. Lynchings took place in an era when official governments, state and local, didn’t have to do much to uphold white supremacy. Non-legal paramilitary groups, like the KKK, took care of that. All governments had to do was to acquit if things ever got as far as a public trial.

And it happened–over and over and over again, Emmett Till perhaps being the best-known example. That’s a fact. Can Florida teachers teach it in their classrooms?

Strange fruit. That’s a song sung by Billie Holiday from the late 1930s until her death. You may not want to listen to it; it’s very disturbing to have these facts driven into the imagination through music.

She didn’t live an easy life; no black person did in those days. As she lay dying, after struggles with substance abuse, after the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in particular Harry Anslinger, made it his mission to stop her from singing Strange Fruit, warning her to never sing the song again and pursuing her for 20 years, …

She refused. She continued to sing the song until her death and Anslinger pursued her for all those years. Even in the hospital, dying, he had her taken into custody.

These are facts, the type of facts Ron DeSantis, Richard Corcoran, and the state Board of Education pretend can be taught in Florida schools.

Strange fruit.

*GOT’s link is not to an actual video link although it seems that the governor did link to a video excerpt from The Florida Channel. That is forbidden by the terms of service of The Florida Channel, not that the Governor thinks that rules apply to him. His godfather thought the same thing, too.

The Weeping Angels

Doctor Who' Rogues Gallery: The Weeping Angels | Anglophenia | BBC America

Of all the scariest new monsters the updated Doctor Who series introduced, the Weeping Angels are the worst. They are quantum creatures, who only freeze into position when they are being observed. They cover their faces because, if they ever observe one another, they will freeze into place permanently.

Our anthropomorphism sees their hands over their faces and interprets that as the human reaction of crying and not wanting others to see. Thus, the Weeping Angels.

What makes this monster particularly terrifying are two things: one, statues of weeping angels are common, especially at cemeteries; two, they kill by sending their victims back in time. The victims live out their years in the wrong time with the wrong people. Their current potential frozen forever in the past.

So it is today with Governor Ron DeSantis, one of many American governors striving to be the most repressive of democracy, the will of the people, and equality. It must be exhausting setting up hundreds of straw men and then taking down, one by one, but this ‘angel’ is doing his best. From ending unemployment benefits to privatizing schools, forbidding businesses from asking about vaccination (you know, given how cruise ship passengers were hammered with Covid because of the shipboard systems and environment, you might think the cruise lines would be justified because their liability is off the charts) to ridiculing public health measures, the governor has moved to a new target: Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Poor DeSantis. Life is so trying for a half-wit governor with presidential ambitions, whose godfather is such a tease and now living in the backyard, who tries so very, very hard to prove that he is the most loyal as we see in real life what only an author could previously imagine: the Death Eaters in the graveyard trying to prove to Lord Voldemort that they are loyal and would never question his sanity.

“I assure you, my Trump, I have never renounced your false claims, …”

Thus, this Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida, the state Board of Education will meet to rubberstamp the new rule proposed by the commissioner of education on behalf of the governor that forbids teachers defining American history as “something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers will be forbidden also to “share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” (Source: Florida Politics.)

In other words, the governor demands that Florida’s public schools teach U.S. history as the successful establishment of a new nation based upon the principles enunciated in the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

He’s not alone. Many states are proceeding along the same lines. All teachers will be allowed to do is to teach that ALL men are created equal, that ALL are endowed with unalienable (cannot be severed) rights of LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) can do that. His fellow teachers, social studies and non-social studies alike, can do that. We can uphold those stirring statements while allowing students to examine how well our nation has lived up to those words.

Uh-oh. Cue the Weeping Angels. Because that is not what they intend. They want to ban the very mention of racism in the manner of a baby playing peek-a-boo that believes if they don’t see something, it doesn’t exist. CRT looks at American history, not in a condemnatory or judging manner, but in an attempt to see the racism that runs through it.

DeSantis can play his ‘whack-a-mole’ (his words) to try to stop a discussion of racism, but he cannot make it go away. All he has to do is unscrew the machine to see that the moles are still there, hidden beneath the surface, until they pop back up in places like Minneapolis, Elizabeth City, Louisville, and even in GOT’s town, Jacksonville.

If you teach ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘life, liberty …’ to students of color, expect them to wonder about that word ALL.

We haven’t even begun discussing the property rights, the right to build, hold, and pass on wealth to heirs that is the real meaning of ‘pursuit of happiness.’ That brings up Wilmington, Ocoee, Rosewood, Chicago, the Red Summer of 1919, and Tulsa.

But the Weeping Angels have that covered. History can be taught, any history at all, as long as we pretend that race had nothing to do with it.

That’s how it was in the old days, the days of segregation, Jim Crow, and unchallenged White Supremacy. (Although, if we’re allowed to examine real history, we find out that never went unchallenged and challenges, real and imagined, were brutally punished.)

Those are the days DeSantis longs for. The days of the base that Donald Trump plays to. And the days that these Weeping Angels hope to send us back to–days to live out our lives in a past where the rights of non-white people were denied and the power of government, state and local, enforced that orthodoxy.

One tap on the shoulder should do it.