Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Interview with Congressman Kimble on Wisconsin Union Riots

I’ve been hoping to put an interview with Congressman Jack Kimble (R-CA) up on the site for awhile now.  As you may know, Congressman Kimble is Last Stand for Children First’s Honorary Director.  What you may not know is that Congressman Jack was the only member of Congress to attend the tea party counter rallies in Madison, WI.  You can read about his travels and the gut-wrenching sacrifices his courageous band of heroes faced to help spread the cause of freedom at the following links:

Myron Miner: Thank you for agreeing to this interview Congressman.   I know you have a busy schedule, so I'll get right to the point.  Are you really calling what's going on in Madison a riot?

Jack Kimble: Thank you Myron.  What I saw in Wisconsin will forever haunt me.  As we walked with our signs I could see the harsh looks that many of the union protesters gave me and I must say, even if they weren't rioting in the streets, they were most certainly rioting in their minds.

MM: That had to be hard for you.  What was the worst moment for you.?

JK: On Saturday, we were driven inside by a ferocious blizzard.   We went to a local Denny's and the chicken noodle soup I ordered was luke warm and watery.  I drank it anyway and I was happy to have it.  Once those Koch buses left, the Tea Party protesters were trapped and I knew I had to act tough for them. There were good parts to though.  I met a man named Leo who was 82 years young.  He was part of a contingent of 5 Wisconsin Tea Partiers we met up with.  He had brought with the club that his father had used to disperse strikers in a 1935 strike when he was a strike breaker. 

MM: As a legislator, what do you think of the Wisconsin Democrats who left the state to stop the legislature from being able to pass this needed reform bill?

JK: I think it's just terrible.  The Democrats love to say that Abraham Lincoln tried the same tactic in 1840 in an unsuccessful bid to save the Illinois Bank, but I've never been a fan of Lincoln.  Only one President ever caused a civil war in this county and we lionize him.

MM: As an education reformer, I think this is great.   However, why does Governor Walker feel that he needs to end collective bargaining?

JK: Working in county government, Scott Walker saw unions refuse to make concessions and instead tell him to lay off workers.   He feels that these tactics drive salaries up and lead to layoffs and that is a tragedy.  That's why he's willing to lay off workers if the Democrats continue to fight him on this.   In fact, Governor Walker hates the negotiation process so much that this bill also contains language to allow him to sell off the state's utilities in a non-bid process.  I mean, who needs all the stress of a closed bid?

MM: Thank you for your time Congressman.

JK: Thanks Myron, I believe strongly in what you do for the children of this country.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Congressman Kimble on Wisconsin Teacher Rioters

My Friends,

I find myself becoming increasing alarmed by the rioting in Wisconsin this week. These people in Madison do not represent most of the people of the state regardless of what polls may say. The hearts of the people of Wisconsin are with the Tea Partiers on the bus from Virginia to come counter protest.

It bothers me that it has become so confrontational when this is really a simple economics issue. Everybody was thrilled when Scott Walker cut corporate taxes, but now comes the time to pay for those cuts and unfortunately it calls for shared sacrifice. Nobody likes to have their salary cut or their union crushed, but it's that spirit of all for one and one for all that has made our country great.

Word is that the rioters have agreed to make all the pay concessions the Governor is asking as long as he leaves their collective bargaining rights alone, but the problem is that collective bargaining inevitably costs employers money. When child labor was outlawed, businesses lost a valuable commodity as small children could fit their hands into machinery to unclog it in tight places where an adult hand could never reach. What has the 40 hour work week done except to give the American worker more time off from work, which requires him to spend more money. It becomes a vicious cycle as employees are forced to foot the bell for giant televisions, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.

As you may know, I am on the executive board of Last Stand For Children First ( I see that many of these protesters are teachers who are complaining that they will need to take second jobs. I can't think of anything more valuable that they could bring to their students than the life experience of outside work. Also, if you are frying your students' burgers, welcoming them to Wal-Mart, or taking their tickets at the movie theatre, it would give students a great chance to get to know their teachers in another setting.

Everybody wants something for nothing and we all were thrilled to see corporate tax rates drop around the country. When I heard that the income of the upper class exploded in the past decade, nobody was more thrilled than I was, but now comes the time to pay the piper. We all need to sacrifice and even union members must do their fair share. I hope that Governor Walker (or as I like to call him Moobarak), will continue to stand tall for the people of Wisconsin and the people from Virginia coming to protest.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Stand for Children First Attends the Teach for America Summit

I just got back from the Teach for America Summit in Washington, DC and though I am exhausted and hung over I am also extremely energized to continue my fight to get every student an excellent education.   Many people think that our agenda is anti-teacher, but nothing could be further from the truth.  We love teachers, but we simply want them to quit enriching themselves by draining future generations of their hopes and dreams by acting as vampires who feed on our children.  It was amazing to see 11,000 like-minded people who weren’t afraid to put students first and not allow experience, research, or anybody else get in their way.

Our booth was a huge success.  We sold out of our bubble test wallpaper and nearly sold our entire stock.  Many TFAers it seems are raising the next generation of high-achieving children and wanted the wallpaper for their personal use.  We also gave away our entire stock of safety tape, which was our free give away.  After we learned that Michelle Rhee had once been horrified to find that the mouths of the class whose mouths she had taped were all bleeding, we went to work on finding a safer tape that would still stop children from opening their mouths, but would not cause physical damage.  Safety Tape does just that and is available in a wide variety of fun colors from Silent Sable to Noiseless Navy.  We are also working on a new brand of Velcro restraints that we hope to have out for next year’s TFA convention.

Michelle Rhee was of course very impressed with our tape and even applied some to Myron Miner’s mouth while joking around during a panel discussion.  Rhee offered a startling statistic for the future that I am sure she didn’t just make up saying, “123,000 new high tech jobs will be coming to the United States and only 50,000 students are qualified to do them.”   
Ms. Rhee suggested that there were many ways for the remaining 73,000 students to pad their résumés and suggested that résumé padding is something that all students should be taught in school.

Joel Klein inspired us all by saying that we should make this “our Egypt moment.”  At first, I couldn’t see the parallels, but then I remembered Klein was now working for Rupert Murdoch who saw Hosni Mubarak as the hero of Egypt’s “Egypt moment”.  When I remembered that, and thought of Wisconsin’s brave Governor Scott Walker threatening to send out the National Guard to help him crush the public employee unions in the state and the way that Mubarak threatened to do similar things to the trade unions helping occupy Tahrir Square, it made a lot more sense.  When I thought back to Michelle Rhee’s comments about the DC schools falling apart without her and the way Mubarak said such similar things, I realized that we need to stand up to resistance in a way Mubarak didn’t have the courage to.  Otherwise our ruling elite will wind up like Egypt’s did.

Arne Duncan was of course a highlight of the convention.  Our own Ryan Wilson got a chance to exchange Australian basketball stories before settling in to listen to Duncan remind everybody that American jobs are drawn overseas by superior education systems and not by the ability of American companies to pay offshore workers 20 cents an hour.  Duncan then dropped a bombshell resigning from the Department of Education saying, “There should be two types of people in education: Teachers and those who help them. Everyone else should get out of the way.”

Duncan has been a remarkable Education Secretary and he will be a tough act to follow.  I hope that President Obama will consult with both Eli Broad and the Gates Foundation before picking the best possible candidate.  I’d really love to see what a Joel Klein could do with this position. [Editor’s note:  Duncan has not resigned.  He apparently was including himself in the “those who help them” category.]

As an organization, we made some outstanding contacts.  The Opportunists Project is a group of hedge fund managers who believe there is great many to be made in education opening for profit charter schools.   We have much in common with them and we will continue to work together.  We have also made great inroads with Libertarians for Education Reform who mostly just want the government to leave students alone and allow individual student districts to have the choice whether to remove asbestos from their schools or not—we definitely can work with these people as well.
The optimism of so many young people reminded me of working on the Steve Forbes campaign back when I was in high school.  Seeing this many young people filled with such optimism working for the future is just something you don’t see like this outside of North Korea.  Teach for America remains an idea that works, not only because of the 14% of members who stay beyond their initial 2 year commitment, but also because of the many who go on to education policy so that they can tell others what to do.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oh the Tests You Will Take

Oh The Tests You Will Take
By Nate Peele

Today is the best
You’re off now to School!
To take your first test!

You have your eraser.
You have your number twos.
You can fill in whichever circle you choose.
We’re here to watch. And find out what you know. But you’ll be the one to fill in each column and row.

You’ll read your passages. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I simply don’t care.” With your number two pencil filling all sheets, you’re too smart to not be an exceeds or a meets.

Of course, you may not find any tests give a thrill. In that case, of course, we’ll simply drill, drill drill. It’s easier when you just learn the test.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to distract people as brainy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. We’re getting data from you.

Oh! The Tests You Will Take!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll get multiple choices in your sights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll come to the stop sign and be able to read. This time is for you until the test ends. Then sharpen your pencil, the next one begins.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that some tests are so long, you just won’t get through.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. No answer will seem right. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you can’t be soaring. Un-slumping yourself requires an academic warning.

You will come to a place where the desks are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place where the teacher goes ever so slow! Where you have to repeat what you already know? Just what can you do? Just where can you go?

And you’ll test again, should you pick A or B…or maybe this one is C? Or, why, not try D? Or that great old stand by “none of the above”? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you won’t love, when the tests get longer and even more tough..

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long answer sheets at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across empty blank space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Learning Place…for people just learning.

Learning about history by debating on it, or wasting your time writing some sonnet, or doing projects for the science fair, or just enjoying math or wasting the time to have a quick laugh with no data in the aftermath. Everyone is just learning..

Learning why the fish will bite or learning how wind can fly a kite or learning about what’s wrong and right or learning, perhaps, how their Uncle Jake can repair all sorts of care, or how far away are the twinkling stars, or the size of Saturn or the weather on Mars, or literature. Everyone is just learning..

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that useless knowledge. There’s more tests to take before entering college. With pencil scritch-scratching, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the tests you’ll take! There’s no point in denial! There are standards to exceed. There are 99 percentiles. And the magical things you can do on those tests will make you the envy of all the rest! Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole school watching your assembly.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll do poorly to be honest. Because you’re a minority and the tests are still biased.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the questions are tough. On you will go though your school is rough.. On you will go through the ridiculous stuff. Onward through many a stupid question, though your hand may get sore and sleep may beckon.. You will fill in the circles. And I know you’ll fill them completely. Your test will be done oh so perfectly neatly.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many answers as you go. So be sure when you answer that your answer is the best and remember that Life’s a Big Standardized Test. Just never forget to fill circles completely. And id you must cheat, do so discreetly. 

And will you succeed?
You’ll meet or exceed!
(98 and ¾ percentile guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Tests!
Today is your day!
Answer sheets are waiting.
So…get on your way!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Duncan and Obama Call for More Black Men to Become Teachers

At Morehouse College two days ago, Arne Duncan and filmmaker Spike Lee issued a call for more black men to become teachers.  Duncan told the town hall audience that more than 1 million educators are expected to retire in the coming decade and that federal officials are hoping to harness that opportunity to create a more diverse teaching work force, noting that less than 2 per cent of the nation's 3 million teachers are black men and with Teach For America members going into more and more urban schools, those numbers are surely dropping.

Having been vilified in the press for years and sensationalized as responsible for crime, fatherless children, drug abuse, and welfare fraud, today's black man seems like an ideal candidate to become a teacher and be vilified by the press for the country's school system.  "It seems like a natural fit," said LastStand founder Myron Miner who lauded the Morehouse town hall as a way of bringing new people into teaching.  With black men blamed for so many of the nation's ills for so long, they certainly have the experience needed to excel in the classroom.   Plus, anybody who survived Birth of a Nation won't bat an eye at movies like Waiting for Superman.

The education department also recorded commercials with Oprah Winfrey and John Legend talking about the influence that teachers had on their lives.  One would assume that it was a very negative influence, as both went to public schools, yet became strong supporters or Waiting for Superman and other attacks on public school teachers.

Duncan said that while many school districts are confronting layoffs and tight budgets, and teachers have lost many perks like a retirement free from work, teaching is still a great job and one that he wishes he had pursued.  

MSNBC contributor Jeff Johnson old the audience that being a teacher isn't considered "cool" in the black community and that perception must change.

"They look at business, engineering and law as professions that will make them better men, but the very profession that determines what the next generation looks like isn't even on their radar," Johnson said.

If what he says, is true you have to hope that Mr. Duncan and President Obama can investigate how teaching became a less than desirable job.  Maybe they could get John Legend and Oprah Winfrey to help. If they can find out who has been attacking teachers, maybe they can put a stop to it and make the job appealing for young black men.