Bang Your Head With the Left

My conservative friends and I become more and more baffled every day at the logic-defying behavior and attitudes of our leftist brethren.

Today’s news features Image result for NRA blood on your handsyet another protest march – ostensibly inspired by school kids, but in reality organized, funded and scripted by hard left political organizations, and super-hyped by their allies in the news media.

It is just one more of the many provocations by today’s Democrats we endure day-by-day, hour-by-hour, demanding that we all must do something that doesn’t make any sense. When confronted with one of these absurdly irrational arguments I go through a head-shaking mental check-down.  In this case:

  • How do we responsible, licensed gun owners have “blood on our hands” whenever a criminal perpetrates a crime?
  • Assault is already illegal.  Does adding more laws make it even more illegal?
  • Criminals, by definition, break laws.  Does limiting gun rights for everybody make criminals less likely to break the law?
  • The left seizes every opportunity to protect criminals and to hamstring and disrespect law enforcement.  How can they be surprised when more crimes happen?
  • The students who shoot up their classmates are almost always from fatherless homes.  Why is the left so hell-bent on destroying the nuclear family and lauding single-motherhood?
  • And why aren’t these protester kids in school?  Do their school boards sanction political indoctrination without the participation or consent of parents?  Is this just the tip of the indoctrination iceberg?

I recently had an extended conversation on gun rights and school safety with an anti-gun group called “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America“.  Well, it wasn’t really a conversation – a thinking person’s concept of conversation is that it requires listening as well as speaking.  Leftists never listen.  My logical challenges to their lengthy list of vapid talking points went completely unanswered.

One of the “Moms” told me directly that I should not be trusted to carry a concealed weapon.   She said if a terrorist or mentally ill person came in shooting the place up, she would try to talk him out of hurting anybody.  She absolutely did not want me to protect her with my gun under any circumstances.

My head physically shakes again just remembering it.  You see, I grew up in a world where some truths are just obvious.  If you bang yourself in the head with a rock, it will hurt.  Nothing can convince me otherwise.   But somehow, today’s Democrats have convinced a large number of Americans that a rock on the head is a good thing.

Pick your rock.   Should we invite everybody in the world to come and live here, no questions asked?  Ouch, not good.  Should we encourage our young children to choose the gender they want to be?  Dang, that’s gonna hurt.  Should we categorize and make assumptions about people based on their skin pigmentation?  Ooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.  Should we let anybody vote, any time and anywhere, without even asking for identification?  Oww!

No wonder my head hurts every time I turn on the news.

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

I got the boys to make the noise
Won’t ever let up, hope it annoys you!
Join the pack, fill the crack
Well now you’re here, there’s no way back

CHANGE – It’s Not Going to Get Any Easier

“Crabby” warning.

America is in the middle of a BIG CHANGE.

Change is inevitable, and we ultimately have to accept it.  The hard thing, though, is that change is never smooth, gradual and comfortable.  It comes in fits and starts, and is often jarring if not downright scary.  We are in one of those scary times.

Even though we have to accept change, we don’t have to like it.  And there is a lot of stuff going on that I don’t like.

I don’t like the fact that our economy used to be more fairly balanced, but now there is a huge and growing chasm between the “haves” and “have nots”.  It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unrest and violence are not out of the question.  Why?

America was once a “melting pot” of people from different backgrounds and abilities who all shared common values and felt a part of something bigger than themselves.  Now we have splintered into a balkanized bunch of minorities.  And I will point the finger directly at “progressive” political leadership over the last decade or so.  The “divide and conquer” strategy used by liberals has worked brilliantly.  Democrats have taught everybody to identify with a subgroup and then established victim-hood status for each, promising to save them from everybody else in exchange for votes.

It starts in our schools and colleges, where students from one or more of the victim-groups of poor, non-white or immigrant, non-Christian, gay/trans, single mothers, etc. are vaulted to hero status.  Self-esteem is guaranteed to them all without regard to merit.  Those born in America with white skin are assumed to be bigots and racists, normal heterosexuals are assumed to be narrow-minded homophobes, and hard-working achievers are assumed to have only succeeded at the expense of others.  The “privileged” must sheepishly walk on broken glass in penance and apology to the “victims.”

Worst of all, our education system that once drove students to seek excellence now allows (perhaps encourages) minority students to feed a culture that values being “bad-ass” over being academic.  Schools fail to enforce discipline, tolerate or endorse illicit sex and drugs, and openly assail capitalism, patriotism, family values, and Christian religion.  Graduation rates plummet as growing numbers of kids would rather avoid learning anything to meet the approval of their peers than work for an educational foundation promising a successful future.  Many schools numbly accept poor classroom performance out of fear of being labeled racist.  As a result nobody flunks and standards sink to the lowest common denominator.  Speaking of common, where is the “rigor” we were promised with the roll-out of Common Core?  Employers are frantic at the dearth of trainable graduates.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, but my school is great.”  Everybody says that.  Look at a couple of textbooks.  Sit in on an assembly.  K-12 is scary enough.  College has become a place for children to abscess and rot.

There will always be a few high achievers, and they will have an ever-easier path to the top as more “victims” fall into the abyss of low expectations.  And the Democrats salivate waiting for them at the bottom of the hill with free stuff in one hand and a ballot in the other.  The few at the top will be richly rewarded and the masses at the bottom will fight for crumbs from their government.  The culture war has only just started, and I can’t envision a happy outcome if we don’t shift our direction.

Bitching about change is easy.  Minimizing the damage is hard.  Change doesn’t have to be for the worse.  We just can’t give in to political correctness, laziness and demagoguery.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Changes – David Bowie

 

 

Liberals Must Hate Children

referee-clipart-as0968Here we go again.  Another example of how liberals hurt our kids.

My daughter and I have played, coached and officiated sports for many years.  We love working with kids and we see the positive effects of organized sports on their growth and development. Coaching is fun and rewarding.  But it’s not easy these days.

A while back I wrote about coaching my grandson’s first baseball season.  Here’s a recap:  First inning of the first game of the season.   The batter hits a ground ball to our pitcher, who makes the catch and easily throws him out at first.  Instead of returning the batter to the dugout, the coach holds him on first base.  “Hey!” several people yelled. “That batter was out!”  But the coach kept him on first base, saying, “We don’t put kids out in this league.  Everybody gets to run the bases.”  There are no umpires for the 5 -year old beginners league, so the coaches are in charge.

None of our coaches saw anything like that in the rules we had received before the season, but being new to the league, and not wanting to make a scene in front of the kids, we didn’t put up a fight.  Over the rest of the game, only one of our players actually got put out, and we returned him to the bench, but the nine batters our team put out still ran the bases.  No score was kept.  The game was weird, and our players, who were being taught to play by the rules and are naturally competitive, were confused and upset.  Why are we trying to put players out when they still get to run and score?

We called the league manager to express our concern about trying to teach baseball with no rules.  His reply was, “We just want the kids to feel successful and have fun.  Besides, five-year olds never put anybody out anyway,” which sent my daughter/coach into orbit!  So we had all the parents call the league manager, and they let him know what they thought of his “no winners and losers” version of baseball.  He relented, and for the rest of the season an out was an out, the kids learned how to play by the rules, and everybody had fun.

Fast forward to my grandson’s first basketball game, almost two years later.

Again, our players had been taught the rules and were expected to abide by them.  First game of the season, our team gets the ball, dribbles to their basket, and my boy made the first basket of the season.  Yay!  The other team throws the ball in, and their guard dribbles and stops.  Dribbles and stops.  Again. And again. And again.  After 13 double-dribbles he tucked the ball like a running back, ran all the way across the court, and took his shot.

Our coaches asked the referee why he didn’t call double-dribble or travelling.  “Oh, we don’t have any infractions in this league.  We just want them to have fun.”

Attempts by the coaches to get rules enforced in that game, and the next, were unsuccessful.  It wasn’t long before the players who had been taught how to play by the rules abandoned them.  I was appalled when I saw my grandson start double-dribbling and travelling like the other kids.  Why should he play by the rules when nobody else has to?  He’s not dumb! To make matters worse, it wasn’t long before the kids figured out that fouls weren’t called, and the game became a bloody free-for-all.  My kid has a beauty of a shiner.

liberal   (lib • er • al)

ADJECTIVE

  1. open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values
  2. (especially of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact

NOUN

  1. a person of liberal views.

I know they mean well, but liberals should be kept away from impressionable children.  Kids need structure.  They want to know the rules.  They grow by experiencing the rewards of hard work, the thrill of fair competition, and the joy of winning.  Building character includes losing with dignity, and learning from one’s mistakes.

One thing I know about children:  nothing hurts them more than being treated unfairly.  And nothing is more unfair than letting some kids break the rules while others abide by them.  The same holds true for adults, but it’s larger than life for children.  What happens if you give one sibling candy, but not the other?

This is not just about sports and kids.  It’s about life, and it’s about the moral decay we see all around us.   Some are expected to work while others don’t.  Some follow the laws while others flaunt them – or political leaders decide to not enforce them.  Some put their shopping carts in the rack at Costco.  Others just leave them in the parking lot, for somebody else to take care of.

And it seems like the people who complain loudest about being treated unfairly are the ones who don’t respect the rules.  The liberals.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ on the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

When I fight authority, authority always wins
When I fight authority, authority always wins!
I been doing it, since I was a young kid and
I’ve come out grinnin’.
I fight authority, authority always wins!

John Cougar Mellencamp – the Authority Song

Take a minute to enjoy a young John Cougar Mellencamp – kid had some moves!

Draining the Swamp Is Easier Than Fixing the Schools

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

President-elect Donald Trump and his choice for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Everyone knows that we must “drain the swamp” to get our nation back on track.  Corrupt and self-serving Washington, DC insiders have colluded with big business, big media, and big education to lock themselves to the trough at the expense of working Americans.

The incoming administration is already setting up its swamp-draining apparatus, and there is optimism in the air.  Trump has shown that he will take his case straight to the American people, bypassing the corrupt news organizations.  And he is bringing outsiders to the Beltway who have little patience for the Machiavellian status quo.

I’m confident that reforms can be made, and quickly, in our federal government.  But that only solves part of the problem.

Our American education system, from kindergarten through college, has been churning out brainwashed dumb-bots for decades, and our collective IQ is dropping like Wile E. Coyote from an Arizona cliff.

Now, if that statement made you spit coffee on your lap, good.  We need to wake up.

You may be thinking that there are some schools with problems, but your local school is just fine.  “Our teachers are nice and the kids are polite.  The football team wins most of their games and 95% of our graduates go to college.”

Here’s an exercise for you – you can do this intellectually if not physically.  Grab an average high-school sophomore from your local school district.  Can he find Egypt on a globe?  Can she make change?  Can he calculate percentage in his head?  Can she name the first three American presidents?  Could he change a tire?  Could she bake a cake?  Do they know who fought in World War II and why?

I’ll bet you could do or answer all, or most, of the above when you were 15.  Your parents could.  So could your grandparents.  Trust me, your grandfather could calculate gas mileage in his head.  Your son probably doesn’t know what gas mileage is.  If your sophomore can pass the above test, he or she is part of a very tiny minority in this country.

You might say, “Yes, but my sophomore can operate a smart phone.  And she is very socially aware.”  Okay.  Try using her anti-bullying training to jump-start her car when the battery is dead.  See if his gender-identity sensitivity classes can help him prepare a simple tax return.

Today’s students spend as much time, or more, being “educated” as you did.  But the quality and quantity of knowledge they obtain is not even close.  There are only so many hours in a day, and in a childhood.  I call the waste of our students’ precious time “educational rape.”

When faced with the question “How can we improve education?” the knee-jerk answer is “School Choice!”  Unfortunately, if the choices are all designed and staffed by the same people who screwed up the traditional schools, the results might be even worse.  I have to tell you, I have visited many ballyhooed “choice” schools that were more politically-correct indoctrination centers than the schools they replaced.  And I didn’t find even their “star” students to be very well-prepared for success in the real world, be that college or career.

So how do we drain the school sewers?  Honestly, it can’t be done from Washington, DC.  Schools must be designed, organized, and operated by states and local districts, because presidents and congressmen and bureaucrats in Washington, DC can’t see what is happening on the ground in Billings or Topeka or Charlotte.  Our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, should agree that most functions of the federal Dept. of Education should be eliminated.  We still need to ensure fair treatment of special needs and at-risk students. This is a case where federal mandates are in order, and they must be aligned with federal funds.  But most curricular and methods decisions should be made locally, with local funding.

Competition from school choice is great.  Participation by private employers – awesome.  Private and religious schools?  Home schooling?  Excellent.  Vouchers?  Yes.  Still, until and unless we parents get involved in our local schools, driving the educational process as active patrons and school board trustees, it will be more of the same.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideSomebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead

All-Star – Smashmouth

 

 

 

 

School Choice – The Free Market Solution

Most Americans now accept and believe that school choice is a good thing.  But the largest teachers’ union, the NEA, still adamantly opposes allowing public funds to follow the student to the school of his choice.  And the political clout of the teachers’ union remains the biggest impediment to improvement in education.

I am a disciple of free-market economics.  Economics steers every human undertaking.  It is ubiquitous in every aspect of our daily lives and has been since the dawn of man.  Every adult on Earth awakens each day and sets out to improve the standard of living for himself and his family.  Nothing is more basic and necessary to our sustained well-being than knowledge of the economic forces that create wealth.

The law of supply and demand is as universally accepted as the law of gravity.  When the supply of something is scarce, it is more valuable.  And when something is valuable and in high demand, more of it will be produced.  In a true free market consumers will always choose the product that best meets their needs at the lowest price, and the profit motive for meeting this demand guarantees the continuous improvement of products.  Free competition for that profit completes the equation.

Free-market supply and demand has brought us smart phones, better cars, nicer homes – comfort, safety and wealth.  In a free market profits and wealth are generated as the quality of products improve and prices go down.  So why hasn’t the quality of education improved in our country, the epicenter of the free market, despite massive spending?  Clearly it’s because education has been removed from the free market.

When a purchase decision is made by someone other than the consumer, the product is unlikely to be what the consumer wants and needs.  Inevitably, educational decisions made by government officials, rather than parents, will not yield optimal results.  Our nation’s educational system is not keeping pace with other countries, and our employers say they can’t find enough employees with basic literacy and math skills.  Most fingers point the blame at our traditional (non-choice) schools.

Times have changed.  Technology has largely eliminated the challenges of distance and time that established the traditional school model primarily still in use today.  As traditional brick-and-mortar neighborhood schools slide toward obsolescence, the ultimate free-market school choice, home schooling, shows rapid growth.  For-profit and non-profit alternative and technical schools are in such demand that exotic lottery algorithms are used to determine which families will win admission.  Private schools enjoy continued enrollment growth.  The traditional government school is now the last resort for most families.

While the concept of school choice is broadly supported by parents, progress in changing the way education is funded has been slow.  In most states home-school and private-school families must still pay taxes for traditional schools that they do not use.  States and districts that support school choice generally fund them with tax dollars through direct allocation, vouchers or scholarships, although at lower rates than they fund traditional schools.  The majority of states and districts still fund only traditional public schools.

Education cannot be removed from economic reality.  The most reliable and quickest tools for process improvement in education are the same time-tested economic incentives that drive the entire world to higher standards of living every day.  The consumers of the education system, parents, must be trusted to make the right purchasing decision for education, the same way they are trusted to buy the right vegetables or the right car to suit their needs.

Until the NEA and the political leaders they financially support agree to allow school funding to travel (or stay home) with the student, education will remain outside the free market, in denial of the proven economic leverage that improves results, lowers costs, and increases standards of living.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades) – Timbuk 3

Career and Technology Education – An Alternative to College

The nexus between education and employment has never been more complex.

Some political leaders and candidates say a college education is so vital in today’s job market that taxpayers should provide it as a free entitlement.  Most high schools view anything short of college admission as a failure.  But many college graduates, despite racking up huge student loan debt, have such a hard time finding jobs that they end up tending bar or waiting tables.  Meanwhile employers contend that they can’t find employees with adequate skills for entry level or more advanced positions.  And foreign students dominate advanced-study courses at our universities, casting doubt on the rigor and subject matter of our traditional high school classes.

Clearly something is out of sync in the school-to-career formula.

School choice is widely embraced as the primary vehicle for improved educational outcomes.  There is no longer any question that schools who compete for students and have the freedom to try innovative methods deliver better results than traditional schools.  Still, many “choice” schools offer the same college-prep curriculum, but in a different building or perhaps using alternative methods.

Recognizing the disconnect between education and jobs, some states and school districts are now focusing more on Career and Technology Education (CTE).

While my home state of South Carolina does not specifically address school choice on a state-wide basis, the department of education’s Career and Technology Education division offers significant profile-of-the-south-carolina-graduatesupport to designated “choice” districts.  Many of these districts now offer alternative education options to their resident families, including CTE centers.  Greenville County Public Schools, for example, enrolls 15% of its students in non-traditional “choice” schools.

The South Carolina Dept. of Education provides standards-based curricular and instructor support for both traditional and specialized schools.  The department hosts training workshops and seminars, administers standards, and tracks performance through a highly organized program funded by a combination of federal grants and state education money.

Suggested and supported course offerings are organized into “career clusters”, and the list is impressive:

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, AV Technology and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training Careers
  • Finance
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York, SC shares a campus with a traditional high school, and provides career and technology education for students in the county who apply and are accepted.  Ron Roveri, Director of Career and Technology Education for the state, headed the Tech Center for fourteen years prior to accepting the top state CTE post.

I asked Roveri if South Carolina held the same strong bias toward college prep that I find in other states and districts.  “Not at all,” he replied.  Our program is designed to work seamlessly for students who are preparing to enter college, the work force, or the military after high school.”

As college graduates find it increasingly difficult to land good jobs, and employers struggle to find good employees, the pressure is on our school systems to make students career-ready – even those who don’t attend or graduate from college.  Career and Technology Education choice schools are a solution whose time has come.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEvery morning about this time
She get me out of my bed
A-crying get a job.
After breakfast, every day,
She throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say,
Get a job!

Get A Job – the Silhouettes

 

What Is ‘School Choice’ for Special-Needs Students?

All parents want the best possible educations for their children.  “School choice” has been embraced by our country as a way to improve educational outcomes.  Parents can now consider:  What schools are available? What will be taught?  Who pays for it?

These questions are daunting enough for the parents of a “normal” kid.  But not all kids are “normal.”

Some are blind or deaf.  Some have learning disabilities, mild or severe.  Some are autistic.  Some have psychiatric disorders.  Some struggle to just stay alive.  If you think a parent’s challenge to get the best education for a “normal” kid is tough, just imagine getting a good education for a special-needs student.

With a special-needs student, the same questions apply.  What schools are available?  What will be taught?  Who will pay for it?  But because special-needs students make up such a small proportion of the population, results may vary.

Let’s not dance around the main issue:  educating special-needs kids is expensive.  School districts who are accustomed to paying $12,000 per student/year tend to freak out when faced with a $70,000 bill for an itinerant special ed teacher who serves only one student.  Plus these students might affect the school’s standardized testing performance.

It raises the age-old question:  Should special-needs students be mainstreamed in public schools with their “normal” peers, or should they be sent to schools with specialized programs and teachers who are better equipped to handle them and their disabilities?

In 1974 Congress passed the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees children with disabilities a public education appropriate to their needs, at no cost to their families, with these provisions:

  • Children with disabilities must be educated with students who do not have disabilities and should attend the school that is closest to home.
  • Children with disabilities must be provided with support services that assist them in benefiting educationally from their instructional program.
  • An assessment must be completed to determine the child’s needs. This may be done only with the parent’s informed written consent.

Parents of special-needs students will pretty much unanimously attest that getting educational services at any acceptable level involves a tremendous battle – my wife and I raised a totally blind son through public schools and can offer personal testimony.  “School Choices” can seem binary to special-needs families.  Will my kid get a real education, or not?  And where:  local public schools, or special school?

Most states still operate resident deaf / blind schools.  And all public school districts are required to provide special-education services.  Now that most states offer public school choices – traditional schools, charter schools, alternative schools, innovation schools, trade- or discipline-specific schools – the situation is all the more confusing for special-needs families.

An often-heard concern about privately-operated charter and innovation schools is that they will not accept or provide appropriate services for special-needs students, despite federal requirements.  The jury is out, but early studies suggest that parents of special-needs students usually choose traditional public schools over charter schools for their students.

The new alternative school models usually run on lighter budgets, and are sometimes rigidly driven by profit.  Will this relegate special-needs students to the traditional public schools, limiting their access to other schools of choice?  On a recent visit to Denver for the Franklin Center’s #AmplifyChoice conference, I was pleased to see that one of the major independent school networks has schools that specialize in services for students with certain disabilities.

Most likely the key element to the successful education of special-needs students will not change in the new “school choice” environment.  Parents who aggressively advocate for their kids will receive good services, and those who don’t, won’t.  Let’s hope that states and districts keep the interests of their special-needs students at heart as school choices evolve.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideWhen some loud braggart tries to put me down,
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
“Now what’s the matter buddy
Ain’t you heard of my school?
It’s number one in the state!”

Be True To Your School – the Beach Boys