A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I tend to distrust politicians, but ...

Although I have a distrust of politicians, the political process requires somebody to work the democratic process, and if completely unattended to, and everybody disengages completely, those who care little about justice take the reins. The emergence of a reasonably apolitical appearing non-politician with a justice-based political platform deserves attention, which it probably won't get, because in all likelihood the message will be drowned out by noise.

Unite America Party-UAP of Kentucky

1016 Edgewood Way Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
Tel. 502-320-1952  kyregistered@gmail.com

Press Release

Unite America Party-USA and Unite America Party of Kentucky Endorses Drew Curtis Independent Candidate for Kentucky Governor.

The Unite America Party-USA & Kentucky has formally endorsed Drew Curtis for Kentucky Governor because Drew Curtis has been the most receptive candidate to our Party’s platform and efforts to expand citizen ownership in our Commonwealth of Kentucky and throughout the USA and world.www.uniteamericaparty.org
The Unite America Party is a new political party with a mission to close the growing wealth and power gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99% — without taking existing wealth or property rights from the top 1%.
We are ordinary citizens from all walks of life, ethnicities, religions, creeds, and political affiliations.  We are also independent thinkers who are more interested in “what’s right” than “who’s right.”
We agree with the majority of Kentuckians and Americans that the two major political parties are leading us to division, gridlock and financial ruin and we have a plan to turn that around and make Kentucky & America better for all (100%) of its citizens.
Media Contacts:
Martin Smith-UAP-Kentucky, Chairman
Tel. 502-320-1952  

Dr. Norman Kurland-UAP USA, National Chair
Tel. 703-243-5155

Monday, October 5, 2015


Fungus feeds the log --
Feeds the worms which feed the trees
swaying in the breeze.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Full Moon

Full moon through the clouds
Cacaphony of night sounds
Life hums, motors roar.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another Dogwalk at Green Springs Gardens

Flowers kiss the rain.
Drizzle dots sherbet colors.
Rain patters thirst.

A conversation I had with the father of an 11 year old girl with a learning disability keeps looping, dogging me, In another loop, in choral response, I keep hearing Les Brown reading his audio book, Live Your Dreams, imploring "you need to let life touch you," Having listened last night to a tribute to Dr. Wayne Dyer just before bed, during my morning walk with Mabel at Green Spring Gardens, I never got around to listening to music or an e-book, but instead ruminated, wondering Why? What should I do? And let the mood sink in as Mabel and I meandered in the rain.

"Test me, show me how stupid I am?"  the father, a mathematician, challenged. He raised higher level mathematical proofs by Euler, the significance of why dividing by zero would undermine the entirety of modern mathematics, and other matters beyond my level of interest or curiosity, as I wanted to return the discussion to a more prosaic discussion about his daughter's needs as her math teacher. Describing myself as an English Major, as "more of a muscular than a finesse mathematician," unlike my mathematical hero, Gauss, I explained that I had never really thought about the question, but had simply accepted the impossibility of dividing by zero. Subconsciously, I was somewhat taken aback that I had reached a college educated professional, not the typical parent of poverty.

At his insistence, I reluctantly replied, "Oh, I don't know. Here's a stupid question, "What is an integer?" The professional mathematician incorrectly described only Whole Numbers {0, 1 2, 3, ...}, a fault I dismissed as lower order thinking, and insisted that he was far smarter than I am in math.

I had called home because his little girl had gone home sick, picked up by her mother in the middle of the day on the first Friday of school, immediately prior to Math and Reading, Wondering if my offer that morning of a space for the child to work on her project during lunch had resulted in panic, overload, and ultimately flight, I had called to discuss why she might be avoiding Math

My initial observation that I thought his daughter was capable of performing far better on her state testing than she had done in the past was met with a caustic response, "You are the first person who has ever said that." The father launched into a muted tirade against Common Core, politely excusing his f-bombs, and highlighting his daughter's artistic ability,

"Standards are a graduation requirement," I replied, which is why I wanted to stress the importance of her attending class every day. He inquired pointedly about the curriculum, I referred back to the syllabus and my letter home describing expectations for the course, a letter he described as "aggressive," but one that he liked, although he had thought it had been written by a woman.

After the final bell, I was in the teacher's lounge and had a brief conversation with the child/s reading teacher. The Reading teacher wondered whether her proposed schedule change, which would have the child come directly to Reading after Math, instead of going to lunch with her friends, might have led to the child's visit to the clinic. I dropped by the Counselor's office. I later pulled her records and studied the data, leaving with more questions than answers.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Stanovich: "Reading makes you smarter"

Halo 10, Reading 0

Michael Greaney sent me the following article that reflects a troubling national trend in education:

Decline in SOL scores ...

Here was my response:

Hi Michael,
Thanks for sending the article.
Averages are a poor measure of central tendency except for very large populations. How does the upper tier of American students compare with the upper tier in other countries? Probably about the same. I think we need to be very careful about exactly what it is the researchers are comparing, so naturally I tend to be a little skeptical whenever I look at data.
If we accept the premise of the article, which I will do for the sake of argument, the natural thing to do is to consider possible causes. Here's what I think: public education, especially the college pipeline, is often viewed as a commodity, and of decreasing value to many American students, in their limited perception, largely because the linkage between a "good education" and a "good job" has increasingly become unbound. Labor, itself, has become the quintessential commodity, and when compared to capital, its value has increasingly become diminished, both from a survival standpoint, and from a spiritual standpoint. Wherein lies the dignity of work? Perhaps a decline in the humanities is at the root of the decline, as an increasing percentage of students entering the college pipeline are ill-equipped to handle metaphysical questions, having been ill-prepared by the college pipeline, which often operates under the questionable premise that the purpose of education is to get a good job. Jefferson was certainly not operating under that premise when he founded the University of Virginia and personally resurrected the Library of Congress after the British burned it to the ground during the War of 1812. What would Jefferson say about the decline in American education?
Another, perhaps more sinister factor, could be a more generalized cognitive decline correlated to a decline in the quality of the living conditions for theaverage American student, Keith Stanowich famously described a correlation between the ratio of neural connections in rich vs. impoverished environments as the "Matthew Effect":   https://youtu.be/lF6VKmMVWEc ... The rich get richer and the poor get ... well, screwed. In the Darwinian contest for student attentions, Halo 10, Books 0. I read an article today about the decline in "play" at the preschool level, in which researchers found a correlation between diminished play opportunities and diminished vestibular (kinesthetic) development, "caused" by a premature, inappropriate focus on "academics" by pre-schools. Another factor to consider is how the average secondary student "plays"? Does technology, i.e., video games, cell phones, computers, etc., in fact, cause people to become stupider because of how it limits how people interact with the natural world?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wet nose invitation answered!

Thank you for the breeze,
For cicadas in the trees,
For wet nose nudges.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jean-Marie Bukuru, Political Refuge from Barundi

On Thursday evening, at my father's invitation, with Mabel at our feet, I had a conversation with Jean-Marie Bukuru of Barundi, a man of science, a truly noble, uncorruptible man, the kind of person who risks his life to take a stand of generational consequence on behalf of his nation, based on logic and reason. As Jean-Marie shared with me details of how corruption works, I began envisioning the possibilities of an epic movie based on the true story of a man who refused to accept even a watch during a high stakes negotiation.

Because Jean-Marie, in his position as lead negotiator for
Barundi, as Head of Land Planning and Development, Ministry of Water, Environment and Land Planning, forcefully defended Barundi's upstream water interests along the Nile in international courts, ceded by his country to Colonial powers to benefit Egypt at Barundi's expense, because Jean-Marie persuaded Barundi's President to sign an agreement which allowed Barundi full rights of access to the Nile, including for the purposes of irrigation and hydroelectric power, and because Jean-Marie pointed out the logical flaws in the argument that Al-Shabab, at the service of Mubarik, posed a realistic military threat to Barundi, Jean-Marie was made an assassination target by foes within his country who had been corrupted by Egyptian agents.

Jean-Marie left his wife and ten children behind in Barundi, becoming a political refuge, escaped certain death, and eventually found his way to my parent's home in Arlington, after the expiration of his 2014-2015 Humphrey Fellowship. Today, Jean-Marie is seeking urgent funding for the introduction to Barundi of kenaf, which is in Jean-Marie's estimation as an agricultural scientist, the ideal cash crop for Barundi, based on Kenaf's of it's unique properties:

  • 6' taproot, which enables it to thrive with minimal rainfall.
  • Can be harvested 3 times per year.
  • Used in bioreactors to generate electricity
  • Used as an insulation product in automobiles
  • Inexpensive and easy to grow
Below is Jean-Marie's statement, which I have taken the liberty of posting on my blog, as I am sure Jean-Marie would not object:

Statement of Jean-Marie Bukuru
(May 20, 2015)

I am Jean-Marie Bukuru from Burundi. Because of the current political crisis in Burundi, where I am considered an opponent of the current President Pierre Nkurunziza, I am seeking assistance to relocate myself and my family out of Burundi, until the democratic political process is restored.

My background is in Agricultural Engineering. I have worked as an official of the Burundian government with various international development institutions including The World Bank, the European Union and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved with poverty reduction, human rights, water supply, water productivity, food security, rural infrastructure development, wetlands management and climate change adaptation projects.

Today I am in the US as a Fulbright scholar and Hubert Humphrey Fellow, having recently graduated from a one-year professional development program at Cornell University in Agricultural Economic and Rural Development.

Officially my Hubert Humphrey Fellowship will be completed on June 12, 2015 after I finish my professional affiliation at the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) and Equity Expansion International (EEI). I am supposed to return to Burundi to implement the professional and leadership skills I have learned in the US.

Unfortunately, there is now a political crisis in Burundi caused by the current president who wants to run for a third term, in violation of the constitution and Arusha peace accord. He has been the President of Burundi for the past ten years in two consecutive, five-year terms from 2005 to 2015.

During his second term, President Nkurunziza has acquired a widespread reputation for nepotism and corruption, assassination of innocent people, suppression of free speech and the private media, and establishment of an authoritarian regime.  By seeking to change the constitution in order to run for a third term, he has provoked protests by opposition parties and other civil organizations. Using police acting under his militia name “Imbonerakure,” the President has recently jailed more than 500 and killed more than 20 peaceful protestors. He has rejected advice not to run for the third term from the US Government, European Union and African Organization Union.

As a founder of Burundi Sustainable Development, Agenda 21 (a Burundi non-profit organization opposing all human rights violations, corruption, lack of leadership and bad governance), I fear for my life if I go back now to Burundi, because I am considered part of the opposition to the current President.

I have been a political target since 2011, when I fled Burundi and became a refugee for 2 years in Sweden. At that time I was a Technical Advisor and Committee Member in charge of the Nile River Initiative Program for Burundi. I was responsible for negotiating a new Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) on the Nile River. The purpose of the new CFA was to create a program which authorizes all countries sharing the Nile River to develop rational use water programs for the benefit of all member countries including Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On May 14, 2010 Egypt and Sudan (“downstream” countries) refused to sign the new agreement, and tried to influence other “upstream” countries like Burundi and DRC by bribing officials of those countries not to sign the agreement. The result of this would have been to deny the right of upstream countries to develop their own irrigation and hydroelectric systems connected to the Nile River.

In January 2011, I convinced the protocol chief of the current President of Burundi who persuaded the President to join other countries in signing the CFA. Because I didn’t support the high-level Burundian officials who had been bribed by members of the Egyptian government (under former President Mubarek), these corrupt Burundian officials accused me of acting against the institution of the Burundian Presidency. One colonel named Leonard Ngendakumana, a former Director of Burundi’s Intelligence Agency, threatened me with imprisonment. I decided to seek asylum in August 2011 and lived in Sweden for two years.

In January 2013, I decided to go back home because the current President invited all Burundian refugees to return home, following his promise to the international community that he would establish peace and human rights, and that no returning refugee would be mistreated. But when I arrived in Burundi, the Minister of Water, Environment, Land Management and Urban Affairs refused to let me return to an appropriate professional position, even though I had brought home new skills in urban and land use and environmental planning.

I was sent by the Government to work in the countryside near the Tanzanian border. I was given an office without a chair, desk, computer or telephone, to make it clear to me that I would not have essential resources to perform my responsibilities, and that I should quit my work. Instead, I decided to create the “Burundi Sustainable Development, Agenda 21,” a national association dealing with human rights protection, fighting corruption, evaluating projects and programs affecting the Burundi community, training people in leadership and good governance, empowering thinking for change, and promoting broad-based ownership opportunities among people who want to be the pioneers of market-based economic democracy in Burundi.

Our Association, which operates with an all-volunteer staff, received its authorization signed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs on June 14, 2013. This was at the same time I was applying to the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program for 2014-2015.  I was selected among 176 qualified candidates out of 3,500 applicants from all over the world who applied to this competitive program.

Today I am a Fulbright scholar and Hubert H. Humphrey fellow in Agricultural Economics and Rural Development. I am seeking help so that I can provide leadership and exercise my professional skills within my country and other countries in Africa. Additionally, I need to be able to support myself and my family outside of Burundi, until I can return to my country to implement the knowledge and skills I have gained in the US from Cornell University and other institutions of learning.

Jean-Marie Bukuru, CESJ Research Fellow
Center for Economic and Social Justice
4318 North 31st Street, Arlington Virginia 22207
Tel: 540-449-9067 

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Moms around the globe
nurture good feelings,
light candles of hope.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


JV is okay.
Sitting on the bench just sucks.
Hit, pitch, field, compete!

Last night, Joe battled. While the score was 11-2, and he was the pitcher of record, with 3 runs scored in the 1st inning, 2 runs in the 2nd, and 2 runs in the third, the scoreboard didn't tell the full story.

The maple trees have shed their helicopter seeds, which litter the ground. The cars are covered in pollen, and Joe, who has a difficult time trusting that I, especially, or his mother know anything about anything, has refused to do anything about it, Allergies have been kicking Joe's butt, but he has refused to take any of the antihistamines or decongestants that we have offered him -- his sinuses are all inflamed, his head is pounding, and he probably now has a sinus infection.

One day last week, on Teacher Appreciation Day, with an Honor's English presentation due on Ibsen's The Doll House due, Joe tried to play his allergies and not feeling well into an excuse for an absence. While Joe was playing possum, Karen and I together reinforced the expectation that the only excuse for an absence was if he were barfing, bleeding, or dying. I played my X-box card, and threatened to get rid of it until he moves out of the house if he didn't either go with his mother to the doctor or make it to school. When Joe went to print out slides, as I was checking to see whether he was lying about having completed his presentation after I had been able to prod him until he had dragged himself into the shower, I found that Joe's computer had locked up. I was able to open Power Point and retrieve the last autosave from 30 minutes before he finished, so it was not a total loss. Joe arrived a little late, but was able to present. His X-box is still in it's hiding place, so I suppose I will have to release it back to him eventually.

Last evening, Joe played down with the JV team, and was the starting pitcher, and when he was done pitching, he got to play center field. I don't enjoy going to varsity games with my son sitting on the bench and only occasionally pinch running, so I rarely  go, but last night, I knew Joe would be at the top of the batting order, and I knew he would get a chance to play in the field, but I had no idea he was pitching. Last night, it was a perfect evening for baseball, hot dog aromas filled the air, and I was the proud papa. Joe was complaining about how poorly he felt from the moment I got there, and he had not eaten all day. He was visibly on edge, leaning against the fence or whatever would prop him up, partly from the stress of pitching, and hitting at the top of the batting order, partly with the stress of other players looking up to him, and partly because he just felt awful. Joe would come to me at the fence at the end of every inning and tell me how badly he felt, but knowing that playing is a privilege and that opportunities are as fleeting as dust in the wind, I kept pointing toward the field, grinning, and growling at him to get back out there and tough it out.

Joe's velocity on his pitches was in the high seventies to low eighties, which seemed at least five to ten miles an hour faster than the other pitchers. He had command of the strike zone, and he was going after hitters, even though he wasn't mixing his speeds and locations as much as I remember him doing the last I watched him pitch, and was mostly throwing heat. The three runs in the first inning were unearned, because there were a number of fielding and throwing errors, but Joe held it together as hitters worked the counts full by staying alive with foul tips. Balls that were hit managed to find gaps. With the score 7-2 in the third inning and the bases having been loaded through a combination of bloop singles, and a few well hit fly balls, Joe went after the hitter with a pitch that went a little high and inside, which led to a passed ball, and Joe came to the plate to accept the throw from his catcher, which led to a run down, and Joe easily caught the runner.

At the plate, in his first plate appearance, Joe ripped a ball straight to the 3rd baseman. On his second opportunity at the plate, Joe hit a textbook single up the middle, just like his coach Chuck Hoyle has trained him to do, he stole second, was advanced on a fly to deep right, and scored on a sacrifice fly. Last night, the team hit the ball well, but most of the Atoms' hits found gloves, while most of the Titan's hits found gaps. That's just how it is in baseball sometimes. After the game, I talked with a father of a senior, whose son was hammering hits to the fence all night, but was only able to drive in 2 runs. Parents were enjoying watching their upper classmen, who perhaps felt a little like they were from the island of misfit toys, play JV with 9th and 10th graders.

In center field, Joe covered a lot of ground and was able to hold runners. During the fifth inning, Joe caught a long fly ball and threw the ball all the way over the catcher's head. If only he had been able to gun down the runner ...

After the game, Joe wouldn't eat his customary pizza. He ate chicken noodle soup and curled up on the couch. That Capitals allowed a goal with less than 2 minutes to play and lost a heartbreaker in the Garden in overtime. His mother covered him with a blanket because he felt cold.

Blue Bell Trail

Mabel's blue bell trail
winds along Accotink Creek --
Beltway blues flow past.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

No excuses, no regrets

I have often said this year that, despite his role in the Special Ed. Mafia that George is a redemptive character. It's not my place to condemn anyone. I therefore avoid doing so. I do my best not to harbor any grudges and leave the door open. Occasionally, I go unpunished for my open door policy -- my Uncle Harold loved to share these words of wisdom, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Today, George returned from his time in in-school-suspension, having missed Monday and Tuesday's lessons on coordinate points. After George began to bellow in frustration about not knowing how to plot points, I calmly gestured for him to step into the hall and reminded him that, as a result of his own decisions, he had missed lessons where I had introduced the parts of the coordinate plane, and modeled how to plot points. I asked George to please try to be patient and pay attention while I reviewed the parts of the coordinate plane and how to plot points before moving forward with a lesson on how to graph shapes on the coordinate plane.

George asked if he could come into my room during the Enrichment and Remediation period for which I do not hold a class, As my door is generally always open, I helped George point by point, line by line until he finished. Proud of his accomplishment, George asked if I would hang it up. He wondered about the red circle T, "Is that an F?" he asked, whereupon I explained that the circle T meant that the work had been done with teacher assistance, so I could not use it as an assessment. George seemed to enjoy hanging up his kite next to Suzette's Circle Graph.

"That's all I have ever wanted from you, I could hug you -- but I won't," I exclaimed.

Students have been responding to my no excuses, no regrets invitation to come to my room up to 5 days per week after school until May 22, the Friday before the state test. Some of those invitations have been made over the speaker phone, in conference calls with parents. Others have been made with just the suggestion that, perhaps, a call needed to be made.

Today, I helped somewhere around 10 students with their SOL prep packets after school. What I've been telling students is that, up until May 22'd I will do everything I can so that I will be able to end the year knowing I have done everything I could to make myself available to students, and would allow students to make corrections with my help until then, for full credit, because I did not want to end the year with any regrets, and did not want students to have any regrets. After the 22'nd I concluded, there was nothing I could do, because if students had not prepared themselves by that time, there would be no way for them to be ready by the 29th.

Yesterday, I learned from another student that, during lunch bunch, without my permission, Allen had grabbed an answer key so that he could "self-check" his work. I promptly began circling all of his problems for which he had shown no work and told him: "That's all right, I will mark any problems for which work is not shown as wrong, even if they are correct," This morning, I mentioned to him that I was planning to call his mom, not because he was in any trouble with me, but because I was disappointed about his decision, especially since he knows full well that I would allow him to make corrections up until the 22nd, and all I care about his that he understands what he is doing. Allen agreed to work with me after school on Friday, which is a reasonable consequence for him pretending to know something when he really did not know what he was doing.

Allen, who has been hearing my warnings all year not to be "Mr. 399, the kid who fails the test by one point," heard my no excuses, no regrets message loud and clear.

Today, there was buzz in the office about a parent of one of my students who wouldn't leave before he met with Dr. P. I was asked by another teacher if there was any problems that I was aware of. I replied, "maybe it's a good thing, because Mr. Hamza is very happy" with the progress his son has made, both academically, and socially.

Still haven't notified Mr. Farmer of everybody on my F list. Need to sleep, wake up, and grade. Tomorrow night, after the Friday after school session, I will rush over to watch my son play down with the JV team, since for once he won't be sitting on the bench. There is no slowing up.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Appreciated -- 
You don't know how much you are --
You make our world spin.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Same starting place, different outcomes

Rick Wormeli recently held an workshop at my school entitled, "Fair is not always equal," for which Dr. P came to my door after I had not responded to an email from Ms. Hendrix, his secretary, and personally invited me to attend, to my great surprise. School leaders have begun rolling out a new no zero grade book policy, as the grade book becomes increasingly transparent, with the parent portal set to open in September, and the necessity of communicating how students are doing goes real time.

My dad is convinced that Dr. P is an authentic leader, who would understand the Just Third Way if I presented it to him, and would see how it would enable students to feel invested in their own education. Dad frequently reminds me, as he did the other day, how Dr. P was willing to take a chance on me, despite a somewhat checkered past, largely because I tend to view education differently that many of my colleagues, having become an educator relatively late in life, and because of my unique background, which enables me to relate to students who want to lift themselves up. Being included by Dr. P in the Wormeli workshop sort of confirmed that I am there because I am a little different, and that my unlimited retake policy is aligned with best practices, though out of the mainstream.

The reason I hesitate to share big ideas such as the UAP Party Platform to my colleagues and to my administrators, to my father's disappointment, is that, frankly, I have always felt extremely vulnerable as an educator. For one, I am still learning my craft, and my work through lunch with students, work everyday after school with students, including Fridays is viewed by my colleagues as a sign of weakness. For two, I work with certain students who could be considered "career killers," students who have been unsuccessful in an academic setting for their entire life, who in 6th grade cannot read, write, or do math at grade level, and out of utter frustration, seem to have decided to do everything that they can to take everyone around them down with the full weight of their negative gravity as a sport, both students and teachers alike, as comedian thugs-in-training, as tyrannically ignorant members of "the Special Ed Mafia."

For students like George, a 6th grader who wears a plus, plus, plus-sized black tee shirt with skulls and the word "Sinister" on it, who has a habit of shaking down normal sized students for their lunch money and their snacks, who has never learned to modulate his voice in class, who finds it hilarious to sit in the teacher's chair and not get up when asked to do so, or put his finger in the teacher's face, who disrupts lunch bunch sessions and after school study sessions alike, learned helplessness, i.e., being "stuck on the escalator" has become a running joke on teachers. George knows that teachers are fully invested in his academic success, but he is not and he and his fellow members have made a game of it, so the other day when George asked where the materials for the lesson were, when he knew they were were materials for the lesson always are located, I refused to play his little game. Instead, I began walking George towards the room of Ms. Jay, the 6th grade disciplinarian, where I ran into Dr. P and Mrs. England and asked, "Do you remember, 'Stuck on an escalator?' Dr. P acknowledged that he did.

I replied, "This one is stuck on the escalator" and preceded to explain how George was acting as if he did not know what to do, when we have a routine and everybody knows the routine. Mrs. England made a polite suggestion to George and me, I smiled, and George and I returned to class. I went to the table and handed George his materials, and returned to the lesson on identifying and classifying quadrilaterals, whereupon he promptly threw the materials on the floor, explaining, "Oh, I already have that."

It's that time of year and we were recently asked to make our Student of the Year selections, In the hall, I was asked by my Instructional Coach how I was doing, and in reflecting, I was able to find great joy and pride in the growth of certain students who have accepted my unlimited retake policy, but frustration about those I have been unable to sway, Patty, for example, and her brother Tarsus, both started the year in self-contained classes, but their outcomes could not be more different.

Patty, who had been retained sometime when she was in elementary school, has failed almost every quiz she has taken on the first try. Despite her frustration, Patty throughout the year kept coming back to make corrections, one question at a time, and her work spaces show evidence that she is starting to get it,

Tarsus, on the other hand, started the year probably a little ahead of his older sister, but Tarsus has allowed other students to call him "Training Wheels," seems to have accepted the identity of somebody who wears a stupid grin, is always joking around and rarely asks questions, and never makes corrections,

Patty, unlike her brother, decided that conditions in a self-contained class, where she was surrounded by a bunch of numskulls, was unacceptable to her. Patty asked to be moved into Mr. Lee's class at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, and despite my concerns, the move was made. On Thursday, we did a lesson on Circle Graphs, which provides a culminating activity that shows understanding of fraction, decimal, percent relationships, or what Wormeli would say demonstrates "proficiency, not mastery." Patty's work with Circle Graphs was a clear demonstration of proficiency. On his Quarter 3 District Test, Tarsus did not even write on a workspace, which demonstrates a total lack of respect for the process. I explained to Patty why she was my choice to become my Student of the Year, and in my explanation compared what she had accomplished to what her brother has done, i.e., essentially nothing all year. Patty asked me to call her father and explain to him what I had just told her. As I had throughout the year, I called Patty's dad and once again we had one of those heart to heart conversations and both commiserated.

In a funny way, Wormeli explained that current grading policies are ineffective at best, and at worst, morally bankrupt. I reflected that students like George are byproducts of a defective, developmentally inappropriate system which enabled him to progress into the 6th grade math, despite a lack of proficiency with 3rd grade concepts, despite an inability to make socially appropriate contributions to a classroom community.  Wormeli explained the moral imperative that justifies standards based grading, and the paradigm shift that needs to follow, with urgency, because the loss rate of potentially contributing members of society is unacceptable, and too many students are checking out instead of digging in.

After I formally wrote up George for spraying Windex in his friend's face upon entering my classroom, Ms. Jay expressed her concerns with me in the hall that I was using words like "infuriated," and in the process was "giving all the power" to students like George whenever I showed frustration. She also cited the three year burn out syndrome and asked whether I needed a day off to to cool off. I was reminded to keep it light.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Canine Queen

Ears at the window,
Eyes locked until I return,
Canine queen I serve.

Morning Chill

Morning chill. Wet grass.
Paw print pattern. Sidewalk cracks.
Nose meanders past. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April Sweat

Afternoon sweat drips.
Green stubble. Grey curly locks.
Close shave. Mower drones.

Annual Rally At the Federal Reserve

CONTACT: Dawn Brohawn, Center for Economic and Social Justice, 703-243-5155 or info@cesj.org


Rally for Monetary Justice

Washington, D.C., April 16, 2015 — Citizen-activists from around the country will rally at Lafayette Park across from the White House to deliver their “Declaration of Monetary Justice” to President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday, April 17, 2015, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Members of the Coalition for Capital Homesteading will issue a challenge to citizens, politicians and policy-makers: “Own or be Owned: Why We Can’t Wait.” They believe that the economic foundations of America’s political democracy, and the economic independence of the majority of citizens and families, are threatened by what most Americans view as a Wall Street biased and overcomplicated money, credit and tax system that concentrates ownership and power in a tiny portion of citizens and their government allies.

The Declaration of Monetary Justice calls on the President and Congress to instruct the Federal Reserve and local banks to use the Fed’s existing discount powers under Section 13, paragraph 2. This would open up a now-untapped source for financing new equity issuances for faster rates of asset-backed private sector growth, rather than increasing debt-backed money for speculation and non-productive purposes.  Insured, asset-backed money and nearly cost-free capital loans would be made available to every citizen through their local banks to invest in profitable companies seeking to grow by issuing new full-dividend-payout voting shares, while reducing corporate income taxes by making dividends deductible at the corporate level and taxable taxable when received at the personal level.  This can be done under present tax law today for workers in 100% employee-owned leveraged S-Corporation Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).  By creating new owners of new productive capital purchased with “future savings” acquired through tax-deferred dividends, future equity ownership and increased mass purchasing power would be spread broadly as all citizens begin receiving the earnings of capital as “second incomes.”

Norman Kurland, one of the Coalition’s founders, explains that unlike some organizations and politicians opposed to the Federal Reserve existence, “We have no interest in ending the Fed, or turning its functions over to the Treasury Department, as some are demanding. We want the Fed to become a more accountable and effective engine of non-inflationary, private-sector growth with justice.” As a lawyer and economist who served as Washington Counsel for economic visionary and leveraged ESOP architect Louis O. Kelso, Kurland drafted the first ESOP laws enacted by Congress in 1974 and pioneered the first 100% bank-financed leveraged ESOPs.  In 1985 he wrote and lobbied successfully for passage of a bipartisan Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice to develop a report promoting worker ownership throughout Central America and the Carribbean, for which he was appointed deputy chairman by President Ronald Reagan.

“Federal Reserve policies today are making the rich richer, while encouraging destructive uses of credit that sink consumers and our government deeper into debt. Instead, by supporting productive uses of credit and universal citizen access to a new means of acquiring productive capital for accumulating tax-deferred retirement assets and rising dividend incomes, the Fed could serve a socially just purpose. It could promote sustainable economic growth, expanded job creation and shared prosperity in a market system.”

The Coalition for Capital Homesteading grew out of an annual rally inaugurated in 2005, dedicated to passage of a proposed “Capital Homestead Act” and equal access to capital ownership as a new right of citizenship. The Coalition was spearheaded by the non-profit, all-volunteer Center for Economic and Social Justice, based in Arlington, Virginia. CESJ was founded in 1984 and has an interfaith membership throughout the U.S. and other countries. For more information, visit http://www.cesj.org.

First Act

Birds belt morning songs.
Curtain rises above it all -
First act of the day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April Showers

April showers steep.
Groundwater fills reservoirs.
Chloroplasts engage.

Shared Trail

Walk with me my girl.
Together we'll share the trail.
Sunrise, sunset strolls.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cherry Blossoms Burst

Cherry blossoms burst.
Birds chatter in morning mist.
Twitter trending tweet.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gifts from the stream bed

Crystal faces shine
from the stream bed catch mine eyes
gifts from the stream bed

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Reality Check

In my inbox, I found this message:

Daniel, America's cancer...

Why don't you show this to your principal? Why are these facts not taught, especially to special ed kids and their families who are often see themselves most victimized by the economic system? Obviously, an attractive "solution" should also be taught so that they can learn and promote positive systemic solutions to cure the cancer. Dad --

Norman G. Kurland, J.D. President
Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) P.O. Box 40711, Washington, DC 20016
(O) 703-243-5155, (F) 703-243-5935
(E) thirdway@cesj.org (Web) http://www.cesj.org
"Own or be owned."
I spent a few days of my Spring Break pruning my holly bushes, which had pushed against the eaves and over the house. Some critter had gotten into our soffit. The pest control person recommended to my wife that we cut the holly "to the nub." The cuttings filled up the back of my pickup truck to about 3 feet over the roof when all was done.

Another of my priorities was to do my taxes and review my finances -- I have been agonizing over the debt I owe, including credit cards, a student loan, car loan, etc. Truly, I was agonizing, rather than getting down to the business of listing everything I owe, and looking at refinancing options. Because of the way I jumped into my midlife adventure, I had spooked my wife, and she had therefore resisted allowing me to use the equity in our home to help me finance my career change. As a result, for years I have been playing a dangerous financial shell game.

In putting everything down on paper, I was able to sell my self first, then my wife Karen on the idea of using the substantial equity in our home to allow me to me to pay off all my debts over a 20 year period, I should have run the numbers a long time ago, because had I done so I would have avoided a great deal of worry. I always have known, that if I drop dead, which is a valid concern my wife expressed after I presented my plan tonight , my life insurance policy should cover the debts. "Pay yourself first" is an old adage, which is what I essentially did in taking care of my honey do list and finances first, rather than doing any of my work for school.

I have an IEP at 8am tomorrow morning, which I have not written. I need some sleep. Will get up early and bang it out. It will be a tough one since the student was found to have a low IQ (71), assuming the test was valid, which is not necessarily always the case, and qualifies for services because of an Emotional Disability. Since the child turns in so little work in math completed independently, it has been difficult to get an accurate picture of what he is capable of doing. Truly, I don't trust the IQ score, and feel like a lot of others that my little friend can do more than what he has been doing.

I am about to enter both a marathon and a sprint, which is how it will be until the state testing is over. Based on what I am seeing, I have reason to be concerned that I am depending on such a difficult, and low performing group for my professional survival. I don't want to stick my wife with a mountain of debt! I understand the pressure that the Atlanta teachers were under to show rising tests scores, but all I can be is real. I am going to do everything I can and place my trust in Dr. P, my colleagues, my students, my parents, and myself. Two of my closest co-workers, Mr. McDuff, and Mr. Lee, are always commenting that, instead of always trying to save the world, I need to save myself. Truly, my co-workers have no idea!

I might show this video to my students, but I was hoping to find something a little lighter, more humorous, like the stuck on the escalator video I showed them after attending the Rick Wormeli conference. which Dr. P invited me to attend. That was both an honor, and a surprise, because I had not considered myself to be a leader. Bottom line: grades need to be based on student demonstrations of proficiency with standards, not on mathematical averages. Wormeli advocates "disagreggation" of grades. Report cards should reflect achievement or non-achievement of benchmark standards. It turns out, many of my practices, which Mr. Lee had been uncomfortable with, such as my unlimited retake policy, was aligned with what Wormeli suggests is "best practice."

Many of my students are failing. They came to me failing. Some are making it. Some are not. We can all do more, work a little smarter. My friend Sue has retired from teaching and is now a major contributor to the BATs (Baddass Teachers). Sue has made it her mission to expose Pearson's monopoly over educational testing, and to expose the damage that is being done to the teaching profession, to the Liberal Arts curriculum, and to students by a misguided overemphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). It's hard not to keep my head in the sand, and ignore what my dad is saying, what Sue is saying, and what Wormeli is saying, considering how much time and effort it takes to work with individual students, one-at-a-time. However, the fact is, major stuff is happening, and all I have been doing is haiku ...

Accotink creek flows
as if quart-tipped feathers fly,
not mountain-bikers.

My best stories and character sketches end up in IEP's ... Got to sleep. Got to get up. Got to do the IEP.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

First Turtles

First turtles of Spring
Raise their heads in unison
Ahhhhhhhhhh, the sun feels good!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Irrational Dog

Shadows are scary.
Mabel skitters past contrast.
Irrational dog.

Gods of thunder roar.
She cowers in a corner.
Tranquilizer time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Satan's Parlor


When my father worked for HEW (Health Education and Welfare) in the early 1960's, one of his first assignments was to construct a legal argument against vouchers for the Kennedy Administration. To understand the position of his opponents, my father conducted discovery conversations with defenders of vouchers, Catholic School systems. He pored over his opponent's arguments. Ironically, my father came away agreeing that vouchers were the best way of giving individuals the power of choice and control over their educational outcomes. I think that his decision to leave HEW was a result of a change from Saul to Paul with regards to his legal opinion about vouchers.

As a teacher in a middle school with high poverty rates, I wonder what would happen to students whose early childhood education was deficient, who are operating far below grade level in math and reading, if they had to compete to get into a school. Perhaps schools might be more responsive to students if schools had to compete for their educational dollars, which is the crux of the "pro-voucher" argument. However, students and families are not passive recipients of knowledge. Learning is an interactive process involving a learner and his or her environment. The process of learning is mediated by specialized social tools, especially national, school system, and educators' philosophies -- indeed, a universally accepted faith in "universal access" is why America invests more in public education than any other country in the world.

My mandate as a special education teacher is to make the general education curriculum more accessible to students with learning disabilities. Accessibility, however, is like leading a horse to water. Some come to me already so disengaged from the process of learning, they would prefer to disrupt the process rather than drink from an oasis of knowledge that is made available to them. Others choose to do whatever it takes to learn, and are receptive to learning, whether it is because of positive relationships developed with teachers, a supportive family, a naturally strong character, or a particularly skillful matching of instruction to interests, readiness, What if the horse does not want to drink?

Recently, with one class that included a core of intransigent, disengaged students, it took a full 90 minutes to try to teach a simple direct teaching lesson on graphing inequalities. In a similar self-contained class the day before, the same lesson took about 20 minutes, and a class of engaged learners were able to practice in a variety of ways for over an hour, including with white boards, and later in a game format. The main difference was that a few students in the failing group chose to laugh constantly, with the seemingly clear intent of making it impossible for anyone to learn. To say that half of the students in that class did not feel invested in the lesson would be an understatement. None in either of the two groups were even close to passing their state testing in 5th grade, and a good portion long ago tuned out the argument that education provides an opportunity for a better future. The engaged class felt like Heaven, whereas the disengaged class felt like Hades.

I quipped to the disengaged group: "This is what it sounds like in Satan's parlor. Everyone in Satan's parlor thinks disruptive behavior is funny." Far from classrooms where there are aspirations to get into the best schools, there exists a tyranny of ignorance. Ignorance is a tyrannical beast. The most hardened, disengaged students actively mock teachers and operate on an agenda fully intending to shut down the process for everybody. My job is to try to reel as many as I can back in.

How does one communicate to a group of 11 and 12 year old children that failure is not funny? It will be interesting to see what happens to students in that class when many of them see their grades. Maybe the laughing will cease after students see their grades. Maybe, discussions about retention will begin. Probably, it will get ugly, at least for their teacher, the responsible adult in the room.