Friday, April 13, 2018

remember

Remember when so-called Christian conservatives said "character counts" during the Bill Clinton years?

Kind of makes you laugh when you see them now performing all kinds of mental and ethical gymnastics to explain their support for Trump.

I would laugh except it's all so sickening.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

wake up

April 2018. I wonder how many evangelicals still haven't figured out that Trump is using them.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

I Stand with Oklahoma Teachers


I was born in Oklahoma. I lived in Oklahoma for a total of 12 years of my life. I went to college in Oklahoma, met my wife there. Most of my family lives in Oklahoma. I visit the state two or three times a year. I love Oklahoma. I really love Oklahoma.

My wife and I would have loved to live and work in Oklahoma. But as teachers, it was simply economically unfeasible.

Years ago, a colleague who had taught twenty years in Grove, Oklahoma before moving to Texas to finish out her career told me "As bad as teachers are treated in Texas, it's far worse in Oklahoma." She told me that back in 2006. She also told me that by moving to Texas she immediately got a $12,000 raise in pay. Both her and her husband were high school teachers so they made over $24,000 more a year simply by crossing the Red River to teach the same subjects. Over ten years ago.

If I were to move to the suburbs of Tulsa and teach in the Union School District my pay cut would be unbelievable. The Union School District is an upper middle class district and one of the highest paying in the state. Based on a comparison of salary schedules including a Masters Degree stipend given by Union and my school district, I would have to take a $12,000 pay cut to work in Union Schools.

And I don't teach in a wealthy school district in Texas. I teach in a Title One rural school district outside of Dallas. 65% of our students are economically disadvantaged. My district is not even close to being among the highest paying districts in the state. And yet even my pay cut would be huge if I moved to one of the best school districts in Oklahoma.

The pay cut is actually worse than that. My health benefits would be far less than what I currently receive. My retirement much worse. And, Oklahoma would only give me five years of service credit for coming to teach there. I have nineteen years of service. I would be starting out as a fifth year teacher in pay if I moved to Tulsa next year. Which means my actual cut in pay would be $16,000. No wonder Oklahoma can't recruit good teachers from out of state.

Add my wife, a school counselor, to the mix and we would lose $36,000 in income to work in the same exact jobs just a couple of hours north.

A $36,000 pay cut.

Our cost of living has been virtually the same as living in metro Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Now, home prices have skyrocketed this past year in DFW so that may make Texas a little more expensive a place to live now days when it comes to buying a home. But that's a recent phenomenon. Our gas, groceries, insurance and utilities are nearly the same as Oklahoma.

I have many friends and family members who are teachers in Oklahoma. I don't know how they make a living. I don't know how they will have enough to retire on. I work with many Oklahomans who reluctantly moved to Texas because the pay is so much better.

I really believe that many in Oklahoma expect teachers to be wives married to husbands who make substantially more money in other careers.

So 19th century. So patriarchal.

How else do they expect teachers to make a living? State legislators are downright hostile to teacher demands for better pay. The governor compared educated professionals to teenagers wanting more money for a car. It's sickening. Disgusting. Oklahoma deserves better. Oklahoma needs better.

Priorities. If OU and OSU cancelled their football seasons until teachers got better pay I guarantee the legislature would miraculously find the money to fund Oklahoma schools. Taxing energy and natural gas only 2% the past 20 years? Unbelievable. 5% is a start but even that falls short.

Education is about the future. Corporations won't locate their headquarters in places with un-educated workers no matter how good the tax breaks.

Oklahoma won't have a future if they don't treat their students and teachers right.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

words


The following is a rant. 

School Choice.

Don't believe it. Those are words made to deliberately convince you that it's okay to take funding away from our public schools in the form of private school vouchers.

There is a shady group of extreme capitalists who hate the very idea of public education. They don't like public anything. They want to privatize everything including our schools systems. They even want to change the lingo. They want you to call public schools, "government schools." They think that terminology will put a bad taste in people's mouths when it comes to our public school system. Don't be fooled. They don't want to reform our public schools. They want to kill them. They want them dead. They want schools run as a business. For profit.

Like private prisons. Look how humane and well run those are.

School choice already exists for those who actually want it. Most school districts, including mine, accept transfer students at the elementary and junior high levels. You don't like the schools in your area? You do have the freedom to move. Now, I realize that can create a hardship for many of those who struggle in situations of poverty. I'm not suggesting you can move to the ritziest of suburban school districts. But there are plenty of decent school districts that have affordable housing. There's low income apartments within sight of my classroom windows right now. I work in a Title One district where a huge majority of our students are low income. Our district is in no way perfect, but you will get a good education in a safe environment. And you don't even have to live here to transfer in. But there are options. And jobs.

That may not be true all over the United States. Moving may be a very difficult option for some. But the option does exist. Don't let anyone say we don't have school choice.

Besides, it's not the poor who want the private school vouchers. That's just a distraction. It's really the people who fear the public schools, usually white middle class Christians. They don't like that public schools may have people there who don't look like them. They don't like the science being taught there. They don't like ideas outside their narrow and fundamentalist view of one particular version of their religion being taught. They don't like history actually being taught, you know, studying what really happened, good and bad. They want just the good parts of American history taught rather than the bad. It would be a shame if we could learn from the negative moments of our past so we can make a better future. They equate Christianity with American nationalism.

Jesus taught that we should be in the world, not of it. But in it nonetheless rather than hiding and building a fortress to keep the bad out. Those fortresses don't usually end up working anyway. Your kids eventually discover outside ideas which look very intriguing since they were hidden from them their whole lives. Instead of equipping them for living in the real world you are infanticizing them. They won't know how to live their faith in the real world. Their faith will come down tumbling and it will be the parent's fault for not teaching them how to be a Christian in a world of pluralities.

I can't tell you how glad I am my parents kept me in public school. And exposed me to science, and literature and secular music and philosophy, etc. 

I can't tell you how many kids I saw at my private Christian university lose their minds once they left the "safety" of their parent's guidance. Kids who had been sheltered in an intellectual and religious bubble exploded at the new ideas all the sudden rushing in at them, even at a supposedly safe place like a conservative Christian college. They usually ended up forsaking their faith entirely and going down roads that horrified their parents. They hadn't been equipped for the real world.

People often say they put their kids into private school or home school because society took God out of schools. Do they really think having the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall would have kept our schools from falling apart during the era of white flight and the lack of money for schools that happened as a result?

Schools are just a convenient whipping boy for all of society's ills. Schools didn't fall apart when they took prayer out of schools. Schools fell apart when people stopped praying in their homes. Schools fell apart when people valued youth league sports over going to church on Sundays. Schools fell apart when people's religious ideas became so judgemental and rigid that their religion became distasteful to their children.

They really think they can keep God, the Creator of the Universe, out of a school? Maybe their concept of God is too small.

I work in a public school and I see God in school every day. I see Him the eyes of my students. I see Him in the compassion and empathy teachers show their students. I see God in the actions of self-sacrificing individuals working for the greater good of their students. Schools aren't perfect. But neither are churches and neither are Christians. Simply saying The Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the school day in a classroom is not going to change the hearts and minds of students. Living the Lord's Prayer with real action, borne of love might actually change the world.

I have dedicated my career to public schools. I believe everyone deserves a free quality education, not just a select few. I believe everyone deserves a shot, not just a few white kids. Everyone deserves to have the chance to learn regardless of their race, ethnicity, income level and citizenship status.

You want to make America great? Start with our supporting our schools.

Amen.


Friday, February 23, 2018

Rambo Teachers

The sign above can be found outside of Argyle High School, about an hour from my school. I have been on the campus (it's very swanky) and know some of their teachers. Most of the Argyle teachers I have talked to don't like that sign or what it represents either. 

Since I'm a teacher, people have been asking me my opinion about arming teachers.

Seriously?

Rarely have I heard such a stupid, ill-considered, asinine, terrible idea.

Again, the arming teachers debate is most likely just a red herring, a distraction from the real issue of mass shootings at schools.

There was an armed deputy officer at the high school in Parkland. He froze up. He did not go in during the shootings. If a trained officer freezes up in a crisis situation, how much more likely a teacher?

Teachers are educators, not soldiers. Training? Have you been to most trainings for anything? The instructor wants your money and to get done as soon as possible. Doesn't matter what kind of training it is. Even with actual, legit gun training, most teachers are not equipped for battle. Crisis training is a long, involved and expensive process. Who's going to pay for it? Especially now with tax cuts?

We. Are. Teachers. Not. Soldiers. 

I know a lot of teachers. I do not want them packing heat. That's stupid. Think a class of teenagers can't overpower a teacher and take their weapon? A teacher distracted by the million other things teachers have to think about during a class period?

A really awful, horrible idea. One of the worst.

The calculus is simple: more guns leads to more violence.

The data backs that up time and time again. The more people who have guns the more likely they are going to use their guns. That's not opinion, that's simple arithmetic.

Education is supposed to be a safe place. Kids have enough to worry about. They shouldn't have to worry about teachers with a gun in a holster. Such a stupid idea. Provide better school resource officers and provide them with better training. You should see some of the slaps who have been hired for school security. We've had some excellent officers. We've also had some that made you think 'what were they thinking hiring that guy?' But with lack of funding,sometimes you gotta hire you can.

But it's all a distraction.

The NRA and Trump want to distract you from the real issues. Too many guns. Too many semi-automatic weapons. Too many assault rifles. Lax background checks. Too many loopholes. The ease of buying guns. The ease for the mentally ill to get guns. The ease for kids to get guns. The violence on television, movies and video games. The lack of funding for mental health issues. The incongruity of gun laws from state to state and community to community. The lack of coordination between law enforcement and mental health specialists. Domestic abusers getting guns easily. Magazine sizes. Bumper stocks. And more.

These are the real issues the NRA and their lackeys want you to forget about. These guys are crafty, clever men. They know exactly what they are doing. Don't buy into their scam.

Guns make killing a whole heck easier, guns are everywhere and they are easy to get. That's the problem.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

paths


I'd rather be called a heretic for loving and accepting people no matter where they are in their journey than respectable for condemning people because their journey doesn't follow the exact same path as mine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

single shot


Let's look at the Second Amendment, shall we?

The Second Amendment was always understood in being related to a well regulated militia. The right to bear arms were about militias. Militias made up the bulk of American fighting forces against the British in the American Revolution. In the 1780's, everyone knew what a militia was and how important they had been in the victory over the British Empire. Notice the words "well regulated." Gun control is implied in the Constitution. It's right there. "Well regulated." The Supreme Court upheld this idea many times over the years.

Funny how so-called strict constitutional constructionists are only constructionist when it fits their world view. Funny how you see that little quirk in fundamentalism of all stripes.

But maybe you don't read it that way. Fair enough. There is a period in between the well regulated militia and the right to bear arms statements. That little dot can be confusing. Forget the Founder's intent for a moment (wait, what? says the libertarian demagogue). Lets forget about phrasing and correlation and semantics and all that hard stuff. Let's look at the historical context.

The world of the founding fathers was radically different than the world we live in today. As they wrote the Second Amendment there's no way they could have imagined AR-15's, massive magazines, and rapid fire handguns. They lived in the world of single shot rifles and if wealthy, dueling pistols. When they talked about arms they weren't talking about the kind of arms the NRA throws fits about these days. I don't think anyone would mind Charlton Heston holding up that old rifle on the podium if that was the only type of weapons the NRA wanted to protect. But they don't want to even allow you to begin a discussion about the absurdity of civilian ownership of weapons of mass destruction. Madison, Jefferson, Washington, all those guys were products of the Enlightenment. Rationality was of upmost importance. It's pretty clear they would be horrified by the irrationality of the guns rights movement today.

More context.

They lived in a world that was rural. Hunting was essential to survival and not just for getting food. Wild animals were a real threat. Life was dangerous in rural America. Native Americans being forced off their land were a threat to American farmers. Law and order often didn't extend very far past town limits. That's the world the founders were familiar with.

Yes, the threat of a tyrannical government oppressing the people was in the back of their minds. They had experienced that personally with the British. And the Electoral College exists because of their fear of mob rule. The Bill of Rights exist because of their concerns.

But today, an AR-15 is not going to stop the United States from coming after you if things go fascist or Stalinist. If an authoritarian government takes over the United States of America, your glock is not going to stop their smart bombs from blowing up your house. There may have once been a balance between the citizenry and the military. In the late eighteenth century there may have been more of a balance between the citizen militia and the standing American Army. But not today. The Military Industrial Complex has created a force so powerful and so strong, that if it came under the power of an autocrat, they will laugh at your assault rifle as they roll over you in their tanks. Your assault rifle is not going to help you against a tyrannical government no matter how many times you watch Red Dawn. It's a false hope.

Ballots, not bullets will keep our democracy safe from tyranny.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Enough


We have a gun violence problem in this country.

Duh, right?

But I have friends who go ballistic if I even say something that simple. If I put that statement on facebook, my feed would light up!

Notice I didn't say anything about taking guns away. I didn't mention gun control. I just said we have a gun violence problem in the United States.

Let the knee jerk reactions begin. Let emotionalism take over. Let people start crying out "Fake News!" Let the red herring arguments begin..."more people die from bike accidents, do we need bike control?" "Knives kill, do we need knife control?" "A gun is a tool, do you want to ban hammers?" "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." "Chicago has strict gun control yet has more murders than any other city." "It's not a gun problem, its a sin problem." "It's a mental health issue."

There may be a slight dose of truth to some of those statements but they ignore the complexity of the issue.

The United States has the highest rate of mass shootings of any industrialized nation on Earth. We have the highest percentage of gun deaths for industrialized nations in the world per capita. Even though America's population makes up only 4% of the world, 50% of the world's civilian held guns are in the United States. There are enough guns in the United States for every man, woman and child in the nation to own one. These statistics rank way above any other nation on Earth.

But let's not be reasonable. We can't rationally think there's any correlation or causality between the number of guns in this country and our levels of gun violence. The NRA says the stats lie. The stats are skewed and inaccurate. Fake news. The sources must unreliable.

Mental heath issue? Yes. Definitely. There's a mental health crisis in this country. But you don't hear that argument thrown out when the shooter is Muslim. Or black. Or an immigrant. The mental health issue only comes up conveniently when the shooter is white. And mass shooters are by far more likely to be white. And male.

If the shooter is Muslim the talk turns towards travel bans. If the shooter is black the talk turns towards criminality and gangs. If the shooter is an immigrant the talk turns towards building a wall. If it's a white guy, then it's all about mental health.

"It's a sin problem." Really? Then let's legalize everything. That's like saying "It's not a murder problem, it's a sin problem." That's absurd. Of course it's a sin problem. But it can also be a law problem. Very few people have problems with seat belt laws. You don't hear people debating the philosophical issues of a government imposing rules on seat belts on its populace. Why not? Because seat belt laws make sense. They save lives.

Just forty years ago we had massive amounts of auto fatalities. No one wore seat belts. Was it a sin problem...people endangering themselves, perhaps leaving their kids orphans? Of course not! Most cars didn't even have seat belts. But as a nation we calmly, and coolly and rationally analyzed the problem. And we, as a society came to the conclusion that seat belts could save lives. Yet some needed further inducement. So laws were put into place. I remember not wearing seat belts. I also remember how strange it was to have to put them on. Now, the opposite is true. I feel strange not putting on my seat belt. Why? Because with the knowledge we now have, it's stupid not to wear a seat belt. Look how our attitudes have changed! And for the betterment of society! All due to rational analysis of a social issue!

So bring up bike accidents as a red herring to distract and I will counter that yes, if you don't wear a bike helmet you are stupid and irresponsible and maybe we need tighter helmet laws. Most motorcyclists are coming around to helmet laws. Why? Because they save lives. Bringing up something that takes more lives than guns doesn't take away from the fact we need to look at gun violence. We are capable of analyzing more than one social issue at the same time aren't we?

Chicago? Yes they have strict gun laws. But those laws are worthless as long as neighboring communities don't have similar laws. Those laws must also work in conjunction with solving systemic poverty and racism in Chicago. No one said it's all about guns, or just about guns. Guns are just one part of the problem...a major problem since they are a device capable of killing people with great rapidity. But let's not be simplistic. Most difficult problems have many many facets to consider.

The CDC is not even allowed to analyze the problem of gun violence because of the immense lobbying pressure of politicians by the NRA. The CDC can't even study the issue. Because the NRA knows what will happen when rationality enters the picture.

People care more about their guns than America's children. Protest that all you want but actions speak louder than words. Guns have become our idols. As a result we can't even begin to have a rational conversation. AR-15s? Seriously? No one needs an assault rifle. They are not meant for hunting. They are not a defensive weapon. They are an assault weapon, a weapon of attack. They are meant to kill human beings. They are meant to kill human beings with great rapidity. And a little league team around the corner from my house was recently selling raffle tickets to win an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. As a fund raiser for a fifth grade baseball team!

I think that needs to be talked about! I think that should cause us to pause! I think that needs consideration! 

But the NRA does not want such a discussion to even begin. We are not allowed to analyze the issue. You can't even discuss the issue. That is beyond irrationality.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

olympic meh


It's about that time when I comment on the Olympics. But this year I'm just kind of meh bout the whole thing. Some of my favorite Winter Olympians retired either after the last go around (Bode Miller) or just recently (Julia Mancuso). The downhill course is an atrocity, shortened to accommodate the high winds that have plagued the alpine events. It's pretty much a Super G course right now which kind of taints the whole thing. At least Ted Ligety is still skiing.

I also used to get Universal Sports for free over the antenna. This allowed me to watch World Cup Ski seasons throughout the year and keep up with the skiiers during non-Olympic years. But Universal yanked their channel off free TV a few years ago and so I don't get to watch alpine skiing any more. I don't know many of the alpine skiiers as a result and I'm not that invested.

NBC tries to amp up Shaun White and all the other snowboarders, but those sports still don't feel Olympian to me. Maybe I've become an old grump. I'm also tired of politics (both social and governmental) being played out in the sports arena. I'm tired of no real foil for the USA now that the USSR is gone. Tired that Olympic hockey means nothing now. They don't show much luge or bobsled. Too much figure skating which apparently brings in the viewers.

Maybe I'm just too tired. Go America.