With Billionaires in the White House We Need to Keep an Eye on the Money

With Billionaires in the White House We Need to Keep an Eye on the Money

It’s been reported that the Authoritarian wants to increase the Pentagon’s share of the Federal budget by 10% which translates to about $59 billion more dollars.  A report has circulated that the EPA will be cut by at least 20%, including staff and dollars.

The Federal Budget is divided into three parts as shown below.

  • Mandatory Spending (like Social Security)–$2.5 Trillion
  • Discretionary Spending (like Education, Defense)–$1.1 Trillion
  • Interest on the Debt–$229 Billion

If the President submits a budget that includes a $59 billion increase in spending, the money for this is part of the Discretionary Spending which is about a third of the total Federal budget.  Mandatory spending is spending on certain programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and are controlled by existing law. Mandatory spending has increased over the years, and is expected increase from $2.2 trillion in 2016 to $3.6 trillion in 2023.

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How Could We?

How Could We?

Like many of you I’ve spent the day after mourning for our country and the people who have been abused and threatened by the man who was elected over one of the bravest women that we could have had for our President.

How could we?

How could we elect the bully?

How could we enable  the press to rarely call him out and hold him accountable for stiffing the American people about his taxes, fraud, sexual assault charges, racist beliefs and actions, and his outrageous attitude toward women, and his endless lies?

How could we allow the far right into the White House through possible cabinet appointees?  It will be a rogues gallery of has-been politicians and corporate raiders.

How could we turn our backs on children and families?

How could we elect a person who thinks climate change is a hoax and will seek to remove the environmental protections that have been put in place since “Silent Spring?”

How could we enable the privatizers of public education to have a voice at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue?

How could we not overcome the racism and bigotry that drove his campaign and turned his rallies into assemblies without hoods?

How could we open the door to the White House to a man who has assaulted countless scores of women, insulted and threatened people who have religious beliefs different from many of us, insulted Mexicans who seek a better life, and riled up the worst in Americans by threatening to build a wall along the Mexican/American border?

How could we?

 

 

 

Georgia’s Misfortunate School District

Georgia’s Misfortunate School District

I’ve been away pursuing other projects, but now is the time for all of us to open our eyes about a plan to turn struggling schools into a pet project of the Georgia Governor.

In November when we vote to pick a new president (topic for a future post), citizens in Georgia will vote on a ballot amendment to the state constitution.  If passed, this amendment (Senate Bill 133) will create a school district (Opportunity School District) that would authorize the Governor’s office to supervise, manage, and run a new school district made up of schools from across the state that have been determined to be failing, based on scores on standardized tests.  Is your school on the list?

The Governor calls it the Opportunity School District.

I call it the Misfortunate School District (MSD)

The MSD is a dangerous path for Georgia schools and it was created primarily by Nathan Deal (the Governor) and Erin Hames (Former Governor’s Office Staff Member, now employed by the Atlanta Public Schools (APS).

Over the next four months we need to work together to help citizens of Georgia “open their eyes” to the misdeeds that will follow if the centralized school district is approved.  It is based on failed systems in Louisiana, and Tennessee.

There are outside groups that pouring money into Deal’s plan to further corrupt and privatize public education.

I look forward to exploring what can be done to defeat this amendment.

 

The A Bomb

The first day I went to school was September 5, 1945.  On that day, I walked about a mile to the East Natick Elementary School in Massachusetts.  Three days earlier, on September 2, Japan surrendered and World II came to an end.  But on July 16, the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico, and 70 years ago yesterday, the “Little Boy” atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima killing more than 70,000 people.  On August 9, another atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing more than 40,000 people.  At that time, the U.S. military had no more than six atom bombs.

I remember reading the headlines in the Boston Globe, the newspaper to which my father subscribed .  In the boldest font you could image it read: A-Bomb.

Being only 5, I had no idea what was the meaning of A-Bomb.  I don’t think my parents knew, but like many other Americans, they hoped that the end of the war would come.  It didn’t until another A-Bomb was dropped, and then in September it was over.

Little did they and most people know that the war was over, and was only a matter of working out details with the Japanese.  So we ask:

Did we need to kill nearly 150,000 Japanese citizens with atomic bombs to end the war?

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, for his part, stated in his memoirs that when notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the decision to use atomic weapons, he “voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…” He later publicly declared “…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”  (Alperovitz, Gar. “The War Was Won Before Hiroshima-And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It.” The Nation. 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.)

Today, we have more than 6 nuclear bombs.

  • China: 250 warheads
  • France: 290 warheads
  • Russia: 1,582 strategic warheads, several thousand non deployed warheads, and 2,000 tactical warheads
  • United Kingdom: 120 strategic warheads, total stockpile about 225 weapons
  • United States: 1, 597 strategic nuclear warheads, 2,800 non deployed strategic warheads. In total about 4,800 nuclear warheads.

And these bombs are thousands of times more powerful than Little Boy, the first bomb dropped on a populated city.

Tonight there is a so-called Republican Presidential Debate (Shout Out).  I wonder what their positions are on these strategic nuclear weapons?

Can EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism Inspire New Ways of Teaching Science?

EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism  (Library Copy) is the title of a new book edited by Michael P. Mueller, University of Alaska, and Deborah J. Tippins, University of Georgia.  It’s the first in the new Springer Book Series Environmental Discourses in Science Education in trying to bridge environmental education with science education.

ecojustice bookI received my copy of the book in the mail today, and was very happy for Mike and Deborah who have worked for several years to bring together the research and writing of science educators from various parts of the globe.  One of the aspects of their work that is represented here is their remarkable dedication to challenging traditions, especially an ideology of human domination over nature, and not the deep ecological perspectives that were signaled by Rachel Carson and Arne Naess.

In my view, their book, a cornucopia of fresh, abundant and grounded ideas based on case studies, research reports, and theoretical perspectives, offers a vital alternative to the Next Generation of Science Standards.  One of the themes that overflows in this book is a repositioning of teaching and learning into contextual situations, rather than a collection of sterile, barren, and garden variety behavioral goals or, as the NGSS puts it, “performance expectations.”

The ideas of ecoJustice, citizen science and youth activism are largely ignored in the NGSS, and as a result the ideas that are presented in this book will require activism centered on the belief that youth of all ages and all cultures are quite capable of engaging in real issues in their neighborhoods, as well as expanding their horizons to take part in challenging opportunities to collaborate with others, and seek solutions to problems that face humankind.

We need to question the purposes of teaching science, history, mathematics, and language arts beyond the content specific goals of the Common Core State Standards, as well as the science standards that I mentioned before.  Ed Johnson has said in letters and reports, if fundamental questions about the purposes of schooling are not addressed, and if we can not agree on these purposes, very little will change the system.

The so-called education reformers (corporatism neoliberal) cut learning to performances that can be easily measured on standardized tests, which now are becoming more complex, and numbing, especially after the U.S. Department of Education provided more than $300 million in funding to groups who’ve developed standardized tests that measure academic learning in math and language arts, and science in near future.

  • What do these tests tell us about student growth in areas that will have more meaning to their lives than a score on a test?  Zero.
  • What do these tests really tell us about what students know in math, language arts, and science? Not very much.
  • How does the student’s love of music, art or the humanities play a role in fostering their interest in math, language arts, and science?  It isn’t very much, and indeed these areas of student life are not really considered important to policy makers.  And that’s too bad.

In contrast to the research reported in EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism, the current approach to education created by the CCSS is a “neoliberal ecosystem,” mapped by Morna McDermott, Professor at Towson University, and co-founder of United Opt Out National.  McDermott visualizes a web of connections among  corporations and organization and the Common Core.  The map exposes the influence peddling that shadows and casts a pall over public education.

On the other hand, the work that Mueller and Tippins have put together their book shows how education for youth can be quite different from a more traditional perspective.  In the closing chapter of the book,  Angela Calabrese Barton explains why the current purpose of teaching science which is based on a scientific literacy that focuses on knowledge and skill development is simply not enough.  She writes:

Indeed, as I noted in my introduction, many hold the view that if simply teach students “enough” science (whether it be content or practice) then they will have what it takes to engage in civic society.  However, this functional view of science literacy attends to participation in the world as it is now, without attention to what could be.  It ignores the integrated knowledge and practice that may support young people in working with and in science to bring about a more just world for individuals or communities while also, themselves, being transformed by broader and more diverse participation.

Why are ideas such as ecoJustice, citizen science, and youth activism important when we consider the curriculum of the school, and lives of our students?

In the last chapter of the book, Angela Calabrese Barton titles her chapter: Taking Action with and in Science, and in particular suggests that we need to take seriously the work of students who take civic action with and in science.

In the view of the authors’ of this book, the curriculum should be reconsidered in light of the themes of ecojustice, citizen science, and youth activism.

Very little of the curriculum enables or indeed allows students to take action of civil, cultural, social, or environmental issues.  Most of school is learning stuff that will be on the standardized tests which are used in every state to rate and rank students.  And the data from these tests is now being used to rank, rate and judge teachers, putting at risk their careers based on the unremarkable algorithm (Value Added Model).

Are the Ferguson demonstrations that taking place around the country important in the lives of students in school?  Of course they are.  But are students’ concerns or ideas explored or discussed?  What role does school play in exploring the injustices that are being protested?

When a very powerful organization like the National Football League (NFL), and its partner teams decide to build a new stadium, do they really take in consideration where they build their bigger and more monstrous stadiums, who it affects, or what small businesses are affected.  In the end, who benefits from the construction of these humongous edifices?  Are their ecological and human injustices when a team such as the Atlanta Falcons uses its reserves of green to convince historical churches to move so that they play football?  If students were engaged to consider the ramifications of such an ecological project, what would they learn?  How would they convey their findings to the community?  And would their conclusions be of value to the community?

 Higher Ground

There are 27 chapters in the EcoJustice, Citizen Science, and Youth Activism book, and each is based on projects and activities that take place in real schools around the world.  These are not wild-eyed ideas that have been dreamed up by élite groups of folks.  Instead they have designed serious projects and programs that focus on a triumvirate of trends:

  • Ecojustice–evaluating the holistic connections between cultural and natural systems, environmentalism, sustainability and Earth-friendly marketing trends.
  • Citizen Science–a pedagogy of ways to enact ecojustice, especially engaging students in monitoring locally to uncover issues and problems in their own communities.
  • Youth Activism–another approach in which youth can come together to offer a platform for the community to consider.

Although some of the authors might not agree with my assessment of the Common Core or the Next Generation Science Standards, we do agree that we need to move to “higher ground,” an idea narrated by Mike Dias and Brenden Callahan.  They ask why is it so rare that students during the school day are involved in citizen science and youth activism projects.

Disclaimer: I am author of the chapter entitled Citizen Diplomacy to Youth Activism: The Story of the Global Thinking Project.