You hear it all the time. "All 'yall jus need ta suck it up and stop wasting time and money on dumb shit! Once ya do that 'yall be rich in no time!"
Others respond with how the system keeps people down.
Does "The System" really keep people poor?
The last few days here in GED land shed some light on just how systemic being poor is.
Student one is talking about having to quit classes with just one test left to pass. The reason? Thanks to our honorable republican governor shutting down the extended assistance programs they had to get a job. Now, many will say welfare is bad and people should get a job. I can see some merit to that argument, but stop and think for a moment about what job can a person without a diploma get? I'll tell you. Minimum wage. Constantly changing work schedule. If you are lucky your hours will be consistent. Odds are they won't. Chance for promotion or advancement: next to none. Chance for losing your job: high to certain.
Student two tripped on a section of damaged sidewalk. To add insult to literal injury they also dropped their phone. They spent three weeks laid up due to this injury and couldn't contact or participate in online lessons until they replaced the phone.
Student three has a certificate for a well paying career but can't get hired because they lack a GED. The state has a program that can grant a GED equiveillance for training and experience. Out of eight points needed the state only grants one for a professional level certificate.
Non of these examples are the end of the road. And yes, on a one by one basis they can be overcome. However, all of these examples do illustrate a system that at best creates more obstacles to climbing out of poverty. From locking people in low paying jobs, to crumbling infrastructure that disproportionally effects poor people, to options that are not really options at all, "The System" does actively continue to create new barriers as well as reinforce currently existing ones. As these barriers pile up breaking the cycle of poverty becomes a Sisyphean task.
As to all the self made types out there, it is amazing how many of them got a cheap loan, somebody gave them tools, they had free access to materials and a place to store them... The list goes on and on and the more you look the more you realize most of them have never experienced real backbreaking poverty.
But they sure do like to tell people they have.
It's been a bit since my last dispatch. Mostly because not much is happening. Our winter break got extended due to Covid. (Big Surprise, right?)
One issue that we have been discussing here lately is internet access. Specifically low income education based programs. One wall our students have been hitting is that yes, there are many programs out there for low income students that need access right now, but there is a catch.
You either need to be in college or have a child in the local K-12 system.
This creates what is commonly referred to as a hole. And it is an unfortunate hole because it can continue the cycle of poverty that many adult education students are trying to break. Think about it. You have a two year old in your house. You need a GED to advance at work, but you can't because the one job you managed to get does not pay enough to cover your bills and reliable quality internet. Thanks to the pandemic, all the GED programs are online. You can't improve your situation making it harder to provide for your child. That child now has a harder time escaping the very poverty that you are trapped in so the circle keeps on rolling along.
It's this type of thing that people that love saying "Well why don't they just get a better job!" have absolutely no idea exists.
This situation is a great example of how adult education is the Korean war of education. It's still going on, everybody just forgets about it.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what education will look like post pandemic lately.
It seems to go without saying that more and more parts of the education puzzle will be moving to online instruction and student teacher interactions.
In the ivory towers of the computer salespeople and the political wonks this seems to be a good idea. In the more well-off suburbs of the nation this also seems to be workable. (Other than reluctant parents that don’t want to spend all day with the children they chose to have. But that’s a rant for another day…)
Down in the trenches things look a bit (OK, a lot) less rosy.
The program I teach with focuses on people that are at the bottom of just about everything. A world of online education looks like this to them.
View 1. One student dropped their phone recently and they do not have the funds to repair or replace it. While this student does have access to a computer at home, that computer is not connected to the internet.
View 2. Another student had to pawn their computer to pay rent last month.
View 3. Most of my students do not have a computer at all and the phones they have are generations behind. Some are lucky if they have a flip phone.
View 4. Of those with smart phones, most are on throttled and/or pay as you go data plans. A single two hour live online class session could wipe out their access for the month.
View 5. They may have a computer that is internet capable but live in an area with little to no internet service.
All this is not to say that computers are evil and online education is impossible. Computers are merely tools. Tools can be very useful, but as great as a hammer is at driving in nails, it still hurts when I hit my thumb with one. We cannot blithely move forward with the idea that everyone has the same educational opportunities as we shift more and more to a system that does not have equal access for everyone.
This is even more important to consider with GED students. By not having an educated piece of paper that offers career flexibility, GED students are somewhat by definition on the lower end of the economic scale. They are locked into whatever low paying job they can get. This offers a reality that sees internet access not as a necessity, but rather as a luxury. This sub-existence is something that many cannot conceive, let alone empathize with. This nation is currently looking at building a new education system that requires internet access as a backbone to travel on. Presto, you now have a two-tier education system that guarantees those in poverty remain there.
As with most issues with education, it is a complex issue that most everyone hopes will just go away. I don’t have any solid answers. I do know that not having the conversation will not make the problem magically fix itself.
As some of you have figured out by now, I am a teacher. Specifically, I teach GED for a court probation office. In other words, I am teaching in a small corner of a small world.
It is a corner and a world that most people know very little about.
That's why I'm starting a new section of The Occasional Ravings called Dispatch from the GED Front. I hope to update it more often, and unlike my usual ravings that cover a wide range of topics, Dispatch will focus on GED stuff. Things like how government policies directly effect my students, things that keep me coming back to teach, and who are my students?
To start with, what does the average GED student look like?
Well, they look like you. I have students from poor families, well off families, and no families. I have young students. I have old students. I have motivated students. I have lazy students. Students that struggle with school as well as students that find school easy are in my classes.
As I am teaching in a probation office, most of the students in my class are here because they were told to. Of these, some have a magical moment where they realize what attending GED classes can do to their future. I also have students that are looking for a better life. One of my favorite reasons for being one of my students is one of the many variations I hear of "I want to show my kids that education is important". Last year one of these students in my class not only celebrated the high school graduation of their child, but also got to brag about said child getting a full scholarship to the local state university.
This is but one of the many stories from my classroom that I intend to share. Stories that illustrate the power, and the frustrations, of adult education.
The 2020 election is all set to smash spending records with the bill closing in on 11 billion dollars. That’s 11 with nine zeros after it.
This rising cost is one reason why some continue to call for campaign finance reform, specifically to limit how much money a candidate can raise and where they can raise it from.
This is obviously not working.
I respectfully submit the following idea for election funding.
Step one: Remove all limits. Yes, yes. I hear you. Unlimited election funding gives the rich a disproportionate voice in elections. I agree. However, all attempts to limit this purchase of a louder voice have been thwarted by the very people that continue to purchase a louder voice.
Let’s stop beating that particular dead horse. Let the candidates raise as much as they want. Go for it. Grab that all mighty American Dollar.
A percentage of all money raised must be donated to a charity or cause of the candidate's choosing in the jurisdiction of the office he or she is running for. I propose a sliding scale with city and county elections at 15%, state level elections at 25%, and federal level elections at 50%.
This accomplishes two things. First, it redirects a bunch of wasted money towards something useful. Second, it provides the voters with insight to what the candidate truly feels is important. After all, we can talk about all sorts of things, but it is all meaningless if you aren’t willing to actually pay for it.
Step two: No fund raising or add buys until three months prior to the election date. Candidates are elected to do a job, not to campaign.
Step three: No more war chests. After every election any left over money all candidates have will be directed to paying down any outstanding public debt in the jurisdiction the candidate is running. Should that jurisdiction have no debt, the money will go to a fund meant for maintaining public infrastructure. Again, lets put that money to something useful.
Step four: Apply these same rules to any and all special interest groups, PACs, and individuals that chose to raise money for and/or directly lobby for or against a candidate, proposition, or law. Any group or individual that spends money to sway any election or law accepts these rules. Any group or individual that advocates that others should send money to a candidate or political group also accepts these rules. And yes, that goes for churches as well. You want to stand on the street corner and shout about your favorite law or lawmaker to anybody that will listen. Go for it. The second you accept money to do so, or tell others they should send money somewhere, you are now a part of the system and subject to its rules.
So how do we keep track? Simple. We let the candidates police themselves. At any time during the election any person residing in, or group operating in, the jurisdiction of the office in contest can call for a public audit to be completed within one week of request. Should the audit find any issues with the numbers, either by accident or on purpose, that candidate pays all costs related to the audit and forfeits the election. Full stop. No wiggle room. No margin of error. If there is even a hint of something off, you are done. (After all, anyone in office will have control of public money, so an ability to keep it straight is very important.) Any delays by the candidate will be taken as admission of guilt and the election and all remaining funds will be forfeit. This goes for groups and individuals not running as well. If a group campaigning for or against a law or candidate has a problem with the books, the candidate or law they are supporting forfeits. If it is a campaign against a candidate or law, that candidate's opponent forfeits or the law passes. Should the books come back clean, the person or group calling for the audit must pay for all cost incurred by the candidate or group relating to the audit and they are barred from calling for any further audits until the next election. Any person or group that calls for three audits in a row that find nothing will be barred from calling any audits in the future.
I think it's worth a try.
I’m somewhat torn on my reaction to recent bouts of Republicans coming out against Trump. Things like the Lincoln Project are encouraging, and I want to say, “Welcome to the party!”
But then my knowledge of history kicks in and I want to say, “Really!?! This is a step too far??? Why are you surprised by this? Are you really that oblivious to all the bright neon signs that have been flashing in your face for decades?”
Make no mistake, the Republican party has been on the road to Donald Trump since the mid-sixties.
For those of you that forgot, the mid sixties was a period of great social upheaval where Jim Crow was challenged and the Civil Rights bill was passed. Southern Democrats, collectively called Dixiecrats, were not happy with this.
So, when Republican Barry Goldwater ran on a platform against the Civil Rights bill and won votes in the south, Republican leadership took note. While Goldwater lost with this view, Richard Nixon took up the mantle of states rights and did eventually end up wining.
It was called the Southern Strategy. It was the on ramp to Trump Highway.
(It begs the question which is worse; to have a racist people in your club and expel them, or to look at those expelled racist and go after them in the name of power?)
Saint Reagan continued the trend by going after all the welfare queens. They just happened to be black.
1988 saw a reinforcement of the idea of the out of control criminal, who just happens to be a black man for some reason, when Republicans attacked the democratic candidate with Willie Horton.
Republicans even do it to their own as seen in the attack on John McCain for supposedly having an illegitimate black child. (cue shocked gasps and pearl clutching)
And of course we can't forget the ever popular war on drugs. This old chestnut banks on the image of the African American neighborhood overwhelmed by drugs pushed by, purchased by, and taken by black people. (White people do drugs too, but they go to rehab. Non white people go to jail.)
But it’s the corruption that is the real problem with Trump! Um, anybody remember Iran Contra? (The principal of which is currently a respected Republican pundit.) How about savings and loan?
The Republican party has also gone a long way to normalizing politicians that swing more towards the, shall we say, less than bright side with the likes of Dan Quayle and Sara Palin.
The economy! See Reagan, Bush, Bush II... Trickle down, once accurately called Voodoo Economics by Bush Sr. when he ran against Reagan for the 1980 nomination, has never worked, yet Republican presidents and legislatures run to it every time.
Which brings us back to Donald Trump and the Republican “rejection” of him. Do not forget that members of the Republican party continue to support him. The Republican party rubber stamped his corruption when they chose to reject impeachment with statements like he’s learned his lesson. This is why I really have a hard time with Republicans that suddenly see Trump as a problem.
There is absolutely no sudden when it comes to the actions of Donald Trump. He has a long and documented trail of everything that these enlightened republicans now seem to have an issue with. Where was the Lincoln Project when Trump came out with ridiculous statements like Mexico will pay for the wall? Was George Conway asleep when Trump told a gold star family to shut up? How are you possibly surprised that a person that brags about grabbing them by the pussy ends up having problems relating with and to others?
This is why I say spare me your outrage and posturing. As long as Trump is the only part of the Republican platform you are speaking out against, will not change a single thing in the Republican party. It's almost as if the real problem Republicans have with Trump is that he is saying what they are thinking out loud.
This morning I investigated an online high school diploma at work that turned out to be fake. Looking at what the student bought in to, I thought I'd do a quick list on things to look out for when selecting a school.
The website in this case, Stanley High School, is set up to hook people and can look legit. Lots of pictures of smiling students, official sounding terms like accreditation, and a nifty seal complete with a Latin motto are plastered on every page. This helped convince the client to spend over $200 for a useless piece of paper.
So what are some red flags to keep an eye out for?
There are some real online schools out there, that is what makes this a difficult issue. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much digging to find the truth.
As the nation once again looks at the bodies of dead students at yet another school we hear some of the usual shouting about guns.
Predictably, many gun advocates are arguing that we should post armed guards or arm the teachers to solve the problem.
One “solution” meme that I have seen suggests that we hire veterans to be armed guards. It even went as far as to state three per campus would probably do the job. Sounds good on paper, gives vets a job they would most likely excel at and protects the children.
Let’s take a moment to look at the smallest school district in the Tucson valley, Tanque Verde School District. TVSD has only four schools, two elementary, one middle, and one high school. A bit of quick math tells us TVSD will get twelve armed veterans. How much will they get paid? The average teacher salary in Arizona is $46,000 a year. Using that as a starting point, that adds $138,000 to the budget. And don’t forget benefits.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tucson Unified School district has 89 schools. Hmmm… Eighty-nine times three, times 46,000 --- $12,282,000 in armed vets to protect the schools. Plus benefits. In just ONE district.
That’s, um, kinda expensive.
OK! Let’s arm the teachers.
Going back to TVSD, they have a faculty of forty-seven at the high school. A quick Google search states that a “decent 9mm” can be had for between $250-$400. For this we’ll say $300 per teacher. So TVSD is looking at $14,100 in guns. Guns are useless without ammunition so considering a box of 50 rounds is around $15 we are looking at another $700 to the cost. Hey, Tanque Verde High School can arm its teachers for just under $15,000, that’s a gonga. $60,000 for the district. Not too bad. (We’ll look at blowing up the training budget on a later date.)
Just one small little problem…
Doing another quick search on Google, we see that there was about 3.2 million full time teachers in the United States in the fall of 2017.
To the calculator!
Just for guns.
Add in another $48,000,000 for ammo.
Let that sink in a moment.
To arm America’s teachers.
In a nation that already has teachers buying basic classroom materials because the schools have no money.
Now, some of you I’m sure are saying hang on, some of those teachers probable already have guns. I agree. Let’s say two hundred thousand teachers already have guns, leaving us with just an even three million to arm. You know what? I’ll bet those freedom loving gun manufactures would give us a group rate on guns and ammo, right? How does $150 a gun and $10 for a box of 50 rounds sound?
It sounds like $480,000,000.
That’s a lot of zeros. It also does not count the part time teachers, of which there are many. And the training, which we are still ignoring for now.
Spend all this money and we still have a huge hole to plug. Armed guards and armed teachers do nothing to stop the accidental discharge of a gun that some 3rd grader has in his or her backpack.
Which is why more guns us only treating the symptoms, not the disease.
It all started with the great False Pen Theft Accusation of summer 2017.
The party of the first part accused the party of the second part of misappropriating a pen that was later to be discovered misplaced. After the error steps were taken to safeguard against any further misappropriations.
Needless to say, tempers were running high.
In the name of clarifications, writing implements were labeled.
Questions were asked.
Insults were thrown.
Things were taken personally. Some considered reactions to be unreasonable in relation to events.
Sides were taken.
And as the saying goes,
“That’s when the fight started”.
The graphite community quickly organized against Imperial Decree 347.
As is the way with these types of community confrontations, blood was spilled in a most gruesome and violent manner.
The graphite community, in an effort stem the tide, banded together and drafted a response.
This proverbial olive branch resulted in a common enemy being identified.
Hal did not let this attack go un-answered.
The digit controlled writing implement community, both the graphite kind and the ink spillers, were unsure what to do with this as Hal’s singing was strange, slow, and off-key. Hal eventually gave up on trying to communicate, seeing it as a lost cause.
Many agreed there was nothing left to say.
Nothing other than, of course –
My Bad Week ***Or*** How a Stolen Motorcycle Proves that Most Education Pundits Know Nothing About Education.
My brand new, owned it for less than six months, only had 2000 miles on it, motorcycle was stolen Saturday night.
What, you may ask, does that have to do with education policy? So glad you asked. Let me connect the dots for you.
As most anybody would, after I talked with the police I called my insurance agent, whose company will remain unnamed to protect the guilty, to report the stolen bike. Now, an important word in this reporting process is stolen. Filched. Misappropriated. Pinched. Purloined. Gone. In the arms of another.
This is important because a few days after making the report I was contacted by a claims adjuster that made the following request –
“Please make an appointment for us to inspect your vehicle.”
Um… You do understand that because it was stolen, it would be rather hard, you might even say impossible, to have my, again this an important word, stolen motorcycle inspected due to the nature of it being, you know, stolen, and therefore no longer in my possession.
So, I contacted the adjuster and left them a message letting them know that I couldn’t have the bike inspected. What with the being stolen and all. I got another call apologizing for the confusion stating that it is a standardized form and please download this app to continue the process.
On to the internet to download the app.
Aaannndd it wants me to upload a picture of the damage done to my stolen vehicle.
Sigh. The joy of standardized forms.
A major insurance business can’t be bothered to differentiate between a vehicle crash and a vehicle theft. You’d think that might be an important distinction to make as in the business of insurance it would be important to know what you are paying out for, because it could drastically change the size of the check your business needs to write. But no, it’s more important that the process have as little variation as possible to keep the costs down. Never mind that it might cause mistakes and cause you to look foolish.
This is where the connection to education comes in.
For the last thirty years or so, one of the constantly used and loudest refrains from the education reformers is that schools need to be run like a business.
OK. Based on the above business model as demonstrated by a very large and successful business and going on the knowledge that we need to be running schools like a business, this is what I propose:
No more Individual Education Plans for special education students. In fact, no more special education at all.
No more extra tutoring for all the various college entrance exams.
No more special low-cost lunch programs.
I can hear some of you cheering and to this I say not so fast! This mandate includes ALL extra non-standardized education costs.
No more Advance Placement classes for excelling students. (Fun Fact! Did you know that AP classes technically fall under the special education umbrella?)
No more band.
No more arts.
No more football.
No more baseball.
No more basketball.
No more track and field.
No more soccer.
No more sports of any kind.
No more late pick up.
No more early drop off.
Basically, if it does not pertain to the standardized class worksheets it needs to go. Just like in business.
There you have it: education running like a business as requested by the education reformers. I’m sure parents around the nation can’t wait for this system to get going and we all start seeing the results of this standardized business based school system.
Step inside the mind of me.
Hi. Welcome to my little electron of the internet, where you will find random comments about whatever pops into my mind!