DANIELS MOVES PURDUE OFFICE OF PUBLIC RECORDS CLOSER TO HIS HEART – AND FINGERTIPS

Purdue “President” Mitch Daniels has decided to move the office of public records just a stone’s throw from his office.   He has also hired new legal counsel to oversee those pesky requests from journalists, private citizens, and lawyers.

Of course, there is a legal component to public records requests but strange isn’t it that Purdue managed for years without this step – Daniels comes in and changes it.

Could this be as a result of his “foot in the mouth” incidences in the past that were uncovered with public records requests?  Remember the Howard Zinn flap and tell-tale email information uncovered involving Tony Bennett?

public records

 

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REPUBLICANS DEAL ANOTHER BLOW TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Indiana Republicans just can’t get enough of trouncing on our public school system and the parents who stand by it.  Once again, just to reinforce their love of anything non-public, Republicans gussied up the now-legal package of enticements to draw students away from Indiana’s public schools.

A beneficial tax deduction – one not available on an equal basis to the parents of public school students – was included in last year’s legislation.  Come April 17th, parents of home-schooled students and private school students will be the beneficiaries of a tax deduction of $1,000.  But, if your children attend our public schools, don’t look under the Christmas tree – or for a tax-line deduction – for an extra gift to help with all the hundreds of dollars in expenses attendant to public school enrollment.

The presents are all going to the private schools and the charter schools while throwing in a bone to home-schoolers.  The Republican war on our public school system is inexcusable, and, make no mistake, it is a war.  Daniels and Bennett have made no bones – or apologies for that matter – about their desire to weaken our public schools.  While they continue to pooh-pooh that assertion, folks, actions speak louder than words.

DANIELS RACE TO DESTROY COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Mitch Daniels comes from the corporate world which feeds on privatization and decreasing workers’ rights.  Just hours after Mitch Daniels took over as governor of Indiana in 2005, he rescinded the rights of highway police, hospital attendants, mechanics, and other state workers to collectively bargain for wage and hour increases, working conditions, and other benefits.

Under the theory that he needed to restructure the government and could not run the government efficiently with collective bargaining agreements in place – poor man – Daniels began his vendetta against state workers who were covered by collective bargaining agreement. However, in 2006, Daniels was forced to take a brief hiatus from his daunting task of destroying collective bargaining when Hoosiers turned the Indiana House over to Democratic control.

Daniels became a “missing in action” governor with the disappearance of his rubber-stamp general assembly.  But, last November, with the shift back to a completely Republican-controlled General Assembly, Daniels got back on his steed of destruction and once again began his ride to stamp out collective bargaining – this time turning his efforts toward the collective bargaining rights of teachers’ unions.

To accomplish his goal, Daniels’ first move was to rid himself of Dr. Sue Ellen Reed, an experienced educator who was elected and who served four terms, two of those under Democratic governors.  Reed’s bipartisanship when it came to Hoosier children just didn’t sit well with Daniels, who needed a superintendent of education who would kowtow to Daniels’ plans to rid the state of collective bargaining in public education.

Daniels found his ally and soul mate in Tony Bennett, who had less than a year’s experience as a superintendent.  Daniels backed Bennett in the 2008 campaign, effectively forcing Dr. Reed out of the race.  Bennett was elected in 2008, and, with his new soul mate in tow, Daniels again turned his gaze toward the teachers’ unions and their collective bargaining rights, but, alas, he could not yet make his move since the Democrats maintained their Indiana House majority in the 2008 elections.   Without a majority in the House as well as the Senate, Daniels and Bennett couldn’t get their horsey out of the gate.

The 2010 elections gave Daniels and Bennett their dream come true – the Indiana General Assembly flipped – and heavily – to the Republicans.  Now, Daniels had everything he needed to get rid of the collective bargaining in the public educational system.  He had successfully forced out a bipartisan superintendent of education and replaced her with a clone of himself, and the Indiana General Assembly was now full of senators and representatives licking their lips and champing at the bit at the prospect of smacking down the teachers’ union through whatever means necessary.

While Daniels and Bennett have been on a crusade to convince the public, in general, and teachers, in particular, that the changes to be made really are to help the suffering public education system,  a more than cursory glance reveals how the proposals actually undermine collective bargaining.

The real focus of Daniels and Bennett, though, is the push to establish new charter schools, which will have a major role in diminishing the role of collective bargaining.  Charter schools can be created in one of two ways:  either by converting an existing public school which has been forced to be abandoned by financial pressures, or by creating a new school.

A charter converted from an existing school (requires approval of 60% of teachers and 51% of parents to convert) must recognize existing collective bargaining agreements.  However, new charter schools do not have to recognize any collective bargaining agreements.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which one will take priority.  And, with the push to force existing public school corporations to “sell” an unused building for $1.00, creating a new charter school has a leg up on the a converted school.  Talk about favoritism.

Legislation now winding its way through the General Assembly – aside from creating a charter school board controlled by the state, with members appointed by the governor and state superintendent – provides for the following:

  1. allows newly established charter schools to use under-utilized buildings in school corporations at the school corporations’ expense;
  2. requires charter school credits to be accepted at other public or private schools;
  3. allows up to 50 percent of teachers to be unlicensed; and,
  4. allows the charter to go into debt without having to pay it back themselves, forcing their debt to be paid by the common school fund.

Daniels has slashed the educational budget of the public schools forcing them to close schools, lay off teachers, cut services, and outsource service contracts.  But his draconian budget cuts just weren’t enough.  With the aid of the rubber-stamping General Assembly, Daniels and his yes-man par excellence, Bennett, have created additional avenues to completely weaken the public education sector and push toward the destruction of collective bargaining rights.

Mitch Daniels

BEND IT LIKE BENNETT

The Superintendent of our Indiana schools – and I use the word “Superintendent” lightly – Tony Bennett has been anointed to attempt to placate the fears of Hoosier teachers, parents, and supporters of public education as he and his boss move toward dismantling the state’s public school system.  The Daniels and Bennett three-legged “stool” of educational reform is nothing more than a thinly veiled – and not too thinly veiled at that – effort to weaken Indiana’s public school system.

The hostile “quasi-privatization” takeover plan asks the Republican-controlled House and Senate to rubber stamp various elements that are aimed at restructuring Hoosier public education.  Daniels prefers to work at privatizing everything that can be turned over to big business, and, in Bennett he has found a comrade in arms.   Of course, sometimes the plans go awry – the IBM welfare privatization scheme, for example.  That one must have caused the Guv a great deal of anguish in the evenings as he tried to figure out what went wrong.

Public education is a function of the government – as it should be.   But, Daniels and Bennett see Indiana’s public school system as ripe for takeover by private entities – through two separate channels – voucher programs and charter schools.  Both will divert students and funding away from our public schools.  A necessary third prong to Daniels and Bennett is to weaken the collective bargaining power of the teachers’ unions.

FIRST LEG — VOUCHERS

Vouchers are nothing more than payment from taxpayer funds to allow parents to avoid the public school system and select a private school in which to enroll their children.  The concept sounds really great until a list of private schools is perused.  In Indiana, 82.5% of private educational institutions are affiliated with a religious denomination (136 of 166).

Indiana’s Constitution, in two separate sections of Article I, our Bill of Rights, prohibits the mixing of state and religion.

Section 4. No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.
(History: As Amended November 6, 1984).

Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

The push for vouchers violates both of these sections, yet Daniels and Bennett seem determined to ignore Indiana’s constitution in their push to divert public funds from public schools.

Although the Indiana Constitution would appear to prohibit such a voucher system, the United States Supreme Court, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), upheld an Ohio plan to allow the use of school vouchers.  The decision did not impose a mandatory requirement of using vouchers, and, in fact, some state supreme courts, including Florida and Arizona, have since determined that the use of vouchers in their state public school systems was unconstitutional.

SECOND LEG — CHARTER SCHOOLS

For 60 years, the state of Indiana has been on a bender to reduce the number of school systems by mandating school consolidation under the theory that consolidations cut expenses and provide greater resources. Establishment of charter schools is in direct contradiction to that 60-year policy, yet Bennett and Daniels are determined to throw that policy out the window in their rush to tear down the Indiana public school system.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are schools which are given the right to exist but are given their existence in a different way than the traditional schools.  They are “chartered” or created by an entity distinct from yet under the control of the state. In Indiana charter schools can be proposed by a sponsor, by a governing body of a four-year state educational institution, or by an executive of a consolidated city.

The purposes of chartered schools are no different than the public schools.  The following is the list of purposes set forth in I.C. 20-24-2-1:

IC 20-24-2-1

Purposes of charter schools

Sec. 1. A charter school may be established under this article to provide innovative and autonomous programs that do the following:

(1) Serve the different learning styles and needs of public school students.

(2) Offer public school students appropriate and innovative choices.

(3) Provide varied opportunities for professional educators.

(4) Allow public schools freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of accountability

(5) Provide parents, students, community members, and local entities with an expanded opportunity for involvement in the public school system.

No differences exist, and the public school system was created for the very same purposes listed for charter schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools also have an advantage in the review process.  They need to be reviewed once within a five-year period of time.  Thus, theoretically, a charter school could go for eight or nine years without a review.  For example, if the school were reviewed in the first or second year that would satisfy the review requirement for that five-year period.  Then, perhaps the school would not be reviewed until the ninth year of the next five-year period.  The charter school has been given a pass and does not have to be reviewed nearly as often as the public schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools also do not have the stringent requirements for teacher licensing that are required of the existing public school systems.  Charter school teachers do not need licenses when they are hired – the requirement is that the teacher needs to be “in the process” of obtaining a license and has three years to complete the process. The teacher could spend three years without a license and then move on without ever having obtained a license while at the charter school.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools come in two varieties:  those that are created and those that are converted.  Those created are new schools and do not start with collective bargaining agreements.  The teachers are allowed to organize if they want to and have the ability to do so.  Those existing schools which are converted must recognize the existing collective bargaining agreements.  Given this difference, Daniels and Bennett will more than likely go for more new schools than converted schools.

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter school conversion requires 60% of teachers to agree and 51% of parents.  It doesn’t take much math to figure out that Bennett and Daniels will go for new schools.  Conversions will be few and far between.  Why use conversions that need approval when new schools can be created without the bother of teachers and parents?

So, why the rush to charter schools?

Charter schools take public funding from already existing schools.  The pie is just so big, and, by increasing the number of schools, the pie gets smaller.  Our existing public schools get less of everything with the creation of more schools.  This decrease in public funding assures that our existing schools will only continue to receive less and less, spiraling down ward with less and less to serve their existing students.

THIRD LEG – DESTROYING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

This one is a no-brainer.  Charter schools can be established without collective bargaining agreements.  Vouchers can go to private religiously-affiliated schools without the worry of unions.

Bennett and Daniels primary goal is to weaken the public educational system by the use of vouchers, by increasing the creation of charter schools, and by dismantling the ability of teachers across this state to enter into collective bargaining agreements.

How is it that Bennett and Daniels justify the creation of additional schools when the last 60 years has been spent decreasing the number of schools – all in the effort to save money and increase resources?

Their goal is simple – Bennett and Daniels are using a completely controlled Republican General Assembly to weaken the public education system in Indiana.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Bennett’s wife, Tina, recently resigned from a position that put her squarely in a conflict of interest.  While her husband was pushing to increase charter schools, Tina Bennett was employed by a company that worked with charter schools.  Tony Bennett had the audacity to suggest this was not a conflict of interest.

CONCLUSION

Bennett and Daniels have a vendetta against our Hoosier public education system.  By using several avenues, they hope to eventually dismantle the public school system in Indiana.

REPUBLICANS SHOOT THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT – HOBBLE OFF INTO THE SUNSET

What was supposed to be a unified Republican uprising against the “socialist” agenda hidden in President Obama’s speech to schoolchildren has turned into a full rout of Republican antagonists.  Tucking their tiny little tails between their crooked little legs, Republicans have found little comfort in the non-issue that was to be their battle cry of indoctrination of our “poor, impressionable youngsters.”

In Allen County, nine – count ’em – nine students were kept out of school by paranoid and close-minded parents intent on protecting little psyches against the big, bad presidential wolf.   Others – 85 to be exact – opted out of having their little tykes’ ears bombarded by Obama’s urging to stay in school, graduate, and contribute to the betterment of this country.  Those parents, rather than depriving their children of their day in school, wrote notes to teachers to have their kids sit out the speech.

What Republicans – and in particular, conservative Republicans – hoped would be an overwhelming protest against Obama’s speech to students to stay in school and get their education turned into one of the year’s biggest boondoggles for the ever-hopeful Republican obstructionists.

Now Republicans are trying to label the speech “conservative” in nature.   This strategy is laughable, and, to be quite honest, leaves me almost speechless.  I said almost because I am not totally speechless – just trying not to roll over laughing at what the Republicans are now trying in an effort to dig themselves out of a situation that makes them look totally assinine.

I guess the Repubs completely forgot about what a political speech to school children looks like.  But never fear, here is Ronnie Reagan’s entire speech to the school children of this country.  Perhaps Republicans should educate themselves in their party’s propensity to indoctrinate before they cry wolf – or would that be sheep.  Baa!

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Students of John A. Holmes High School of Edenton, North Carolina May 13, 1986

As you know, my remarks are being broadcast live over radio and television to high school students throughout the country. While I was in Tokyo at the economic summit, I found myself thinking about all of you, and I decided that when I got back it’d be good to report to you — share some thoughts that I’ve been having about the future.

In general, conditions in our country are about as bright as this very bright afternoon. I was worrying when I put that line in there that it might start to rain, and I’d have to say something else. [Laughter] We’ve been working to take an economy that was in bad shape and get it moving and growing again; take our national defense and make it first-rate again after a long period of decline; and to restore reason, respect, and reality to our foreign policy. And I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made a good deal of progress.

Only 5 years ago our economy suffered from high inflation, high interest rates, mushrooming government spending, and steadily increasing unemployment. A lot of people couldn’t find jobs, and people on fixed incomes were finding it harder to buy the basics, such as food and shelter. Well, we got inflation down, interest rates down, and our economy created over 1\1/2\ million new jobs just last year alone. The poor are now increasingly able to dig themselves out of poverty, and that’s been good economic news.

The good news in defense is that our Armed Forces, which were suffering from neglect and low funding, have now made a comeback. Morale is up in the services, and the quality of our men and women in uniform has never been better — and I mean never. As a matter of fact, we have the highest percentage of high school graduates in uniform today than we’ve ever had in the history of our nation, even back when we had the compulsory draft. In addition, our nation has encouraged a more realistic sense of defense needs.

In foreign affairs we’ve kept our friends close and the lines of communication with our adversaries open. We’ve tried to give the world the sense that the United States has a coherent and logical foreign policy that reflects our respect for freedom and our opposition to tyranny.

The point is that all we’ve done has had, and will continue to have, a direct impact on your lives. And the fact is, it’s your future, not ours. And all that we’ve done, we’ve done with an eye toward how it would impact you. We want to make your future better, because tomorrow belongs to you. And since you’re the leaders of tomorrow, I wanted to talk to all of you as a friend about the things you’ll have to do to ensure a prosperous nation and a peaceful world. And I’m sure that peace and prosperity must be at the top of your agenda for the future.

You have some special responsibilities ahead of you — very important responsibilities. America is back, yes, but we still face major challenges in the world. And it’s your generation that will have to accept the primary responsibility for tackling these challenges. It’s important that you’re fit for the future and that you be all that you can be. So, go for it! In the area of education you have a responsibility to try to learn and care about scientific and intellectual inquiry. The world is an increasingly competitive place. And if we’re to compete, we’ll have to do it with brainpower — your brainpower. So, keep learning and hit those books.

We have to remain economically competitive, and that means being aware of two things: first, what makes economies tick, and second, what works in other societies. We’ve been trying very hard in Washington to make America even more economically fit by really overhauling our entire tax structure. When we came into office, the top personal tax rate that the Federal Government could put on your income was 70 percent. Now, you can understand, I think, that if you were getting up in those brackets — there were 14 different tax brackets, depending on the amount of money in each bracket you earned. And when you could look and say, “If I earn another dollar, I only get to keep 30 cents out of it,” you can imagine the lack of incentive there. Well, we lowered it to 50 percent, and the economy really took off. Now we’re trying to lower it yet again so that families can keep more of their money and so the national economy will be lean and trim and fit for the future.

And it’s your generation that will defend freedom from its adversaries. The biggest contribution you can make to that quest is to become a good citizen. Good citizenship is vitally important if democracies are to continue. Good citizenship means trying to understand the issues and great questions of your day. It also means voting. To vote is to take part in this grand experiment called democracy in America. It’s your right and your responsibility to take part. Good citizenship also might mean considering going into teaching as a profession. There’s a teacher shortage, as you may know. You could help ease the situation and give to others the advantages you’ve been given if you become a teacher yourself. And it’s also important that you stay in school. That diploma counts. And I just want to personally congratulate those who have overcome some disadvantage and who stuck it out and will graduate this year.

And part of being a good citizen, part of being fit for the future so that you can meet America’s agenda for the future, is seeing to it that you live your life with a clear mind and a steady intellect. And that means saying no to drugs. Nancy has traveled across the country talking to young people like you. And many of them have talked to her about the allure of drugs, about the drug culture, and the kind of peer pressure that you come under to experiment and try out drugs. But when you come right down to it, drugs are just a dead-end street. They have nothing to offer you. I think you also ought to remember we only get one set of machinery. If you wear this set out, you can’t take it and trade it in someplace for a used one or a new one. So, what you do now and early in your life decides how able you’re going to be to enjoy yourself when you get to be my age.

And I want to tell you, I’m enjoying myself. I’ve talked to young people from China to Europe to the islands in the Caribbean. And let me tell you, they’re incredibly bright and talented, and they’re going to create quite a future for themselves. And you can’t keep up or catch up if you allow your mind to be clouded by drugs.

Well, that’s more or less what I wanted to say to you today. I’ll be talking to many young people over the next few months, and I’ll be expanding on certain points and amplifying certain themes. But for today, before your questions, I just want to let you know that I have been thinking about you very much. You are a special generation, and you’re facing special challenges. And the biggest is to be ready for a future that will prove to be demanding and exciting. Soon, we’ll enter the 21st century, a time that’ll have more than its share of great wonders. The next 10 or 15 years may well be the most exciting and challenging in the history of man. There’s the continuing revolution in technology, the possibility of curing diseases that have stalked us from the caveman era. There’s the marvelous conquest of space, a rich frontier whose riches we’ve barely glimpsed. And there’s the struggle between the democracies and those countries which are not democratic.

All of these possibilities bring with them questions. And it’s your generation that will have to answer them. That makes you all very important, indeed. You have much before you. And all I can say is that you’ve begun brilliantly. Continue to pursue excellence. Be proud of your country and its heritage, and be proud of yourselves, as we are proud of all of you.

The President. Thank you all, and welcome to the White House, and thank you for coming. I want to congratulate all of you from John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, North Carolina, on your great achievements this year and on your upcoming graduation. And a special greeting to Rob Boyce, the principal of this fine school.

If you would like to read the question and answer session, here is the link.  Talk about indoctrination of our students – but, of course, since it was a Republican that presented this speech, the naysayers find it acceptable.  What hypocrisy.  But that seems to be the only thing the Republicans are good for these days.

President Obama speech of hope and encouragement to students at Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA

President Obama delivering his speech of hope and encouragement to students at Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA (AP Photo)

AND SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS: ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU – ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.

I would imagine most Americans of any age would recognize the above quote from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address of January 20, 1961.  Amazing isn’t it that such a quote holds so much meaning to so many and has been and still is often repeated.

Yet, almost 50 years later, our President is being maligned and disparaged for daring to speak to students and to ask them the very same thing.  For those who continue to despise Obama and criticize every step and every move he makes, I am providing the text of the speech, long as it is. 

But, I imagine there will still be those who will find a hidden “agenda” somewhere in the words Obama will deliver tomorrow in Arlington, Virginia.

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009
 

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today. 
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.   
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year. 
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn. 
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox. 
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve. 
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. 
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. 
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide. 
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future. 
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy. 
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country. 
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in. 
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse. 
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right. 
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying. 
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. 
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America. 
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall. 
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same. 
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it. 
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things. 
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” 
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying. 
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in. 
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals. 
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. 
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?  
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Notice, the bolded words follow pretty much the same message delivered by a great president nearly 50 years ago, a message that has been held in high regard and seen as one of the greatest remarks made – oft-quoted by Democrats and Republicans alike.  Fifty years ago, the urging by President Kennedy was seen as something good and right – what can you do as a citizen of this great Nation to help her.

Now, 50 years later, the same message is being labeled as socialistic in nature – a march toward dictatorship – a flirting with communism – all because it is asking the youth of this Nation to think about their future and what they can do to help our country.

Because President Barack Obama has the audacity to ask the same question of millions of students in thousands of classrooms across one great Nation, he is drawing the wrath of many Republicans in all corners of this Nation. 

He is asking that students take ownership of their education – something that many have been preaching for decades.  He is asking that the responsibilities of citizenship of this Nation not wait until the ballot lever is pulled.  He is asking that our youth recognize how much it takes to build and improve our great Nation and take ownership of contributing to its success and good fortune.

Imagine that – the audacity of hope in our young people   – – the audacity to think that students should and will be encouraged to understand the importance of education  —  the audacity to ask that students think about their education and how they, too, can ask  “Not what my country can do for me, but what can I do for my country.” 

Imagine that.

President Barack Obama will deliver a message of encouragement to students across the Nation on September 8, 21009

President Barack Obama will deliver a message of encouragement to students across the Nation on September 8, 2009 (Photo Credit: Boston.com)

REPUBLICAN IDIOCY CONTINUES OVER OBAMA ADDRESS TO SCHOOL CHILDREN

President Obama is planning to address the nation’s school children next week.  Of course, Republicans are having a hissy fit and throwing out all kinds of statements accusing Obama of potential indoctrination of the millions who may be allowed to listen to his remarks.   Heaven forbid, our children may just be inspired to continue with their education and realize how important graduation can be.

How quickly the Repubs forget – or simply ignore the fact that Bush 41 (Daddy Bush) did the very same thing in 1991 during his presidency.  The full text of his speech can be found preserved in the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library for posterity – or should I say for embarrassment of the now-whining and crying Republicans.

The fact is that there is a hatred in this country for President Obama, and the right-wing nuts are fanning the flames of that hatred by screaming at everything the president does or doesn’t do.  Blogsters like Michelle Malkin post misleading articles and her duped readers spit out their hate-filled comments without even bothering to check out that this isn’t the first time in history a president has addressed the school children of this country with a message of the importance of education.

Let’s face it – the Repubs look like twits since one of their very own took to the airwaves to deliver a speech about the importance of education to millions of school children – wow what an awful thing to do!  Sure, the Democrats criticized Bush 41 for what they believed was a political ploy and a poor use of eduction money.  But their criticism in no way comes near the level of the plain downright hate-filled rhetoric being spewed by today’s clutch of whiners – likening Obama’s purpose to Nazi tactics and the implanting of a socialistic agenda in the minds of all the school children who will listen to the speech.

Let’s hope that the hundreds of school systems around this country don’t cave to the fear-mongering and name-calling that have become such intrinsic characteristics of  the Republicans.

President Obama will address the nations school children on September 9th

President Obama will address the nation's school children on Tuesday, September 8th

DANIELS PANDERS TO TEACHERS WITH POSITION ON DISCIPLINE

Mitch Daniels has now decided that discipline in schools might be a good idea. Wonder where he has been for the last three and a half years? Head under a rock? The realization that discipline is lacking in schools comes a little bit late, but, again, since this is an election year, Daniels is grabbing for anything he can hook.

Here’s what he says:

“It is to say if it’s necessary to remove a child, expel a child, stop a fight, you can do it and know that the law and your state government will stand with you.”

Sorry Guv, the state already stands with the teachers. Perhaps the Guv hasn’t spent enough time reading the Indiana statutes and case law referencing the rights of teachers to maintain control of their classrooms. Indiana already provides that teachers may take necessary measures to ensure student compliance by providing that school personnel stand in the relation of parents – in parentis loci – to the students.

The following are two statutes which already provide protection for teachers.

20-33-8-8. Responsibilities of school corporation and students — Rights of school corporation personnel.

(a) Student supervision and the desirable behavior of students in carrying out school purposes is the responsibility of:
(1) a school corporation; and
(2) the students of a school corporation.
(b) In all matters relating to the discipline and conduct of students, school corporation personnel:
(1) stand in the relation of parents to the students of the school corporation; and
(2) have the right to take any disciplinary action necessary to promote student conduct that conforms with an orderly and effective educational system, subject to this chapter.
(c) Students must:
(1) follow responsible directions of school personnel in all educational settings; and
(2) refrain from disruptive behavior that interferes with the educational environment.

20-33-8-9. Action to prevent interference with educational function — Removal of student.

(a) This section applies to an individual who:
(1) is a teacher or other school staff member; and
(2) has students under the individual’s charge.
(b) An individual may take any action that is reasonably necessary to carry out or to prevent an interference with an educational function that the individual supervises.
(c) Subject to rules of the governing body and the administrative staff, an individual may remove a student for a period that does not exceed five (5) school days from an educational function supervised by the individual or another individual who is a teacher or other school staff member.

The legislature is not the only branch of our Indiana government that protects teachers; the courts have also come down on the side of teachers. In State v. Fettig, 884 N.E.2d 341 (Ind. App. 2008), the teacher lightly slapped a student on the cheek. The student reported the incident and a lawsuit followed alleging battery against the teacher.

The Court stated:

In general, “[a] person is justified in engaging in conduct otherwise prohibited if he has legal authority to do so.” I.C. § 35-41-3-1. This statute has been interpreted to provide legal authority for a parent to engage in reasonable discipline of her child, even if such conduct would otherwise constitute battery. Dyson v. State, 692 N.E.2d 1374, 1376 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998). Although there is a dearth of recent case law addressing the subject, this same justification has long been extended to teachers as well, as long as the teacher acts within the limits of her “jurisdiction and responsibility as a teacher.” Vanvactor v. State, 113 Ind. 276, 15 N.E. 341, 342 (Ind. 1888). Moreover, teachers are given, in addition to the presumption of innocence shared by all criminal defendants, a presumption of having done their duty when punishing a student.

The court granted the teacher’s Motion to Dismiss, thus supporting the teacher’s right to use reasonable discipline even if the conduct would normally constitute battery.

The Guv appears to be a day late and a dollar short. The legislature and the courts already provide protection to teachers in their handling of disruptive student conduct. Legislation cannot bar lawsuits, so it is questionable what other action Daniels would take – especially since statutory law and case law appear to be on the side of the teacher.

Daniels is grasping for straws on this one by pandering to teachers. By pushing the idea that they have no protection when it comes to meting out punishment, Daniels is once again misleading the public, and, in particular, those who teach our students on a daily basis. But, hey, it is, after all, an election year.

LOSING OUR MINDS – THE DARK SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY

Our reliance on technology is giving way to a loss of mental capabilities that used to be seen as second nature to us. For each task that we surrender to technology, we lose the use of mental faculties no longer called upon to perform some of the most basic of skills such as adding, subtracting, spelling, and reading diagrams and maps.

Technology has provided both an avenue to global information processing and sharing and, at the same time, lured us into a dependency where minds used to go.

CALCULATORS

The first calculators were fairly clumsy items. Sharp put in great efforts in size and power reduction and introduced in January 1971 the Sharp EL-8, also marketed as the Facit 1111, which was close to being a pocket calculator. It weighed about one pound, had a vacuum fluorescent display, rechargeable NiCad batteries, and initially sold for $395.

The first American-made pocket-sized calculator, the Bowmar 901B – referred to as The Bowmar Brain – came out in the fall of 1971 and measured a 5 inches by 3 inches by 1.5 inches. It had four functions, an eight-digit red LED display, and sold for $240.

Following closely in August 1972, the four-function Sinclair Executive became the first slimline pocket calculator measuring 5 1/2 inches by 2 inches by 1/3 inches thick and weighed 2.5 oz. It retailed for around $150. By the end of the 1970s, similar calculators were priced less than $10 and were within the purchasing power of the average American.

With my first handy-dandy calculator way back in the early 1970s, I gingerly learned the process of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Funny thing though, I didn’t trust the calculator to be accurate. So, for a long time, I double-checked the answers appearing in the window of my rectangular, inanimate adding box by doing them all over again myself. I knew how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but I wasn’t sure that little gadget did.

Now it is the other way around, and I double-check my figures with the calculator, or I don’t even bother to do my own calculations. I do the calculations on my $3.50 calculator, which I have had now for about three years. The one thing I do practice is my math skills when I go through a drive-through window. I mentally calculate how much I will get back.

CASHIERING

I had to count back change when I worked at our family’s grocery business. We didn’t have machines that did anything other than ring up the items. Our first cash registers were run by a hand-crank on the side that needed to be turned after we punched in the numbers on the face of the register.

We later moved up to cash registers powered by electricity, but the downfall was that when our electricity went out, we had to override the register and use manual methods again. Or we dug out the old manual adding machines. Either way around we needed to know how to count back change – something that today’s cashiers don’t have to worry about.

The only effort cashiers need to make today is to glance at the register, see how much change should be returned, and shove it into the waiting consumer’s open hand. How sad. I remember years ago, I worked part-time at the Little Professor Book Store. One of my duties at different times was to work at the cash registers. When I ran my checkout I made it a point to count back the change, placing it into the customer’s waiting palm.

My supervisor came over to me one day and said he had been watching me and was I aware that the cash register indicated how much to return. He told me it saved time to just give the change back. I told him I was aware of it, politely thanked him, and went right on counting back change to my customers. I really think the customers enjoyed having the change counted back and not just thrown into their hands.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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SPELL CHECKS / SPELL CHECKERS

Ah, my least favorite of all the brain-dimming technologies. Spell checks cue the writer to a misspelled word by calling the writer’s attention to the word with an underline. Forget dictionaries. Just right click on the word, and you get a list of words from which to select. The problem is, you still must know with relative certainty how to select the correct suggested spelling.

The downside to the spell check is that it won’t identify words spelled correctly but used in the incorrect context, for instance, “weather” for “whether.” Another mistake a spell check won’t catch is a word that has more than one spelling such as “their” and “there.” Finally, words that have letters transposed – form instead of from – won’t be caught.

What a pity that this aid decreases the use of dictionaries as well as the skills necessary to use them. People don’t even bother anymore to pick up a dictionary to try to look up a word. Using a dictionary requires the ability to alphabetize while searching for word spellings. Spell checks prevent the mind from being used to its fullest extent.

DIGITAL CLOCKS AND WATCHES

Time is time, but how we read time has changed. I learned to tell time by using a clock face with hands that could be moved with my teacher then asking us what time it was. I am assuming today’s kids also learn this way. But many watch and clock faces are now digital. Reading a digital clock face takes no thought. You look at it, and the numbers tell you what time it is.

Reading a numbered clock face, however, requires recognizing the placement of marks around the face of the clock, and then counting mentally the number of minutes past a certain hour or before another hour.

GLOBAL POSITIONING SATELLITE (GPS) SYSTEMS

I have to admit, reading maps is not one of my favorite tasks when I travel. I have been to 40 of our 50 states, and I have always sat down with tour books, maps, pens, and paper to plot out my trip. I do not have a GPS system, but a couple of my friends do.

Personally, I find it annoying to have that thing talk while driving. Is it really that difficult to read a map and plan your path of travel? Again, technology is replacing a skill that used to be taken for granted.

I can’t help but think of the Zager and Evans song from 1969 – “In the Year 2525” which tells of how technology and science will change our bodies and our minds. We are on a path to relying more and more on technology to do those things that we used to do ourselves by using our minds and the skills we learned.

No longer do we pick up a dictionary, read a map, count back change, perform calculations, or tell time without relying on technology. And, every time we look to technology to perform a mental function for us, we are truly losing our minds.

INTERVIEWER STUPIDITY – THE MORMON POLYGAMY QUESTION – AD NAUSEUM

The following was an exchange while Mitt Romney was still governor of Massachusetts.

Interviewer: Governor Romney, thanks for being on the show.

Mitt: (all smiles) Great to be here, Joan.

Interviewer: Governor, a lot of Americans are asking themselves, Can a Mormon be president? How do your respond to that?

Mitt: (all smiles) Well, Joan, one of the great things about this country is that we enjoy the freedom to worship as we see fit, to raise our children in a belief system that will give them the moral upbringing they need to be good citizens who contribute to the betterment of society. But my hope is that people won’t vote for me, or refuse to vote for me, because of my faith. I would hope that people would look at my record as a public official. For example, when I balanced the budget in the state of Massachu–Ann Romney

Interviewer: Yes yes, but isn’t it true that the Mormons have embraced some rather, shall we say, unorthodox beliefs? Take polygamy. When most Americans think of Mormons, they think of polygamy.

Mitt: (chuckling) Mormons don’t practice polygamy, Joan. The church banned the practice over a hundred years ago. Mormons are just like any other Christian faith. We love our children, we–

Interviewer: Yes yes, but as a Mormon, are you telling me that you’ll never take another wife? I mean, we Americans can only take one First Lady. What would we call the other wives? Second Lady? Third Lady? I mean, who would choose the drapes?

Mitt: No no, Joan. It’s just me and Ann. In fact, one of my goals as president is to strengthen the American family and–

Interviewer: Not even one more wife?

Mitt: Uh, no, Joan. Not even one.

Interviewer: Not even one teeny tiny wife?

Mitt: I don’t follow you.

Several weeks ago, during a debate where the audience was allowed to ask questions, the same issue arose. An individual who was given the opportunity to ask a serious question of Mr. Romney prefaced his “real” question with an inquiry as to which one of his wives would be First Lady. Perhaps the questioner thought he was being cute or personable, but at this point the lack of knowledge about the Mormon religion is getting old.

Enough said. I am not a Republican, and I won’t be voting for Mitt Romney, but stupidity, rudeness, and failure to check historical knowledge drive me crazy.