That’s Right Nate

Thoughts from a right thinker.

Archive for October 2009

The War Over Halloween

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judgeIt has been a great Halloween at the Peele household so far.  My 13 year old daughter  Emily and I are here this afternoon before she goes to a party tonight.   Emily is dressed as a Sexy Supreme Court Justice.   She was very inspired by Justice Sotomayor’s hearings (don’t ask me why), but the only costumes they make for girls anymore are all sexy.     In the past, instead of passing out candy I have put an empty bowl on the porch with a note that said “Honor System, Take Only One Please”.  That seemed to work just fine.  Emily was always after me to pass out actual candy, but with my daughter barely at 5″7″ and pushing 120 pounds you can guess where half that candy was going to wind up.

As my longtime readers know, Halloween is very important to me.   There is a radical atheist movement in this country that is trying to remove all traces of Halloween’s Christian origins from the holiday.  This year I decided that I would give all trick or treaters Chick Tracts.   These are great comics that warn children of the dangers of sinful things like murder, homosexuality, Catholicism, and Dungeons and Dragons (2nd edition–3rd and 4th have yet to be declared evil, possibly because they use d20 systems).   The look of surprise on the faces of the neighbor children as I pass them out has been well worth it.

When we give into the radical atheists who wish to dechristianize Halloween we all lose.   We can’t allow the pagans and atheists who would take over this Christian holiday to have their way.  I get so irritated when I hear somebody wish me a happy pumpkin day because I know that they have avoided wishing me a Happy Halloween.   Remember, something hallow is something holy–what is a pumpkin day?  It just isn’t the same thing.   Well, it’s time for me to drive Emily to her little party–I can’t believe how girls dress nowadays.  I guess I’m lucky that she’s fat and not very attractive.   Have a great Halloween everybody!!

Written by thatsrightnate

October 31, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Obama Bungles H1N1 Vaccine

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Vaccine Protest Holy PrepuceThis country is on the verge of a health care crisis we haven’t seen in many years as the Obama administration’s  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report there is not enough H1N1 vaccine available for everyone in the United States.  Hit especially hard by the shortage are many conservatives who had intended to boycott the vaccine, but find themselves unable to take a principled stand due to the shortage.

At the Fairport Clinic in suburban Chicago, a crowd of 15 angry protesters were turned away when the vaccine shipment that they were protesting never arrived.  “This is outrageous,” complained conservative housewife and mother of 3 Lynette Granger, “How am I supposed to teach my kids to practice abstinence with vaccination if there isn’t enough vaccine to even tempt them with it.”

Health officials say the H1N1 vaccine is difficult to grow, and that causes a delay in production and a shortage of vaccine. The CDC says there are now more than 22 million doses available, but there eventually will be some 225 million doses.   In the meantime, anti-government activists are having a hard time finding clinics that have enough of the vaccine for them to steadfastly refuse to take it.  “This is beyond irresponsible,” said a disgusted Geoffrey Spaulding of Cicero who was holding a Don’t Take the Vacsine sign, “They’ve had almost a year to get this thing ready.  Obama should be ashamed.”

As more vaccine is made available, it will first go to pregnant women, small children, and health care workers before moving on to conservative activists.  This is especially hard on conservative conspiracy theorists who have invested considerable time blogging and writing about various conspiracies about the vaccine.  “I just don’t understand how they are able to complete FEMA prison complexes so quickly, but are unable to get their act together on the swine flu vaccine.  Mark my words, there’s something very sinister afoot here,” said blogger Lewinskydefeater.

One thing is for sure, until we get enough vaccine produced and ready for public inoculation, we are unable to boycott the vaccine and that is clearly a violation of our first amendment rights.  Please call your congressman and demand that they step up production of the vaccine while there is still time to protest against it.  Our first amendment rights are too valuable to lose.

Written by thatsrightnate

October 29, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Profiles in Courage – Joe Lieberman

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[We’re very lucky tonight to have a guest column by Congressman Jack Kimble (R-CA) who is writing in praise of Senator Joe Lieberman (?-CN)]

I happen to be a great fan of Joe Lieberman.  I took some heat for this in 2000 when he was brainwashed by Al Gore and ran against our beloved President Bush.  I have to admit, I could even feel empathy for the many Democrats who were crestfallen at the thought of Joe being denied the Vice-Presidency in such a close election.    I’ve been a big fan of Joe Lieberman for nearly 20 years since he first won my heart as Willie on the television show Alf.  His deadpan, put upon, whining delivery has served him well as a Senator as well.

Though Joe is older now, I can attest that he looks like a man half his age in a spedo.  He’s living proof that with good living, you really don’t need health care.   Today, he took a lot of flack from his own party, or former party, or whatever the Democrats are when he announced he would not vote for a health care bill with the public option and in fact he wouldn’t even vote to end a filibuster unless the public option was removed from the legislation.

Joe’s problems with the public option is the same as my own:

  1. The government cannot handle things like this efficiently and it would do a terrible job insuring people.
  2. The public option will increase competition and lower the profit margins of insurance companies at a time when they can least afford it.
  3. The public option will lead to communism by 2012.

Joe has said that he would to keep the rest of the bill and in 3 or 4 years revisit things to see if we might want to investigate the possibility of creating a trigger that if reached would possibly bring us the public option.   Without the public option, the current program will work to lower health care costs and insure people by fining people heavily if they don’t buy health insurance   This will help the insurance companies by increasing their profits and help the uninsured by making them by health care.

Joe has once again shown himself to be a figure of integrity and courage.  A lot of people would have been scared to stand against the public option when like Lieberman, they were so heavily financed by the insurance industry.   I had the same problem just last year when I had to make the difficult decision of supporting the tobacco industry despite the fact that they heavily funded my campaign.  I made the right choice and went with my conscience the same way that Joe Lieberman has today.  This is truly what being a member of Congress is all about.

How the Jack O’Lantern Kept Christianity Alive

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jack-o-lantern2My friends, I don’t mind telling you that we find ourselves in a culture war.  The forces of radical atheism again threaten to rob this great country of the symbols of it’s freedom and it’s proud Christian heritage.   If these people have their way all traces of Halloween’s Christian roots would be erased and all references to Jesus would be stricken from Halloween parades, store displays, and the hopeful mouths of trick or treating Christian children.    We must all stand together against this atheistic tyranny.

One of the stories, atheists don’t want you to know is the story of the Jack O’Lantern.   In Ireland, Christians were persecuted for many centuries.  One of the reasons that St. Patrick was celebrated for driving the snakes from Ireland is because they used to feed Christian children to the snakes.   Christians were kept poor and not allowed to hold jobs.  Their possessions were simple, but their faith was mighty.

As the Irish traveled along the countryside at autumn harvest time looking for work picking crops, they were frequently met with signs that said Christians need not apply.   Even a non-Christian who hired a Christian to pick his crops faced persecution from the Irish King.   The Irish  needed a subtle symbol to let others know that they welcomed Christians and that the light of Jesus shined within them.   They came up with the idea of taking a pumpkin and carving a smiling face on it.   They then placed a candle inside the pumpkin and placed it in the window.

The Irish named this pumpkin Jack of the Light or the Americanized version, “Jack O’ Lantern”.   Nowadays, pumpkins are carved into the most grotesque and hideous shapes imaginable and the original meaning of the Jack O’Lantern has been lost.   This Halloween if you carve a pumpkin with your children I hope you’ll tell them the story of how the Jack O’Lantern saved Christianity in Ireland–one of the most Christian nations in the world today.

Written by thatsrightnate

October 26, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part IV

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And now gentle reader, we find ourselves at the penultimate act of our little drama.   Throughout the summer of 2009, the DC Public Schools recruited like a drunken frat boy collecting phone numbers at a kegger.  By the end of the summer, there were a whole host of new, young, and energetic students ready to take their places as teachers in the system.   Then calamity struck.

The schools had a $40,000,000 budget shortfall and the only way to close it was to cut staff.   There is nothing harder for an administrator than when you suddenly reallize that you don’t have $40 million that you thought you had.  I still get embarrassed over the time I was 8 and went to the local convenience store for chips and pop and didn’t have enough money because I didn’t know about sales tax.   The Chinese word for crisis is the same as their world for self-serving and manipulative stunt.  Knowing this Michelle Rhee made lemons out of lemonade by getting rid of some of those tired and worn out teachers I mentioned in part 2.

Over 200 teachers were let go and the day was saved.   Police were dispatched to classrooms and the older incompetent teachers were forcibly evicted.  This provided an excellent lesson for students who witnessed their teachers’ removal about not getting old and lazy. Much fat was trimmed.  A few examples I found using this internet machine of mine:

  • Students at McKinley Tech told NBC4 that their French 3 class became an introductory Spanish class when the French teacher was fired.
  • Jodie Gittleson, a teacher at Shaed Elementary School who was laid off, told the Washington Post that her students were being mixed among the second and fourth grade classes.
  • Students related a host of problems to WAMU-FM Dana Downs from Alice Deal Middle School says she was in the middle of a science project she was excited about. Now a different teacher has come in and abruptly changed course. Downs says students are also acting out in class, taking advantage of their new teacher. She says “they will talk really loud and won’t listen to her and throw things.”
  • Many of the district’s councilors received layoff notices just as students are getting their applications together to submit to colleges.
  • Taesha Hines from Ballou Senior High School complained that gym is required for graduation, but the cuts have left her school with only one gym teacher

Many of the teachers who were laid off had excellent performance evaluations.  These are exactly the kind of deadwood that are so difficult to trim because at a due process hearing they will simply use the superior rating the principal had given them to cast doubt on that principal’s claims of their incompetence.   Fortunately for Washington, DC, this budget shortfall provided a nice route around those kind of regulations.

There have been other moments of note in Rhee’s tenure.   Standardized test scored did improve, which is usually a good sign that the district is becoming more conscious of standardized tests.  Rhee also dropped support for National Board Certification–a highly valued national program for improving classroom instruction.  She has charged straight ahead with her vaunted IMPACT program which was piloted in Fairfax County in 1987 much to the amusement to one of the guinea pigs, Erica Jacobs.  Unfortunately, the union contract still seems stalled.  For some reason, the union is having trouble trusting Michelle Rhee to bargain in good faith.

I’m not from Washington, DC.  I’m from Chicago where we have had our own miracle worker Arne Duncan chosen for better things.   I won’t tell DC parents how to feel about their own child’s education prospects from hundreds of miles away.   However, in my previous entry, EFavorite posted the link to a comment by a Washington Post reader claiming that Michelle Rhee’s administration has fascist tendencies.   I can’t really speak to that, but I wonder if the sight of police leading teachers away in front of stunned students might answer the question for me.

This blog is satirical and my regular readers must be hating the last 4 articles which have gradually become less and less of my usual style.   However, some things are quite difficult to joke about–the future of our children is one of them.   A lot of well meaning liberals have gotten behind this new generation of education reformers who believe the two best ways to improve education are to bust unions and replace older largely African-American career teachers with young privileged white teachers who will spend 2 or 3 years in the classroom before moving on to bigger and better things.   These people believe that experience is a detriment and not an asset.  I wonder how these became liberal values.   Yes, the Bush family have embraced Michelle Rhee, but so have the Obamas and Oprah.

School reform has always been something that has been done to teachers, not by teachers, or with teachers.   Parents have rarely had a say either and of course children don’t know what’s good for them.   You can’t reform anything that way.   When the largest stakeholders in any endeavor are seen as the opposition you will fail.   There is another type of education reform you don’t hear much about.  If people gave it a chance, it might have a hope of accomplishing something substantial.   I don’t agree with everything that these people want, but a lot of it sure looks worth looking into.  The idea of a free, equal, and quality education is an ideal that binds us as a nation.   It has sadly never been a reality in the United States.

[As always, I appreciate feedback and comment whether you are in DC or not.  If you missed the other 3 parts of this story, please go to part 1.]

Written by thatsrightnate

October 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part III

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Michelle Rhee needed a way to get rid of bad teachers.   In June of this year she dismissed about 80 tenured teachers for poor performance in June, after giving them 90 days’ notice and a chance to improve and there was barely any public protest, but this process was too slow.   Tenure was her biggest enemy because it is tenure that grants teachers the right to due process when terminated.   She finally decided to make the teachers an offer that they couldn’t refuse.

tarting salaries would leap from about $40,000 to $78,000, and wages for the best performers would double to about $130,000 a year. In return, teachers would lose tenure and be paid according to merit, measured in part by their students’ results. Current teachers would have a choice: they could join the new system or stay in the old one. New hires would have to join the new system.  And where would the DC schools get the money from?   According to Rhee, they would get it from sources.   According to Rhee, financial modeling done by a an unnamed firm shows that donations by unnamed donors would be sufficient to pay for the unknown costs of this plan. What more could anybody ask for?

Unfortunately, the teachers balked.   They wanted some kind of guarantee that the money would be there to pay them before they gave up anything.  They felt that once they lost tenure, it was gone while the private funds could dry up at any time.  There are no guarantees in life.  What makes these teachers so unwilling to trust these anonymous donors to make good on the funding?  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only problem Rhee had with donors.

Rhee was just forced to let go 200 some teachers because of a $12 million budget shortfall, but many local philanthropy groups who have supported the DC schools through the years no longer have any relationship with the school system.  They complain that Rhee won’t tell them how the money would be spent and has shown little interest in building a partnership with them.

“I don’t think she has been as open to partnerships as our foundation community would have liked,” Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, told the Washington Post, “Everybody wants to be of assistance. . . . The only way we’re going to find out if we can help is to have a little bit more of an open relationship.”

According to Robert McCartney of the Post, “A key moment occurred in July 2008 when Rhee met at the World Bank with dozens of top donors who belong to the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. She asked for donations of about $40 million, which she hoped to combine with grants from national foundations to give her a total of $70 million, according to several people who attended the meeting. The donors were disappointed when Rhee said she would provide little detail about what the money would pay for.”  Some people just want guarantees for everything.

[In the next and final installment, Michelle takes lemons and makes lemonade.   Thrill as she takes a $12 million budget shortfall and uses it to get rid of 200 experienced school teachers after the first month of school.  If you haven’t read the other parts of this exciting tale, please start with part I and if you still have the stomach to push on for the last part, click here to link to part 4.]

Written by thatsrightnate

October 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part II

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“I think if there is one thing I have learned over the last 15 months it’s that cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated,” Michelle Rhee at the Aspen Institute’s education summit at the Mayflower Hotel.

Since being appointed as Chancellor of the DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee has fought a battle with the city’s teacher union.   Her main complaint has been teacher tenure which grants teachers who have been teaching for 3 or 4 years and proven themselves to be competent due process if they are terminated.   I wonder if it is possible that tenure is the reason Michelle chose to end her teaching career after only 3 years.  The misguided principle behind tenure is that teachers should be protected if they have to fail the child of a school board member or rebuff a principal’s advances or wear a Philadelphia Eagles jersey to an institute day.

The problem is this procedure protects older teachers.   The new trend in education reform is for very privileged children from the best schools to come into the schools and teach for 2 or 3 years like Michelle did.   President Obama is fond of some of these organizations like the AUSL and Michelle’s Rhee’s  own The New Teacher Project.  These teachers are so excited to go make a difference that they don’t even have time to go through a traditional teacher certification program.  Instead, they are put into a classroom with much haste through an alternative program.  They leave after 3 years or so before they start to cost the district real money.   Experienced teachers can make as much as $70,000 and these Teach for America types never stay long enough to earn the big bucks.

For Michelle Rhee to work her magic, she needed a way to get rid of the deadwood.   She caught a lucky break in June of 2008 when Woodrow Wilson High School was reorganized after failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress for 5 years under No Child Left Behind.   This gave Michelle’s energetic young choice for principal Peter Cahall a chance to clear out all the old lazy clock punching teachers at the school and replace them with new younger more energetic teachers.    One of those lazy teachers was Dr. Art Siebens who was politely told, “you don’t fit in” as he was shown the door.  Rhee had recruited Cahall very heavily from Montgomery County and he was clearly chosen for a task such as this.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for Dr. Art Siebens.   It seems he felt that his 18 years of experience teaching weren’t a liability, but something to be proud of.   Siebens is the type of teacher that some misguided educators might think of as innovative.  Using hippie folk music to teach AP biology, Dr. Siebens had some minimal success.  According to the reinstate Dr. Art website, “on the 2007 AP Biology exam, 41 of the 43 students (95.3%) with scores of 3 – 5 throughout the District of Columbia Public Schools had taken Dr. Siebens’ class, and of the seventeen students who received a score of 5 out of 5 on the AP Biology exam, all of them had taken his class. And on the 2008 AP Biology exam, every single student who received a score of 2 or above in the all of DCPS were students of Dr. Siebens. Minority students in Dr. Siebens’ AP classes achieved scores of 3-5 (50%) at a rate twice the average of all Wilson’s other AP courses (23%). Over 64% of Dr. Siebens’ students over the past five years were in classes other than his AP classes.”

Neither this website nor the many former students who have written testimonials or created the Save Dr. Art petition address the fact that Dr. Siebens is old.   He really doesn’t fit the mold of the dynamic young alternatively certified professionals that an urban school system really needs.   Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to get rid of all the old teachers in one fell swoop?   But wait, there is.

[In Part 3, Michelle Rhee uncovers a way to get rid of teachers by the hundreds and moves towards her ultimate goal of a school district where teachers won’t stand in the way of education.   I really appreciate the comments from all the Washingtonians.   This is a national blog and while I’ve tried to research the DC schools very thoroughly, there is no substitute for your first hand comments.  If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.  Be sure to click this link to go to part 3.]

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October 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm