Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SCHOOL FUNDING CUTS PREDICTED IN MICHIGAN

January 8, 2013

State Education Funding Trimmed

LANSING, Mich. – A new Senate Fiscal Agency report estimates that state tax revenues will be lower than anticipated for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.
 
The report estimates that revenues during fiscal year 2013 will be 1.9 percent smaller than expected 2012 revenues, the Enquirer reported.
 
Tax changes passed in 2011 and 2012 will impact state revenues, the Enquirer reports, and could result in a 2 percent drop in 2013 state tax revenue for public schools, and a 6.5 percent decline in general fund revenue.

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Is the NRA missing the point?

December 22, 2012

Today, Friday, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre held a press conference in which he recommended that an armed policeman or retired service person be placed in every school building to protect students from another massacre such as the one in Newtown on the premise that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.   Have any of you heard that your school board or district plans to implement this proposal when school starts up again in January?      Is it the best immediate change than can be implemented?

Education Reform is “Right to Work” for Teacher Unions

December 21, 2012

In my view, Krauthammer’s analysis of the Michigan Right To Work law as an adjustment to the reality of global competition can also be applied to public education.   The fundamental impulse behind the education reform movement is probably a way to lower the cost of education through lower wages for teachers by eliminating unions in schools.

The right-to-work dilemma

 
By Published: December 13

For all the fury and fistfights outside the Lansing Capitol, what happened in Michigan this week was a simple accommodation to reality. The most famously unionized state, birthplace of the United Auto Workers, royalty of the American working class, became right-to-work.

It’s shocking, except that it was inevitable. Indiana went that wayearlier this year. The entire Rust Belt will eventually follow because the heyday of the sovereign private-sector union is gone. Globalization has made splendid isolation impossible.

The nostalgics look back to the immediate postwar years when the UAW was all-powerful, the auto companies were highly profitable and the world was flooded with American cars. In that Golden Age, the UAW won wages, benefits and protections that were the envy of the world.

Today’s angry protesters demand a return to that norm. Except that it was not a norm but a historical anomaly.  America, alone among the great industrial powers, emerged unscathed from World War II. Japan was a cinder, Germany rubble and the allies — beginning with Britain and France — an exhausted shell of their former imperial selves.

For a generation, America had the run of the world. Then the others recovered. Soon global competition — from Volkswagen to Samsung — began to overtake American industry that was saddled with protected, inflated, relatively uncompetitive wages, benefits and work rules.

There’s a reason Detroit went bankrupt while the southern auto transplants did not. This is not to exonerate incompetent overpaid management that contributed to the fall. But clearly the wage, benefit and work-rule gap between the unionized North and the right-to-work South was a major factor.

President Obama railed against the Michigan legislation, calling right-to-work “giving you the right to work for less money.” Well, there is a principle at stake here: A free country should allow its workers to choose whether to join a union. Moreover, it is more than slightly ironic that Democrats, the fiercely pro-choice party, reserve free choice for aborting a fetus while denying it for such matters as choosing your child’s school or joining a union.

Principle and hypocrisy aside, however, the president’s statement has some validity. Let’s be honest: Right-to-work laws do weaken unions. And de-unionization can lead to lower wages.

But there is another factor at play: having a job in the first place. In right-to-work states, the average wage is about 10 percent lower. But in right-to-work states, unemployment also is about 10 percent lower.

Higher wages or lower unemployment? It is a wrenching choice. Although, you would think that liberals would be more inclined to spread the wealth — i.e., the jobs — around, preferring somewhat lower pay in order to leave fewer fellow workers mired in unemployment.

Think of the moral calculus. Lower wages cause an incremental decline in one’s well-being. No doubt. But for the unemployed, the decline is categorical, sometimes catastrophic — a loss not just of income but of independence and dignity.

Nor does protectionism offer escape from this dilemma. Shutting out China and the others deprives less well-off Americans of access to the kinds of goods once reserved for the upper classes: quality clothing, furnishings, electronics, durable goods — from the Taiwanese-manufactured smartphone to the affordable, highly functional Kia.

Globalization taketh away. But it giveth more. The net benefit of free trade has been known since, oh, 1817. (See David Ricardo and the Law of Comparative Advantage.) There is no easy parachute from reality.

Obama calls this a race to the bottom. No, it’s a race to a new equilibrium that tries to maintain employment levels, albeit at the price of some modest wage decline. It is a choice not to be despised.

I have great admiration for the dignity and protections trade unionism has brought to American workers. I have no great desire to see the private-sector unions defenestrated. (Like FDR, Fiorello La Guardia and George Meany, however, I don’t extend that sympathy to public-sector unions.)

But rigidity and nostalgia have a price. The industrial Midwest is littered with the resulting wreckage. Michigan most notably, where its formerly great metropolis of Detroit is reduced to boarded-up bankruptcy by its inability and unwillingness to adapt to global change.

It’s easy to understand why a state such as Michigan would seek to recover its competitiveness by emulating the success of Indiana. One can sympathize with those who pine for the union glory days, while at the same time welcoming the new realism that promises not an impossible restoration but desperately needed — and doable — recalibration and recovery.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

 

BARBECUED HAMLET

January 2, 2012

I have my own theory on HAMLET which has not been adumbrated anywhere that I know of, but I haven’t made a dissertation type search. My notion is that Hamlet’s hamartia is an excess of religiosity. It accounts for his purity of soul as well as his cosmic vengefulness in that by not killing Claudius in the chapel he presumes he can exploit God’s laws of condemnation and forgiveness to damn Claudius. Of course, his “blindness” is that he cannot see inside Claudius’s mind and judge whether the external act of prayer represents an internal repentance. Claudius’s two line soliloquy at the end of the chapel scene shows that he was not repentant, and thus if Hamlet had skewered him then Hamlet would have accomplished his objective. Classic irony. The first Shakespeare I ever directed was with students and was HAMLET. We had no budget. The boy playing Hamlet brought in the shishkebob skewers from his family’s barbecue outfit to serve as swords in the play. Claudius would have been skewered indeed.

A LANGUAGE, EXPOS AT GREENHILLS, AND FRESHMAN ENGLISH AT AMHERST

January 1, 2012

I have never taught an AP Lang. course per-se, though I did do a highly popular, and I think effective, elective, Expository Writing (i.e. Creative Non-Fiction) course with seniors. My two texts were Ken McCrorie’s TELLING WRITING and Orwell’s SELECTED ESSAYS. Although I didn’t emphasize argument I did start with “Shooting an Elephant,” went on to “Marrakech” and then “Those, Those Were The Days,” as examples of what could be done. They were my models. I said, “That’s the kind of writing we’re aiming for by the end of the course.”

The core of the course was daily free writing, unfocused to start, followed by focused free writing, followed by a series of focused writings on the several topics suggested by McCrorie. I required a weekly piece of writing, and spent class reading each student’s piece, anonymously, out loud, and allowing only two kinds of comments: appreciations, and clarifications. I made my comment only at the end of comments from the class. The writer was not supposed to say anything, explain anything, but just be a ‘fly on the wall.’

Some years, if the group was good enough I added toward the middle of the course permission for a “what if.” That meant a student could make a suggestion IF the suggestion was specific. E.g. “What if the word ‘impacted’ were changed to ‘affected’?” That is what in AP Lang would be called rhetorical critique, but without using any, any, any device names. My instruction never went beyond that sort of seat of the pants close reading (mainly because of my own ignorance, I suppose). However, it developed their ear, and didn’t over abstract. All of those in that course had taken the AP Lang. exam in their Junior year at the end of a year of American Literature in which rhetorical analysis of an informal sort was a means to the end of determining what a particular author was saying. Whether there was carry over from their Junior year to my course, I don’t know, but by the fourth or fifth week many of the class members were getting to quite moving essays of personal experience.

My provisional hypothesis is that if students can be supported in determining exactly what an author is saying without reductionism, they will be able to reexpress their observations without a lot of technical rhetorical terms. That my students were able to write powerfully, i.e. use language to connect to a reader, without a formal technical framework suggests to me that perception of ‘meaning’ through reacting to the manifold details of language is the essential skill and that naming the causes of what moves is a secondary skill.

I hope I may eventually be able to teach an AP LANGUAGE course and get to rethink how to do it from first principles. The questions you raise help me greatly in anticipatory rumination. I had Freshman English in 1953-54. It is still the most important course (for me) I ever took.

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December 5, 2006

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