By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As a secondary ELA teacher of twenty-two years I have had a growing concern over the changes I’ve seen in education over the past few years, primarily with the advent of Common Core and its many forms.

I was against the principles of Common Core when it started and now that it is in nearly every classroom I am even more against it.  Do not be deceived: your district very likely has some form of this insidious curriculum in place.

Two articles of note to look at right now: the first is Bruce Dixon’s piece on standardized testing.  In my Louisiana district, we are on block schedule which means we complete a semester from August to January.  When I return to classes this week I will have all new classes.  In the semester just completed, we had four standardized tests in 10th grade English: one diagnostic test (two days), three interim exams (also two days each), and an End of Course test (three days).  We were also asked to give a practice test before the EOC (two days) and a final exam after the EOC (one day) because the EOC scores would not be back before the semester ended.  Count it up: that is fourteen days of high stakes testing.

That does not even include the time in class talking about testing or teaching kids how to take the test (required if you want your students to succeed.)

Given all that, I’m really interested in the subject of standardized testing right now.  Bruce Dixon addresses this subject perfectly. He refers to this test mania as “tyranny” and “an insidious virus.”

Consider this:

It might come as a shock to some politicians, but learning is not a competitive sport, so how about we stop treating it that way.  Why do we persist with ranking everything, naming and shaming schools by publishing test results like they’re sporting scores in league tables?

Neither is learning a zero-sum game- as in I learn, you don’t, or you learn, I don’t. Contrary to the core statistical assumption that standardized tests are built on, we can both learn, and both benefit. So why do we continue to treat learning as if there is only a fixed amount of knowledge that any one person can access at any one time?

Next, we need to be more public and open about the harm that these tests are inflicting on our young people. There have been literally dozens of papers, articles and books written on the damage and deceit of standardized testing, so take your pick.

I’ve seen what this non-stop testing does to kids.  The ones who care deeply about their GPA suffer one kind of crushing stress and the apathetic ones, the ones we have to work harder to reach, are affirmed in their feelings of failure and inadequacy.

Another article that I found revealing was from Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post:

The overemphasis on testing has led many teachers to eliminate projects and activities that provide students with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and scripted curriculum has become the norm in many classrooms. There is nothing creative or imaginative about filling in a bubble sheet for a multiple choice test. Students are so tired of prepping for and taking standardized test that some have protested by dressing up like zombies to protest — and thousands of families are opting their children out of taking high-stakes exams.

As a teacher who has tried to be innovative, creative, and work hard to engage my students, I can affirm that this is true.

The Common Core curriculum has given rise to the scripted curriculum which is supposed to serve as the magic bullet that has all teachers teach the same content in the same way in every classroom because some teacher somewhere said it worked in her classroom, or something.  This will vary a little from district to district, but in some schools teachers are expected to stick to the script, show the pre-prepared slides, and pass out the pre-prepared worksheets and graphic organizers.

As a parent, is this the classroom you want for your child?  As a teacher, I struggle with this.  It is very, very hard for me to do this, but we do it because we want to keep our jobs and we want to help the kids who look to us to lead them to success.

Because there is so little outcry from parents we can only assume that this is what they want.  Teacher-bots.

So many of us decried the principles of Common Core when they began to roll out years ago.  If you teach long enough you see these fads come and go through the years – one after the other.  They come and they go.

It’s time for this one to go.  It’s time to let teachers be the professionals they are, use the judgment they have as the professional in the room with the child, and to return creativity and innovation to the classroom before this type of instruction becomes entrenched and we lose an entire generation of kids.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

The Government Tries to Buy Guns Illegally, and Fails

The anti-gun lobby’s use of skewed, misleading, or simply incorrect statistics has long been noted. Whether it is inflating the number of people killed in mass shooting events, or claiming that suppressors allow silent killing, those of us on the conservative right have learned to distrust the results of “studies” commissioned by the left.

That’s why it’s gratifying to hear this week that an extremely partisan “study”, designed to show that it is easy to buy guns illegally online, found that it isn’t.

As the NRA reports, “the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report — “Internet Firearm Sales: ATF Enforcement Efforts and Outcomes of GAO Covert Testing” – was commissioned by three staunchly anti-gun members of Congress. Leading the charge was Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who was joined by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)”.

The study consisted of responding to online adverts for guns, and including a suggestion that the “buyer” was barred from buying guns. Earlier “studies” had claimed that 62% of private sellers were nonetheless happy to proceed with the sale.

Some were sceptical about this, and their scepticism has been born out in the results of the new study, which found that precisely 0% of private sellers would be willing to sell a gun to someone they suspected of being barred from owning a firearm.

It turns out that the lure of hard cash, and even the relative anonymity of the internet, is still not enough to convince responsible gun owners to break the law.

The Myth Of The Dark Web

In a complete inversion of the scientific method, it seems that the investigators started with a conclusion, and designed a study to prove it. It’s gratifying that they failed, of course, but it’s also worth looking at the conclusion itself.

This, broadly, is that the internet facilitates illegal gun sales. To those with as little knowledge about the technicalities of the web as about guns, this might seem to be true. There has been a huge increase in the number of online ammunition stores in recent years, and technologies such as blockchain appear to make buying illegal weapons absolutely anonymous.

In truth, though, the idea that one can use the “dark web” to buy illegal weapons faces one major problem: the decency of the average American. People use bitcoins because they are worried about online fraud, not to buy illegal rifles. People buy their ammunition online because it is simply more convenient to do so, especially in rural communities.

It is, of course, possible to buy illegal weapons online. The study itself investigated the “dark web”, which it wrongly claimed is inherently “designed to facilitate criminal activity online”.  Even after dropping the suggestion that the “buyer” was barred from owning firearms, the investigators were only able to buy two of the seven weapons they attempted to purchase. If you were really looking to buy an illegal weapon, you might have more success on your local street corner.

In short, though the study attempted to show that it is easy to illegally buy a firearm online, it ended up proving the opposite, much more reassuring, conclusion: that the vast majority of firearms sellers in the USA are aware of the relevant laws, take their responsibilities under them seriously, and are not willing to break them, even for hard cash.

Curly: Hey! What’s this stuff for anyway?
Larry: Why, it’s a cleaner, ya chump!
Curly: I know, it’s auto polish.
Moe: You boys really wanna know what it’s for?
Larry & Curly: [together]: Yeah.
Moe: It’s for sale, now get busy selling it.

The Three Stooges, Dizzy Doctors 1937

The New Year started in a bad way for the liberal news and sports media.

For the news media you had President Trump finishing strong, between Israel and the Tax cuts and worst of all the lowest recorded black unemployment rate since the government started taking figures by race. Add to that the prospect of a deal that would produce a border wall as the price for legalizing the “dreamers” (illegal immigrants brought to the US as children) you had a narrative of Trump success that was not only contrary to the narrative they’ve been selling all year, but unappealing to their niche market that has become increasingly anti trump.

At the NFL things weren’t looking much better, not only did you have a 2nd straight year of big ratings drops, thanks to the protests during the national anthem that continued all the way to the final week of the season but you had the prospect of the New England Patriots featuring Trump fans/friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft once again turning the entire playoff season until Superbowl Sunday into an afterthought.

After all what’s the point of watching the wild card and playoff rounds when everybody “knows” that the only question is:  Can anybody get by Brady / Belichick and the Patriots?

That’s the problem, both the news and sports media are stuck with two narratives of success (Trump & the Pats) that don’t appeal to a customer base that hates the former or is bored with the later.

That’s where Michael Wolff and ESPN’s Seth Wickersham come in. Both have come out with “bombshell” narratives that the news and sports media CAN sell.

Suddenly instead of ISIS in retreat, the Economy moving forward and the Russia / GPS Investigations suddenly turning on the left instead of Trump the Wolff Book give the MSM a narrative of a Trump White House occupied by a president who doesn’t want the job, of people who think he’s a traitor or a nut and supposedly the biggest detractor of this administration is the guy who ran his campaign. It’s Trump vs Bannon and the MSM is bringing you a front row seat

It doesn’t matter how improbable all this is, or the lack of actual evidence or even the lack of credibility of the storyteller for an entire week the print, online and cable media have a narrative that they can sell to their customer base.

For ESPN and sports talk radio it’s the same thing. Instead of once again droning on about the Patriots/Belichick system seemingly immune to injury and trying to sell a Tom Brady “decline” when he is once again the leading contender for league MVP and is two wins away from his 8th superbowl appearance and three wins away from his sixth ring, suddenly we have a tale of jealously, rivalry and the longest running dynasty since the Yankees of Stengel or the Celtics of Auerbach about to destroy itself as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick fight it out to the death.

These aren’t two different stories, this is the same story being sold for the same reason to pivot from a story that won’t grab the eyeballs and ears of their customer base  to a story that will.  

Now for ESPN and the sports media this narrative will sell the dupes that narrative right up until the Patriots actually appear in playoff games and the “Patriots falling apart” meme meets a less team trying to beat them.  While in any single game anything can happen, the  meme can’t stick unless they actually lose.

The Trump narrative will endure a bit longer sustained by the media bubble until the realities of the economy or Iran and the Norks or the Trump count picks or the tough votes for red state Dem senators force them out of the bubble and into real life.

And then they’ll find a new narrative to sell, because right now it’s all about the dollars because it’s the only thing they are sure of until the Democrats actually win control of something.



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Finally might I suggest my book  Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.