B-52, by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo – US Air Force, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68131933

I am completely confused by the headlines. First, any North Korea article is being buried by small news, like a woman smiling in her mug shot after a DUI-induced murder. I mean, yes, it’s a sad story, but hardly historic. So when I do search for North Korea, I get this:

North Korea receives a huge concession.

So I’m thinking, wow, what did we do?

We stopped an exercise.

Seriously? That’s huge? It’s no where near Yuuuuge, and certainly not huge. Let’s rack and stack for a second.

What has North Korea done:
1. Shook hands with South Korean President
2. Said he would negotiate with President Trump.
3. Said he would stop nuclear testing, and took measures to do so.
4. Released some prisoners.

What the US did:
1. Stopped flying some bombers.
2. Suspended some exercises.
3. Uhm…

Seriously. Vox makes a big deal that the bombers are nuclear capable. So? We have loads of nuclear weapons that can hit North Korea now. Like, without flying bombers. And we have plenty of non-nuclear options, from Tomahawks to artillery. That doesn’t count what Japan and South Korea could use.

We just gave the equivalent of a “free glass of water with a full meal purchase” “concession” to North Korea. If anything, we saved money in fuel costs and pilot OPTEMPO. It literally cost us nothing. North Korea can’t get back the prisoners or reverse some of the dismantling of its nuclear site. Our bombers could be flying tomorrow if we wanted. We have done nothing that can’t be undone in a matter of minutes.

Trump gave North Korea this “concession” because it’s dumb and doesn’t matter. Would you throw away a monumental deal over an inconsequential detail? I sure wouldn’t.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Did you donate to Da Tech Guy yet?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — “What was the last book you read outside of school — something you read just for fun?  And if you don’t like to read, why not?”

That was my First Five for my grade 10 ELA students one day last week.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research this past year on literacy, curriculum, and how reading affects test scores.  It’s no secret that Louisiana has consistently placed near the very bottom of the list when it comes to reading scores as compared on a national level.

There are a lot of factors that go into those national scores, such as NAEP scores, and it’s not really accurate to say that all students in Louisiana are poor readers.  That is far from the case. But for clarity, in this post, I’m looking at those poor readers. Many of them come from low income families who don’t have books in the home or are products of families where nobody has had time to read aloud to the children very often.

As a parent of two avid readers, I was reading to both of my kids before they were even born.  As infants they were read to every single day.  They’ve never seen me not reading at least one book and our house has always been filled with books and magazines.  It’s just who I am.

But that’s not the case for many of my students.

Compounding the problem for these struggling readers is the Common Core curriculum in which students no longer read entire novels.  Common Core, at least as far as ELA courses, is terrible.  It’s killing the love of reading.  I’ve written about that rather extensively herehere, and here.  As teachers, in my district we have been told that if a student wants to read the entirety of a novel from which we are only teaching certain chapters, “they can read it on their own.”

Well, that’s okay for a strong reader, but I know a lot of struggling readers who will not be able to take on the elements in The Scarlet Letter without some help, nor would it be a book they would willingly pull off the library shelf.

Additionally, there is a difference between academic reading for class and simply reading for the pure fun of it.

What I want to be able to do is to create lifelong readers; I want my students to leave my class having read several books of their own choosing, about topics that they are interested in, and that they are excited about reading.

And since my official mandate is that they “can read on their own,” I’m going to start a classroom library.  Oh yes, we have a school library and it’s wonderful.  We have a librarian who orders books kids like to read and she listens to their requests and suggestions.  But I also think that a classroom library can supplement that. And a student that might not make an effort to go to the school library might just access a classroom library.

Having a library in the classroom sends a message of literacy and encourages reading to students.  If that library is filled with nice, interesting books, just waiting to be read, even better. I want my classroom library to be filled with books that my kids want to read and that are geared toward their interests and their lives.

In response to my First Five question above, about the last book you read, I got answers like this:

“I can’t remember the last book I read.  I hate staring at thousands of words and sitting still that long.  I hate reading!”

and this:

“I don’t know. I think it was a Goosebump book.  I don’t have time to read.”

and this:

“I love to read books and I used to read all the time.  I don’t really know why I don’t read any more.  You can learn so much when you read.”

That student is right.  Reading can drastically increase a child’s vocabulary.  That in itself will increase test scores, but this isn’t about test scores for me.

A lot of the responses indicated that they liked reading in lower grades but somehow just quit doing it.

I don’t want one more child to leave my room not having read a book.

So, I have a plan.  I’ve assembled an Amazon Wish List to start a classroom library and as this school year draws to a close, I am planning new things for next year.  If I can’t teach books in class, I’ll do it out of class; I’m a rebel like that sometimes.  I have plans to encourage students to read from my classroom library and to share what they’ve read with others.  If I need to use incentives to get this started, I will.  (A kid will read almost anything for a honey bun!)  I have shelving and I have a corner space ready to go. I’ve ordered book pockets and cards so I can check the books out to my kids.  It will be attractive and inviting.

I want this to be a fun experience; not like the old Accelerated Reader program where you had to read a book “on your level” with the proper color sticker on it and then take a ridiculous test on it to step your way up to a quota.  Research shows that this program is useless.  Kids that like to read will read anyway and kids that have to read to get an AR grade just learn to hate reading more.

I’ve started an Amazon Wish List and if you would like to help, you can go here, and order whatever you like and have it shipped straight to my classroom. Most selections are under ten dollars. I’ve already started assembling books on my own through thrift stores and through the library book sales and the college book fair.  What I need now are nice, new books that pull my kids into a love of reading!

The list is here.  It’s long and I’m constantly adding to it.  I posted it on my own blog a few days ago and already I’ve received thirty-one books!  It reaffirms for me not just the good in people but that people really do believe in kids and believe in education.  The notes that are coming with the books indicate that people are choosing books that meant something to them or their own children as readers.

I’m collecting these books all summer and when we go back to school in August, I hope to be able to offer a well-stocked classroom library full of engaging books of all levels and subject matter to my students.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. She is the author of the upcoming Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press/Oct.’18).  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

Two KRUSTY nuclear reactors power a settlement on Mars. From CNET.com.

Nuclear power is not doing well. The cheap fracking of natural gas and oil, while it is putting a crimp on our enemies, is also hurting the nuclear industry. Already racked with the high cost of regulation (we’re talking millions per plant), no compensation for carbon emission and a lack of public understanding about what nuclear power actually is, the nuclear industry is failing. Plants are closing around the US, and the workforce is not attracting the best and brightest. As the workforce ages and less plants are available, we have the risk that US nuclear power is going to go extinct. Except for the United States Navy and China, nuclear power seems on the way out the door.

And yet…
Continue reading “Is KRUSTY the future for nuclear engineers?”

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It is a clear, glorious day here in the northwest corner of Louisiana.  I’m writing this from the wooden swing that hangs from my giant magnolia tree which is in full bloom with sweet smell of the South.  I’ve got two lazy cats at my feet, a cold beverage beside me, and meat on the smoker out back.  Life is good.

I do my fair share of complaining about Louisiana politics, politicians, the terrible state of public education, and pretty much everything else that gets under my skin, but most of the time I feel pretty lucky to live in the South.

As I read about poor John McCain planning his own funeral and about how friends are coming by to pay respects and “say things that need to be said,” I feel the need to count my blessings.  Say what you will about John McCain, but facing your own mortality must be difficult.

I try to keep in mind that every single day is a gift.

Today we are sitting outside, as I said, listening to our local college team play in the SCAC championship baseball game somewhere in Texas.  I thoroughly enjoy listening to baseball on the radio and much prefer it to listening to the commentators on television.  On the radio, the announcers have to paint a picture with their words and are much more descriptive and entertaining.

“Working in short sleeves the Bulldogs are wearing yellow jerseys today,” isn’t something you’ll hear a tv commentator say very often.

On television, since you can see the action yourself, they spend too much time having to fill air time with banal blather that bores me to tears.  When I can, I’ll watch baseball on television with the sound down and pull up audio online.  I’m weird like that.

Whenever I listen to a baseball commentator I can’t help but think about Roger Angell; was there ever a writer who covered baseball more beautifully?  I don’t think so.

You can have the NFL all day long; give me a baseball game any day of the week.  To me there is something so pure and so beautiful about the game baseball.  It’s like several different games of strategy in a single game and much more complex than it seems.  It’s truly America’s game, played by those “boys of summer,” and every other baseball cliché you can come up with.  Throw ‘em all in there!

Yes, I’m sitting here at the very edge of my summer break and my mind is full of summer projects and plans for things I need to do in the next eight weeks away from school.  I will weigh the importance of these plans and see what can be procrastinated and then get about half of them done. But probably I will spend a lot of time right here in this swing, sipping a cold beverage, visiting with neighbors, watching my cats lazily stretch out in the cool St Augustine grass and just be glad to be alive.

My wish for you on this Monday, at the end of this post basically about nothing, is that you make today count, be grateful for the small things, and that you find some kindness that you can do to brighten someone’s day today.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram: @patbecker25.

Yes, I legitimately worked there, and earned these coins.

“We’ll be so much more efficient doing this at Fleet Forces.”

I cringed when I heard these words. I was working at Second Fleet, about ready to transfer, and I heard one of the smart-ass bureaucrats from Fleet Forces tell me this. My reply was sharp “Really? You have no idea what we do here.” And I was right. At the time, Second Fleet handled all the training, certification and day to day problems for the entire East Coast of the Navy. Every CASREP, every SITREP, all of it flowed through the Second Fleet Battle Watch. Our purpose was to use the 3 stars of our boss to fight for training time, materials and whatever else the fleet needed to deploy successfully.

But the Navy wanted to “save money,” so we were told that Second Fleet would be dissolved, and all functions taken by the behemoth command known as Fleet Forces. Almost instantly afterwards, TF-80 stood up. We had lots of powerpoint to justify TF-80, with “readiness kill chain” and other fun phrasing, but in reality TF-80 was the fill in for Second Fleet, because all those “efficiencies” weren’t really happening. Then, after 7 years of watching fleet training go down the toilet and us surge units to fill spaces for combatant commanders, now we’re bringing Second Fleet back. Heck, we’re even thinking about bringing back a NATO command in Norfolk to address things like integrating allies into Carrier Strike Groups (gee, didn’t we have that before?).

Continue reading “Bringing back Second Fleet…and maybe some real training”

Saint Dymphna was an Irish princess born in the seventh century to a pagan king and a Christian mother. She is the Patron Saint of people who are suffering from mental illness and/or emotional stress, nervous disorders, epileptics, victims of incest, runaways, and mental health professionals.

I first learned of her from my grandmother, who suffered from depression and who gave me a pocket sized prayer booklet for Saint Dymphna from the Franciscian Mission Associates in New York which features the image below on its cover. I still have that booklet, well over twenty years after it was given to me. Saint Dymphna is very dear to me, and her feast day is coming up on May 15th.

Saint Dymphna Patron of Mental & Spiritual Afflictions

Dymphna’s Christian mother was very beautiful, and her husband, King Damon of Oriel, loved her very much. Saint Dymphna was raised Christian; she was secretly baptized by her mother and educated by their priest, Father Gerebernus. Young Dymphna loved Jesus Christ and promised herself to Him with a vow of chastity as she began to approach womanhood. Via the National Shrine of Saint Dymphna, here is what happened soon after:

It was not long, however, until an unexpected cloud overshadowed the happy childhood of the beautiful girl. She lost her good mother by death. Many were the secret tears she shed over this bereavement, but at the same time she found great comfort in the Divine Faith which, though she was still of a tender age, already had taken deep root.

Dymphna’s father, too, greatly mourned his deceased wife and for a long time continued prostrate with grief. At length he was persuaded by his counselors to seek solace in a second marriage. So he commissioned certain ones of his court to seek out for him a lady who would be like his first spouse in beauty and character. After visiting many countries in vain, the messengers returned saying that they could find none so charming and amiable as his own lovely daughter, Dymphna. Giving ear to their base suggestion, the king conceived the evil design of marrying Dymphna. With persuasive and flattering words he manifested his purpose to her. Dymphna, as may be expected, was greatly horrified at the suggestion, and asked for a period of forty days to consider the proposal. She immediately betook herself to Father Gerebran, who advised her to flee from her native country, and since the danger was imminent, he urged her to make no delay.

With all speed, therefore, she set out for the continent, accompanied by Father Gerebran, the court jester and his wife. After a favorable passage, they arrived on the coast near the present city of Antwerp. Having stopped for a short rest, they resumed their journey and came to a little village named Gheel. Here they were hospitably received and began to make plans for establishing their future abode at this place.

The king, in the meantime, having discovered Dymphna’s flight, was fearfully angry, and immediately set out with his followers in search of the fugitives. After some time, they were traced to Belgium and their place of refuge was located. At first, Dymphna’s father tried to persuade her to return with him, but Father Gerebran sternly rebuked him for his wicked intentions, whereupon he gave orders that Father Gerebran should be put to death. Without delay, his wicked retainers laid violent hands upon the priest and struck him on the neck with a sword. With one blow of the steel, the head was severed from the shoulders and another glorious martyr went to join the illustrious heroes of Christ’s kingdom.

Further attempts on the part of Dymphna’s father to induce her to return with him proved fruitless. With undaunted courage she spurned his enticing promises and scorned his cruel threats. Infuriated by her resistance, the father drew a dagger from his belt and he himself struck off the head of his child. Recommending her soul to the mercy of God, the holy virgin fell prostrate at the feet of her insanely raving father. Thus the glorious crown of martyrdom was accorded to St. Dymphna in the fifteenth year of her age, on the fifteenth day of May, between 620 and 640. The day of her death has been assigned as her feastday.

The records of Dymphna’s life and death say that the bodies of the two martyred saints lay on the ground for quite some time after their death, until the inhabitants of Gheel removed them to a cave, which was the customary manner of interment in that part of the world at the time of the martyrdoms. But after several years had elapsed, the villagers, recalling their holy deaths, decided to give the bodies a more suitable burial. When the workmen removed the heap of black earth at the cave’s entrance, great was their astonishment to find two most beautiful tombs, whiter than snow, which were carved from stone, as if by angel hands. When the coffin of St. Dymphna was opened there was found lying on her breast a red tile bearing the inscription:

“Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna.”

The remains of the saint were placed in a small church. Later necessity obliged the erection of the magnificent “Church of St. Dymphna,” which now stands on the site where the bodies were first buried. St. Dymphna’s relics repose there in a beautiful golden reliquary.

Miracles and cures began to occur in continually increasing numbers. Gradually St. Dymphna’s fame as patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders was spread from country to country. More and more mentally afflicted persons were brought to the shrine by relatives and friends, many coming in pilgrimages from far-distant places. Novenas wer made, and St. Dymphna’s relic was applied to the patients. The remarkable cures reported caused confidence in the saint to grow daily. At first the patients were lodged in a small annex built onto the church. Then gradually it came about that the patients were place in the homes of the families living in Gheel. From this beginning Gheel developed into a town world-famed for its care of the insane and mentally afflicted. An institution, called the “Infirmary of St. Elizabeth,” which was conducted by the Sisters of St. Augustine was later built for the hospital care of the patients. Most of the latter, after some time spent in the institution, are placed in one or other of the families of Gheel, where they lead a comparatively normal life.

In the town of Geel, Belgium, where Saints Dymphna and Gerebernus were martyred, local people still continue to provide care for those who travel there seeking relief from mental illness centuries later. Via NCR Online:

In the mid-14th century, Geel erected a church in Dymphna’s honor; it was built on the spot where she was buried. Around this time, rumors spread about disturbed individuals who were cured upon visiting Geel. As these accounts circulated, people began bringing disturbed family members, hoping for their own miracle. And many embattled souls made it to Geel on their own.

A building contiguous to St. Dymphna Church was built to accommodate the troubled pilgrims. Soon enough, the capacity of this structure was exceeded. Church authorities appealed to the citizens of Geel, who responded in a way that would eventually designate Geel as “the charitable city”: They welcomed mentally ill strangers into their homes.

The Geel community showed remarkable compassion, particularly for an era when most any sort of psychological aberration was viewed as being due to demonic influence or possession. Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology mentions the typical techniques of the time for dealing with the psychologically aberrant. Exorcisms, of course, were performed. “Holy water” or “bitter drinks” might be administered. If these remedies failed to produce results, the ensuing therapy could consist of flogging, scalding, stretching of limbs, or starvation. It was hoped that these extreme measures might expunge the iniquity.

In contrast to these measures was the Geel way, in which the mentally ill, who were called “boarders” instead of “patients,” became a valued part of the community. Many of the boarders helped with agricultural labor. They were allowed to go about the village, and some even became regulars at local taverns. Some boarders stayed in Geel for only a few months; others stayed for the rest of their lives.

The boarder population peaked in the year 1938, when the number reached 3,736. About 1,600 remained by the late 1970s. Geel now has some 500 boarders and a total population of about 35,000.

Via Medelita, here is more information about how the mentally ill are cared for in Gheel currently:

These days, boarders are considered wards of the local psychiatric hospital, and they have a treatment team that checks in on them and drops off medications when needed. However, there is no care plan or greater goal given to the families that take them in. They are only told to be as normal as possible. Families are unaware of the patient’s diagnosis, only knowing what the patient chooses to tell them, and often times, families are not trained in any way other than what they’ve learned from relatives, other townspeople, or past experiences. Despite the lack of a treatment plan, boarders are given the security and stability of being accepted by a whole community, as well as family and doctors, which some say has a healing effect. People living in Geel simply do not look at mental illness in the same way that most societies do, and mental illness is regarded with zero stigma attached.

Compassionate care for the mentally ill seems to work out well for the afflicted and the people of Geel who welcome them and help them. Divine intervention seems a plausible explanation for this.

Below is a prayer to Saint Dymphna, via Our Catholic Prayers:

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

You can also do a Novena to her, which is a series of prayers lasting nine days. Via Pray More Novenas:

St. Dymphna Novena Prayers

Day 1 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Faith

O God, Source of our salvation, in the midst of a pagan people, Thou didst enlighten St. Dymphna by the light of the true faith, which she professed under the guidance of her holy confessor, Gerebran, with such constance that she suffered martyrdom. Through the intercession of these two saints, we beg Thee to strengthen the faith which Thou hast given us, so that by wisely subjecting our souls to Thy Supreme Authority, and by faithfully conforming our lives according to our faith, we may honor Thee with our whole heart and soul until the hour of our death. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 2 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Hope

Almighty and infinitely good God, Thou hast promised eternal salvation to those who obey Thy commandments and make zealous use of Thy graces. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who fled from the danger of sin by leaving the palace of her father, and who, eager to gain eternal salvation, fled to Belgium to live in poverty, we beg Thee to grant that we also, who are striving for eternal happiness, may overcome all obstacles in the way of virtue and may attain eternal salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 3 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Charity

God of love, Thou art the most perfect Being, and Creator of all that is good and beautiful. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who in her youth loved Thee above all creatures and for Thy sake loved her neighbor as herself, as the image and likeness of Thee, as the price of the Blood of Jesus and as co-heir of heaven, be pleased to help us by Thy powerful grace, that we may faithfully fulfill the two great commandments of charity not only in word, but in action and in truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 4 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Piety

God, Our Creator and Supreme Master, St. Dymphna served Thee with great zeal even in her childhood, by hearing Thy word with delight, by assisting at Holy Mass with fervent reverence, and by receiving Holy Communion from the hand of St. Gerebran with tender devotion. Through her intercession we beg Thee to grant us the same virtue of piety so that, having honored Thee during this life as our Creator, we may possess Thee hereafter as our final reward. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 5 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Prudence

O God, ruler of the universe, Thou didst allow St. Dymphna to discover a helpful means of avoiding the evil intentions of her father. Through the merits of Thy holy servant, be pleased to grant that we may become, according to the words of Jesus, simple as doves and wise as serpents, so that through prudent advice and sound judgment we may recognize what we must do to achieve the great work of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 6 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Justice

O God, source of eternal justice, Thou didst inspire St. Dymphna to flee from her country and her father in order to render to Thee that which was Thine. Through her intercession we beg Thee to make us seek after justice so that we may perform our duties toward Thee as we ought. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 7 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Fortitude

O God, rewarder of those who remain firm in their good resolutions, Thou gavest St. Dymphna such a love of virtue that she had the courage to suffer privation, persecution, and even martyrdom. Through her prayers we beg Thee to grant us fortitude that we may courageously and perseveringly overcome ourselves and finally conquer the enemy of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 8 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Temperance

O God, You made St. Dymphna resplendent in the virtue of temperance so that she mastered sensual inclinations and used temporal goods prudently. With temperance she combined the beautiful virtues of modesty, docility and humility. Let us not forget that humility is called the foundation of all virtue because it banishes from the soul pride, the obstacle to grace. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg Thee to guide and direct us, so that being preserved from evil and nervous disorders, we may obey till death the commandments and counsels Thou hast given us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 9 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Chastity

O God, lover of innocent souls, Thou gavest St. Dymphna the virtue of angelic purity which made her reserved in all her actions, modest in her dress, attentive in her conversation, upright in her character, so that she even shed her blood to preserve this precious virtue. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg thee to bestow upon us the virtue of chastity that we may enjoy peace of conscience in this life and pure eternal joys of heaven hereafter. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Please remember those suffering from mental illnesses in your prayers and try to have compassion for them in your hearts.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I read with interest the post by Baldilocks about the kids in the United Kingdom who can’t tell time.  It seems difficult to believe, doesn’t it?  But, it’s true and it’s true here in America too.  I teach in an American high school and I have kids who can’t tell time on a regular clock and who can’t read cursive.

That’s not to say it’s true with all kids, but there is a large majority of them that this is the case.

Leaning toward academics, I also have students who have never read a book voluntarily.  Let that sink in. I encounter on a daily basis any number of kids who have never voluntarily picked up a book and read it.  On any subject.

Even worse? Under the Common Core curriculum that is not likely to change.  Our ELA supervisor has told us “we will probably never return to teaching or reading entire novels in English.”

I’ve been reading Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide (2009) and at every page I’m both sickened but also seeing exactly what he is saying in practice every single day.

Administrators and supervisors will say that we aren’t “teaching the test” and that if we follow the Common Core curriculum faithfully that it won’t be necessary to teach the test, but look at what we give kids to read: chunks of text.  Pages of articles culled from Common Lit or from news sources.  Non-fiction articles.  These are followed by endless graphic organizers, analysis, sticky notes, highlighting in multiple colors, and mind-numbing multiple choice questions.

Unless kids read on their own, they aren’t reading for fun anymore.

In our eleventh-grade syllabus, they read only a few chapters of The Great Gatsby, not the entire novel.  This is true across the board for novels in high school.

To me, this is criminal.

Gallagher’s thesis is that kids will never become life-long readers under this practice and he builds his case with research and data throughout his book.  Consider also that the group this most affects are those kids in poverty who start out their educational experience through American public schools in “word poverty” because there are very few, if any, books in the home and they have not been read to often enough to build a large vocabulary.  They start out at a disadvantage which we make worse by eliminating pleasure reading in class.

I went to a literacy convention one year and met a lady who said that each year at Halloween, instead of giving out candy, she gives out books.  What a cool thing to do!  She said that at first the kids were surprised and a little irritated but once she looked out her window and saw a little girl reach into her bag to see what it was, and then she sat on the curb and started paging through the book.

What a wonderful gift it is to give a child the gift of reading!

As an educator, that’s what I strive to do, despite the constraints of Common Core.  There’s a large part of me that rebels at being part of the problem.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.

I’ve managed to buy and sell a few homes due to constant military moves. While plenty of people will try to talk metrics on homes, whether it’s price per square foot or something like that, the reality of whether it was “worth it” is whether you made more money selling the home than what is cost you. Oddly enough, how much a home is worth is actually pretty simple: it’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. If someone offers to buy your house for $250,000, and has the money to do it, it doesn’t matter whether the house is actually WORTH that much. To that person, it’s worth $250K.

In Britain, we’re asking the same question now about human life: how much is Alfie Evans life worth? It’s becoming less about cost (although I’m sure that’s an issue) and much more about power. On one hand, to Alfie’s parents, his life is worth every possible shot that human medicine can offer. No matter how distant a shot, it’s worth the chance that he will improve and give them more time on earth. Continue reading “But what is it worth to you?”

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Can I just beat this drum one more time?

Let’s talk about the American public school system just once more, because I’m just not seeing the outrage that I would expect to see if parents really knew what was going on in classrooms with regard to curriculum.

In the first place, why do people think Common Core is gone?  I’ve seen over and over on social media that “we aren’t using Common Core” – in whatever state you’re in.  Perhaps some are not, but be very clear: even if your curriculum in your state is Louisiana Believes or Iowa Core, or whatever it is, it’s still Common Core.

What is wrong with Common Core?

A lot.

Common Core is scripted lessons.

Common Core is sterile, pre-made PowerPoint slides.

Common Core is 75% non-fiction.

Common Core is unrelenting standardized testing, some of which take three days to complete.

Common Core is stripped of teacher creativity and innovation.

Common Core is the heavy hand of Big Brother threatening to enter your classroom at any given time to ask which scripted lesson you are on and to examine your scripted teacher notes to be sure you’re reading them and that you are not altering the pre-made slides.  Woe be unto you that do these things:  you’ll get marked down on your evaluation rubric.

A spinoff of Common Core is the PLC, or Professional Learning Community, where teachers meet to discuss “data” from tests and work together to determine how to improve student learning.

Some states, like Louisiana for example, have no ELA textooks (we can’t have those kids reading fiction now, can we?) and instead work from reams and reams of copies from the curriculum department.  It’s a paper nightmare.

The result of all this?  Frustrated kids. Frustrated teachers.  Kids learning only how to take a test.

Meanwhile, we are lining the pockets of people like Pearson who distribute these tests.

Why is there a national teacher shortage?  It’s not just about low pay.  I’d venture to say that’s not it at all. Most teachers go into the profession knowing the pay is low – that’s not why we teach.  It’s been low since the beginning of time and, trust me on this, we all know that teachers will never make the kind of scratch a basketball player or a football player makes.

No, teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate because they don’t get to teach any more.  Anyone can read a script, right?  Anyone can pull up the state mandated slides and read them, right?

Why are parents putting up with this canned curriculum business?  What are their kids learning?

I’ve long been a believer and supporter of public education but if I had a child in the public school system right now, and they were under Common Core, we’d be homeschooling or I’d sell my soul to get into private school.

Can someone explain why we are still putting up with this?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram at @patbecker25.

Image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/democracychronicles/15933907480

I’m ecstatic to see that North Korea is not only talking about denuclearization, but is also willing to conduct direct negotiations with the U.S. and end the Korean War. In the past, it seemed all we ever got from North Korea was more demands with little promise of anything in return. Sure, it could all be a ruse, but I’m guessing that there is at least a little bit of genuine desire for peace.

Most people in the U.S. are probably thinking of a peace treaty and eventual reunified Korea, with the accompanying butterflies and rainbows. However, there are two darker aspects we should probably consider:
Continue reading “Some undesirable end states for Korea”