by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

The World Cup is scheduled to open in Sao Paolo on Thursday June 12th, with performers Claudia Leitte, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez, but 223 miles away the Rio favelas are in the middle of a worsening crime wave:
Rio chaos in countdown to kick-off
Gunfights and killings in shanty towns have escalated just weeks before the World Cup begins in Brazil
(emphasis added)

“There are two drug gangs and one militia. So it won’t be in two days, it won’t be in a year, that we bring peace quickly,” said Luiz Pezão, the new governor of Rio, after meeting with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

Characterised by its chaotically-built red-brick shanty homes and illicit energy connections, Maré has been a strategic stronghold for Rio’s drug gangs for years, given its location near the airport and one of the main thoroughfares through the city.
. . .

The authorities believe that criminals in Maré have been coordinating attacks in other favelas on the police who have been stationed there as part of the ongoing pacification programme. Since the start of the year, at least 16 officers have been killed.

Street protests continue to rock the country just 45 days away from the opening, so Luiz Felipe Scolari, the coach of Brazil’s national soccer team, is worried as he

told Brazilian television Sunday that protests calling for social change and criticism of the amount of money spent on the tournament “could big-time” be a negative influence on his team.

And call the Bar Rescue guy, folks, since instead of the World’s Most Interesting Man, Usama bin Laden bars are taking over Brazil

Though it may be in poor taste, Fernandes’ hot spot was only the first of bin Laden themed hangouts in Brazil. Mac Margolis of Vocativ found “nearly a dozen Brazilian establishments” named after the former Al-Qaida leader- including a sport where thirsty fans in Rio can shoot a game of pool at Caverna do Bin Laden.

What could possibly go wrong?
faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American culture and politics at Fausta’s Blog.

Here are Part One and Two, if you haven’t read them yet.  On to Part Three of my response to the pro-Common Core memo that supposedly refutes the anti-Common Core movie, Building the Machine . . .

Fordham Fact Sheet

4.  “ASSERTION: THE COMMON CORE WILL MAKE OUR CHILDREN ‘MACHINES’ AND TAKE AWAY THE LOCAL CONTROL  UNDER WHICH OUR DIVERSE NATION THRIVES. FACT: LOCAL TEACHERS, DISTRICTS, AND STATES ARE TASKED WITH FIGURING OUT HOW THE HIGHER STANDARDS OF THE COMMON CORE ARE REACHED.”

Here we have either sloppy or sly writing.  Take your pick.  Instead of engaging in a straightforward debate, the author of Fordham’s ‘Fact Sheet’ mischaracterizes the message in Building the Machine.  The author chooses to claim the movie makers think “Common Core will make our children ‘machines.'”

Which sounds silly.  Perhaps that’s the point.

If you watch the movie, you’ll see that the whole point is that Common Core treats our children like machines.  In other words, the ‘one size fits all’ approach to education will fail many children because it doesn’t take into account their individual needs.

It’s a valid point.  Perhaps it could be a legitimately debated point, if the Fact Sheet author offered evidence that states which adopt Common Core standards can and will apply them in a flexible, individualistic manner.

I find it rather telling that the author doesn’t offer such evidence.  Common Core is already applied in classrooms all over the nation.  You’d think that at the very least, an anecdotal story would illustrate their point.  Unless . . . the common experience in Common Core classrooms more closely matches a rigid, robotic treatment of students, like they are machines assembled on a conveyor belt.  By the way, the rigid, ‘conveyor belt’ treatment is the very experience that Terrence O. Moore witnessed when he observed classrooms while researching for The Story Killers.

Even before the advent of Common Core, the newest and brightest ideas about teaching nowadays are all about the script.  Spontaneity and unscripted learning are discouraged.

Okay.  I’ve only addressed the first part of Fordham Institute’s ASSERTION #4.  The Fact Sheet author also says Building the Machine claims that Common Core “take[s] away local control under which our diverse nation thrives.”

Again, the memo author has tweaked his opponent’s argument.

The point in Building the Machine isn’t that state control has been taken away.  Rather, the point is that if all states choose to be governed by the same standards, then our nation will lose an inherent benefit of its structure:  the innovation that comes from diverse groups tackling issues in their own way.

It’s a valid point.  It could be legitimately disputed, if the Fact Sheet author offered evidence that states will still innovate when applying the Common Core Standards.  It’s telling that no such evidence is offered.  Perhaps that is because the Common Core Standards are copyrighted.  States that adopt them are legally prevented from changing them.

In other words, innovation is contractually illegal.

Okay.  I’ve finally reached the Fordham Institute’s FACT #4.  It’s a basic restatement of the oft-repeated claim that Common Core isn’t a curriculum.

On this point, the Fordham Institute is correct:  the standards are not a curriculum.  The standards themselves don’t say what bodies of knowledge children must be learning while the teacher leads them towards the learning goals described in the Common Core Standards.

There is a back door for a national curriculum, however.  It’s in Appendix B, where the Common Core authors suggest texts.  They are only suggestions, of course.  So what’s wrong with that?

Well.  Who decides whether to use those suggestions?  The teachers?  Nope.  If the classic novel that they have taught for years is no longer deemed to be in their students’ Lexile level, then it is not allowed to be taught.  The districts and states may be claimed to have authority, since they are the ones choosing the textbooks, i.e., the curricula.  Here we encounter another back door, however.  It’s not like there is a lot of diversity in textbook choice these days.

And guess what the “Big Three” are doing these days?  That’s right, becoming Common Core Aligned, and adopting the curricula suggestions in the Common Core appendix.  Handy that.  Common Core proponents can claim that nothing is forced, because it’s not forced.  It’s just orchestrated.

The whole point of “forced v. orchestrated” is a mere side issue, anyway–a distraction from the real problem.  Regardless of how voluntary and/or well-meaning Common Core is or is not, the real problem is the fact that the Common Core Standards are garbage.  Common Core Standards will serve only to further calcify an education system that is already rigid with bureaucratic bloat.

Linda

P.S. Did you notice the reference in FACT #4 to Common Core Standards as “higher?”  What the devil happened to FACT #2:  “The benchmarks are a floor, not a ceiling?”

These education experts can’t seem get through a single memorandum without contradicting themselves.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Remember when Nancy Pelosi said “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…”?  She was talking about Obamacare, of course, but it seems now that this profound political approach could also have applied to Common Core.

In the beginning, it was touted as the great savior of public education; it was going to raise standards across the country and “it’s bi-partisan!” they said.  Governors from across the country came together and agreed to education reform and common nationwide standards.

And so it goes that not long after Common Core became policy, the backlash began.  I’d venture to say that the majority of parents who send their children to public schools never even heard of Common Core before it became the rule of the land; even worse, many of them still don’t know what it is.

That’s another story.

One of the proponents for Common Core, of course, was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; however, now that we are finding out “what is in it,” public opinion is beginning to turn against Common Core.  As with Obamacare, there are still die hard believers, but the tide is turning.

Does it have anything to do with the 2016 election cycle?  Maybe.

In Louisiana there has been a growing rift between Governor Jindal and Education Superintendent John White as Jindal has been turning away from Common Core.  Governor Jindal penned an Op-Ed in USA Today this week in which he advocated leaving education to the states:

I’m from the school that believes education is a matter best left for local control. The notion of Washington determining curricula is something most states are simply not interested in. It’s a non-starter.

A definite pivot.  Jindal was all for Common Core in 2008:

“Since 2008, Jindal has touted the need for Common Core and its ability to raise Louisiana’s education standards. But now as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Jindal finds himself having to balance the political sway of the Tea Party against a program he has fought to put in place for nearly five years…”

So what changed his mind?

In his Op-Ed, Jindal says that “the federal government became increasingly involved,” and

Second, parents have spoken out. It has become fashionable in the news media to believe there is a right-wing conspiracy against Common Core. The folks who think that need to get out more. The rebellion against federal government mandated testing is widespread and is led by parents of all stripes and political persuasions.

Fair enough.  I can’t begrudge a man who sees the light and alters his position, even if it does seem a little opportunistic.

Jindal’s new position has put him at odds with John White; via the New Orleans Advocate:

Superintendent of Education John White got his job with the backing of Gov. Bobby Jindal, but two years later, the men are increasingly at odds and appear to be drifting further apart on education policy.

The rift centers on Louisiana’s shift to Common Core standards, and comes largely because Jindal did an about-face, moving from strident supporter to critic of the reading, writing and math benchmarks adopted by most states.

But the fissure, which has developed in the most recent legislative session, is a striking contrast to 2012 when White served as a sort of Jindal proxy before the Legislature, helping to muscle through the Republican governor’s sweeping education changes.

Governor Jindal has been working behind the scenes as the Louisiana legislature is in session throwing his weight and influence behind various anti-Common Core bills, but has not been successful in most cases.  Earlier this month he lent support to House Bill 381 which was to scrap Common Core; the bill was defeated.

In any case, Louisiana is still a Common Core state even though the governor has changed his position.  Both Governor Jindal and Superintendent White play down any rift between their now altered positions on the best educational plan for the state.  Is Jindal just being opportunist, looking at 2016, or has the leopard changed his spots?

Only time will tell.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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Da Magnificent Seven's John Ruberry
Da Magnificent Seven’s
John Ruberry

By John Ruberry

For pretty much the entirety of his first term in office, President Obama blamed the stagnant economy on his predecessor, George W. Bush. Of course the Obama economy is still in the doldrums and I wouldn’t be surprised if it remained dormant until after he leaves office.

Obama’s biggest, ahem, achievement as president is ObamaCare. He repeatedly claimed, in what was later named the Lie of the Year, his  ObamaCare “You Can Keep Your Plan” promise.  Obama’s half-hearted explanation of that lie and the botched ObamaCare website rollout didn’t measure up to an apology, let alone an acceptance of blame.

Contrast Obama’s misbehavior with that of Chung Hong-won, the prime minister of South Korea who resigned Sunday over his government’s mishandling of this month’s deadly ferry disaster. Last fall Valdis Dombrovskis, the prime minister of Latvia, quit after a deadly supermarket roof collapse that killed 54 people in the capital city of Riga. These men accepted Harry S. Truman’s adage, “the buck stops here.”

Now I am not suggesting that Obama resign over his derelictions. Government instability is the biggest weakness of  parliamentary democracies. Besides, is America ready for President Joe Biden?

But strong leaders admit their failures and they don’t duck responsibility. Twice, however, Americans voted for a symbol rather than a head of state.

In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. And we are getting just that.

John Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit. 

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faustaby Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Johns Hopkins economics professor Steve Hanke has been looking at the old misery index, that is, a simple sum of inflation, lending rates, and unemployment rates, minus year-on-year per capita GDP growth, and Venezuela’s on top:

When measured by the misery index, Venezuela holds the ignominious top spot, with an index value of 79. 4. But, that index value, as of 31 December 2013, under states the level of misery because it uses the official annual inflation rate of 56. 2%. In fact, I estimate that Venezuela’s annual implied inflation rate at the end of last year was 278%. That rate is almost five times higher than the official inflation rate. If the annual implied inflation rate of 278% is used to calculate Venezuela’s misery index, the index jumps from 79. 4 to 301, indicating that Venezuela is in much worse shape than suggested by the official data.

Since the government has imposed price controls on mostly everything, the inflation rate appears to be low, but so are the store shelves,

There’s one thing Venezuela has plenty of: guns. Olympian Gabby Franco describes how Venezuelan citizens are not allowed to own guns, but the country has the highest murder rate in our hemisphere,

John Hinderaker posts,

Now, socialist Venezuela is in a state of collapse, with rampant inflation and shortages of basic necessities, like food. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, probably millions, have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s corrupt incompetence. The socialist government, now headed by Nicolas Maduro, has responded with a brutal crackdown in which dozens of anti-socialist Venezuelans have been murdered by government forces or paramilitary, pro-government gangs that–who could have guessed?–are heavily armed, despite the country’s “progressive” firearms laws.

In addition to the marauding gangs armed to the teeth, the country is armed. Russia is Venezuela’s largest supplier of weapons and armored vehicles, but China and Iran are involved, too.

Joseph Humire explains,

Using civilian militias to shoot students and beat protestors is only one tool in Maduro’s repressive apparatus. Other tools have come at the hands of one of Venezuela’s top benefactors — China. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, at least two Chinese-made military systems have recently been battle tested on the streets of Venezuela.

The first is the Norinco VN-4 armored personnel carrier that has been recently deployed by the Bolivarian National Guard to patrol Venezuelan neighborhoods and intimidate its residents. The VN-4 is a multi-role, light armored vehicle with a light machine gun mounted on top. Venezuela purchased 141 of these armored vehicles in 2012 for this type of contingency, and they are now rolling through the streets of Venezuela in the face of the protests. The other system is the Shaanxi Y-8C military transport aircraft, of which Venezuela purchased eight from China for $353 million back in 2011. These Y-8C aircraft were seen on the tarmac of several Venezuelan airports last month, made public through an array of photos posted on Twitter that claimed Cuban Special Forces were disembarking this Chinese-made aircraft.

. . .  on February 26th, a Russian Vishnya-class intelligence ship, the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, was identified in the Havana harbor, just hours from Venezuela. This spy ship arrived unannounced, fully equipped with electronic eavesdropping equipment and weaponry. That same day, several Russian-made surface-to-air missiles were relocated from the Venezuelan military industrial hub of Maracay, to the capital of Caracas. These particular missiles, the S-125 Pechora 2M, were sold to Venezuela by Russia in 2009, and delivered to the Bolivarian Republic as recently as a couple weeks before the mass mobilizations began.

These low altitude surface-to-air missiles are the same kind of anti-aircraft weapons that Vladimir Putin sold to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which limited the option of placing a “no-fly” zone over Syria as Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people. The repositioning of the Pechora missiles to Caracas is an ominous indication that the repression in Venezuela will get much worse if the protests continue.

Cuba, China, Russia and Iran are involved in Venezuela’s dictatorial regime.

No wonder the country is #1 in the misery index.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

By A.P. Dillon

There are primary shenanigans going on in North Carolina.  Democrats haven’t been able to put up quality candidates in many races or, for that matter, any candidate in some races. This is partly due to the scandals, money troubles and in-fighting that have plagued NC Democrat party. Chairman Randy Voller brought more controversy with him with calls for his resignation not long after his installment.  Voller’s move farther Left probably has the more centrist members of the NC Dems in a bit of panic mode as evidenced by the pushback when Voller attempted to bring controversial figure Ben Chavis into the NC Dem fold.

But enough about the NC Dem party itself and let’s get back to the primary shenanigans. Get a whiff of what true desperation smells like.  I’ve written about various candidates and a school official promoting the idea of Democrats switching their party affiliation to independent in order to influence the upcoming primary races in Cabarrus county.  Now it’s going on in Rowan county too.

ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) –

Hundreds of registered Democrats in Rowan County are switching their party affiliation ahead of the May primary.

Does it signal a philosophical change in political thinking, or something else?

According to many in the county, it’s a deliberate move to try and oust the more conservative candidates for Rowan County Commission, including Chairman Jim Sides. Jr.

“When 15,000 people in the county start blogging and say that everything that I’ve done is wrong, maybe I need to set up and listen,” Sides told WBTV.”  “But when I go to the blogs and look at them it’s the same 8 people.  8 people are not going to deter me from doing my job.”

Currently there are 8 candidates in the Republican primary, including Sides.  If Democrats switch their affiliation to unaffiliated, they can vote in the Republican primary.

There are three candidates in the Democratic primary, but since there are three seats open, all three Democrats will be on the November ballot, along with at least one Independent.

Punchline courtesy of the NC Board of Elections, emphasis added:

Yes. If you are an unaffiliated voter, you can choose to participate in any recognized party’s partisan primary, or you may request a non-partisan ballot. However, you must choose only one party’s primary. Participating in a partisan primary will not affect your status as an unaffiliated voter. If you request a non-partisan ballot, you will only vote for those contests that are non-partisan (i.e. judicial contests, referenda, etc.).

Watch the video, aptly named “Democrats plotting a coup“, that goes with the above report.  The group pushing this tactic is calling themselves “La Resistance” with a little French beret as their icon. The gentleman interviewed in the video calls “La Resistance” a ‘bipartisan’ movement and he said it with a straight face.  How original and subtle —  naming themselves after the French Resistance who fought back against the Nazis. Yes, because Republicans are Nazi’s…or something.

In other NC Election news…

 

 

If you enjoyed this article, you should really check out other pieces written by Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Seven writers and maybe hit that tip jar!

AP DillonA.P. Dillon (Lady Liberty 1885), is a Conservative minded wife and mother living in the Triangle area of North Carolina. A.P. Dillon founded the blog LadyLiberty1885.com in 2009. After the 2012 election, she added an Instapundit style blog called The ConMom Blog. Mrs. Dillon’s writing, in addition to Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent 7, can also be found at StopCommonCoreNC.org, WatchdogWireNC and WizBang. Non-political writing projects include science fiction novellas that are, as of yet, unpublished. Her current writing project is a children’s book series.

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by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

faustaYesterday the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-2 that states have the right to ban racial preferences, what we call “affirmative action”, which the French refer to “discrimination positive“, or positive discrimination – an oxymoron if there ever was one, but overly optimistic, or the newest euphemism for academic settings, “race-sensitive admission policies” (emphasis added):

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the opinion that controlled the outcome, insisted that the Court was saying nothing new on the constitutionality of public policies that take race into account. “This case,” he wrote, “is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it….The holding in the instant case is simply that the courts may not disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow.”

He added: “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

Justice Sotomayor dissented, but her dissent was framed in emotional terms, having conceded that the Michigan law itself did not violate equal protection:

Race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and, unlike Justice Sotomayor, do not consider myself to be a “wise Latina“:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Judge Sotomayor

Certainly it wold be ridiculous, if not downright foolish, to assume that accident of birth in the form of ethnicity has made my life experiences “richer” than anyone who hasn’t lived my life. During the decades I’ve lived in the Continental U. S. I have been “addressed by a stranger in a foreign language” – in German, in Italian, and in Spanish – which did not offend me; to the contrary, I see it as a compliment that a person would like to communicate with me in their language.

But I pose to Justice Sotomayor this question, does race matter when Asian (East Asian and Indian) students are denied admission to top colleges because quotas favor a different minority?

The real issue on college admissions is the quality of public school education,

As a practical matter, the fact that non-white students do relatively poorly under race-neutral admissions standards at our public universities is an indictment mainly of our K–12 education system and of the cultural anarchy that has imposed especially high costs on the children of black and Latino families. It is not an indictment of race-neutral standards. Unable or unwilling to do a better job of preparing black and Latino students for college in the public institutions controlled by its most reliable footsoldiers, the Left insists on anathematizing the very standards under which the incompetence and negligence of our government-run schools, the very model of progressivism, are revealed. If that takes a bit of doublespeak — non-discrimination is discrimination — it wouldn’t be the first time the Left has relied on it.

Or, as my colleague Juliette Akinyi Ochieng correctly names it, The Great Indoctrination.

Back when Justice Sotomayor was nominated, I said,

Identity politics is, in a word, wrong.

Elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law doesn’t make it right.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American culture and politics at Fausta’s Blog.

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Lindaby Linda Szugyi

Where was I? Oh yes, The Fordham Institute’s Common Core Movie Fact Sheet, and its thirteen rebuttals to points made in the anti-Common Core movie, Building the Machine.

I covered the first two points last week.  On to Fordham Institute’s point and rebuttal number three:

3.  “ASSERTION: ‘THE COMMON CORE DISINCENTIVIZES PARENT INVOLVEMENT. IT STOPS PARENTS FROM A DEEP AND ABIDING INTEREST IN THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION.’  FACT: WITH STANDARDS, PARENTS CAN CLEARLY ASSESS IF THEIR CHILD IS BEING CHALLENGED TO GAIN THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE NEEDED TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE OR CAREER.”

The problem here is the assumption that all standards are helpful.  Of course, generally speaking, people can better track their progress in anything–education, building a house, or cooking a stew, as examples–if they have some instructions to follow and some checkpoints to compare.

But come on.  Which is going to be the easier stew recipe to follow?  The plain-written one, or the one that carries on ad nauseam about the level of seasoning complexity, the integration of tubers and nightshades, and the importance of having diverse ingredients?

In order for standards to be helpful to parents, they first have to be readable.  Yet, the Common Core Standards are phrased in as verbose and convoluted a manner as possible.  Have a look at them, if you haven’t yet.  Even simple things like listening and holding a conversation are expressed in complex, high-sounding terminology.

Phony claptrap may intimidate some parents, but it shouldn’t.  It should be derided as just another from of legalese.  We can call it “expertese.”  As a culture, we’ve been ceding authority to the self-appointed experts of child-rearing and education for far too long.  Our experts have turned into naked emperors.

The unnamed author of the Fact Sheet feebly attempts to support the dubious FACT #3 (parents can clearly assess their children with Common Core Standards), by reminding us that states had their own standards before Common Core, and parents didn’t complain about them.

parts is parts Wendy's ad“What’s the big deal?  Standards are standards,” seems to be the implicit argument.  I’m reminded of that old Wendy’s ad about the competitors’ chicken sandwich:  Parts is parts!

In this one regard, the Fact Sheet is correct.  We should have been complaining about our ridiculously unhelpful state standards.  It took the foisting of a national set of unhelpful standards for us to sit up and take notice.  As I’ve said before, Common Core doesn’t invent the lousy education, it just nationally standardizes it.

The most interesting part of the Fact Sheet’s argument in #3 is an off-hand use of the word “knowledge”:

“The existence of standards enables parents to clearly track if their child is gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to be ready for college or career.”

Gaining the necessary knowledge?  I have noticed that the Common Core Standards don’t cover knowledge; they only cover skills.  Therein lies the basis for the oft-repeated claim that Common Core does not influence the curricula, i.e., the substance of the information taught in the classroom.  Therein also lies their pointless nature, for the skills they purport to assess are skills that humans tend to naturally acquire in the process of attaining knowledge.

Whether the knowledge is gained from experience or books, the skill to apply that knowledge is an innate part of the human experience.  The question then becomes, what bodies of knowledge will best hone the natural human tendency to apply knowledge by creating, by making decisions, and by communicating with others?

To answer this question, Common Core has suggested texts in Appendix B.  Analyzation of these suggestions is best left for another time, and in fact has already been done by Terrence O. Moore.  You really should buy his book.  It’s called “The Story-Killers” for a reason.  Suffice it to say that the folks who publish “Common Core-aligned” textbooks think it’s more important for high schoolers to read a Saturday Night Live parody of Frankenstein than it is to actually, you know, read the classic novel itself.

Wow.  Class is over already, and I covered only #3 of the thirteen “assertions and facts” in the Fordham Institute’s “Fact Sheet.”  I’ll have to pick up with #4 next week.  Just remember, learning is an innate part of being human, but the traditional school experience has a tendency to crush it.

Here’s my bio.  I am an over-educated, stay-at-home-mom who is only just now learning how to be a life-long learner.  I’m finishing up my second year of  experimenting upon homeschooling my two boys, who are currently 6th and 3rd graders, and I’m well fed-up with experts who have no common sense.  If you enjoy Da Tech Guy’s blog but have not yet subscribed, please do so.  That is all.

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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –I was at the ballpark this weekend watching a local college baseball game.  As I took my seat I noticed a lady a couple of rows behind me reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and I wondered – does she know that’s below her Lexile level?  She shouldn’t be reading that!  The Book Thief, you see, has a 730 Lexile level score which places it at about grade 5 reading level.

Lexile levels are the basis of what Common Core uses to determine the complexity and acceptability for books in each grade level.

Lexile measures work similar to the old Accelerated Reader system, if you’re familiar with that.  (Everything in education comes back around with a new name, eventually.)  A Lexile score determines a book’s complexity and difficulty based on a measuring system of sentence complexity, vocabulary, and syntax.  Theme and content don’t come into play which is why Lexile levels are billed as “a starting point” or a tool for determining a book’s acceptability for your reader.

The result is often bizarre.

For example, as noted by The New Republic back in October, Awesome Atheletes! by Sports Illustrated has a Lexile score of 1070 which puts it in the grade 9-10 range.  On the other hand, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain receives a score of 720 which places it around the grade 4-5 area.  Now, to be fair, the Lexile analyzer site designates books like Huck Finn with a “HL” notation along with the score which means that teachers and librarians should use this designation when assigning books “written at an elementary level” to struggling older or struggling readers.  Huck Finn is then placed in the 12-16 age range; that’s probably fair.

To Kill a Mockingbird is scored 870 with no HL designation which places it at grades 4-5 level; there is no age recommendation assigned.

Based on this, Awesome Athletes! is more complex than To Kill a Mockingbird.

Back to The Book Thief:  this book, if you haven’t read it or seen the film, is set during World War II in Germany; it’s about a young girl who steals books when she can find them; during bombing raids she reads to her neighbors to calm them until the bombing is over.  Meanwhile, her foster family has a Jew hidden in their basement; the Jew is eventually captured and marched off to a concentration camp, which of course is traumatic to the girl as she has grown quite fond of him.   The narrator of the story is Death.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think fifth grade might be a little young for both the subject matter and possibly the abstract narrative perspective of Death.  But maybe that’s just me.

Common Sense Media assigns a recommended reading age of 13 for this book.  (Common Sense Media lists Chelsea Clinton on its Board of Directors as well as Geoffrey Cowan from the Annenberg Foundation).

John Steinbeck’s 455 page story of human perseverance in a cross-country trek during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath, receives a Lexile score of 680 (with no HL designation);  “challenging words” in the text include “rusts,” “harmonicas,” and “boxcars”.  Again, that’s grade 4-5 territory.  Common Sense Media says age 15 for this one:

Parents need to know that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about sharecroppers struggling to survive the Great Depression, fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for California, is as harsh and gritty as its time. There’s drinking, smoking, swearing, and extramarital sex, and violence stalks the Joad family and their fellow migrants. But its realism and passion have made it a must-read for generations.

And again, to be fair, the Lexile system is meant to be used only as a tool.  One of the demands of Common Core is the incorporation of more non-fiction reading which means that the teacher could bring in outside non-fiction articles or excerpts of documents to read alongside these texts which could increase the rigor and complexity of the entire novel unit.  However, as I stated last week, the teacher no longer has this discretion.  If The Book Thief is assigned to a ninth grade reading list, the tenth grade teacher can’t teach it even if the ninth grade teacher doesn’t teach the book.

The problem with the Lexile system, it seems to me, is that it ignores theme and content.  If Common Core is meant to increase rigor, what is rigorous about Awesome Athletes?  Why are we basing our reading choices on such a system?  The answer is almost always “follow the money.”  At least one of the developers of the Lexile system is associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who has poured millions of dollars into Common Core and PARCC.  And there you have it.  The selling out of our education system.  It’s a tangled web once you start pulling away the layers.

Follow the money, but for crying out loud, let’s put some common sense back in the classroom.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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This blog exists as a full time endeavor thanks to your support.

The reporting, the commentary and the nine magnificent seven writers are all made possible because you, the reader choose to support it.

For a full month of all of what we provide ,we ask a fixed amount $1465, under $50 a day.

This month we are behind, but we can make our goal if we can get $100 a day for the rest of the month. That’s 4 $25 Tip jar hits.

Jesus said  laborer deserves his payment.  (Lk 10:7) If you think the work we do here for the conservative movement is worth it, please consider hitting DaTipJar below .

Naturally once our monthly goal is made these solicitations will disappear till the next month but once we get 61 more subscribers  at $20 a month the goal will be covered for a full year and this pitch will disappear until 2015.

Consider the lineup you get for this price, in addition to my own work seven days a week you get John Ruberry (Marathon Pundit) and Pat Austin (And so it goes in Shreveport)  on Sunday  Linda Szugyi (No one of any import) on Monday  Tim Imholt on Tuesday,  AP Dillon (Lady Liberty1885) Thursdays, Pastor George Kelly Fridays,   Steve Eggleston on Saturdays with  Baldilocks (Tue & Sat)  and   Fausta  (Wed & Fri) of (Fausta Blog) twice a week.

If that’s not worth $20 a month I’d like to know what is?

 

Ruberry Hopkinton
Blogger at Boston
Marathon start, 1996

By John Ruberry

Tomorrow morning the 118th Boston Marathon will begin 26.2 miles from Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood in Hopkinton. It will be the most most closely-watched of the Grandaddy of all Marathons because of last year’s savage bombings by two Islamist terrorists near the finish on Boylston Street that killed three people and injured 264 others.

I’ve finished 33 marathons and three Boston races–those were in 1994, 1996, and 2004. Until this year’s run, the most anticipated race was the 100th Boston in ’96 when there were over 38,000 participants–the most ever–which is a record that is expected to be topped on Monday.

For runners, qualifying for Boston is considered their ultimate goal, in my age group, I need to run 3 hours and 30 minutes in another marathon to be accepted. Yes, many are called but few are chosen. Runners raising money for charity are also accepted.

Boston is a different race in so many ways. Chiefly, the crowd support is unmatched. A half-million fans line the streets from Hopkinton-to-Ashland-to-Framingam-to-Natick-to Wellesley-to-Newton-to-Boston.  Many families have been watching the race for generations from the roadside. They barbecue, they post updates on the Red Sox game on chalkboards, and they cheer.

Mile after mile.

Ruberry at Wellesley
Ruberry at Wellesley

Other than the finish, my favorite spot on the Boston Marathon run is at the halfway point at all-female Wellesley College, dubbed the “scream tunnel” by runners. The women offer by far the most enthusiastic support on the route. In 1996, an older runner–who was about my age now–quipped, “Wow, even I can get lucky on this campus today.”

While not as loud as Wellesley, the encouragement in Newton, home of Heartbreak Hill and three other thigh-and-calf-punishing massive hills, is certainly needed and welcome.

After passing Boston College, it is literally all-downhill from there for the entrants. With less than a mile left, runners turn from Hereford Street onto Boylston–another scream tunnel. Every runner feels like a celebrity on Boston Marathon Day on that street.

But that is where those cruel bombs were detonated last year.

I won’t be there tomorrow, but I am certain the crowd noise will be louder than ever on Boylston as the athletes run to the finish.

The fans are as much of a part of this legendary race as the runners in the Boston Marathon.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit