By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Textbook? Or not textbook?  With apologies to William Shakespeare, that is the question in public education.

Some school districts are ditching textbooks; case in point, consider the Life Sciences Secondary School in Manhattan who threw away copies of math, science, and ELA texts as well as copies of Romeo and Juliet and A Streetcar Named Desire in favor of new technology and digital learning.

It is a scene right out of Fahrenheit 451:

The rejects include stacks of “Campbell Biology” — a college-level text which sells for $150 new — formerly used by kids in Advanced Placement biology. Now the AP class has a cart of laptops, and students watch videos online.

Swanson and Premo, who took the helm of the 616-student joint middle and high school in 2015, sent aides from classroom to classroom in November to collect the books. Workers also emptied book storage closets. Hundreds of tomes were tossed over the Thanksgiving break.

“They made an announcement that they were getting rid of the books because they were antiquated and outdated, and we should be using new technology,” a teacher said. “I hid some of my books to prevent them being taken.”

Did you catch that last line?  “I hid some of my books to prevent them from being taken.”  I have done the exact same thing.

This is not an extreme situation or a weird charter school going rogue.  This is happening all over the country and if it hasn’t hit your district yet, it will.  It happened in mine.

I teach in a public high school in which we aren’t allowed to use literature textbooks.  They are no longer considered top tier materials.  Instead, students are given handouts and worksheets which are duplicated en masse in our districts resource department.

It’s all part of Common Core.

Some school districts are relying on iPads, Chromebooks, and computers to fill the void, but schools without that sort of technology just use copies.

Common Core advocates sing the praises of this:

Fortunately, teaching without a traditional text has had unintended benefits. It has forced teachers to unpack standards and think deliberately about what strategies can be used to teach both content and practice standards. A sophomore teacher who once taught ratios and proportions “by the book” was pushed to think about the progression of the standards and even used the SAP Coherence Map to research how they are first introduced in sixth grade. During a recent meeting, a teacher remarked, “Writing my own questions has made me understand what the kids really need to know. Seeing structure in expressions is so much bigger than I thought.”

Moreover, we may think all of the chapters of a textbook are Common Core-aligned, but there are often topics that don’t attend to the Major Work of each grade. By ditching the textbook, we have effectively let go of non-aligned topics and opened up more time to focus in-depth on the standards.

Current studies show that students learn better from the printed, rather than digital, word.  Granted, the current generation in schools have never known a non-digital life.  They’ve had digital technology since they were born, but there still is something to be said for quiet study with a text – one you can annotate, highlight, think about, refer back to.  This just doesn’t happen with a digital text which is so temporary in nature.

And the printed copies, well, they’re just “handouts.”  That’s how the student see them: worksheets.

There is so much wrong with all of this that there isn’t enough space here to get into it all, from the psychology of the temporary text to the manipulation of big government into my classroom.  What about the costs?  Is it cheaper to keep making copies every term for every student?  Or is it more expensive? How fast does the technology get outdated and have to be updated? Upgraded?  Maintained?  What about technology interruptions? There is an entire field of science about how technology has changed the hard-wiring of our brains.

This line from the aforementioned article bothers me:

“It has forced teachers to unpack standards and think deliberately about what strategies can be used to teach both content and practice standards.”

Get past the lingo: “unpack the standards” and what you have is sort of insulting.  We’re going to take away your textbooks which you rely too heavily on and force you to think about your job.

Am I being too defensive?  Perhaps.  But as twenty-three year teaching veteran I can tell you that these fads come and go every five years or so.  This is the current new thing.  Soon we will see the value in textbooks again.  We will discover that reading only two chapters of The Great Gatsby rather than the entire novel has been a tragic mistake.  We will understand that kids need the printed word in their hand, in a book to take home, to properly learn and synthesize material.

Wishful thinking.

All I know for sure right now is that public education is in a dire, dangerous place.  How we got to this point is no longer as important as figuring out how to get back to solid ground.

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

The Gaylord National Harbor is a pretty big place so just like Last year there are several other events, conventions, even an NFL players event, overlapping either fully or partially with CPAC 2018.

Last year you might remember I conducted a few interviews (and had a memorable intellectual confrontations during DaTechGuy’s midnight court) with such folks. This year since I drove down there was no chance of running into the folks from various conventions in a shuttle, but when I went downstairs to the lobby trolling for interviews I spotted a woman working between the bar and front desk where I held my midnight court events last year and being who I am approached her to see if she was there for CPAC.

She was not, he name is Lea (or Leah, I should have asked but it was near midnight and I was pretty bushed from the long day and drive) and she was here for an event with the National Association of Developmental Education. Her primary focus is math and how to get students entering college up to speed on it if they are behind. This is a pretty worthwhile issue and she consented for an interview

Parents I’d take her advice on the subject of how to keep your kids up to speed in math, it’s one of the most important disciplines they can have as it’s completely grounded in reality and given what we see in colleges and society today, anything that promotes objective reality is to be encouraged.

Funny footnote #1. when my sons and I were checking in and heading to dinner Lea was at that front area she spotted me and pegged me as a math person thanks to the Doctor Who scarf, she was quite right as the quote goes: “Only in mathematics shall we find truth.”

Funny footnote #2 While I was interviewing Lea Indefatigable Kira Innis came by on her way to an event at the private club upstairs, (my interview with Kira from last year is here if you can’t wait). It turns out Lea had sat down with Kira and had a pleasant conversation with her earlier that night.

DaTechGuy at CPAC 2018 The story so far

If you don’t want to wait or my blog posts my youtube channel is here.

Wed Feb. 21st

Voices at (or near) #cpac2018 Lea from National Association of Developmental Educators We talk Students and Math

DaTechGuy at CPAC 2018 The Calm Before the Storm and What I’ll be Asking

Full CPAC 2017 list (for those who feel nostalgic) is here

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By:  Pat Austin

Instagram logo

SHREVEPORT —  As a high school educator I have spent the last several years of my career lamenting the distraction that is social media in the classroom.  When I started teaching twenty-two years ago I didn’t own a cell phone.  Not many of my students did either and at that time I taught in a school with a fairly affluent student body.

Things have changed.

Schools have struggled with the rapid advancement of this technology, too.  Initially, the devices were banned from school, then banned from the classroom, then banned from being visible (“we know you have a phone, just keep it in your purse or backpack so it’s not a distraction”), and eventually we’ve ended up where classrooms are embracing cell phone technology.

There are many ways the phones can be used in the classroom and thousands of educational apps that kids can use either independently or as a class activity.

There is always some district policy on phones, then it filters to the school level, then to the classroom and at that point there is a wide diversity of how teachers deal with them.  Some have very strict “no phones!” rules, some have “cell phone jail” systems, and some just don’t care, defeated, and will turn a blind eye to it.

Social media is a big deal: there are 800 million monthly users on Instagram as of September 2017 and half of these users are between 19 and 29 years of age.  For marketing your brand, Instagram is huge, and getting bigger:

Due to the apps visual nature and high user engagement rate, Instagram is also a valuable social media marketing tool. As of March 2016, 98 percent of fashion brands had an Instagram profile. As of December 2016, average number of image brand posts on Instagram was 27.9 posts per month.

This is not your Snapchat teenager group.  As of January 2017, there were 300 million Snapchat users.  Forty-five percent of Snapchat users are between 18-24 years old.

As for Facebook, research shows that people use Facebook primarily for keeping up with family and friends. With two billion monthly active users, Facebook is still alive and well.

Twitter is still huge with over 300 million active monthly users, but Twitter’s growth has stalled.  Twitter is still very popular for news sharing and for celebrity stalking.  With American presidents using Twitter to broadcast policy these days, it’s impossible to deny Twitter’s viability, but there are some troubling signs:

Despite a steady revenue growth – the company’s 2016 revenue amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, up from 2.2 billion in the preceding fiscal year – Twitter has yet to report a positive net income. In 2016, it’s annual net loss amounted to almost 457 million U.S. dollars.

These are all very big numbers and it’s clear that social media is the new frontier for pushing your brand.  I’ve spent some time researching Instagram over the past few days and experimenting with my own feed.  I started an Instagram account several years ago only to keep up with photos of my new grandson who lives in another state.  I never posted to it and had about thirty followers.  I just enjoyed looking at everyone else’s photos. Now I’m engaging with the platform more and the followers are coming fast. (In the Instagram world I’m barely a blip on the radar when it comes to followers.)

It’s easy to see why Instagram is such an engaging platform.  Everyone has their own niche and the big brands and celebrities are there as well.  Currently, National Geographic has over 86 million followers.  Nike is right behind them.  Celebrities with huge followings include Selena Gomez with 133 million followers and Beyonce with 111 million followers.

On a more real level, people are using Instagram more than ever to promote their brand.  Consider Hilary Rushford, New York stylist and former Radio City Rockette, who decided a day job cubicle wasn’t for her and formed the Dean Street Society which is a motivational company helping people develop the best of themselves, whether it’s personal style, entrepreneurship, defining a business model, or marketing. She has 167 thousand followers and is growing fast.

So back to the classroom: how does this all tie in?  The kids in my classroom have never known a life without digital technology.  They are totally connected and invested in their phones.  Teachers today must find a way to make that work for you instead of against you.  It’s hard to engage a kid in the merits of Macbeth when they’re more interested in the latest cat video on YouTube or taking a selfie with a cute Snapchat filter.  The reality is there.  As educators we have to embrace it and work with it,  otherwise you are doomed to one semester after another of frustration.  There are many ideas out there to help figure out ways to engage students through social media.

Social media is here to stay, and it’s growing.  Make it work for you, whether you’re in the classroom or promoting your brand, blog, or posting a cat video.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her at

Linus Larrabee: This, this is my home, no wife would ever understand it.
David Larrabee:  Well neither can I You’ve got all the money is the world.
Linus Larrabee:  Well what’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there was to business it hardly be worthwhile going into the office. Money is a byproduct.
David Larrabee:   But what’s the main objective, power?
Linus Larrabee:  Ah, that’s become a dirty word.
David Larrabee:  Well then What’s the urge, you’re going into plastics now, what will that prove?

Sabrina 1954

A while back I was visiting a friend at his employment (he was a golf pro at a country club) when his daughter who was in college at the time, walked in.  I asked her about her major and what she was doing and she answered she was doing economic and already had a part time job at a brokerage, however she said it with some guilt as her classmate derided her job choice, one of the horrible side effects of the current socialist higher education system filled with liberals who decry Western Civilization, Christianity and Capitalism.  Personally I think they were jealous of the money she was already making to pay back student loans, but nevertheless I told her she should be proud of her job, because if she did it well, people who saved money their entire lives would be able to live a comfortable retirement, and if she did it really well people would have money to invest in companies that produce the jobs that feed families.

I must have done a good job explaining it because she immediately lit up and told me that she never thought of that, nobody had ever explained it to her that way before, which means that obviously she had never seen the 1954 movie Sabrina staring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden about a chauffeur’s daughter (Hepburn) who falls in love with the playboy son (Holden) of her father’s employer who doesn’t notice her until she returns from cooking school in Paris just in time to throw a wrench into the plans of his older serious brother (Bogart) who has plans to use his brother upcoming 4th marriage to secure a business deal.

The movie also features both Raymond Bailey and Nancy Culp just under a decade before they would become the comedy team of Mr. Drysdale and Miss Jane on the Beverley Hillbillies, but I digress. Hidden within the 113 minutes about love, life and personal growth is a speech by Bogart’s character Linus Larrabee that perfectly describes what Capitalism is and what it does.  It’s a speech that every college student in America should be required to watch.

For those who don’t have the patience to sit through the full minute here is the key quote.

A new product has been found, something of use to the world, so a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug, and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with the kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and, uh, movies on a Saturday night?

Back in 1954 when this picture was made when the ruins of the 2nd World War were still visible,  25 year olds could remember the great depression, the devastation of flu pandemics, life before electricity, movies, radio, phones and even ravages the Civil War were still in living memory, Americans knew and understood this facts of life explained in this speech and were pleased to gift their children and grandchildren a Pax Americana and a booming building economy to escape these pains.

Alas having been delivered from these horrors the children and grandchildren of those in the west who endured them in the west in general and of America in particular decided they knew better than those who overcame them and instead of embracing the lessons of that generation enrolled in the Kindergarten of Eden where they were taught that peace and prosperity were a birthright and that anything society that didn’t produce their heart’s desire was oppressive and evil.

As Robert Heinlein once wrote:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck.’”

This “bad luck” is what is affecting the Venezuelan people and it’s origin was the same socialism that the academics teaching our children uniformly cheered when it was implemented and then when this happened…

 As The New York Times reported, “Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.”

“But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.”

Now, in their absence, things have gotten worse, and it’s poorer Venezuelans — the very ones that Chavez’s revolution was allegedly intended to help — who are starving. Many are even taking to boats, echoing, as the Times notes, “an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.” 

Well, Venezuela was once rich. But mismanagement and kleptocracy can make any country poor and Venezuela — as is typical with countries whose leaders promise to soak the rich for the benefit of the poor — has had plenty of both. And now, though Hugo Chavez’s family has grown fabulously wealthy, the poor have nothing.

…denied that it was actual socialism.

This is what half of our society has forgotten to our determent as a whole.

Update:  In comments Stephen hands notes ” most rich men are not selfless, celibate vocationers like Bogie’s character but covetous idolaters and warmongers”, however I note that the jobs and economic prospects created by industry are the same regardless of the virtue or lack thereof of the person advancing them.  Of course Milton Friedman said it much better.

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I’m pretty busy today working on the Trump Year one Lunch and Panel event in Leominster MA at noon today (you can still buy tickets here or at the door for $20 which includes an all you can eat buffet) so I don’t have a lot of time for a long piece on shutdowns, Tom Brady or even POTUS’ appearance at the March for Life.

Nevertheless I would like to take a few minutes before I get out of bed and have to be on overdrive for the next 12 hours to note that as President Trumps 2nd year begins and as everyone in media and government who predicted doom for Trump in both 2016 & 2017 continues to do so for him and the GOP in 2018 things continue to happen that favor the president.

ITEM: UNRWA funding cut in half, Terror supporters hardest hit.

As the leader of the Palestinian authority continues on anti-semitic rants (and is defended by the Sorus funded so called “Jewish” advocacy group J-Street as he does ) the US has decided to answer is the best way possible to show the old game of of pay and look the other way is done:

“There is a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded,” the official said.

The US had frozen a $125 million grant to UNRWA earlier this month, amounting to one third of the US annual aid to the organization. Part of the grant was unfrozen Tuesday.

The move follows tweets by US President Donald Trump in which he questioned the wisdom of providing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority given their refusal to resume peace talks with Israel.

This is an amazing development.  Why it’s as if someone actually read the 1951 report back when UNRWA wasn’t a full employment scheme for cronies in and out of the middle east and and decided that ignoring this advice might not have been the best idea the US ever had.

Nobody but Trump would have dared do this.

ITEM: Common Core dies a Quiet Death.

Common Core has been a Tea Party issue since day one. GOP members have given lip service to reigning it in for years with little effect. On the Campaign Trail Donald Trump hit it hard but we heard little about it after he was elected but American Conservative has the transcript of Secretary Devos’ speech on the subject noting the failure of national standards both during the Bush years

President Bush, the “compassionate conservative,” and Senator Kennedy, the “liberal lion,” both worked together on the law. It said that schools had to meet ambitious goals… or else. Lawmakers mandated that 100 percent of students attain proficiency by 2014. This approach would keep schools accountable and ultimately graduate more and better-educated students, they believed.

Turns out, it didn’t. Indeed, as has been detailed today, NCLB did little to spark higher scores. Universal proficiency, touted at the law’s passage, was not achieved. As states and districts scrambled to avoid the law’s sanctions and maintain their federal funding, some resorted to focusing specifically on math and reading at the expense of other subjects. Others simply inflated scores or lowered standards.

And  Obama years

The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the “Race to the Top” competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the “largest-ever federal investment in school reform.” Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA.

Unsurprisingly, nearly every state accepted Common Core standards and applied for hundreds of millions of dollars in “Race to the Top” funds. But despite this change, the United States’ PISA performance did not improve in reading and science, and it dropped in math from 2012 to 2015.

But the Donald Trump administration has had enough:

The trend line remains troubling today. According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress data, two-thirds of American fourth graders still can’t read at the level they should. And since 2013, our 8th grade reading scores have declined.

At HotAir Jazz Shaw notes the speech both for what it critiques and what it suggests as alternatives, namely allowing teaches to TEACH and comments thus:

Wouldn’t it be ironic if we actually made some significant strides forward in fixing our largely broken education system during this term, but had it sneak through under the radar while everyone else was busy screaming at each other about whether or not the President’s cholesterol level is too high? This was one of the better speeches on education that’s been given in a long time. The question is how much DeVos will be able to hammer through without politics poisoning the entire process.

But in the meantime, as far as Common Core goes… it’s dead, Jim.

I’m thinking more and more that it’s less a question of irony of these thing happening under the radar than by designed but no matter how it happens chalk this up to another campaign promise kept and another conservative priority handled.

Item:  More “crumbs” for the workers

Lost among the debate on if the President’s Doctor is a hack or not or the critical issue of if back when he was just a Billionaire Businessman he bedded a porn star, it seems that Apple had decided that to bring a ton of that money they had parked overseas back home.

Apple “anticipates repatriation tax payments of approximately $38 billion as required by recent changes to the tax law. A payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made,” the company said.
Using the new 15.5 percent repatriation tax rate, the $38 billion tax payment disclosed by Apple means they are planning a $245 billion repatriation.

and it looks like their existing employees are getting a cut of this too:

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is giving many employees a bonus of $2,500 worth of restricted stock units, rounding out a series of investment announcements made on Wednesday.

The iPhone maker will start to issue stock grants to most employees worldwide in the next few months, Bloomberg reported, citing sources close to the situation. Earlier on Wednesday, Apple said it would inject $350 billion into the U.S. economy over the next five years, as a result of the tax cut signed by President Donald Trump, to fund a new campus, data centers and 20,000 new jobs. Apple will also pay a $38 billion repatriation tax, bringing roughly $252 billion in cash back to the U.S.

Representatives from Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We estimate about 100,000 employees will benefit, which implies a $250m liability that will vest likely in 2 years,” said Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster.

I wonder if Nancy Pelosi will call this crumbs too Sarah Sanders sure thinks so.

Donald Trump reportedly isn’t all that popular in the tech left but I’ll wager the prospect of further bonus’ of this nature is and I suspect that this will be remembered come election day in 2018.

Combine all of these successes and more that I don’t have time to mention now with a Trump boom and the left shutting down government for the sake of illegal aliens and I think the trendlines for 2018 will continue to move in their new direction.

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Get your Tickets today!

You can still buy tickets for our President Trump a Year in Review and Looking Ahead event Jan 20th 2018 at the Tang Dynasty Restaurant in Leominster Ma. Click on the image to the left to get tickets via eventbrite.The event co-sponsored by the Worcester Tea Party comes with an All you can eat Chinese buffet served till 2:30 (drinks are on you) and will include an all star panel (moderated by DaTechGuy) including

Chip Faulkner of Citizens for Limited Taxiation
Dianna Ploss from the Boston Chapter of Act for America
Christopher Maider from the Meat and Potatoes Radio show
Mike LaChance from the Legal Insurrection blog

Tickets are available at the door or you can get them here.  Come on down and join us for a great meal and a great discussion.

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.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — I am struggling with the Common Core ELA curriculum.  We’ve been talking about Common Core nationally for several years now but it has only this year actually trickled down into my high school classroom with the new, mandated Louisiana Believes curriculum which is hosted on Learnzillion.

Apparently what “Louisiana believes” is that students don’t need textbooks in many subjects any longer and students need lots and lots of standardized tests.

The fourteen day testing schedule spread out through an August-December block schedule has students breaking down and sobbing over their keyboards.

While the curriculum has been praised in the press as “written by teachers,” some of the teachers who wrote the units have said they would not teach their own units as written.

In ELA, students spend the semester working their way through four units of one turgid graphic organizer and worksheet after another.

The curriculum is 75% non-fiction; students no longer read whole novels.  In English 3, for example, students read only one chapter of The Great Gatsby.  Fiction is no longer relevant.  The standardized tests reflect this shift with students reading lab experiments, articles on microbes, and Supreme Court decisions (and dissents).

Teachers have been told to do these units faithfully, as written, with no deviation whatsoever.  They are not allowed to skip any of the Guidebook lessons.  Because the lessons are not engaging by any stretch of the imagination and because teachers feel they have lost their autonomy in the classroom, many are frustrated and leaving the classroom if they can.  Others are hanging on until retirement.  Teachers are no longer allowed to make decisions that affect the students they spend so much time with.

On the other hand, there may be some teachers who embrace the new curriculum for the very reason that all the thinking and planning is done for them.  All they have to do is pull up the PowerPoint slides, read the script (yes, it’s scripted) and pass out the worksheets.

There seems to be some support for this new approach.  In Education Week magazine, Dr. Bill Hughes writes:

Research continues to demonstrate that curricular choices matter. According to a recent studyby Johns Hopkins’ David Steiner, not only is curriculum a critical factor in student academic success, but “the cumulative impact of high-quality curriculum can be significant.” And Louisiana Believes is demonstrating early success: Louisiana 4th graders achieved the highest growth among all states on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, and the second-highest in math.

But all that means to me is what we’ve taught a kid how to take a test.  Is that all that matters, now?

As an educator, I’m torn because I’m basically a rule-follower and do what I’m told with regard to my job, but I feel like all we are doing as educators now is teaching kids to take a test.  I look back fondly on my own high-school experience when we read classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, short stories by Alice Walker, Shirley Jackson, and Edgar Allan Poe.  We are raising an entire generation of kids who won’t know about Julius Caesar, will never understand “the Ides of March,” who won’t know about Atticus Finch, Tom Sawyer, or Elizabeth Bennett.

Frankly, it makes me sad.  Maybe the world of education has passed me by.  Maybe I’m too “old-school” for my job. But, I still believe kids are kids and that children respond to an adult who loves and cares about them.  I still believe I can make a difference in the lives of my students.  So, I’m torn.

We’ve been told as teachers that we will never return to reading full novels and short stories again in the ELA classroom. We were told that if a student wants to read more than one chapter of The Great Gatsby, they can read it “on their own.” I will, however, continue to stock my classroom library with engaging fiction and meaningful literature that I will share with my students and will encourage them to explore.

I will continue to make a difference where I can.

I will not quit.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Here’s a pop quiz for all you students at every level. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in school today or if you’re simply a student of life (as we all should be until we die). Since Jimmy Carter brought us the Department of Education, what has been the positive impact it’s had on our students, teachers, parents, or communities?

It’s somewhat of a trick question because no matter what positive impact you recall hearing about or seeing on Wikipedia, there are more negatives that have come out of every action the department has taken and every decree they’ve made. I won’t bore you with statistics or point to individual instances of complete failure to improve the quality or efficiency of education in America. Either you see the clear dysfunction in our schools today or you don’t. Nothing I say will change your mind.

If ever a department begged to be eliminated for the sake of Federalism, this is it. Nothing screams localization like education. Nothing demands standards be set by states, the communities within them, and parents themselves as much as schooling. To say the federal government is capable of properly overseeing education is as asinine as thinking they can properly manage health care.

They can’t. They’ve proven this very clearly, yet we’re still in the middle of a 38-year-old failed experiment.

This isn’t just about eliminating Common Core or pushing for more charter schools. It’s not about deciding how to allocate budgets based upon which school districts can meet meaningless standards the best. We’re at a point that the only correct answer to this very easy question is to begin the transition to get DC out of schools altogether.

There is too much money in play to pull the rug out from under them which is why a transition is necessary. It doesn’t have to be a long one. If they start now, they could have a plan in place before the next election followed by elimination of the department before the 2020 Presidential elections. As horrid as it is to have to think about this in terms of election cycles, that’s the only way to get DC politicians to act.

Will education be harmed for a time as a result? It’s hard to say. On one hand, there’s certain to be obtuse state legislatures and/or governors who fail to prepare for the burden that should have belonged to them all along. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that it could get much worse. Many if not most school districts and state departments have become so focused on staying within the boundaries set by DC that they may struggle at first. This may seem unfair to the students directly affected, but just as the states and cities need to step up, so too do the districts and individual schools. Many won’t like it, but enough education professionals will take responsibility and make it work. Those who do not don’t belong in such important roles in the first place.

America has been shifting away from a mindset of personal responsibility since the 1960s. There was a brief intermission when things were looking up in the 1980s, but that quickly faded after Ronald Reagan left the White House. This is why when looking at the big picture, dissolving the Department of Education is a microcosm of what must be done to much of the federal government as a whole. It’s the most obvious example of overreach, unnecessary bureaucracy, and wasted taxpayer dollars. As such, eliminating it would be an excellent guide for future acts of deconstruction that are also needed in DC. If we don’t immediately begin chopping away at the bloat, the big-government monstrosity will continue to grow.

Applying Reagan’s concepts of Federalism to slice the fat in DC may seem radical today just as it seemed radical when Reagan was in office. He had few government-limiting allies within the GOP which is why he couldn’t cut nearly as much as he would have liked. Today, it’s much worse as both major parties seem to be racing to see who can grow DC power the fastest. It’s time to start dismantling the administration state one agency, program, committee, and department at a time. The Department of Education is a prime candidate to face the guillotine first.

There’s an old saying that makes its rounds at law schools across the country. The most talented law students become lawyers and eventually judges. Those who can’t make it as lawyers become professors. While this is meant as a derogatory statement students make about their law professors, there’s a bit of truth in it. No, I’m not suggesting that law professors are or were bad lawyers, but it’s no surprise that even in the relatively-conservative profession of the law, a majority of educators tend to lean left.

It’s much worse in other professions. I don’t have to convince you that higher education is a infested with leftist educators and administrators. Any debate about that reality has been thoroughly quashed in the last few years. Instead, it’s important for us to come up with a plan to address this issue going forward.

Here’s the biggest problem. They’re embedded. It would be nearly impossible for a conservative revolution to happen in college leadership or among professors because they already own the entire market. They run the schools. They run the departments. They hire and promote the professors they want and the vast majority of them are leftists. This is a problem that we won’t be able to solve from the top, so we have to address it from the bottom up.

We have to start with the students.

This is often framed as a challenge for America’s future, but that’s only half the story. As adults, we often view college students as relatively impotent. Perhaps in the past they were, though one can argue that most major movements in our history have started with passionate students operating within their collegiate environments. Today, they’re even more empowered because of social media. The always-on aspect of American society gives the professors and students a much louder megaphone. Instead of having to contest with bad television coverage from protests, we are now faced with a generation that has more reach than ever before. They can reach each other and they can reach the rest of the world.

To fight this, we have to do three things.

Prepare our Children

As a parent of a college student and another about to enter, I have been spending a great deal of time preparing them for the attempt at indoctrination they’re bound to experience. The only surefire way around it is to not send them to college (and yes, that’s a valid option in today’s economic construct). If you’re unwilling to do that, then it’s imperative that you get them prepared.

How it’s done is up to you. I was blessed with children who are quite discerning for their age. They both came to the conclusion that they were conservatives without me bombarding them with propaganda or putting posters of Ronald Reagan on their walls as children. When they had questions, I answered them. We’ve shown them the correctness of fiscal and social conservatism, but it must be taken a step further.

As good as conservative philosophies are to those who will listen, it’s still challenging to overcome the onslaught of leftist thoughts that they’ll experience in college. There’s no real way around it, so it’s important to do two things: prepare them before they go and be open to questions once they’re in the belly of the beast. So far I haven’t had to explain away any liberal ideas that started creeping into their mindset, but I’m prepared to do so at any point.

Call out Hypocrisy

The other bastion of liberal ideologies is the mainstream media. With few exceptions, they are also populated with a majority on the left. This makes for a great tag-team effort between schools and the media. The leftists at colleges make a fuss and the leftists in the media paint their fuss in a positive light.

It’s up to bloggers, video producers, and social media users to call them both out when they’re hypocrisy is apparent to us. Because of the nature of our situation, we can’t expect them to do it themselves. We’re the voice of dissent against leftist hypocrisy in higher education. The media will not do it for us.

Engage in Discourse

We’ve seen conservative speakers shunned by colleges across the country. This is no reason to stop trying. In fact, we need to do it more.

It’s not just up to public speakers who attempt to speak at colleges. We also need to be active on college forums. We should be replying and being the voice of reason on college publications. We should address them directly on social media. The best friend of leftist indoctrination is a silent right.

Can we convince a leftist professor that free markets yield better results than heavy regulations and obtuse tariffs? No. However, when we engage publicly with them, it’s the audience watching the exchange that has the opportunity to see the right way.

It’s not going to be easy to take on the leftist juggernaut of higher education in America, but it must be done. Conservatives can only win through legislation as long as we have enough voters putting conservatives in office. This will trend away from us if we let the left have carte blanche on the biggest future (and current) voting block.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to pursue your degree with the masters of science in nursing online curriculum program, then it may be helpful to learn about the ways it can shape your future. Earning a degree is nothing to take lightly. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication, so you want to know it’s worth it in the end. While there are all kinds of ways it can shape your future and benefit you, we’ll take a look at some of the top advantages to earning a degree.

Provides You with Confidence

As you head into the world and search for that career job, confidence is something you will need. If it’s your first real career position, confidence can be a bit hard to come by. By earning your degree you will be armed with all kinds of skills and knowledge that will provide you with that boost of confidence you will need. It will help to carry you through that first position as you work to build upon your knowledge and gain experience.

Open More Job Opportunities

Another great advantage to earning a degree is that it opens a variety of career paths. There is no need to just focus on one set job, as your degree can help you land a variety of positions. What this means is that you can find a job easier and faster. It also means you can switch things up if you’re unhappy with your current job.

Increase your Earnings

Of course, it’s always nice to know that you can make a decent amount of money in your field. By possessing a degree you will be guaranteed higher earnings potential. Now this may not happen right away in your first job, but as you work your way up the career ladder you can command a higher salary than those without a degree. You will be eligible for those higher up positions since you will have the qualifications and skills required.

Enjoy Health Benefits

Here’s a factor that doesn’t always pop into your mind, but usually the higher paying jobs also offer some sort of health benefit package. Think how much this can save you down the road in medical costs. This is even more important if you plan on having a family, or already have a family to care for. This can work out to be a pretty big advantage.

Increased Job Security

It’s true that no job is ever 100% secure, but when you have a degree your employer is likely to value you that much more. They know they just can’t turn around and hire any person to do your job. You come with a set of skills and knowledge that is needed.

Making a Decision

as you mull over all the advantages to earning your masters degree in nursing it becomes evident that it can lead to all kinds of benefits not just for you, but also for your family.