By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — I have no delusions about the 2016 presidential election.  We, as a nation, are in serious, serious trouble.  This trouble is the result of myriad reasons however complicit in this downward spiral we now find ourselves in is without a doubt the mainstream, legacy media.

That, and the uniformed voter.

Consider the review in the New York Times of Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices.

I’m not the least bit interested in reading this book, however the review sucked me in with the comment that the book “provides a portrait of the former secretary of state and former first lady as a heavy-duty policy wonk.”

What, what?!

“A heavy-duty policy wonk”?

That never crossed my mind.  Ever.

The review goes on to laud Mrs. Clinton and to praise the book as a “statesmanlike document intended to attest Mrs. Clinton’s wide-ranging experience on national security and foreign policy.”

Oh, please.  It’s too much.

Can we talk about Benghazi?

Can we talk about Fast and Furious?

Statesmanlike?

I don’t think so.  Not one bit.

Okay, so the review goes on in this vein and you can read it yourself if you must, but trust me, it’s all the same whitewash driveling sap that we got about Obama.  And we all know that the legacy media is going to continue to prop up these incompetent fools while our country spins around the bowl, but surely, surely people are smarter than that now, right?  Haven’t we learned something over the past tenure of Obama?

I am reassured to see that most of the comments attached to this article question Mrs. Clinton’s ability to lead the country and question her leadership on issues like Benghazi and Fast and Furious.

There are, of course, a few Hillary supporters who commented:

One woman says she will certainly vote for Clinton because “we are contemporaries (I am exactly the same age as Clinton)…”.  Well, that’s a good reason to vote for a president, eh?  To be fair, this woman goes on to say that she admires Mrs. Clinton’s “tenacity and ability to accept challenges”  which is a good quality however I don’t think that it actually applies to Mrs. Clinton.  How did she accept the challenge of Benghazi, again?

Have we caught those who murdered Chris Stevens yet?

What about Fast and Furious?  How did she accept that challenge?

Let’s just hit the reset button on all that, shall we?  No.  She must answer for all of that.

Clearly there will be those voters who will just vote for Hillary because she’s a woman, because she’s a contemporary, or for whatever nonsense, but by the tone of the comments maybe, just maybe, people are not going to be snowed by The New York Times this time.  Maybe people are ready for a true leader who will put the country back on the track to prosperity.

One can dream.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last week came as no real surprise.  It won’t solve the problem but he had to fall on his sword.  The VA has been a mess for years and it really isn’t Shinseki’s fault, although certainly he has had time to take steps to bring it around.

In her column Friday, Peggy Noonan said:

This scandal won’t go away as others have, because all America is united in this thought: We care about our military veterans. We’ve asked a great deal of them, and they have a right to expect a great deal from us. Also, everyone in America knows what it’s like to go to a bureaucracy when you’re in need and get jerked around and ignored.

She is more optimistic that I am, but we shall see.

In either case, it is clear that our veterans need help, support, and care.  One of my monthly charitable donations is to The Wounded Warrior Project – an organization I’ve been proud to contribute to for several years now.  One evening over dinner a friend of ours said, “Why, you don’t need to give money to them; the government takes care of the veterans through the VA!”

Clearly, it doesn’t.

I’m all for doing whatever we can in support of our veterans whether it is through donating to The Wounded Warrior Project, visiting vets at a nursing home, or running across America barefooted to raise awareness.

What?  Surely by now you’ve heard about Anna Judd, the young woman who is running across America, from Venice Beach to New York City, to raise awareness of the problems veterans face each day.  Anna made a stop in Shreveport this weekend and we had the privilege of meeting her at a Memorial Day service Friday (the traditional date of Memorial Day).

She is a lithe, suntanned little thing with big blue eyes and two blonde braids.  She stopped by the local Memorial Day service to show her support for, and to talk to, local veterans.  She did a couple of interviews with our local newspaper and radio station and she participated in a couple of events such as a group run across town which ended at the local Veterans Park.

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Anna Judd and the Sons of the Confederacy

Anna runs about 33 miles per day, she says, and she told The Shreveport Times that the trek has been much more difficult than she first anticipated.  She’s lost seven toenails and has had to make visits to the chiropractor after running on Highway 80 which wasn’t level and caused her hips to rock out of joint.

An RV carrying Anna’s mother and her manager follow along and Anna sleeps in the RV (which has no air conditioning – a problem in Louisiana).  There’s a Facebook page where you can follow her journey and there is a website as well.

At our Memorial Day ceremony Anna posed for pictures with the Sons of the Confederacy, and with anyone else who wanted a photo, and she visited with Major (Ret.) Ron Chatelain, the most decorated living veteran in the state of Louisiana.  Of Mr. Chatelain, Anna wrote:

IMG_1991
Steve Becker, Anna Judd, Ron Chatelain

I had the pleasure of meeting the most decorated Veteran in Louisiana, Ron Chatelain, who had eyes that were some of the clearest and brightest that I have every [sic] seen He offered me words of encouragement so sincere and soft-spoken that every time I opened my mouth to speak to him I could feel my voice get shaky. For the moment that we spoke I felt such a sense of safety and well-being, and I can’t explain why except that some people simply have the power to move mountains with their presence. I will remember him forever.

Will a little girl running across America really help lower our veteran suicide rate and aid those that suffer from PTSD?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  But it probably helps more than Shinseki’s resignation; at least this young lady brought awareness to our little burg this week and brought smiles to the faces of some vets.

Run, Anna Run!

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — It’s probably safe to say that Saving Private Ryan is all over your television menu this Memorial Day weekend.   It’s difficult to escape the endless rebroadcasts of the moving story of Private First Class James Francis Ryan lost behind enemy lines after the Normandy D-Day invasion and the ensuing quest to save him.

The film is fiction but there is a real life version of this story right here in Shreveport.  In fact, this sort of scenario existed across the nation for multiple families during that turbulent time.  As we observe Memorial Day today, let me share with you the story of the Kelley family who lost three sons in less than two years.

Like all of America, Shreveport watched the unfolding events at Pearl Harbor in 1941 with horror.  In February 1942, William G. Kelley (his friends and family called him “Bob”) felt the call to service and enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  He had graduated from the local high school, attended Louisiana College, and was attending seminary.  He was ordained at the First Baptist Church in Shreveport by Dr. M. E. Dodd.  When he enlisted, Bob was preaching at the Evangeline Mission, a new church in town that he helped build with the assistance of the Queensborough Baptist Church.

William
William “Bob” Kelley

Bob Kelley went to officers’ school and became a bombardier; he went with the Eighth Air Force to England.  Lt. Kelley had been overseas only six weeks when his plane crashed near Fontainebleau, France and claimed his life on November 10, 1944.  He was twenty-four years old.

The Evangeline Mission, where Bob was a preacher, was renamed for him as Kelley Memorial Baptist Church.

A second Kelley son, Bose, Jr., died in the D-Day invasion.  Al McIntosh, writing for the Rock County Star Herald, wrote on June 8, 1944, after learning that the expected invasion of France had finally taken place:

“This is no time for any premature rejoicing or cockiness because the coming weeks are going to bring grim news.  This struggle is far from over – it has only started – and if anyone thinks that a gain of ten miles means that the next three hundred are going to go as fast or easy he is only an ostrich.”

He was correct:  the grim news was only beginning.

bose
Bose F. Kelley, Jr.

Bose Kelly, Jr. enlisted in May 1942.  Bose graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport.  He was married to Betty Miller and working as a mechanic at Central Motor Company, a car dealership.  Bose volunteered for the Army Airborne, went to jump school and became a paratrooper.  Bose was part of the 507 PIR which became attached to the 82nd Airborne in 1943. The 507 PIR was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 1942 and trained there and in Alliance, Nebraska.  In 1943, the 507th PIR shipped out to Northern Ireland, then England, and it was in Nottingham where they prepared for the coming Allied invasion of France.  They studied sand tables, drop zones, and were given Hershey’s chocolates and a carton of cigarettes.

Bose was on a C-47, number 13 in his stick, as the plane lumbered through the fog banks toward Drop Zone T, near the west bank of the Merderet River.  Because of the fog and the incoming German flak, the C-47s flew faster and higher than anticipated which caused almost all of the paratroopers to miss the drop zone.  They were scattered over a 15 mile area.  The 507th was the last regiment to jump and by the time Bose Kelley’s C-47 was over the Cotentin peninsula the entire area was stirred up with flak coming from every direction. There were sixteen men in Bose Kelley’s stick and at least eight of them were killed that night.  The Germans had flooded the valley as a defensive tactic and some paratroopers, weighted down by equipment and unable to swim, drowned.  Bose Kelley was killed by a direct hit from an artillery shell.

Major General Paul F. Smith wrote in his Foreword to Dominique Francois’s history of the 507th,

“This regiment unquestionably received the worst drop of the six US parachute regiments dropped that night.”

Howard Huebner, who was number 3 in Bose’s stick, survived that drop.  He wrote:

I am a Paratrooper! I was 21 yrs old when we jumped into Normandy.

We knew the area where we were supposed to land, because we had studied it on sand tables, and then had to draw it on paper by memory, but that all faded as our regiment was the last to jump, and things had changed on the ground. Most of us missed our drop zone by miles.  As we were over our drop zone there was a downed burning plane. Later I found out it was one of ours. The flack was hitting our plane and everything from the ground coming our way looked like the Fourth of July.

When I hit the ground in Normandy, I looked at my watch.  It was 2:32 AM, June 6, 1944. I cut myself out of my chute, and the first thing I heard was shooting and some Germans hollering in German, “mucksnell toot sweet Americanos”.

We the 507th, was supposed to land fifteen miles inland, but I landed three or four miles from Utah Beach by the little town of Pouppeville. I wound up about 1000 yards from a French farm house that the Germans were using for a barracks, and about 200 feet from a river, an area that the Germans had flooded. If I would have landed in the water, I may not be here today as I can’t swim. A lot of paratroopers drowned because of the flooded area.

Local writer Gary Hines spoke to Bose’s widow, Betty, for an article he wrote for the August 2000 issue of SB Magazine.  She told him, “He was going to win the war and come back home.”  Betty was married at 18 and a widow at 20.  She told Mr. Hines “We were both young enough to feel that he was coming home.  He wasn’t going to be one of the ones who was lost.”

edgarrew
Edgar Rew Kelley

A third Kelley son, Edgar Rew, was drafted into the Army in 1943.  He was sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi where he died five weeks later from an outbreak of spinal meningitis.  He never made it out of basic training.  He was 27 years old; he left behind a wife of five years.

The remaining Kelley brother was Jack.  Jack Richard Kelley was serving in the medical corps in Washington at Fort Lewis.  His father, Bose Kelley, Sr., wrote to U.S. Representative Overton Brooks and pleaded with him to prevent his oldest son from going overseas.   It is reminiscent of the scene in Saving Private Ryan where General Marshall reads the Bixby letter to his officers.  In this case, in a letter dated December 8, 1944, Mr. Kelley received word that his son Jack would remain stateside for the duration of the war.  Jack Kelley died in 1998.

kelleys
Sunday, May 18, 2014

The bodies of Bose Kelley, Jr. and his brother William (Bob) were buried in separate military funerals in France but were returned to the United States in September 1948.  Bose and his brother now rest side by side in the veterans section of Greenwood Cemetery in Shreveport.  Their brother, Edgar Rew Kelley, is in a civilian cemetery across town, the Jewella Cemetery on Greenwood Road.  Their father, who pleaded for his fourth son to be spared, died just one month after Bose and William’s bodies were buried in Greenwood Cemetery.  It’s as if he was just waiting for them to come home.

For sixty-five years their sister, Ruby, tended the graves of her brothers.  There has never been a time that I visited the graves that there was not a crisp American flag flying over each and flowers.  Ruby died last year and the graves are now tended by Ruby’s daughter.  I visited the graves of Bose and William last week and sure enough, there were two new flags and flowers steadfastly in place.

As we observe Memorial Day today, we remember the sacrifices of young men like the Kelleys all across the country. Their name belongs alongside the Sullivan brothers, the Borgstrum brothers, the Niland brothers, and the Wright brothers.  It is their heroism and their sacrifice, along with that of so many others, that we remember and honor each Memorial Day.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — “Trigger warnings.”  As a teacher of literature, this blows my mind:

Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

Are you kidding?

We have reached the pinnacle of the wimping out of America.  Talk about pansy lightweights…this goes so far beyond the censorship debate it’s just unreal.

Jennifer Medina, reporting for the New York Times, reports on a growing call for “trigger warnings” on assigned literary readings.  If this is the new norm, we are doomed.  Doomed.

Can you imagine To Kill a Mockingbird with a “trigger warning”?  What is the end result of this?  The student then says, “Oh, I can’t read this book; someone once used the N-word on me and now I have trauma.”

What?

What!

Suck it up, people.  This is what a nation of wimps looks like.   I’m not without compassion; truly, I’m not.  But if you’re going to tell me that you can’t read Invisible Man because you’ve experience prejudice before, then we have a problem.  Incidentally, Invisible Man is THE most often cited work on the AP exam for English.  As I recall, there is no “trigger warning” on that book or in the AP syllabus.  Should there be?

Medina again:

The most vociferous criticism has focused on trigger warnings for materials that have an established place on syllabuses across the country. Among the suggestions for books that would benefit from trigger warnings are Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” (contains anti-Semitism) and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” (addresses suicide).

I guess what they want is a totally sanitized syllabus and a reading list of Llama, Llama perhaps.  Unless you have a hump, in which case even that might offend you.

Oberlin College published the policy (now under revision) which…

… advised faculty members to “[u]nderstand triggers, avoid unnecessary triggers, and provide trigger warnings.” It defined a trigger as something that “recalls a traumatic event to an individual,” and said experiencing a trigger will “almost always disrupt a student’s learning and may make some students feel unsafe in your classroom.”

“Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma,” the policy said. “Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”

The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”

Where does it end?  You can’t read The Grapes of Wrath anymore because you were once poor and that might illicit trauma for you.  Goodbye Julius Caesar because you once had friends who stabbed you in the back (literally or not) and thus trauma.   Goodbye Hamlet: you come from a broken home and we can’t risk stirring up that trauma; besides, Ophelia commits suicide and that might provoke you to do the same thing.  It boggles the mind.

Truly, where does it all lead?  What is left in the literary canon?  Will the Bible come with a trigger warning?  I am against censorship in all forms and to me “trigger warnings” are the same thing; it’s an “opt out” clause.

By the way, are you allowed to even say “trigger warning”?  Didn’t Sarah Palin get in in trouble for something like that?

Allahpundit rounds up the criticism pretty succinctly.

If we are as a coddled society are now so soft that we now need “trigger warnings” to temper the blow of challenging topics, we can reduce students to tears with just a few profane words and some provocative subject matter.

It’s just one more way of sheltering them from the real word.

 

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT:  Let me join the #hashtag chorus for a just a few minutes and let’s look back at one of the weirdest weeks in #foreignpolicy in recent memory (and that’s saying something.)

I’m #baffled, really, by this #hashtag #diplomacy.  What in the heck is going on here?!

Fausta posted earlier in the week on #hashtagdiplomacy in response to Michelle Obama’s now infamous tweet in which she held up a sign saying #bringbackourgirls.  It is beyond bizarre to me that the First Lady would do this.  Not that she’s done anything wrong, mind you, just that it’s weird.  When I first saw the photo my first response was “Is this what we’ve come to?”  Really?

I wasn’t alone in that thought.  Cut to Mark Steyn:

It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

The key word in that, at least to me, is “Western Impotence.”

What in the world is a #hashtag going to do?  Doesn’t the world already feel terrible about the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls who will be (have been already?) sold in to slavery?  A #hashtag is going to make us more aware?  #seriously?

Steyn again:

There’s something slightly weird about taking a hashtag – which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose – and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. 

Absolutely weird.

It’s #pandering is what it is.  MO is taking a terrible event and pandering to her social media fan base; look at the gloomy, sad face she has adopted for the photo shoot.  Was she just sitting around in the White House with this poster board in her lap when the White House photographer stumbled upon her?  I think not.  It’s #pandering.

That being said, I now can’t help but wonder why Reagan didn’t deal with Gorbachev by just pulling out a poster and marker:  #teardownthiswall.

For that matter, Patrick Henry could have used the old hashtag trick:  #givemelibertyorgivemedeath.  It would have saved us a lot of trouble.

The #hashtag theory of foreign policy would have served Roosevelt well:  #daythatwillliveininfamy.

The point, of course, is that Michelle’s staged photo simply illustrates the feckless foreign policy of this administration.

Rush Limbaugh, Friday:

I was aghast.  I mean, it’s embarrassing that a Twitter hashtag is all we’ve got.  And, in fact, I was further embarrassed that a Twitter hashtag is assumed to be enough because all we have to do is show that we’re concerned.  All we have to do is exhibit our proper intentions, and that covers it  We don’t have to actually do anything.  It’s perfect liberalism.  You don’t solve anything.  You don’t do anything.  You just show that you care and you have good intentions.

We are impotent.  We arm Mexican drug cartels, we bow to foreign leaders, we alienate our allies, we appease dictators, we leave our people behind in foreign countries after a massacre and never seek justice.  #embarrassing.

What country is this?

Which leads us to Hillary Clinton who refused to use her power as Secretary of State to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization:

What Clinton didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen.

“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”

And she’s going to be our next president?  #sayitaintso.

As I said, it’s been a most bizarre week in politics, the least of which is our now most powerful weapon in foreign policy:  the hashtag.

#wearesoscrewed.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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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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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Olimometer 2.52

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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The state of education in the United States today is troublesome.  One report after another comes across the wires:  stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work, teachers are overworked and burned out, and apparently we have ineffective teachers in our low-performing schools.  Go figure.

Is any of this news to anyone?

Sometimes we can read all this data and all these reports and draw false conclusions.  Let’s consider some alternative conclusions to the ones most commonly drawn.

Consider the report that stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work.  This is a conclusion drawn from a new Gallup report, The State of America’s Schools which contends that  7 in 10 teachers are “do not feel engaged” in their work which is having a negative effect on students.  Certainly if a teacher is stressed out and under pressure this will have a negative impact on the teacher over time.  We all want our kids to have teachers who are exciting and make them feel the hunger for learning, so this report is obviously troublesome.

But why are teachers disengaged?  Gallup:

On two points, teachers were the least likely of any profession surveyed on workforce engagement to respond positively: whether they feel their opinions at work count, and whether their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”

“That’s a really big eye-opener,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “So there’s something about the open, trusting environment that isn’t working in schools and that they don’t believe their opinions count. That is definitely weighing down the potential of making them more engaged in their workplace.”

Well, that’s an interesting conclusion but I don’t think it’s fair to put so much blame on the supervisor or administrator.  True, that’s an important role:  you need a supportive administrator who will back your decisions in the classroom, but the administrator is also just a gateway in a sense.  Walk it all the way back.  Principal, supervisor, local superintendent, state level superintendents, and now (thank you Common Core…) the federal government.  So, to put all the blame on the immediate supervisor is misguided.

A simplified example:  A teacher wants to teach a novel that has relevance to her students; it meets and challenges their reading level. (The teacher knows this reading level because she has done a diagnostic test and has determined the reading level of each student).  The teacher knows this novel will engage her students and has a passion for bringing that novel and level of engagement to her students.

But wait!  She can’t teach that novel.  Common Core says all her students must read an obscure work with a Lexile level much higher than her students are functioning on, a novel for which the teacher has no engagement or passion.

How well is that going to work?  The teacher isn’t going to be excited about the lesson, the students are going to be struggling to relate to the work, and the students are going to struggle to even make sense of the words because said novel is so far above their reading level.

Now granted, that’s a simplified example; a really good teacher will figure out a way to bring passion to whatever novel the idgits that made the reading list make her teach.  But it wears you down.  The teacher has been stripped of her professional ability and decision making.  The teacher no longer can decide what’s best for her individual students.

Thus, burnout.  Frustration.

Is this all Common Core’s fault?  Of course not.  Teachers have been fighting bureaucracy and burnout for years.  The suits sit around conference tables and figure out what new save-the-state-of-education fad will be imposed this year and then they do endless professional development sessions to implement the plan.  Veteran teachers have seen them all before; they come in cycles.

With regard to burnout and frustration, consider that one of the requirements of Common Core is that states must also implement a rigorous teacher evaluation system.  Professional evaluation is important and I don’t know of a single profession that doesn’t have an evaluation system, but common sense must prevail.  Some of these evaluation tools are profoundly subjective and unfair.  When a teacher is marked off on an evaluation because a student put a dab of lotion on her knees during the observation, which obviously means classroom expectations haven’t been taught and the teacher has poor classroom management, frustration will result.

When those observations and evaluations are tied to teacher pay and that annual incentive check comes out, the teacher that has Honors and AP kids will get the big incentive check while the teacher with the low-performing, struggling kids who have not been taught social skills at home gets the very small check.  Frustration results.

In reality, teachers aren’t frustrated with their work or with their job.  They are frustrated with the system that prevents them from doing their job and that persecutes them for things beyond their control.  I don’t know one single teacher who went into the profession to get rich.  Every teacher I know does it because of a love for kids and for the opportunity to make a difference in just one kid’s life.  When that passion is squelched by a system that ties their hands, strips their decision making, persecutes them, and makes them feel like failures, then there is something wrong with the system, not the teachers.

Consider these words from a frustrated first-year teacher:

The truth is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that is required of me. There is always something, whether it’s a training requirement or writing tests or preparing my lessons or grading papers or counseling struggling students. Some things get finished. Most things do not.

My working life is an uneasy calculation between the most pressing need and the requirements that I hope can remain unfinished. Sometimes I feel like I am always on the verge of failure, one tiny slip or miscalculation away from either being fired or failing my students.

She resigned shortly after her letter was published.

The sad thing is, her situation is all too common.

We need to support our young teachers, trust our veteran teachers, and restore local autonomy to our school systems and classrooms.  If we fail to do this, public education will be an antiquated idea from a society that has failed its most vulnerable members: the children.

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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Olimometer 2.52

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I think the site and the work done here is worth it, if you do too then 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?

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – When Pete invited me to join his writing team he said, “You can write about whatever you want to…” within reason, of course, and most of the time I write about politics because that’s just what I do.  But something else has been on my mind this week so I hope you’ll indulge me this brief deviation from politics.

April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month so I want to take a moment to acquaint you with a local case that has captured the hearts of my local community.  Meet Braveheart (there is a happy ending, so keep reading):

September 11, 2013 a dog was found in an abandoned storage locker in Shreveport, chained to a car and likely moments away from death.  The hottest day of the year in September in Shreveport was on September 3 with 103 degrees; typically we have many days over 100 degrees around that time of year.  Can you braveimagine what the temperature must have been in that storage locker?  There was no ventilation, no food, and no water for the dog;  he was just waiting to die.

The owner of the storage property went into the unit because the renter had lapsed on his payments.  When he went in he saw what he thought was a dead dog.  It was only when he went to remove the body that he realized this dog was alive.

The following narrative of what happened next is from A Voice for Braveheart:

“He was only hours if not minutes from death as he could only move his eyes. He was rushed to the vet and somehow survived. Someone that played a critical role in his recovery stated ‘human hands did this, human hands should fix it’. He was given life saving medical care immediately and a miracle happened, he began healing. He was named…….Braveheart.

After a 2 week stay at the ER clinic he came to stay with our family. He only weighed 8 pounds when he was found.”

A number of local organizations and people worked hard to save Braveheart’s life, among them Bo and Ronda Spataro who agreed to foster Brave during his recovery.  Ronda works as a vet tech at the clinic where Brave was ultimately treated and she fell in love with him, as did her husband.  Ronda was able to take Brave to work with her and he was given aggressive, around the clock care.  But the story did not end there.

Braveheart’s condition when he was found was thoroughly documented through medical records and photographs.  The photographs are very difficult to look at.  Even with all that evidence, however, the city decided they needed to take Braveheart from his foster family and place him in the animal shelter as evidence.  The Spataros were devastated.  Braveheart had already become a part of their family.  Local news station KTAL was there when Braveheart was seized and captured incredibly emotional video as the puppy is taken from the Spataros and placed in the back of an animal control truck.  Through her sobs, Ronda gave Braveheart a kiss and told him, “I promise I’ll get you back…I promise.”   It was a promise she was later able to keep.

ronda

It was all one step too much for the community who reacted in outrage and planned a protest at the shelter.  Bo Spataro writes:

“There was an unnecessary custody battle with animal control when they were asked to start an investigation into the abuse/neglect of Braveheart by public outcry. It was quickly won, again by public outcry. [Brave’s abuser was identified and] charged with felony cruelty to an animal. We formally adopted Braveheart from Caddo Parish Animal Shelter after his abuser surrendered ownership. He has been assigned legal counsel and we have been attending his court dates. He has plead not guilty and the ADA has informed both the judge and defense there will be NO plea deals. The judge has also agreed to a sentencing hearing if he pleads guilty. This type of abuse to any animal with no meaningful penalty needs to be stopped.”

The picture taken at that joyful reunion between Braveheart and his new family still brings a tear to my eye when I look at it.

brave1

Bo tells me that the original ADA has been transferred and there will be someone else prosecuting the case; we can only hope the new prosecutor is also tough against animal abuse.  We may find out this week.

For Braveheart, there is a happy ending; Bo again:

“Braveheart is now doing great and has made nearly a full recovery. He still has some emotional scars that may never go away, but overall, he knows he is safe now. He knows he is loved now. You can see his whole story at A Voice For Braveheart. He is still supported by TSR La Baby Mommas rescue in Shreveport, La and attends events to promote “Adopt, don’t shop”, spay/neuter programs, pet education and animal abuse awareness. Although Brave was originally intended to be a foster, we knew differently after he was suddenly taken from us during the custody battle. We knew immediately when we got him back, we would never let him leave our home. He is a part of our family and he has found his forever home.”

As I said, there is a happy ending.

Look at Brave now:

brave4

The next court date for Brave’s abuser comes up this week and the community will be supporting Braveheart and the Spataro family in a quiet, respectful presence in the courtroom.   A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn’t be an important statement if he took Brave into the courtroom with him and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect.  He said he would never consider doing such a thing because he does not ever want Brave to have to look into the eyes or ever see his abuser again.  All he should know from now on is love and security.

Again, as April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I ask you to take a moment and read Brave’s story.  This isn’t just a local news story; there are stories like Brave’s all over the country.  Please donate to your local animal rescue organizations and always adopt, don’t shop, when you’re ready for a pet.  Work in your communities to strengthen laws against animal abuse.

To me, the story of Braveheart shows the best and the worst of human nature.  I can’t imagine leaving a puppy chained to a car in a hot storage building in over 100 degree heat with no water just to die.  That is an abominable act.  But I also think that there are more of us on the other side – on the side of love and compassion.  Thank goodness for people like the Spataros who will not only fight to save a dog from a situation like that and then go on to share their story and work as ambassadors for good.  Braveheart now attends many adoption events in the community and goes to local schools to help educate kids about caring for pets.

Thanks for indulging me on this non-political post, but I really wanted to share this story with you.  If we don’t give a voice to abused and mistreated animals, who will?

You can follow Braveheart’s continuing journey here.

 

(Note:  I redacted the name of Braveheart’s alleged abuser in the post above because although he is formally charged he is not yet convicted.)

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and has three rescue dogs.

By Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — A couple of weeks ago I posted that it had been “a tough week to be Mary Landrieu.”  I probably should have waited until this week to use that title.  There seems to be very little good news for the embattled Senator in the news this week.

Early in the week Clare Foran at The National Journal wrote about the abandonment of Senator Landrieu by the environmentalists.  “They just can’t stand her stance on global warming,” Foran says.

In the past year, only one environmental organization has donated to her campaign. The Baton Rouge-based Center for Coastal Conservation gave Landrieu a $2,500 nod, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund have handed over a combined contribution of exactly nothing. All three groups declined to comment on the record when asked whether they would endorse Landrieu.

Louisiana is peppered with oil and gas wells; we have just under two dozen petroleum refineries.  And Landrieu is savvy enough to know that these are important jobs votes in her pocket.  She has to walk a fine line.

Which brings us to what is really going on with Mary Landrieu’s campaign.

Louisiana attorney, and occasional fill-in host for local conservative talk show host Moon Griffon, Paul Hurd has a post at The Dead Pelican which makes very clear the challenges Senator Landrieu faces and what her campaign staff is attempting to do about it:

The Landrieu machine’s new snake oil is the assertion that Senator Landrieu is too valuable to Louisiana and the Oil and Gas Industry as the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee to let her get beat and have the Energy Committee controlled by pro-energy independent Republicans. This is the new political Hadicol being sold to the masses in Louisiana.

As we all know, Landrieu has a new plum position as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  The Washington Post sang the same tune about the angry environmentalists back in February:

Landrieu favors building the Keystone XL pipeline, protecting tax breaks or incentives for oil drilling, and placing limits on the power of federal agencies to set mercury or carbon dioxide guidelines for coal-fired power plants. Wyden takes the opposite position on all those issues.

Landrieu supports giving oil companies the right to export crude oil as well as natural gas, while Wyden supports giving natural gas export permits on a case by case basis and does not have a public position on crude oil exports.

The Louisiana Democrat helps maintain the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, but she is closer to the oil and gas industry than most other members of her party.

Au contraire, says Paul Hurd (emphasis mine):

Let’s look at voting record of Senator Landrieu and the members of the Senate Energy Committee, grouped by Democrats in control now, compared to the Republican members who would gain control of energy policy with the defeat of Senator Landrieu. One way to compare voting records is to use scorecards of business and the radical conservationists to see who supports energy growth and who does not. The League of Conservation Voters is a typical, extreme environmental advocacy group that takes every stand possible to prevent America from producing clean, abundant and American energy. Its Action Plans includes “Speaking out against the XL Keystone Pipeline,” “Protecting Us from Toxic Coal Ash” and “Support for Climate Change Action.” Their position is unrepentant destruction of the hydro-carbon based energy industry in America, and that means the destruction of Louisiana’s economy.

In contract, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a middle of the road, pro-business lobbying group that recognizes the need for clean and affordable production of energy in America to support our own economic growth and avoid shipping energy dollars to China and the Middle East to fund our global adversaries. And for Louisiana, royalty checks spend just fine in Louisiana.

Each of these groups provide a scorecard for the votes taken by our federal Congressmen and Senators. What these scorecards show is clear and remarkable. The average rating by the League of Conservation for 2013 for the twelve Democratic members of the Energy Committee is an astounding 91%, while the ten Republican members average a Conservation Voter rating of only 16%. In contrast, the Chamber of Commerce provides an average rating of the Democratic members of the Committee of 50%, while the Republican members of the Committee score an average of 91%. In short, these ratings by business and environmental groups show that continued Democratic control of the Senate Energy Committee promises Louisiana and America continuing government suppression of independent energy production in Louisiana and in America.

What all this means is that Mary Landrieu knows that she is in trouble.  She is scrambling to do whatever it takes to deflect discussion of her Obamacare vote even to the point of now trying to act like she wants to amend it.  She’s spent the better part of 18 months trying to distance herself from the Obama circus.  It’s not working for me.

Remember in April 2010?  She was “a vociferous defender” of Obamacare and even told one Morgan City businessman who was worried about having to lay off employees to “live with it.”  But now we’re supposed to believe she isn’t happy with it.

Quite honestly, I wish she’d read the Obamacare bill before she took that $300 million kickback for it.  Vote for it now and fix it later?  Nah.  I don’t think so.  That’s just transparent politicking and I’ve no respect for that.

And now we’re supposed to believe she is a vociferous defender of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.

Riiiight.

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.