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Poverty, John Edwards, and the American Dream

  • Posted on August 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

In the beginning of this video from John Oliver he talks about income inequality, you know whether you get your HBO legally or illegally.  I had to laugh from the get go as I have to go to watch John from YouTube because I don’t have HBO.   John has such a way of getting to the heart of things and explaining how we are too stupid for our own good.  It was even funny when he said we have to have some Brit telling us what we probably should already know, and wouldn’t you know it he is a Brit as well.

It isn’t easy for politicians to push in this area because corporations and the wealthy are really driving the political agenda.  The last politician that really talked about poverty and inequality was John Edwards.  His own personal issues took him down, you know having an affair on his cancer stricken wife, and this essentially put a damper on the issues he was talking about, poverty and inequality.  He was going to be the voice for the voiceless.  John’s agenda was the driving force of the 2008 election.  He took Senator Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 trip through Middle America to put a spotlight on the issues of the poor and disenfranchised.  It wasn’t Hillary or Barak that were driving the discussion.  John was the one hitting on Hillary and trying to get Barak to chime in during debates.  John was the one that talked about fair wages and single payer.  John may have been an imperfect messenger but killing the messenger seems to have killed the message.  It really makes me wonder why other politicians can do what John did and survive politically.  Could it be the message that was really the target?

Are politicians today so corrupt and tied to their corporate masters that they cannot see what it is doing to our country?Perhaps they just don’t care?  When I was young, I had politicians that I looked up to, respected, and even idealized.  Bobby Kennedy was one of them.  These are his words, “It is a revolutionary world we live in. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments.”

These timely words could have been spoken today.  Our country is far more concerned about the military machine than the plight of the poor and middle class.  The ideals of my youth have grown to skepticism in my maturing age.  The people that seem to make the most sense about political matters are entertainers like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver.  With the exceptions of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I cannot name politicians that make me feel that sense of respect and admiration for standing up for what is right and just.  There is a gap in our country between the rich and the poor, the powerbrokers and the bottom feeders that just try to be that crab in the basket that wants so badly to reach the top.  Someone at the bottom keeps tugging him down and someone at the top puts a lid on the pot.  In the end, he is cooked into a system that has no freedom because he is stuck to a class system that only recognizes the rich and the connected.  If you have connections, you are going places.  If you are poor, you are probably stuck in a system that is working to keep you down and under control.  I always find it interesting that your credit report can be tied to so many things that help or hurt you.  If you have good credit, you get lower insurance, lower interest on loans, and more respect.  If you are poor and you have a tough time paying your bills, you can now expect even more problems because your credit is going to tie you to a life of debt.  They say we don’t have a debtor’s prison any more but that really is not true.  Students getting out of college soon discover they have a world of hurt when they start trying to pay back their student loans.  Those loans can follow them for their entire life if they are stuck in some low wage job with no chance of real promotion.

I know I tend to rant about certain things but I am an observer in a system that I see is stacked for certain people.  It doesn’t matter where you live today, there seems to be two different worlds:  The world for the rich and connected and the one for everyone else.  If you or your family is “someone” in your community, then you will have a better chance at those connections, even if you aren’t wealthy.  They can lead to jobs, scholarships, and ultimately success.  If you are poor with few or no connections, you are like the crab in the pot.  You have to work extra hard to climb to the top.  Some at the bottom will be pulling you down and sometimes it is through their own lack of understanding the system.  It always amazes me when the poor vote for people backed by the right wing establishment.  These people are controlled through religion and do-goodery.  Yeah, I made that word up, so deal with it.  They are so busy trying to be on the right side of the “Kingdom of God” that they forget about the here and now.  They believe that old Biblical saying about the rich and the camel through the eye of a needle when it comes to heaven.  They are kept stupid by a system that wants to maintain the status quo.  They sacrifice their kids for war because they are inclined to believe that wars really matter.  They don’t believe in global warming because they have been told that these things are cyclical.  They are waiting for the rapture and worried about public schools putting some harebrained idea in their kids’ heads.  Then there are the other poor:  The ones that are so down on their economic luck that they have lost all hope.  They don’t see how they can change anything.  They may not be into religion and surely don’t bother to vote because they don’t have the time to worry about such matters.  They are too tired trying to keep food on the table and their bills paid.  Life for them is just a continuous sucking machine of bad luck and meager existence.

From my perspective, as a nation we seem to be more concerned with the poor in other countries than in our own.  I used to feel that sense of pride in my country and what “we” stood for in the world.  Today I have many mixed feelings.  Maybe I have become immune to the propaganda.  It is hard when I watch protesters screaming at kids on the border.  That behavior is in direct contrast to what I thought we were as a nation.  It is hard when I can remember being a student at Michigan State University back in the seventies and I was full of idealism.  Reality is so much more complicated than that young idealism that I held in my youth.  I worry about the young students I teach today.  What kind of world we are leaving them?  If they are poor and not connected what do they have to look forward to, a world of debt and stress?  People used to be able to live a good life by working for GM on the line.  Today, that just isn’t possible.  Most families need two incomes and if you are poor, you are probably going to need some kind of assistance to have a decent life.  I do not have all the answers I just know that the politicians today disappoint me with their constant representation of their corporate donors and not the poor and the voiceless.

Michael Vey and Glenn Beck

  • Posted on July 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Michael VeyAs a middle school teacher, I am interested in my students.  Our school has devoted the first 15 minutes of the day to reading in an effort to get more students devoted to reading.  I often ask the students what they are reading to see what interests them.  A couple years ago, I decided to read what some of them seemed to like reading.  I’ve read many different books such as all of the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent series.  Recently, many of the students were telling me they were reading “Michael Vey”.  Since it seemed to be popular, I decided to read it.  It actually “Michael Vey:  The Prisoner of Cell 25”.  As I was nearing the end of the book, I discovered something that shocked me.  There is a connection between Michael Vey and Glenn Beck.

I went online shortly before I finished the book to see if it had been made into a video.  It seemed like the logical progression for the book.  Many times, I have read a book and then watched the movie.  It was natural for me to investigate this.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered one, that Glenn Beck has a publishing company and two, that his company, Mercury Ink, published Michael Vey.  Mercury Ink’s partner is Simon and Schuster.

The Michael Vey series is about good, evil, and making right choices.  I actually enjoyed reading the book and could see why students like it.  I am not going to say much about the book, as I don’t want to spoil anything for someone that might like to read it.  I will say it is about teenagers that have a special connection with electricity.  Something happened to them when they were born and now as they are coming into their teen years they have unusual abilities.  Michal Vey seems to have the most powerful ability.  The book takes the reader on an adventure from combating bullying to building friendships and developing an understanding of what makes people good and bad.  The underlying theme is good triumphs over evil and that sometimes-good people do bad things to help.  There is much more to it than the simplistic ideas I am mentioning here.  However, listening to Glenn Beck tell the story should create caution in all of us.

 

Is there an underlying agenda from the far right to infiltrate the minds of our youth?  Glenn is trying to find ways to reach the youth and he thinks these books might do it.  I know many students like the Michael Vey series.  Whether these books will have any dramatic impact on their worldview remains to be seen.  My concern is the effort that has been put into public education by the far right in the last many years.  It seems to me that there is a far-reaching goal to control public education and perhaps this is just one more puzzle piece that is being put in place for the greater good of the right’s influence on education.

I always say, “I learn something new every day.”  Today I learned about Glenn Beck’s goals.  I never would have connected him to the Michael Vey series unless I researched it.  I am sharing this because I think we all need to keep one eye open for understanding the manipulations that the media does to our children and to ourselves.  As an educator, I would be remiss if I didn’t investigate and share these things when I learn about them.  It certainly has made me wonder what else have I been reading that has an interesting back-story.

 

Bill Kristol Makes My Mind Want to Explode and Other Thoughts

  • Posted on July 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm

It seems strange that I haven’t been on here blogging in so many months.  My last post was the end of January.  Really?  So, what have I been doing, you may ask?  It would be that teacher thing, my Kindle obsession, and a serious malaise about politics in general.  I will try to get up to speed on what is recently on my mind.

I still watch a bit of Morning Joe, even though Joe sucks!  I don’t know which has been worse the build up for more war or the whole media frenzy about Bowe Bergdahl.  I am tired of watching people who never have any real skin in the game, (You know, their children will not be dressing up in fatigues any time soon.) telling the American people how we must go to war now and by the way, Bowe Bergdahl is a trader.  I cannot get on either bandwagon.

Everyone knows Bill Kristol.

bill_kristol

It has puzzled me why he is invited to be on so many news programs where he spouts his venom.  Why is he so important?  Every time I see him on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, or some other media program, I get a little crazy.  Years ago, I went to a website he was a part of called the Project or Plan for a New America.  The website seems to be gone now but the plan is still out there.  It takes us back to American dominance in the world and that plan developed by Paul Wolfowitz that has to do with pre-emptive strikes.  It later became the Bush Doctrine, which involves going to war before we have been actually attacked.  This strategy was used for the buildup to the Iraq War.  Bill Kristol seems to enjoy going to war.  Fortunately, Katrina vanden Heuvel seems to feel the same way I do.  I came across this clip today and somehow it made me feel better that others aren’t so impressed with this crazy person’s ideas either.  Yes, I know he is the editor of the Weekly Standard but it just doesn’t make him special to me.  It almost seems there is still hope in fighting these neo-cons and their ideas.

 

Another thing keeping me busy is that teacher thing.  This year has been very stressful for most of the teachers I know.  No matter how hard we work or what we do, it seems more is expected of us.  The pressure is out there from politicians that have no idea how to teach, to create classrooms that turn out kids that pass the latest test.  It just doesn’t seem to be about the individual but the test taker.  If a student is good at figuring out and taking tests, he/she will be prized by teachers that are expected to get him/her to pass a test.  Those kids that freak out on tests, struggle in general with testing, or perhaps have social and economic problems are in for a world of hurt as teachers jump through every hoop to try and get them “test worthy”.  Okay, I know I am sarcastic but this is for real.  I work long days trying to do whatever it takes to get my students attention.  I just still think it is strange that my evaluations are attached to reading and math scores of my students.  This is true for all of us.  Teacher evaluations are attached to test scores of students, all students.  Now, most people can see the problems with this.  How will students be selected or tied to individual teachers?  Why is a math teacher tied to reading and vice versa?  How can I, as an art teacher, affect those reading and math scores?  There is constant reworking of lessons and trying to tie in reading, math, and even technology skills as much of the testing is now on computers.  As crazy as this seems to me, it must be harder for the students, especially those students that are not the top reading and math students.

Considering all of this, it is rather amazing how much I have been reading in 2014.  After Christmas was over, I decided I wanted to buy a new Kindle.  I dropped my old Kindle so the lettering wouldn’t work in the corner.  I just had the little cheap model, but I liked it for reading.  I would read on my iPad but I was never crazy about it because it is heavier.  It seemed like I was not reading as much as I used to, so that is why I decided to get a new Kindle.  I bought the cheap HD model that comes with the ads when you turn it on.  I cannot say enough about my crazy obsession with my Kindle and Amazon Prime!  Since getting this Kindle the second week of January, I have read around 30 books.  I even have it read to me when I am doing things like cooking or cleaning.  I love my Kindle and even the offers.  I got a Mr. Coffee Café Latte machine for my birthday for just $20.  Since I have Amazon Prime, I didn’t have to pay any shipping.  I love Amazon Prime as I buy many things through Amazon and I do watch some videos as well.  However, recently the new music cloud has just blown me away.  There is so much music content that I have access to that it is amazing.  I just hope Amazon doesn’t up the rates on me.  I also really enjoy getting my BookBub emails.  Bookbub allows me to buy books for next to nothing or even free.  I have discovered authors I am not familiar with and I am enjoying reading most of these books.  What I really like about the Kindle is how many choices I have at any one time.  I have many books on my Kindle.  I also can get them through library loan although sometimes I have to wait awhile.  I can purchase a new book in mere seconds.  Amazon has made all of this super easy to use and so I keep buying…and they keep making money off me!

Today there is something new on my mind.  The Supreme Court just handed down their decision on the Hobby Lobby case.  Earlier this morning I made a comment on a video on Facebook that gave some statistics on abortion.  I usually avoid any comments on abortion issues, as that issue seems to bring out all of the crazy people ready to comment.  I received many replies to my comment, which I should have known I would.  I believe abortion is something a woman decides for herself with the help of her doctor.  I don’t think it is a decision taken lightly and I certainly don’t think politicians, judges, and the like who are mostly old, white men should be making these decisions for women.  It is rather patronizing to think the little woman isn’t smart enough to decide for herself what is in her best interest.  I personally have a secret wish that decisions like this one can move our country to single payer.  Why should insurance companies and businesses hold all of the special keys to any one person’s medical coverage?  Let’s just get rid of these middle “men” and go to a system where everyone pays a bit in their taxes and health care is guaranteed, Medicare for all or something like it.  If everyone is paying in, than no one group can say they are paying for someone else’s health care.  Everyone pays and all benefit.  It just seems to make sense to me.

Sometimes I feel like I am in some kind of time warp machine.  For every step forward women make on issues there are plenty of people, including other women, dragging and pulling on them to hold them back, keep them down, control them, and generally keep them as less than men.  Why is it that we aren’t hearing cases about business companies refusing to provide Viagra?  Why is it that men can make all of the decisions about their own bodies but women have to be second-guessed at every turn?  It just doesn’t make sense to me currently.  We live in a time when many women are the main or only breadwinner in their families.  They should be able to make all of the decisions applicable to their own bodies.  From my point of view, enough said.

As the summer moves on, I hope to get on here more often and spew my only little mind chatter.  It is different to be me.  I am constantly thinking about many things and sometimes it’s hard to get on the bandwagon of just one thing.  It is how my mind works, so sometimes you may have to adjust to my wandering brain as I interpret the world around me.

 

The TSA and Other Things on My Mind Today

  • Posted on January 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I think this is going to be a long day.  I have a stressed out dog, a curious cat, and a backache.  It is the middle of winter and I am getting a new roof.  My animals, especially my poor dog, seem confused by the noise and feel somewhat invaded.  It is early.  I know that this day is only going to get much worse.  Speaking of feeling invaded, I just read the article, “Dear America, I Saw You Naked and Yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.” by Jason Edward Harrington over at Politico.com.  I have to say nothing in it surprised me but it sure reinforces many of the things I had been thinking about giving up our freedoms and all for the sake of safety.  Some of it is just to keep us in line, so to speak.  Nothing more but to make it look like someone is doing something to keep us safe.  The next time you are traveling and have to be personally checked in some way, you might think more about why it is you.  He even suggested there is a special code for attractive women, no real surprise there.  It sounds more like a Frat house party than what we should consider serious government business.

Poor Ann Romney is still whining about the fact that she won’t be FLOTUS.  I am not sure why but I did watch the Mitt movie on Netflix this week during our hiatus from school because of the chilling weather.  The movie was a great, big, warm, and fuzzy fluff piece for Mitt.  Aw shucks people, he is just one of us!  We just don’t really understand what a decent, caring individual he really is.  While I am sitting here trying to comfort my poor dog, I cannot help but think back to another dog that spent a treacherous time on the roof of Mitt’s automobile.  Maybe Mitt is one of us, one of those people that don’t understand those of us that treat our animals as if they are human.  Enough said, but don’t be surprised if Mitt doesn’t run again.  The movie made me think it was a setup for 2016!

While I was home, I also viewed those annoying videos all teachers have to view yearly about everything from blood borne pathogens and sexual harassment, to chemicals in the work place and what OSHA means to me.  I am not sure why I have to view these every year because my memory isn’t that bad.  However, it is just one of those things that some government official thinks we need to freshen up on yearly.  I always find the sexual harassment video interesting.  When I see the young female teacher sitting at her desk with the lecherous older teacher trying to persuade her to get on his team, I can only wonder what female teacher wears a top like that.  It has spaghetti straps and I think she is ready for a party.  I know many young, female teachers and I haven’t witnessed any of them dressed quite like that at school.  If they did, the boys would surely be having much better attendance rates than some of them do.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending an online art conference put on by the Art of Education.  It was an interesting day.  There were many technical problems for people as the video streaming had some issues.  Even though there were problems, I still had a great day.  It was nice to feel like I was part of something bigger as I viewed and participated in conversations with other art teachers from all over the world.  Of course, art is universal and it is truly, a language that all people can understand.  AOE gave us a password so we can view the videos for the next six months or so.  This is great as I remember many times coming back from a conference trying to remember all of the different presentations I attended.  At AOE, I can review the videos and maybe get even more from them.  While they didn’t present enough material at the high school level, I was able to get plenty of ideas that I will be using in my own classroom in the days and years to come.  I really can’t wait until the next one.  Therefore, if you are an art teacher, you might want to look into the Art of Education website for future reference.

Speaking of art and websites, I want to give a shout out to my favorite online art teacher, “The Helpful Art Teacher.”  Rachel Wintemberg teaches in New Jersey and has only had her blog for a bit over three years, but it is jam packed with great lesson plans.  She shares everything and researches whatever she is posting online.  While the site visually may look a little simplistic, it is far from it.  I can spend days perusing Rachel’s blog.  It is just a treasure.  If you are an art teacher, you really need to check it out.  It is really geared for the middle and high school crowd but it is awesome.  I have nominated her blog for the Art of Educations Art Ed Blog of the Year Award.  You are welcome to nominate her as well if you are so inclined.

While I am hearing a lot of pounding, my baby dog, Brodie, has seemed to settle in under my feet, so to speak.  He pipes up once in awhile but he seems to be appreciating my presence near him and is glad that I am calm and not freaking out by the noise.  The geek in me finds this product very interesting and it reminds me of a piece of sculpture.  It could be revolutionary and it is based on an old concept.  How cool is that?

I talked with one of my ten brothers the other night about farm subsidies.  I won’t get into the sum total of our conversation but it had something to do with the concept of socialism and how some people that despise the concept of socialism are the biggest socialists, so to speak, as they get subsidized. So of course, I had to go find the website for myself and it is interesting.  If you would like to know who is getting farm subsidies in your area, just plug in the zip code.  This is for the period of years from 1995 through 2012.  I always find these things interesting because so many people worry about the $133.85 some poor person might be receiving from SNAP.  Maybe we should be looking beyond to the people that really get the lion’s share of government money through special programs, lobbying efforts, and no bid contracts.  Don’t even get me started on those charitable organizations like churches that get government money for “helping” other people.  I always think it would be better if the government just gave the money right to the people.  Think about how the bankers were all bailed out, if the government had just sent that money out to us, we would have gotten the economy going, by spending it.  Instead, the bankers kept it and then made it more difficult for businesses to get the loans they needed.  I am not an economist but something stinks in our government.  We have two parties that get their seed money for their elections from businesses that lobby for special treatment.  The rest of us out in the real world just keep doing what we are supposed to be doing and keep on hoping that something different will be done.  President Obama was going to bring us change but that’s not happening.  Washington is more gridlocked than ever and controlled by special interests that have nothing to do with most of the American people.  The one percent is getting richer and the rest of us continue to hang on….hoping to see something constructive done by our government.  I won’t hold my breath.  I don’t see any real change in anything but education and that’s just because there is money to be made there.

I have had fun writing my little thoughts.  I hope someone finds me somewhat entertaining and perhaps I can get someone thinking, a simple thing this teacher would like to do.  You don’t have to agree with me on anything, but just think.  I’ll leave you with a picture of poor Brodie.  As you can see, he is frightened but sitting under my computer chair knowing I will save him from all that is evil!100_2107

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