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My Art Student, Occupy Wall Street, and those Pesky Politicians

  • Posted on December 10, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I had a student recently create a work of art that really made me think about how easy it is to understand the 99% versus the 1%.  So many of the pundits that I have watched on television have said that the Occupy Wall Street group doesn’t have a clear message, or a spokesperson and this is why they won’t be successful in whatever they are trying to do.  That’s the media, the machine that is trying to douse the flames of this current movement.  I want to share the painting that my student created.  First of all, she is a seventh grader of Mexican heritage.  She recently moved away and I’m sad to see her move as I would love to have worked with her more to see what inspires her.  The painting was the result of an assignment I had given.  She was working with a group of students and they were learning about Pieter Bruegel.  I challenged them to create a small painting inspired by the artist they were studying but to put their own “twist” on it.  Yareli did not let me down.  Below you will see the piece that inspired my student and you will see what she painted.

Pieter Bruegel, The Misanthrope

She had to write a reflection statement about her artwork.  This is what she said, “My artwork is pretty good.  This project helped me know what colors can make a different color.  My artwork could have been better but I wanted it simple.  It’s a better version of the artist I copied from because now days it’s the poor who are being robbed and that brings more attention to the one looking at it.”

Her artwork can be seen so you can make a comparison between the two pieces.

Yareli's Artwork

I think it is interesting that so many pundits and politicians profess to just not understand the Occupy Wall Street group when a little seventh grade girl can see what’s happening in the world today!  Newt Gingrich even suggested some ridiculous idea about taking a bath and getting a job.  I think the politicians and the pundits have a pretty good idea why people are so fed up with the way things are run in Washington.  They are just trying to get us off topic by changing the subject to bathing and trying to make people think the Occupy group is just a bunch of hippies.  You know those pot smoking, sex driven, street people, that are dirty.  Most of us are tired of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer because of those Washington policies that favor wealth and corporations over living wages, education, and jobs.  There is always enough money for Wall Street bankers and private corporations tied to our military industrial complex but there is never enough for the little guy.

I, for one, am thankful for the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  It takes a lot of guts to go out and really protest.  I can write on my little blog and say some of what I’m thinking but these people really put themselves out there, day after day, taking the abuse for the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe the way those young college students at UC Davis were pepper sprayed.  The video that everyone has seen shows how abused they were by the campus police.  It was surreal to watch as the students innocently stayed calm in the face of real adversity.  It must have seemed like a torturous nightmare to them that the police would spray them over and over when they were being so compliant.

UC Davis Students from LA Now from the LA Times Blog

What prepared those young students for the ability to sit still like that?  These are kids that have grown up with computers and comforts that their parents might not have had but they are still able to reach down into the well of what is right and wrong and take a stand!  I commend them and anyone else that is out there trying to make a difference in this screwed up world where up is down and down is up!  It’s almost like we have reached the Land of Oz where nothing seems to make sense.  We are facing a nightmare with the richest one or two percent controlling the lives of the rest of us.  I would like to see a change in our government but I don’t see it happening.  Too many that have the power to make the change are living in the world of the 1%.  They don’t care enough about the rest of the people.  If they did, they would stop playing these political games and get something done to get this country moving again!

I was watching C-Span today and there was a woman on talking about tax breaks for making energy improvements to your home.  A guy called in about transportation and how we should be creating a high speed railway system across our country.  I couldn’t help but think about all of the jobs that could be made from such a move.  The other day I was telling my new trimester of sixth grade students that we don’t know what the jobs will be when they grow up.  A tech guy had been in the room fixing a computer.  I told them that twenty years ago his job didn’t exist.  I went on to say that if jobs continue to be so difficult to find that the people getting the jobs will have to be innovative, inventive, and creative.  Unfortunately, politicians are the same old, uncreative, uninventive lot that they have been for years.  While they are sitting in their ivory towers of inequity telling the rest of us how to live, the creative innovators are being silenced.  They are silenced by this class of lazy, stale politicians that only live for one thing, their own greed!  My last post I pondered why the choices for president are so damn bad.  Unfortunately, the 1% and 99% don’t have a lot in common, one is looking for a hand up onto the boat and the other is pulling the ladder up and saying the boat is full!  I think the politicians are already in the boat ready to set sail.

Reinvention and Other Useless Rhetoric

  • Posted on January 30, 2011 at 2:01 am

I'm sure it is not just the GOP, but this is a good depciton of the money cycle.

I keep hearing a strange word over and over in my head, reinvention.  Frankly, it’s just a word but it seems to be the “buzzword” this year in politics.  Governor Rick Snyder used it in his “State of the State” address and President Obama used it in his State of the Union” address.  It sounded interesting that both politicians have chosen to give such similar speeches when they are supposedly from opposing political parties.  The word reminds me of those “born again virgins”.  It’s almost like an oxymoron to me.  How do you reinvent and invention?  I also find it interesting that when anyone thinks of the word “invention” it usually draws to mind some kind of product.  Since we aren’t exactly making any products, what are we trying to reinvent?

I’m picturing the sleazy ex-husband that is desperately remaking his image for his next conquest.  How did that saying go?  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  I think that buzzword, reinvention, is nothing more than corporate speak for “privatizing government”.

We have been told so many times that government doesn’t work and private industry does a better job that many of us actually believe this myth.  I see our country being sold out to private industry more and more.  Here in Michigan we better think hard about that bridge the governor wants to build.  I’m all for the bridge but not if it is put in the hands of some private company that controls what goes in and out of our country.    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704590704576092881920953952.html

The details seem a bit fuzzy to me.  I remember fuzzy math and it usually adds up to a headache for the little guy.

My son complains all the time about how the government of Illinois handles licensing.  It seems that they have very few state offices open.  However, you can purchase your license plates, etc. through private industry, but it will cost you much more.  You are paying for the convenience of not having to travel the distance to find an open state office.

This push for privatization has been going on for some time.  Republicans have been trying to privatize Social Security for years.  The military has been holding hands with private corporations for years.  The one thing that I notice about all of this is the high cost of doing business with these private military corporations.  Our politicians seem ready to feed that dragon for a long time to come without worrying too much about how the money is spent or how much is laid to waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They don’t even seem too concerned about the millions and millions of missing dollars that have been reported about.

Now the latest trend is to take public education and sell it out to private corporations that are for profit businesses.  This is being done in a rather sneaky way.  First, the schools have privatized everything from janitorial service and food service to substitute teachers.  Its’ all happening and inch by inch it will happen on an even bigger scale.  The push right now for getting rid of tenure for teachers is all part of this plan as far as I can tell.  The past ten years has been an out right assault on public school teachers and their competence.  What ails education is being blamed on the teachers.  The teachers are the scapegoat but it is really just part of the plan to destroy the teachers’ unions.  Truthfully, there are many factors that have had an influence on education.  The biggest factor in my mind is poverty.  The rise to the top of the chosen few and the loss of the middle class have created a growing lower class of people that have probably lost hope for the future.  Unemployment is staggering and many people are also under employed.  Their main priority right now is simply survival.

With all of this in mind what does the president do?  At the state of the union he called once again for the push for science and math education.  The funny thing about this aspect is something my sister mentioned the other day.  She told me I should do a post on what the senators, representatives and other politician’s children are doing for jobs.  She figures they aren’t working in science and math.  We talked about it.  I know Chelsea Clinton works for a hedge fund.  Most of these politician’s kids are probably going where the money is.  I don’t think the money is in science, math and certainly not in education.  The young people that can manage to find a decent job are working in business.  The other ones are doing service jobs like waiting on tables, working in a retail store or working in senior citizen’s homes.  Our young creative minds are left under utilized in a country that sees more value in private industry than in people!

Early this morning I was watching C-Span.  It was some kind of educational meeting that took place this week.  There was a man from Sweden who was part of a private business that had created schools in Sweden that were for profit businesses.  He was over here because he is starting a school in New York City.  I found this all very interesting.  He said people were unhappy with the school system in Sweden.  This must be a world wide phenomenon.  When he opened his first school he had something like 900 people sign up, even though he had no prior proven success.  He said that just showed how ready for change people were.  He wants to do for America what he did for Sweden.  There was also a young college graduate student from Chile.  Chile also has been starting schools created by businesses.

Watching this today made me really think about what’s going on here in our country with education.  The drumbeat has been going for quite some time that teachers are not qualified, that they are inept.  Much blame has been placed on the poor quality of the teachers.  I’m not going to say all teachers are great because obviously there are imperfect people in every job category.  However, it has been my experience that most of the teachers I know are dedicated individuals that want to do the best job they can for the students.  It’s apparent to me that it’s not so much about the teachers as it is about business controlling every aspect of government.  Business has been able to infiltrate into everything we do.  It really is about the bottom dollar.

The common person only has their vote.  Business has lobbyist that caress the politicians and give them the money they need to keep their seats.  What we end up with are corrupt politicians that sound more like businessmen than like statesmen.  The most recent push for business was the health care bill.  Real people don’t seem to be happy with it.  However, insurance companies will be happy with all the new customers they are going to have after all the penalties kick in.  Business has a special seat in our government.  Don’t let them destroy public education with a for profit business plan where the bottom line is profit, not students.  President Obama using a word like “reinvention” is meant to inspire us with nothing more than business laced useless rhetoric.  Don’t be fooled!

By the way according to Dyson he reinvented the vacuum cleaner!

2011 What Goes Up, Must Come Down Eventually

  • Posted on January 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm

President "Republican Lite" Obama Making Nice With Senator Boehner and Representative Canter, Republican Hatchet Men

You may still be on that holiday high, hung over from the good eats and drinks.  However, it’s time to sober everyone up with the reality that is coming.  You may be feeling pretty fine right now because your tax cut was saved.  Oh, well, you gave in on that tax cut deal for the wealthy thing because well, you got yours!  Of course we all know that the status quo is unsustainable for Republicans, unless they’re talking about tax cuts for the wealthy.  So, you might be wondering what I could possibly be worried about.  The answer is, plenty!  As the tax cuts may be giving many people a bit of sugar high right now, those same people will soon be feeling that sugar candy low you get when that sugar rush is gone!

First of all you need to understand that the Republicans feel they can make the most gains by making life as difficult as possible for the Democrats.  The Republicans are putting forth a new rule that will make it harder to raise the debt ceiling, something they didn’t mind doing under the Bush administration as I recall.  http://thehill.com/homenews/house/134799-new-gop-rules-will-make-it-tougher-for-house-to-raise-debt-ceiling

Furthermore, now that the Republicans got that big tax cut they wanted they are ready to take a hammer to everything else because after all, we are broke.  Just listen to Senator Boehner talking about our country being broke and then turning around and pushing for the massive tax cut for the WEALTHY! What a trooper!

That means there is only one way to go and that’s with cuts and I don’t mean tax cuts.  We know they are not going to “raise” taxes as they have pushed through the continuation of the Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthy.  So just what is discretionary spending any way?  Part of the discretionary spending is the defense but we all know that it will not be cut and in fact is going to see a budgetary increase in 2011.  That leaves all of the other types of special programs like education and of course that pesky money that goes back to individual states.  The states are already hurting and they are probably going to hurt even more!  You can read about the discretionary spending in the articles I site and also in the letter sent to the President by the Republicans in 2009. With extending the Bush tax cuts both parties have intentionally painted themselves into a corner.  They are going to have to find a way to get out of the room without messing up the paint.  It’s not going to happen because once again both parties are going to lay all the ugliness at the feet of the American people.  Instead of having the wealthy top two percent step up and do more to help this country, we can all expect that the middle class and the poor will once again absorb these burdens.

In 2009 the head Republicans, Senator John Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor sent President Obama a letter.  In it they outlined the cuts they wanted to make to reduce the deficit.  These Republicans look at any change to the Bush tax cuts as being a tax increase unless of course it betters the wealthy.  We all know that they upped the death tax to favor the very rich!  Even though the Bush tax cuts were set to expire and the country would go back to the previous tax code, it is now looked at as being a substantial increase in taxes if they were allowed to expire.  It’s really fascinating when you start getting into the mindset of how the Republicans really think about these issues.  Much of what they want to do is to push everything back to the states.  Of course this has been going on for years already and many states are in a heap of trouble but if you read things through carefully, it is exactly what these guys want to do.  They want to eliminate many programs.  I think this 2009 letter is a big hint as to what the political fights will be coming down the road in 2011.  Remember the budget is only good until March 4th.  So, what can we expect?  http://republicanleader.house.gov/UploadedFiles/06-04-09_Savings_Proposals_For_President.pdf

This is something everyone should read as it is a real eye opener.  There are many programs in education they want to cut or eliminate completely, even my own “art education” gets the whack!  So much of what they want to do they deem in their infinite wisdom as not a “federal” role.

In regards to the issue of Social Security I think this is interesting.  This is directly from About.com.  http://useconomy.about.com/od/fiscalpolicy/p/Mandatory.htm

The first Baby-Boomer turned 62 in 2008, becoming eligible to retire on Social Security benefits. By 2025, those aged 65+ will comprise 20% of the population. As Boomers leave the work-force and apply for benefits, three things happen:

  1. The percentage of the labor force under 55 stagnates, providing less payroll taxes to fund Social Security.
  2. GDP growth declines remains flat thanks to fewer workers.
  3. By 2040, the Social Security Trust Fund goes bankrupt.

Choices for FY 2012 and Beyond:

As a result, the U.S. Federal Budget in 2012 and beyond will have to choose among the lesser of three evils, none of which are good for the economy:

  1. Devote more of the budget to pay Social Security benefits. However, to maintain current benefits, the federal budget will have to increase to 25% of GDP by 2045.
  2. To fund this increased budget, taxes would have to increase, further slowing the economy.
  3. Decrease the benefit amount paid to retirees. This is the most likely scenario. This would force able-bodied Boomers to continue working. Those who couldn’t work would provide a further drain on the economy.

What I find as the interesting part is the fact that both parties are aware of this and they still decided to reduce the payroll taxes recently.  It makes me wonder if they want to cause a catastrophic failure so they can say, “I told you so.”  I guess the idea is we pay 2% less into Social Security and that will leave us more money to spend on junk to stimulate the economy.  What kills me is what I just read over at About.com.  About claims we will have to choose amongst the lesser of three evils, so why did we make it worse by partially defunding Social Security?  Maybe greater minds than mind can answer that question.  Of course my suspicious mind makes me think that we are being set up for failure so that once again we will accept less. We will accept less in benefits when we retire and we will work longer to get to retirement.  Life is over as most of us have figured for our retirements.  The state of Michigan already is taxing me higher by making me pay more into my retirement without any additional benefit.  I’m sure the Federal government is getting ready to do the same.

There is an agenda out their folks.  It seems like all the things that were created under FDR, which were sacred cows at one time, are now going to be fodder for the Republicans and our Republican “lite” President to dismantle.  Politicians that might have fought this have been systematically taken out.  Two come to my mind that won’t be back after the New Year, Representative Alan Grayson and Senator Russ Feingold.  I mean if Democrats had to go, why couldn’t it have been more of those Blue Dogs?

http://useconomy.about.com/od/fiscalpolicy/p/Budget_Spending.htm

Have You Taken Your Hate Pill Today?

  • Posted on August 21, 2010 at 9:08 pm

You have a choice to make: Hate and fear or more of the same. This is not an easy choice.

I’ll be the first one to tell you I have no love for the Democrats because they stole my primary vote on May 31st, 2008.  However, as much as I dislike the Democrats the Republicans are infinitely worse!  If you are thinking of voting those Republicans back in power really give some thought to what it would mean to the health of this country.  They are political obstructionist that won’t pass any legislation that might get this country moving again.  They deserve to be booted out of office, period!  If you are thinking about voting for a Republican just watch this video from the 2008 election.  It’s pretty snarky but pretty true.  Think about poor BP when you watch this as some Republicans felt so sorry for them.

When Ronald Reagan was President my mother used to say, “Have you taken your hate pill today?”  The Republicans were always good at breeding hatred.  They like stirring that proverbial pot of hatred and fear.  With the up coming November election I find it very interesting that we are discussing everything except what needs to be discussed, the economy.  This past week is a fine example of the smoke and mirror politics that continues to prevail in our country.  While most people are more concerned about the health of the economy, we are busy hearing talk about September 11th and whether a Muslim cultural center should be built a couple blocks from the World Trade Center site, whether President Obama is a Muslim and whether we should repeal the 14th amendment.  I, for one, am tired of the same old scare tactics that Republicans have always used to get people in line to vote for them in the next election.

The truth is both parties have problems but Republicans brought us to the brink of disaster and it is not time to reward them for that behavior.  It was Republican policies that lead us to this disastrous economy.  We have been told for years by Republicans that old tired theory of the “trickle down” economy.  We, as a country, have been rewarding the wealthy with tax breaks and special deals in the hope that one day all of it would trickle down to the little guy.  That hasn’t happened and it never will.  Republicans are good at changing the subject during an election cycle.  Currently, we should be talking about ways to move the economy and what are we doing?  Once again we are spreading hate and fear with the help of Republicans.  It’s popular now to hate Muslims.  After all they have that crazy religion and the women all look like nuns so it’s easy to pick on them.  We also hate those cute little brown babies the illegal Mexicans give birth to just so they can stay in this country.  You know the “anchor babies”.  I wonder how long those Repubs set around thinking that one up. President Obama must be a Muslim after all his skin is dark, his father was a Muslim and his name is so different.  What if the President really were a Muslim?  What happened to freedom of religion?  Many people could care less about religion but when it comes to politics it becomes an issue.

The Republicans breed hatred and fear.  They have hated gays for years and have done everything they could to obstruct gay rights issues during the political campaign seasons.  There are many gays that are practicing Republicans such as the “Log Cabin Republicans” but in my book they are all hypocrites that help to breed hatred and fear.  The abortion issue has been settled law since 1973.  It’s about a woman’s “choice” and yet this issue has been continually used by the Republicans to get votes.  They aren’t interested in really repealing the issue as it is settled law but they are interested in getting people riled up so they go out and vote Republican.

FDR famously said, “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.”  Republicans want you to fear everything so you will vote for them to take care of you.  We are to fear our neighbors because they might be Muslims, illegal aliens, or heaven forbid “terrorists”!  We are supposed to watch each other like psychos on the “Big Brother” show but this big brother is the government of Republicans.  We are also to fear the government as it is bad.  The government doesn’t know how to do anything.  They fail at everything they do including education so naturally you don’t want the government to do anything.  This is the plan of the Republicans.  Fear the government but make sure you keep those tax cuts for the wealthy because if you don’t you will lose your job when they fire you.  Fear that dumb voters!  Hate brown colored people and crazy pro-choice women but most of all hate Democrats because they want to tax you and take your money away.  Republicans breed hatred and fear.  I’m a positive person.  I don’t hate and I refuse to fill my life up with fear.  I know the Democrats aren’t much better than the Republicans but at least they don’t breed hatred and fear.  I can live with that.

I just had to add this today to this post!  I guess I’m not the only one that thinks the Republicans are the party of hate!

Wealthy Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country!

  • Posted on July 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm

What are you willing to do for your country?  We have been asked repeatedly to step up for our country.  During WWII people had to step up by going to war in a foreign land, women had to take on more manual labor, people were encouraged to buy bonds and restrictions were made on the consumption of goods.  My parents had many children.  To get shoes for their children, they would trade gas rationings with my aunt so they could buy shoes.  Today with so many people living as “expatriates”, I wonder what people are willing to do for their country.  The poor always give.  Often times they give because they see no other alternative.  This is why many join the military.  The economy is poor and they are struggling to find work.  However, we have a war economy, so they join some branch of the military.  It might not be their first choice but they may see it as their only alternative when the economy is poor and they are not wealthy.  As you read my take on things, please think about what you are willing to do for your country.

I have two political groups that are nipping at my heels trying to get me to contact my senators for their causes.  Both of these causes are worthy:  One is to save education jobs and Pell grants and the other is for the passage of a clean energy bill.  Both of these causes and their supporters are feeling the crunch because Congress will go into recess in August.  Now as a teacher I have the summer off but I always find it interesting that although Congress just had a big July 4th break they are now going to take all of August off.  For the pay they receive, I find this amazing.  I don’t think the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have that option.  Nor do most of the other government employees that work for all of our states.  If every government worker took August off, a lot wouldn’t get done.  However, senators and congress people are a completely different breed.  While they expect everyone and his brother to change with the times, they remain stuck in some centuries old concept that was based on “beating the heat”.  Is there any wonder that not much really gets done for the people in modern congressional sessions?

So it looks like Harry Reid is waiting until the last possible minute to bring up the climate bill.  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/39677.html I don’t presume to understand the politics behind this but it seems to me that it will be brought up and voted down as there won’t be enough time to discuss it before the August recess.  On the other hand, if they get it done just before the recess they can talk about it in their campaign speeches.  It’s just so sad that these votes are so political and not handled in the best interest of our nation.  Whether it is voted up or down after the November election who knows who will control congress and what excuses they will give then for being a “do nothing” congress.  Thomas Friedman has an interesting take on the energy bill and it’s worth a read.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/opinion/21friedman.html?src=mv

The American Federation of Teachers is contacting the public to try in get some assistance on saving teachers jobs and Pell grant money.  I received this link.  http://action.aft.org/c/44/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=382

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the bill is.  I know that Senator Harkin had this bill in April and it seems to have gone no where.  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3206

Teachers are being cut all over the country.  I think these types of bills are temporary fixes to the problem.  Both of these issues, energy and teacher jobs,  would have better chances of passing  or in the case of the teacher problem being corrected, if three distinct things happened in my opinion.  If we withdrew our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that would free up a considerable amount of money that has been pouring out of our country.  We should also let the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more run out.  I’m tired of the politicians that claim these wealthy people will hire less people if this happens.  It’s quite apparent that since these tax cuts were voted in there has been a constant bleeding of American jobs.  The truth is any politician that tries to convince anyone with a brain that those tax cuts some how “trickle down” to the American people should be voted out of office.  Finally, the social security cap should be lifted on people making over $250,000.

I am a pragmatist but I have always felt that we have to do everything that we can for the best interest of our country.  The poor have always given to their country with the sweat of their brow in labor and even their lives in war.  It is only patriotic to ask those that have so much to give a little more to help our country when times are tough.  The toil of the poor and their labor built this country.  The poor have always been asked to step up during challenging times.  We now need to ask the wealthy to do their part.  We know they are unlikely to give their children for war or even labor for that matter.  They can give their money to help fuel our economy so that all can prosper in this great country.  I challenge the people making over $250,000 to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

Enough is Enough

  • Posted on June 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Schools in Michigan are under attack from the state government.  We have lost much funding over the last several years.  Over these years we have gone from around $7500 per pupil spending to under $7000.  The effects are really being felt this year by many schools, including Sturgis.  Our administration decided to offer a retirement incentive which gave people retiring a $30,000 401K that cannot be touched until the retiree is 59.  The state matched that with increasing the multiplier from 1.5 to 1.6.  As a result we had somewhere in the neighborhood of around 20 teachers retired this year.  Many of these teachers were very good at what they do…TEACH.  Those of us that didn’t retire are facing the results of the retirements which include paying 3% more towards our own retirement as well as being scared out of our wits about what the state is going to “require” of us next.  There is talk of a 5% pay cut and even a 20-25 % health insurance cost for teachers.  In addition to all of this we are facing larger class sizes and the decimation of programs and the loss of things like library services, exploratory classes and other special activities like traveling to special exhibits.

The Michigan Education Association in an effort to try and get the state legislature to stop the assault on education funding planned a rally at the state capital yesterday.  The Sturgis Education Association chartered two busses to take many of us up to the capital.  Some teachers also came from other local towns like Three Rivers.  When I was talking to our Uniserve director on the bus she said that around 8000 MEA members planned on attending.  These members include teachers and support staff as well as the many family members that joined their parents.

When we arrived at the capital the mayor of Lansing, Virge Bernero, welcomed us with open arms as the MEA has endorsed his candidacy for governor.  There were other people that spoke as well.  The night before some of us went up to the middle school art room and made some handmade signs.  These turned out to attract a bit of attention as we were able to get a few interviews for TV.  One guy saw my Sturgis sign and wondered how far we had come from.  I told him we were south of Kalamazoo about an hour so two hours.  He asked if he could interview me.  I told him our president was right by me so it might be best to interview him as he is our spokesperson.

After the interview our state senator, Cameron Brown, came down to visit with us as Ellen Eisele had emailed and called him prior to this event.  He invited us up to senate chambers and he let us talk about what was on our minds.  Many of us spoke up with clear thoughts about the funding issues and suggestions about how the two parties should come together to fix this issue.  He did not answer any of our concerns directly when we asked questions.  He waited until we were done and then proceeded to explain some things to us from his perspective.  He wanted us to know that the state isn’t doing anything illegal by taking funds from education and giving those funds to colleges and universities as this is in the constitution.  He said the fund isn’t set up to be just for K-12.  He also wanted us to know that he “voluntarily” gave up some of his pay ever since he began his senate career.  I reminded him that the operative word was “voluntarily”.  The most interesting thing he kept saying to us was that he came from the school where the film, “Remember the Titans” was developed.  It’s like he wanted us to know that he wants to get along and that some how this information made him more agreeable to us.  Most of us didn’t feel any connection at all to that statement.  Craig mentioned something that he thought most Republicans would and should agree on as they comment on this stuff all the time.  Craig said that it should be about local control and at Sturgis we have been doing a good job of working with the administration and the decisions shouldn’t be made by the state but by the local institutions as they know what is best for their own communities.  Senator Brown couldn’t argue with that.  The two issues that most affect this are the 5% pay cut and the choice of health insurance with the 20-25% cost to the insured.

I don’t know if we had any real impact.  It is doubtful that Senator Brown will vote any differently based upon our visit.  However, I know that most of us will be voting in the coming election and we will, once again, make our voices heard.  The state of Michigan needs to fix these problems.  We are bleeding jobs and nothing really changes.  The tax revenues are down and it is obvious.  Each year valuable programs are lost while the two parties twiddle their thumbs and cry, “The sky is falling.”  I don’t want someone giving me any more excuses.  This is much of what I felt from Senator Brown, that old “blame game” thing.  I want someone that can “lead” this state to its rightful place in the world.  The children in our schools are the future.  Unfortunately, many of these young wonderful students graduate from college and leave Michigan as they cannot get a job here.  If Michigan is going to rise above this we must educate our children and create a system so they can find their opportunities right here in Michigan.  This is a beautiful state with many natural resources.  We don’t have to be a “one trick pony” based on the auto industry.  We can develop many other job sectors including biomedical research and green jobs.  If we continue to cut education funding our children will suffer even more than they already are suffering.  Our first priority should be to provide a quality education for our children.  The people of Michigan have to stand up for their children.  I know the economy is tough for everyone but public education still works here and even if you aren’t working you always know that your child will get their education.  In the state of Michigan we provide everything for the children including paper, pens and pencils.  Parents don’t have to worry about providing these items for school.  If a parent is out of work they can still rest assured that their child will be welcomed in public school.  Schools will not be able to maintain this level of education if cuts continue to happen across the state.  It’s just that simple.

We already see the “pay to play” mentality that has been happening with sports.  Poor families just cannot afford to let their children play sports as they cannot afford the cost to play or the cost for insurance on their child.  I sure don’t want to see this happen with other parts of the school day as well.  It is frightening to think about what will happen next.  Being a school teacher shouldn’t be about fear and loathing but about hope and inspiration.  These young students are being faced with a lot of stressful situations from over testing and parents out of work to now whether the programs they love, like art and music, will be there tomorrow.  Our children are the future of our country and the future of our state.  We must do everything we can to create a quality environment for them to learn and grow.  Our schools need to be top notch and fully funded.  The state of Michigan needs to prioritize school funding and fix this on going problem immediately.  Seriously, enough is enough!  The legislature needs to get creative and fix the funding problem for schools!

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah

  • Posted on April 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

When I first heard about Sarah Palin during the 2008 election I had much curiosity.  I had been bullied by the Democratic Party during the primary, so I kept an open mind about Sarah.  When the Democrats started treating Sarah much like they treated Hillary Clinton I became even more curious.  I found myself drawn to her for many reasons.  When the Democrats made fun of her down to earth attitude and folksy voice I was amused.  No she didn’t have an “ivy league” pedigree but I kept thinking “thank God”.  I’m really tired of the attitude the Democrats have taken against these two strong women, Sarah and Hillary.  I found Sarah to be a breath of fresh air, someone that seemed willing to tell it like it is and not cater to certain groups of people, like wealthy Republicans!  I listened intently to her speeches and found them to be more against corruption than anything else.  This was something I grew to admire as I think there is much corruption in government that leads to government waste.  I even admired the way she held her baby in one hand and managed campaigning with phone calls and all with the other hand.  Fast forward to the Republican convention and this electrifying speech:

I liked what I heard and I was totally annoyed with the Obama team anyway.  I continued to like and to be drawn to Sarah, even after the election.  I continued to follow her and even bought her book, Going Rogue.  I enjoyed the book until I got to the all powerful, all important, Ronald Reagan, section.  I couldn’t believe this woman that I had admired could herself so admire Ronald Reagan.  I kept thinking this must be for her base, you know those crazy Republicans!  I still liked Sarah’s take charge attitude and her willingness to remain a fairly “normal” person.  I could even over look many of her faults and found her interesting even though many of her ideas were diametrically opposite my own.

Recently, I have had to give up on Sarah.  It seems the Sarah that I was drawn to has disappeared and been replaced with a new Sarah.   The new Sarah is more about making her own money than helping others make and keep theirs.  The new Sarah is making crazy statements at Tea Party events that I find terribly troubling.  We live in a violent society.  People that are seemingly at their wit’s end because of the economy or whatever else is ailing them don’t need someone encouraging them to act out with violent actions.  Sarah can say that her words mean something else but most of us see that as just more political double speak.  Words do have meaning and saying things can have an effect on people at their most vulnerable times.  The new Sarah has embraced the most right wing of the Republican Party.  It is unfortunate that the Republican Party has encouraged her behavior because it’s good for their business.  They like the money she can bring in at these events.  They are banking on these Tea Party people voting for them.  Many of those Tea Party people will probably vote Republican but it isn’t because they liked GW and how he spent money.  They are banking on the Republicans becoming more conservative with their money.  However, it defies logic how anyone can view these Republicans as being fiscally responsible.  They bank rolled these two wars on the future taxes of our youngsters.  They’re good at spending money on war and pretty much nothing else.  Sarah speaks with that same old rhetoric when she talks about our soldiers.  She creates this picture of such noble, greatness when the truth is neither of these current wars could possibly be described as being noble or great.  The soldiers are doing their job and sometimes their job requires extreme bravery.  This is noble.  They sacrifice much but the Republicans that put them there are anything but noble.  They would send anyone’s child to war but not their own.  Of course there are exceptions to this.  We know that both Sarah Palin and John McCain have children in the military and are willing to send them off to fight but there are many that had better things to do with their time as Vice President Cheney claimed during the Vietnam War.

I am deeply troubled with the antics of the new Sarah.  I can’t embrace the verbal assault that she continues to make about the Obama administration and the federal government in general.  I want a solution driven Sarah, one with ideas, not violent tinged rhetoric.  As far as the Obama administration goes they have yet to earn my trust.  However, it would be foolish for any American to want them to fail in any way.  We are at the center of a storm.  We must work together creatively for a solution to the problems we face.  Democrats and Republicans should be working together for the common good of our nation.  The economy is in dire straits.  While some of the losses have been recouped from the stock market crash of 2008, much of that wealth has not spread to the little guy.  Sarah has much new found wealth but I fear with her wealth she has lost touch with the rest of us.  I can see that President Obama may be trying to make some changes to the banking industry.  I see this as a plus.  The verdict is still out on his administration but it is still far superior to the Bush years.  Those years have left our nation in a world of hurt.  For anyone to want to revisit those years they would have to be insane!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp89-6_7Zsk

The two parties missed a great opportunity to help our nation during the health care debate.  Instead of real reform we ended up with some washed down version.  People and businesses would have all been better off if this reform had included a single payer option.  The cost of insurance is just mind boggling and I don’t see this changing with this watered down plan.  Sarah was against all of this.  On a personal basis it should be noted that her children and Todd already have health care because they are Native Americans.  Sarah doesn’t have to worry about health care for her children.  Unfortunately, most Tea Party people don’t know this information about Sarah.  When Sarah talks about death panels she omits the death panel that visited my sister that didn’t have health insurance.  My sister had her own death panel when her doctor made it very clear that she wasn’t “worth” much to him.  She didn’t have the true care that she deserved because she didn’t have insurance.  When my sister had insurance she doctored.  When she didn’t, she avoided going because it cost too much.  When she finally was forced to go it was late in her cancer, treatment was expensive and that in itself was a death panel!

I’m no longer looking to politicians for anything insightful.  I thought John Edwards was insightful but he was so busy screwing up his own life that he lost track of that insight.  He was a common man that I thought really cared about me.  John changed.  Sarah had something special.  She had a way of communicating to the common people that made us want to believe that she is one of us and that she cared about us.  She has lost all of this appeal.  She no longer interests me.  She has grown up into a full fledged millionaire that just doesn’t care about us little guys.  The Tea Party people need to figure this out.  Ronald Reagan was never one of us like so many tried to convince us.  George Bush wasn’t one of us either.  These politicians were wealthy people that were powerful and made to look common but were not common.  Sarah was common and powerful now she is wealthy and powerful but she doesn’t really speak the truth of the common person any more.  It is more Republican rhetoric and talking points.  Her power holds no truth and it is dangerous to have power and no truth!

The Video We Aren’t Supposed to See

  • Posted on April 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Please don’t watch this video if you can’t take the truth of it all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ_zTrjMhX8&feature=player_embedded

This is the article that accompanied the video that I first watched.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/05/wikileaks-us-army-iraq-attack

War is hell.  We all know this but what we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is what happens when the men and women that are part of that hell come home.  After seeing this video, that we aren’t supposed to see, I could only think about the inhumanity that I witnessed.  The men talking and shooting acted like they were merely at a shooting range.  The people they sniped off were poor unaware bastards that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I first saw the incomplete video on CNN.  CNN explained they wouldn’t show the complete video out of respect for the dead and their families.  I think it was more like to cover up the deeply disturbing video that showed American soldiers, acting like this was nothing more than a video game they were in the middle of playing.  There was no thought for the people below that were kept in the gun’s site.  There was no thought for the guy that was wounded and trying to crawl away except for wanting him to pick up a gun so they could shoot some more.

We have been raising our children for war now for some time.  Since September 2001 we have spent these last nine years filled with hate and creating children that have learned how to hate like us.  We have desensitized them through video games that even the Pentagon loves for training their future soldiers.  What I worry about is what is happening with our society.  We seem divided as a nation but when I look at these two stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we seem to be united in our hate.  A Republican president started them and a Democratic president continues them.  What is this really going to get us?

I do know that we have many men and women that are coming back hurt by their time engaged in war.  Some have mental hurts and others are physical.  Some have shed their blood in these wars with no clear mission of what has been accomplished.  We, as a society, will have to deal with all of this pain when these soldiers come home.  Some will turn to crime and have already and some will live with their own personal hell hidden in sweat filled, agonizing nights of horror while others will feel daily the looks from strangers at their mangled and burnt bodies.  What will all of this do for our country and what has it done for our country.

We glorify war in movies hoping to propagandize the next generation into thinking that being a soldier is filled with honor and glory.  Being a soldier may be honorable but the government that often sends these soldiers to war often is not honorable.  We have war hawks in government that have never been a soldier themselves.  Government officials that would never send their own children to war but would ask you to send your children in a heart beat.

I feel the wounds deep in our country for our children.  I look in my art classroom and I wonder about the children I am teaching.  How many of them will go off to these crazy wars.  Am I just teaching children so they can be used in a future senseless war?  Will these young children be put to the test of their lives in the hell that is Iraq or Afghanistan?  No one can give me that answer because I taught young people in 2002 that have ended up fighting in these two wars of today.  We are in a senseless, endless war with the boogey man that is terrorism.  We will give up our freedom and even our children to fight this boogey man.  We will allow our hate to change our children into hate filled, killing machines so we can feel “safe” once again.

We will protect ourselves from the hell of it all by watching cleaned up versions of the news and heroic movies.  We will excuse the behavior of these soldiers when they come back as we all know war is hell.  However, if they get too out of control we will slap them in jail and throw away the key.  I remember Timothy McVeigh and the truth is he was created by our government.  He was filled with hate and loathing.  Are we creating more soldiers like him to come home to no job and filled with anger and hate?

I hate war.  I have been told that sometimes it may be necessary.  However, when I look through the history books war seems to be more about turf building than people building.  Powerful countries have warred on to control land, minerals, and people.  I don’t think it is much different today.  We have even had holy wars because God would have wanted this to be so?  One of my brothers even worries about the terrorists taking over the United States and making us all bow to Allah.  I hear paranoia in this kind of thinking but it is brought on by a corporate controlled and owned media in America that makes much money off these wars.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WfA8JWMgiQ&feature=player_embedded

War is man made hell created by a society that cares more about their next computer gadget and social networking than it does about the innocence lost by our children from this hell and the numbing of our souls by this warring mentality.

The State of Michigan Needs Inspiration

  • Posted on March 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

This is the time of year when schools look at their budgets and program offerings for the coming school year.  At Sturgis Middle school we recently found out about our MEAP scores.  Each year we hold our collective breath waiting for the results.  The MEAP doesn’t follow an individual class through their time in school but focuses on grade level.  This means that scores can go up and down sometimes based on the type of class that is currently being taught.  It has been my experience that some years we have classes that are challenging, usually behavior issues are the problem, and some years we have classes that are exceptional both in their behavior and their ability to pass the MEAP.  This year we all have let out our collective breath with a big “Hooray!” as our scores were very good.  We can only hope these scores will continue to be high in the coming years.  I know that everyone at our school is part of the team to help students pass these tests.  This year students, that needed extra time, were given extra “lab” time with their core teachers.  This was accomplished through much effort by the exploratory teachers.  Exploratory teachers were asked to develop a “split” time class in which they would have students for 25 minutes out of 50 minute period.  This has been a difficult thing to accomplish but exploratory teachers rose to the moment and did what was necessary to help make this program a reality.  Most days classes were normal but some days individual students were kept back for more lab time in math, science, etc.  This can be very challenging for any exploratory teacher working with project based media as the student can fall behind in that class and other students will get bored if they spend too much time waiting for the behind students to catch up.  There are often times teachers are pitted against each other based on being a “core” teacher or an “exploratory” teacher.  Core teachers always get the respect from everyone simply because they are teaching what most people see as being necessary for an education, “reading, writing, and arithmetic.”  Some core teachers see themselves as above exploratory teachers by virtue of their placement of importance in the system.   In my nearly seventeen years of teaching at Sturgis a well rounded education has been of utmost importance to Sturgis school district.  Unfortunately, with the current money problems I think many schools are being forced to make cuts to their programs.  Whether it is art, music, drama or extra curricular programs all will be judged regardless of their merits.  At Sturgis we have been able to maintain our programs.  I believe it helps us with the “school of choice” program but as people flee Michigan for other states where they hope to get a job, the outlook for our school is also dim.  The funding coming from the state is less and less each year while the costs for everything from staff to energy continue to rise.  This is forcing larger class sizes and the reduction of services just like what is happening to our state government.  It’s time for our state to develop some new ideas for funding and for surviving our current crisis in our schools as well as all other aspects of our lives.

Our state is in a crisis that can and has to be fixed.  We need more revenue coming into the state to fix these problems.  Either we must create more employment through industry of some type or we must raise taxes on those that are still here working.  The fact is we are going to see a reduction in services across our state in our schools, road work, police, secretary of state’s offices, and anything else that the state touches, if we don’t do something now.  Many people are tired of being taxed and feel it’s gone far enough but many don’t realize the perilous position the state of Michigan is in.  We have such a beautiful state.  I personally think it’s ridiculous that our state should be in such bad shape.  We have natural resources that are the envy of other states.  We have great universities where people come from all over the world to get their education from.  We have terrific hospitals across our state.  We have so much to offer for recreation all through the year from the lakes in the summer to the skiing in the winter.  Unfortunately, for many years we put all of our eggs in that one basket of the automobile industry.  It’s time for new industry to grow and prosper in Michigan.  I love our state.  I think it is an absolutely beautiful state.  We need to develop our commodities to attract people to the state.  We hear about the problems in Detroit but it isn’t just Detroit.  The problem is all across our state.  If you go to the thumb area it is just as depressed as Detroit.  It’s just a smaller population.  Here is Sturgis we too have lost business and of course the people that work in those businesses.  Yet, we have a beautiful little city that could be doing more to get people to stop and shop here and build our local community.  I find myself running to Coldwater and Three Rivers to get things because we don’t have the stores that those communities have to offer.  I’d like to keep my money local but I’m not willing to shop at the loss of choices in products.

Our current government continues to use the same old tactics and behaviors that they have been exhibiting for the past sixty years.  That is the Republicans want to argue about cutting programs and lower taxes and the Democrats want to maintain programs but don’t have the where with all to create the funding for them.  Neither of these approaches really seems to be working.  We need something new and daring to happen.  The same old politics just isn’t working.  Geoffrey Fieger was on a local television program and he was talking about being “inspired”.  He said, “We need someone that will inspire us.”   I couldn’t remember the last time a politician actually inspired me.  Maybe when I was a kid and learned all about John F. Kennedy I felt inspired.  As an art teacher I know that inspiration can lead to all kinds of wonderful thinking and problem solving.  I think maybe our politicians need to be inspirational to bring out the best in their constituents.  My sister is always talking about the “genius among us”.  These are every day people that come up with fantastic ideas and solutions to problems.  Many of them are over looked as being “kooks” or just flatly ignored but there may be somebody out there with great ideas for our state that is just being ignored and overlooked.  I think maybe our current government needs to go to the people for fresh, new ideas.  We need a suggestion box for the government just like those old suggestion boxes we used to see at restaurants.  Someone in Michigan has a great idea for this state and how to turn it around.  I just don’t think it’s a politician.  He or she may be sitting next to us with a wonderful imagination and a desire for change but not the where with all to make it happen.  The state of Michigan needs to set out the suggestion box to get this conversation moving.  Enough of the fighting over budgets and everything else, it’s time for new ideas for funding this state and developing it to its fullest potential.

Student Loans and the Cost of an Education or “This is the best day of my life!”

  • Posted on March 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I kind of miss the days when my son could get excited about his day.  For many years I could always count on my son to say, “This is the best day of my life!”  These days for Josh happened quite frequently.  They usually happened when he got something he really wanted.  They always made me laugh because each one was the best day of his life.  In recent times I haven’t heard that saying from Josh.  He seems to be mostly preoccupied with student loan debt.  His goal in life is now to be free of his student loan debt.  This will take some time as the cost of college has become astronomical.

I remember when I went to college back in the seventies.  I received my B.F.A. in 1977 and left Michigan State University with $3600 in student loans.  At the time I lamented the fact that I would be paying it off over a period of ten years.  I think I paid something like $41 a month.  It wasn’t a lot whatever it was.  Today our children are swamped with bills that are many times what we paid as young people.  My son has student loans that are way over ten times what I paid.  He had grant and scholarship money but the cost of an education today is enormous.  This is the current information from the University of Michigan where my son went to school:

Estimated Budgets for Fall/Winter 2010-2011 (September – April)

Tuition & Fees* Room Board** Books & Supplies Personal & Miscellaneous Total Budget
Michigan Residents
(In-State)
LOWER DIVISION
(Freshmen/Sophomores)
$11,659 $5,424 $3,500 $1,048 $2,090 $23,721
UPPER DIVISION
(Juniors/Seniors)
$13,141 $5,424 $3,500 $1,048 $2,090 $25,203
GRADUATE STUDENTS $17,525 $11,762 $1,192 $4,092 $34,571
Nonresidents
(Out-of-State)
LOWER DIVISION
(Freshmen/Sophomores)
$34,937 $5,424 $3,500 $1,048 $2,090 $46,999
UPPER DIVISION
(Juniors/Seniors)
$37,389 $5,424 $3,500 $1,048 $2,090 $49,451
GRADUATE STUDENTS $35,183 $11,762 $1,192 $4,092 $52,229

* Note that the distinction between lower division and upper division is made on the basis of the number of credit hours you have completed (including AP and transfer credits), not on the basis of the number of years you have attended.
**Based on the 150 Block Meal Plan

As you can see the cost of an education at the University of Michigan is tremendous for most working class people.  If you have money or are fortunate to have a lot of scholarship money, this might not seem too bad.  However, if you are like my son, raised by a single parent, but not at the poverty level and not a minority, you will probably graduate with a boat load of debt.

The government isn’t really helping the situation.  At the federal level money to the states has been cut and at the state level states can’t afford their budgets so they are slashing education costs.  This includes the costs to state universities.  Across the country students are protesting the increased costs of tuition.  Many students are staying in school longer and getting graduate degrees because they know there aren’t any jobs for them at this time.  They are delaying the inevitable onslaught of their own demise of student loans.  Hopefully, they will be able to get high paying jobs when they get out as they will need it to pay off their student debt.

The future outlook for these young people is a bit scary in my opinion.  In the teaching field young teachers are really getting the shaft.  They are probably going to end up with a far reduced retirement package just like what they can expect from their social security.  The country keeps borrowing money for these two wars we are involved in to the detriment of our young people.  I imagine many young people today will start their lives out in debt and remain there for most of their lives.

I like to watch HGTV.  I watch shows where young people are buying their first homes.  The amount they are paying for these homes is huge.  I always wonder what jobs these kids have on these shows.  Many put little or nothing down.  The shows were probably filmed awhile ago.  It really explains a lot about what was happening with the housing market in the last few years.  I saw a young teacher just yesterday on a show buy her first house and she had a payment of $1900 a month.  That is totally ridiculous as no young teacher could afford that.  She said something about getting a roommate but it still was a strange show to watch.  I think I know a bit about money and most teachers’ salaries wouldn’t support such an amount.

If young people have huge student loans and outrageous housing costs they are going to have to make tremendous amounts of money to support both of these or live with mom and dad and pay off their student loans.  The days of the sixties are really over.  I have brothers that went to college in the sixties and they had every break in the book when it came to the cost of both their education and housing.  It is this generation that is now retired and living large that is sucking the life out of our young people.  My son can’t get over why old people get a break on everything from free city bus passes to discounts for every other thing in life.  My answer to him is the fact that old people vote.  The government can always count on old people to vote so congress will listen to them.  Old people may be half way in the grave but they will get out and vote unlike the young that may have better things to do that day.  The laws have been written for the old for years.  Of course years ago the aging population was a mess.  Thanks to FDR that has been turned around.  Of course we all know plenty of old people that aren’t living large and that are living from paycheck to paycheck just like most of working America.  Life for them wasn’t as rosy as it was for my brothers.

As Americans it doesn’t do any good to divide all of us and feel resentment to the old or to the youth.  The truth is all people deserve to live without worrying about their jobs, healthcare and wondering how to make enough money to take care of ourselves.  The pursuit of the American dream shouldn’t be so scary that we spend our lives in debtor’s prison paying off our student loans and our house.  My son should be able to say, “This is the best day of my life!” even when he’s twenty six and living on his own.   He and others like him shouldn’t feel the overwhelming weight of endless debt just because he chose to further his education.  An education shouldn’t be just for the wealthy, minorities and the poor.  An education should be for everyone that dreams of the American dream.  If I was making the laws an education would be free for anyone that wanted to learn.  I wouldn’t make an education so expensive that life becomes more about the dream of making money than the dream of true fulfillment.  In my mind an education should be about opening your mind to the possibilities of living a fulfilled life that includes art, music and the humanities.  Life is too short to spend chasing dollar signs and paying off student loan debt.  I know for my son, Josh, he will once again tell me, “This is the best day of my life!” when he is free of the weight of his student loan debt.  Unfortunately, I expect that day to be far into the future!

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