Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Weekly Address: President Obama – Ensuring Every Child Gets a Great Education

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President reiterated his commitment to expanding access to education, and to spreading the joy of reading to more children and young adults.

Earlier this week, the President announced two new efforts that, building on the progress already made by his ConnectED initiative, will do just that: a challenge to mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card; and commitments from libraries and major publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-Books for low-income students. In his address, the President also previewed his upcoming commencement speech at Lake Area Tech, in Watertown, South Dakota, where he will discuss his plan to make two years of community college as free and universal for every American as high school is today.

The President is working to ensure every child has the access to the education and resources they need to be successful.

“Thanks, President Obama!” #FreeCommunityCollege

From the White House: The President Proposes to Make Community College Free for Responsible Students for 2 Years

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades’ worth of student debt.

UPDATE: Fact Sheet: America’s College Promise

“The President’s Plan: Make Two Years of College as Free and Universal as High School”

This is a win-win for the economy and for the next generation. Cash-strapped states (many of which strapped themselves to tax-cut fever which is burning up their seed corn) are cutting back on their funding of higher education. A recent story in NPR reported that tuition now outweighs state aid as the major source of revenue for public colleges. Tuition that is paid for by student loan debt and parent loan debt … or the high cost of which has made it impossible for low-income students to afford college.

Why is a college education important? This:

According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

College graduates are also more likely to be employed full-time than their less-educated counterparts, and are less likely to be unemployed, 4 percent versus 12 percent, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

More on the presidents program below …

Michelle Obama: “They’re assuming that we won’t care … and only we can prove them wrong”

First Lady Michelle Obama was in Milwaukee on Monday at a campaign rally for Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Burke.

She spoke to a packed house at the Wisconsin Center and challenged us to Get Out The Vote:

“We all need to be as passionate and hungry for this election as we were in 2008 and 2012,” Obama told a packed crowd at the Wisconsin Center Monday.

“When the midterms come along, too many of our people just tune out, and that’s what a lot of folks on the other side are counting on this year,” she said. “They’re assuming that we won’t care, they’re assuming that we won’t be organized and energized – and only we can prove them wrong.”

Transcript: Remarks by the First Lady at a Voter Mobilization Rally — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This rally was for Mary Burke but the words should be repeated at every Democratic campaign rally in the country between now and election day.

The Lives of Homeless Children

I am reposting this from a diary I did a few years ago on GOS.  Forgive me if you have seen this before, but since we are preparing our children to go back to school, I thought it was apt.

I saw a news program (sorry, I can’t remember which one and can’t find the link) that suggested homelessness is up by 60%.  They also indicated that the face of homelessness has changed as well.  Many of the newly homeless are intact families who had been working at jobs that paid the bills.  The homeless population is not comprised of the old male drunks we see in the Salvation Army ads.   The number of homeless children is growing and they need help.  The problem is not going away.  Over the summer, they have nowhere to go.

The following may help understand of the life of a homeless child.

A Remarkable Speech

On Thursday, at the United Nations, Malala Yousefzai celebrated her 16th birthday by addressing the United Nations Youth Assembly, making a remarkably mature call for the education of all, for peace and for standing up for one’s rights through civil disobedience.  Ms. Malala, who was shot in the head in Pakistan by the Taliban last October for her outspoken advocacy of education for girls, was unbowed and defiant, evoking as her guides Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Mohammed al Jinnah, Bacha Khan and Mother Theresa, as well as her parents.

She calls education “the most powerful weapon” with which to change the world.

A Very Disturbing Report on Education

Have you ever heard of the 1990s Kansas City desegregation case? If you haven’t, Paul Ciotti of the CATO Institute provides a remarkable summary of this little-known episode:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil-more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

More below.

A liberal education

From my personal archives. I’m in the mood to share something today. 🙂

Washington and Lee is a fine old American university. At least that’s what I hear; I never studied there. My own (liberal) education began under quite different tutelage: that of Lawrence and Lee.

Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee were one of the great playwright partnerships of the American theatre, probably best known for Inherit The Wind (1955) — to this day one of the most-produced plays in America — which, along with other classic works from the ’50s like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, was part of the nation’s arts community’s rejection of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his odious -ism.

The team went on to write The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (1970), their response to the Vietnam war (they were against it) and First Monday in October (1978), a play about the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, which adumbrated Sandra Day O’Connor by three years (and which explored the ideological divide between liberal and conservative Justices).

By the time I got to know any of these works, however, I was already under the spell of another of Lawrence and Lee’s creations.

Or, more correctly, adaptations. Her name was Mrs. Burnside; and if Lawrence and Lee served as my first institution of higher learning, she was unquestionably the dean, the doyenne (a word, by the way — and this is no mere coincidence — that I first encountered in connection with Molly Picon, who I had read was “the doyenne of the American Yiddish theatre”).

The world knows her better as Auntie Mame.

Obama Is There For The Children

Over at Smartypants this morning I found this excellent piece, “How the Obama administration is taking on the achievement gap,” it took me back in time to the struggles my children went through in school.

Last year I wrote about the fact that Obama’s Department of Education had begun to collect information on civil rights and education – something that had stopped during the Bush administration. We now see that experts are studying that data and highlighting remedies. What they have found is that one in four black students have been suspended from school. And here are the consequences:

   These findings are of serious concern given that research shows being suspended even once in ninth grade is associated with a 32% risk for dropping out, double that for those receiving no suspensions.

But the Obama administration isn’t just collecting data. You might have heard that the Department of Justice investigated the school district and law enforcement systems in Meridian, Mississippi for their gross violations of student’s civil rights in disciplinary practices.

To have a minority child in the school systyem means as a parent you have to investigate closely what the situation was. Who was involved, what exactly was my child’s involvement, how consequences were handed out to others that were involved? . It meant balancing between not protecting your child from natural consequences and making sure those consequences fit the act and were dealt out evenly between all parties involved.

By the time they were in middle school it became glaringly apparent to me the reality of the disparity in discipline between white students and minority students.

As a parent of bi-racial children I was diligent about teaching them what “playing the race card” was, and that it was not cool. If you broke the rules there were consequences, crying out “it’s because I’m black” was bullshit if indeed they had acted inappropriately.  They had seen this take place, tried it a couple times themselves, but when the whole story came out and they were dead wrong I condoned their consequence and hoped lessons would be learned. Sadly, most of the time it was quite the opposite.

A couple of examples, out of many I could share are these:

   Daughter A is riding home on the bus. Another girl, white and in middle school, starts  picking on a young kindergarten student. Calling her names, throwing paper at the back of her head. After telling her to knock it off several times my daughter and the girl start exchanging words, they get to their bus stop, one where a large number of students get off. The verbal exchange continues and my daughter starts walking ahead with her sister and a couple other friends. The older girl catches up with my daughter and the argument starts again. This time the girl gets up in my daughter’s face, pushes her and calls her a nigger. My daughter pushed her back hard enough to send her butt flying onto the ground. Given the large number of students getting off the bus the driver was still sitting up at the corner and saw this happen.

The next day I get a call from school, my daughter is getting suspended for three days. Up I go to the school office. My first issue is that this happened on private property quite a distance from the bus, not on the bus. “Well it started on the bus, so it’s a school matter.” Okay, I was hesitant but willing to accept that, until I found out that the other girl was not even called to the office, let alone being suspended. My protests finally led to the driver and other students being questioned about the other girls part in the incident. At that point the girl was given one day in school suspension, my daughter’s punishment was still going to stand at a three day out of school suspension. Even though I had issues with the school being involved in an act that actually took place off of school property, I was willing to be flexible enough to agree that both girls put their hands on each other and needed a consequence for that, but a fair and impartial one.

I ended up having to take this issue to the district Supervisor’s office.

Daughter B has her sister put a relaxer in her hair, unfortunately without my supervision, the outcome was that we had to get her hair cut clear down. She was in 7th grade at the time and inconsolable about her appearance until I came up with the idea of buying her several very pretty scarves to use as a head wrap until her hair had grown out a bit more. Now I’m not talking bandanas, I’m talking about nice scarves, ones that cost enough to blow the hell out of our very slim budget. But it was more than worth it to give her peace of mind, that didn’t last long for either one of us. Her first day at school in one of these scarves got her sent to the office. It was “gang related attire” What? When did prints and flowers being come gang colors and/or signs? They were actually going to suspend her if she didn’t quit wearing them. Eventually I raised enough hell that the Principal finally granted permission, but there was one particular teacher who kept sending her to the office claiming they were positive it was gang related. The only hand sign she knew in seventh grade was giving someone the bird, a sign I had to sit on my hands in order to not give to that teacher.  This was no inner city school district, although our income was nowhere close to it the median income in that district of +$80,000.00.

Gangs in the sense of what inner city schools contend with were non-existent in this district.

My entire day could be taken up writing one example after another of the blatant disparities, the assumptions that “if you’re black and in my classroom you’re trouble.” Um, yeah,when you start from day one treating a child with suspicion and scorn while having a warm and positive attitude towards others, that teacher is creating a problem where should never be one.

Looking back on the situations my children were fortunate I was in a position to go to the school to advocate and when necessary fight for them. Many children weren’t for multiple reasons. Those reasons ran a spectrum from the parents who do care have to choose between losing a job to take time during the day to go deal with the school, to the parents in the grips of substance abuse who barely provided minimal care for their child let alone paying attention to how they were being treated at school.

Whatever the reason, not only can parents not always be there, as parents of minority children we  shouldn’t have to constantly monitor how our child is being treated by teachers and school administrators. The educators shouldn’t be the people who show that prejudice, racism, and bigotry are still a part of our society.

For all those children who have so many gifts, so much potential, but yet have so many odds against them from the jump I am grateful that the Department of Education is active on this issue again.

As the author of the article points out, the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” does exist. As parents, teachers, and taxpayers, we have an obligation to stop the destruction of our children.  

One of the Most Heartless Articles I’ve Ever Read

By: Inoljt,

The rising cost of higher education is one of the main ailments affecting America. The earnings differential between those with college degrees and those without has become greater during this recession. This is because the recession hit jobs like construction, which don’t require a college degree, especially hard.

So as college becomes more expensive and more important, it becomes harder for the poor to climb the economic ladder. American inequality is a fundamental problem today, and the rising cost of college doesn’t help.

With this context in mind, I recently had the displeasure of reading one of the most heartless articles I’ve ever looked at.

More below.

Calling All Nerds! Take the Nerd Quotient Test!

Are you a NERD?  I know that I am, and I have my suspicions about some of your moosies! However, as an empiricist, I realize that nerdiness, like many other human qualities, is often a matter of degrees. Not the sort of degrees one gets in college, mind you, but something that can be measured, allowing us to compare ourselves on a continuum.

With this in mind, I have resurrected the Nerd Quotient Test from my files. I cannot claim authorship of this document, but remain profoundly grateful that a fellow geologist shared it with me many years ago. You may notice that some of the questions are a bit dated. Please feel free to adapt them to your circumstances and prevailing technologies.

Test scoring:  Each question is in two parts.  If you answer “yes” to the first part, give yourself one point.  If you answer “yes” to the second part, give yourself an extra two points.  The total number of points determines your percentage of nerdiness, up to 100%.  You already have a head start of one point just for reading this far.  If you stop now without taking the test, add 99 points.

1. Has anyone ever called you a nerd?  Did you take it as a compliment?

2. Have you ever taken a course in statistics or calculus?  As an elective?

3. Do people ask you for definitions or synonyms for difficult words?  Even when they have a dictionary or thesaurus within reach?

4. Do you (or did you) sit in the front row at school most of the time?  And arrive early to get the best seat?

5. Have you ever used a “system” for taking class notes?  Did you create that system yourself?

6. Were you tormented in high school (stuffed into a toilet, made to wear “kick me” signs, etc.)  by the jocks?  By other nerds?

7. Do you know Avogadro’s number?  Did you ever put it on the back of an athletic shirt thinking it would be funny?

8. Do you use a computer for four hours or more every day?  Including weekends?

9. Do you prefer computers to humans?  Including the person with whom you are having an intimate relationship?

10. Did the phrase “intimate relationship” make you blush?  Or did you wonder what qualifies as an intimate relationship?

11. Have you ever owned a Star Trek gizmo (tricorder, fake ears, ship model, etc.)?  And a uniform?

12. Can you outline the plot of six or more Star Trek episodes?  Do you ever come up with script alternatives because “Spock would never say that?

13. Have you ever taken Latin?  Do you enjoy using it in everyday conversation?

14. Have you ever told a joke about chemistry or physics?  Did most or all of your friends get it?

15. Do you attend parties where most of the guests have advanced science degrees?  Do you host them?

16. Have you ever analyzed a fake food (Twinkies, Cheez Whiz, etc.) for chemical content? And then eaten it?

17. Do you have a pet ferret, iguana, alligator, tarantula, or snake?  Did you name your pet after a Nobel laureate?

18. Have you played Dungeons & Dragons in the last year?  With the same people you’ve played with for two years or more?

19. Can you convert Fahrenheit to Centigrade in your head?  Do you find yourself doing so unconsciously?

20. Is your SAT math score 600 or more?  Is it higher than your SAT verbal score?

21. Do you own a T-shirt with a picture of Einstein on it?  Do you wear it with a suit?

22. Do you wear button-down shirts with the tails out?  Over shorts?

23. Do you wear glasses?  Do they change colors outdoors?

24. Do you have a slide rule?  And know how to use it?

25. Do you know what a font is?  Do you know what font you’re reading now?

26. Have you ever owned a chemistry set?  Since the age of 12?

27. Have you ever browsed through Radio Shack?

On a date?

28. Do you wear a digital watch?  With built-in calculator?

29. Have you ever read the dictionary or encyclopedia for fun? Cover to cover?

30. Do you play chess?  Do you read books about chess?

31. Do you own a pocket protector?  Are you wearing it now?

32. Do you have friends on the Internet?  Are they your best friends?

33. Is your IQ a) greater than your weight, or b) constant to your weight in the same ratio as your eyeglass prescription over pi?  Did you actually try, even for just a moment, to calculate the answer to that question?

There are no unacceptable outcomes on this test, nor is it an accurate predictor of your success in any nerd-related endeavors. It’s simply intended for your own amazement, so feel free to post your Nerd Quotient in the comments, annotated with footnotes, supplemented with supporting documentation, and peer reviewed.