Why Educators Should Support Barack Obama September 26, 2008
Filed under: by Linda Darling-Hammond @ 12:34 pm
[Editor’s note: Linda Darling-Hammond, formerly a public high school teacher, is currently a professor of education at Stanford University and an advisor to the Obama campaign.]
I was shocked recently to read an editorial pronouncing Barack Obama and John McCain nearly alike in their views on education — a statement that could hardly be further from the truth. I realize it might be possible to believe this if your major source of information is television news, which obsesses over personalities and pigs in lipstick rather than covering serious issues. Ever wonder what 24-hour news shows could do with all that time if they actually spent it evaluating what the candidates plan to do about the issues that affect our lives? But that’s a topic for another blog.
Although we hear little about education from the press, Obama announced a detailed plan a year ago and talks about education regularly. He has pledged over $30 billion annually in new investments in education — from early childhood to support for college tuition — because he believes education is the key to our nation’s future and to each child’s success. Not only is this commitment 30 times greater than anything John McCain has discussed, it is focused on supporting public schools and teachers, rather than punishing them. And, it is based on what we know makes a difference for success.
In a nutshell, educators should support Obama because:
Obama will provide schools and teachers the tools they need to educate all students.
He understands that No Child Left Behind left the money behind, while setting unrealistic goals and providing little support to reach them. In addition to boosting funding, he has promised to overhaul the accountability and assessment provisions of the law so that students are not “spending the year bubbling in answers on standardized tests” but are instead are challenged to think critically, conduct research, engage in scientific investigations, read and write for genuine purposes, and master the skills needed in the 21st century. He wants to be sure that schools are able to teach a full, rich curriculum that includes science, technology, history, the arts and music, as well as reading and math.
He will use a continuous progress approach to evaluating students and schools — one that assesses special education students and English language learners more appropriately and funds stronger services and more productive school improvement efforts. By contrast, McCain is content with No Child Left Behind as it is; he has no plans to increase funding for the law, which he voted against, along with his votes against hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and funding teacher training.
Obama plans a major technology initiative to put computers, connectivity, and courseware within the reach of every student and teacher, incentives for redesigning middle and high schools, and expansion of after-school and summer enrichment programs, especially for students at risk of dropping out. Obama understands that educators deserve support for their own learning. His plans invest in high-quality preparation for both teachers and principals, service scholarships to underwrite preparation for those who will become teachers, mentoring for all beginning teachers, and useful professional development — not the drive-by workshops or “spray and pray” approaches that most teachers have learned to dread. His plans provide incentives for schools to set aside time during the day for teachers to collaborate.
Obama understands that teachers and schools cannot close the achievement gap by themselves, and there needs to be a broader effort by government and society to support children’s health, welfare, and learning.
With nearly a quarter of our children living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized nation in the world — Obama’s plans to address health care, housing, and employment needs are critically important.
Educators who work in low-income communities know how important it is that Obama will provide health care for all children and families (don’t look for anything meaningful on this score from McCain), as well as preschool education and services that support parenting from 0 to 5. His $10 billion investment will enable 700,000 children to attend Head Start and Early Head Start. Meanwhile, McCain offers empty rhetoric about the importance of preschool, pledging only $200,000 per state, if funding is available — enough for about 20 more children per state.
Obama supports education reforms that are designed in partnership with educators, not imposed on them.
His career ladder initiative will encourage districts to develop innovative compensation plans in conjunction with teachers. These plans should support higher base salaries and approaches that encourage teachers to continually improve their skills and share their expertise with others, for example, by serving as mentor teachers. Recognition for knowledge and skills and for excellent teaching that supports student learning can take many forms, like the career ladders developed with teachers in Arizona, New Mexico, Rochester, New York, Cincinnati, Ohio and Helena, Montana. Meanwhile, McCain’s plan to impose merit pay across the country, without working with teachers to avoid the many failures of the past, will be funded by raiding most of the current Title II funds for professional development and class size reduction.
Obama supports public schools and opposes vouchers.
Whereas McCain plans to expand vouchers, Obama has been a consistent and outspoken opponent of vouchers that would drain money from public education. Twice in the Illinois State Senate, Senator Obama voted against bills that would have created tuition tax credits for parents to use for private and parochial schools — legislation that he believed would create “backdoor vouchers.” In a major speech in July he noted, “The ideal of a public education has always been at the heart of the American promise. It’s why we are committed to fixing and improving our public schools, rather than abandoning them and passing out vouchers.” Obama’s School Innovation Fund will support new school designs launched by teachers, administrators, and parents in public school districts. He will also expand accountability along with funding for public charter schools, so that public funds go to support successful schools that serve all students equitably.
Obama would launch the most comprehensive supports for public education we have seen the 1960s, and he will help develop a 21st century system that can ensure quality schools for every child, every year, in every community. The choice for education could hardly be clearer.
Gloria Steinem on Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message September 18, 2008
September 4, 2008
Here’s the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing — the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party — are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women — and to many men too — who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the “white-male-only” sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.
But here is even better news: It won’t work. This isn’t the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.
Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton’s candidacy stood for — and that Barack Obama’s still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs.”
This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can’t do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn’t say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden’s 37 years’ experience.
Palin has been honest about what she doesn’t know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, “I still can’t answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?” When asked about Iraq, she said, “I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.”
She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular, and she’s won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised by McCain’s campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed affirmative action for so long that he doesn’t know it’s about inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice Department, of putting a job candidate’s views on “God, guns and gays” ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.
So let’s be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can’t tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.
Palin’s value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women’s wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves “abstinence-only” programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers’ millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn’t spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
I don’t doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn’t just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn’t just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn’t just echo McCain’s pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.
So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, “women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership,” so he may be voting for Palin’s husband.
Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan gains from this contest.
Republicans may learn they can’t appeal to right-wing patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.
And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children.
This could be huge.
Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder of the Women’s Media Center. She supported Hillary Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama.
Why “X”? by Alias September 15, 2008
Why “X” ?
Why is there such an effort to use the letter “X” in names? I think about Malcolm X and his reasons but I feel that he had reasons different from those who use the letter in examples like Xueer, Xris, Xuan, etc. Why.
From my limited knowledge the letter “X,” when used in a Chicanismo context began as a form of resistance against the dominant languages: English and Spanish. In the Chican@ movement in the 60’s and 70’s it surfaced in examples like “Xicano Power”
Now the letter X in an indigenous context, more specifically Nahuatl, makes the sound of “Sh.”
So Mexica (Me-Shee-Kah) which is the people who inhabited Tenochtitlan and other regions of Mexico (Me-Shee-Ko) under the Aztec empire spoke variations of the language Nahuatl. The sound “Shh” of the X was replaced with the J sound of the Spanish who invaded the Mexica, making Mexico (Me-Shee-Ko) sound like Mejico.
Now, I can see where Xicano pronounced Shee-Ka-No can borrow the letter X from nahuatl.
But when you use the letter “X” instead of the “Q” in queer or instead of the “J” in Juan it makes no phonemic sense if keeping it in the Xicano (with nahuatl “X”) context.
So Xueer would make the sound Shu-eer
Xris = Sh-riss
Xuan = Shu-ann
Eve Ensler, the American playwright, performer, feminist and activist best known for “The Vagina Monologues”, wrote the following about Sarah Palin.
Drill, Drill, Drill
I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.
I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.
But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story — connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.
I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.
Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God’s plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, “It was a task from God.”
Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not.
She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.
Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.
Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.
Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.
I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.
If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, “Drill Drill Drill.” I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.
Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?
September 5, 2008