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  • Teaching in a black majority high school

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th July 2013 (All posts by )

    This essay has been around for a while but I saw it for the first time today. It is powerful but depressing. I wonder how applicable it is to the Chicago school system? I have a nephew who has a step daughter in a public school that is about half black. Her mother has to go to the school about once a week to complain about bullying. Catholic schools’ tuition is far higher than it was when I lived there.

    Here it is.

    A few excerpts: Until recently I taught at a predominantly black high school in a southeastern state.

    The mainstream press gives a hint of what conditions are like in black schools, but only a hint. Expressions journalists use like “chaotic” or “poor learning environment” or “lack of discipline” do not capture what really happens. There is nothing like the day-to-day experience of teaching black children and that is what I will try to convey.

    Most whites simply do not know what black people are like in large numbers, and the first encounter can be a shock.

    One of the most immediately striking things about my students was that they were loud. They had little conception of ordinary decorum. It was not unusual for five blacks to be screaming at me at once. Instead of calming down and waiting for a lull in the din to make their point — something that occurs to even the dimmest white students — blacks just tried to yell over each other.

    This must be an impossible place to try to teach. Are there any kids who want to learn?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Politics, Society | 77 Comments »

    The elephant in the room.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th June 2013 (All posts by )

    The Chicago Teachers Union president is lashing out at the villains in the school mess.

    “When are we going to address the elephant in the room?

    Say What ???

    “When will we address the fact that rich, white people, think they know what’s in the best interest of children of African Americans and Latinos—no matter what the parent’s income or education level,” she said, according to SubstanceNews.net.

    Oh. That elephant !!!

    How about this one ?

    What is it with these union bosses ?

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Education, Humor, Unions | 18 Comments »

    Romney

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th October 2011 (All posts by )

    I was quite concerned today to see this story on Powerline. The country is in serious straits because we have spent and are spending too much on public employees. My first wife went back to teaching a few years ago when she got laid off in a bank merger. She had a lifetime certificate in elementary education and has worked as a mortgage banker after our divorce in 1978. After that, she worked for the FSLIC, closing and liquidating insolvent S&Ls and currently. at the age of 72, she works for the FDIC doing the same thing. Her brief experience as a third grade teacher about 20 years ago, appalled her. She was always a public school advocate. After the divorce, the kids all went to private school. Now she says she would home school them.

    Herman Cain won my support when he was asked what role the teacher’s unions played in out current school mess. He said that, as far as he was concerned, teachers’ unions were responsible for the school troubles. Would Romney say that ? He would be dreaming if he concluded that going easy on teacher’s unions would earn him any votes. Ditto for public employee unions.

    Why then would he disclaim supports for a budget bill that affects public employee unions?

    Why is he such a squish ?

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 24 Comments »

    Coolidge as Governor

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Coolidge’s friends and supporters knew he would like to be Governor. As he put it, ” a man would scarcely be willing to be Lieutenant Governor,” if he did not wish the higher office. As President of the Senate, a powerful office in Massachusetts, he had had much to do with the success of Governor Walsh’s legislative initiatives, quite Progressive at the time. In 1915, the party chose Samuel McCall for governor and Coolidge for the Lieutenant governor spot. McCall had been a Mugwump in the 1884 election, supporting Democrat Grover Cleveland and was considered a reformer. McCall had been forgiven by the party, mostly because he had not joined the Progressives in 1912, and he and Coolidge were elected in the primary which McCall had lost the previous year. The platform, largely due to Coolidge’s influence, was quite Progressive, including workman’s compensation, public education, including vocational education, pure food and drug laws, honest weights and measures and wage and hours reform. Coolidge polled better than McCall suggesting that some still had not forgiven the latter for his mugwump radicalism.

    The family taken in 1924 before Calvin Jr.’s death.

    In 1912, Coolidge first met one of his two mentors, Frank Stearns, a fellow Amherst alumnus and a wealthy department store owner. Their first meeting was not promising as Coolidge’s abrupt manner offended Stearns. Later, in 1915, he learned that the local issue he was trying to present to Coolidge had been enacted without his influence. Stearns thereafter was a major supporter of Coolidge along with Murray Crane, a former Massachusetts governor and Senator, who became his chief adviser. Crane died just at the time Coolidge was inaugurated President and the president bitterly regretted the loss of this friend and adviser. Crane and Stearns would have much to do with getting Coolidge the vice-presidential nomination as he was not the choice of the party bosses who chose Harding.

    Stearns on left with John Coolidge (Sr).

    Coolidge and Governor McCall were re-elected in 1916 with increased margins and again in 1917. In the 1917 election, Coolidge came within 2500 votes of winning Boston, indicating his good relationships with Democrats and especially the Irish. McCall had told Coolidge that he really wished to be Senator, elected by the legislature until 1913 and the 17th Amendment, but would not mention this during the election. A few months after this election, McCall asked Coolidge to announce that he planned to run for Governor in 1918 and the Governor would run for the Senate. The incumbent Senator, Weeks, was a dull figure and out of touch. Coolidge announced but McCall, the incumbent Governor, withdrew from the Senate primary race because of the war and a lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. This left Coolidge with the Republican nomination. His Democratic opponent was a shoe manufacturer named Long who had previously been a Republican. Their platform was moderately progressive and the race seemed comfortably in their hands. Weeks, however, was a weak candidate and the attempt of McCall to replace him divided the party somewhat. Long, his opponent, attacked him incessantly but, typically, Coolidge refused to return the attacks or even mention the name of his opponent. Coolidge was elected by a narrow, 17,000 vote, margin and Weeks lost to former Governor Walsh

    Influenza epidemic had prevented the parties from holding state conventions or doing much campaigning. Patriotism had led much of the electorate to support the Wilson Administration. There was also the growing influence of immigrants in eastern Massachusetts, especially the Irish and Italians, who tended to vote Democratic. Coolidge got on well with Democrats and their support, as in this case, often made the difference for him. He was now Governor of Massachusetts, the height of any ambition, as he tells us in his autobiography.

    He went to Maine to rest after the election and, a few days later, was awakened to learn of the Armistice. The Great War was over as he settled into his duties as Governor. Since there was no residence for the Governor, he stayed at the Adams House, a boarding house where he had stayed when in Boston as a member of the Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor. His wife remained at home with the boys. Eventually, they took a two room suite at Adams House and the family moved to Boston. President Wilson stopped in Boston on his way back from Europe and he and Coolidge began a friendship that lasted until Wilson’s death and continued with Mrs Wilson after.

    A strike of Boston public railway workers began a series of labor upsets due to the inflation that had outpaced wages. Coolidge helped to negotiate between the parties and the matter was turned over to arbitration with a satisfactory outcome for both the workers and the railway companies which had limited options as their income was derived from fares. At this period, and really for much of his career, Coolidge was very close to the Progressives in his ideas about labor and what we would call the welfare state. He supported limits on working hours for women and children and even a minimum daily wage. Historians, enamored with Wilson and Roosevelt, have misrepresented his beliefs.

    Upon his return from Vermont in August, he faced a growing problem with the policemen of Boston. When hired, they had signed an agreement that they would not join a union. In spite of this agreement, a local “Boston Social Club” had been formed. The union now proposed to join the AFL. Police strikes in London and Liverpool had resulted in better pay and hours. The move toward a true union was strongly opposed by Curtis, the police commissioner. The Boston Mayor, a Democrat, intervened and tried to convince Coolidge to press the commissioner for arbitration. Coolidge had appointed the commissioner and could remove him but he felt he could not intervene otherwise. Furthermore, he agreed with the commissioner that the principle was more important than arbitration could establish. Coolidge was convinced that the matter would probably result in denying him re-election but he refused to pressure the commissioner. At the same time, he was sympathetic to the policemen whose hours and working conditions needed improvement.

    On Sunday, September 7, the matter came to a head. Ironically, on that day he was scheduled to speak at the state AFL Convention, which he did. The police union did not come up. When the union refused to back down, its officers were brought before the police commission, charged and removed from their positions. At that point, 75% of Boston policemen went on strike. It was Tuesday, September 9, 1919. The number of strikers was much larger than expected. The strike began at about 5 PM on the ninth. There were contingency plans with Metropolitan Police and State Police but the numbers were small and that night, about midnight, there was a rash of window smashing and theft from shops. Coolidge was outraged but he bided his time.

    He had been considered pro-union as a politician thus far and he had had considerable experience with labor strife. A harsh letter from Samuel Gompers, who did not know Coolidge, did not help matters. A reporter about this time wrote: “The Governor is a Republican, but it is said that the Democrats would do anything for him, many of them as much as vote for him.” Coolidge arrived back in Boston on August 19 and issued a statement supporting Curtis. Peters, the Mayor and a Democrat, dithered, appointing a commission to study the problem. Coolidge kept his counsel as the crisis grew. He deferred to Curtis, a pattern he would repeat as President, delegating authority and allowing the man on the spot to go as far as he could to a solution before intervening. According to William Allen White, a Democratic party boss and union leader, Big Jim Timilty, who had served in the Massachusetts Senate with him, called on Coolidge to reassure him that the other unions were not going to support the police union with a general strike. “You see, Cal’s my kind of guy and he’s right about those damned cops,” he told a reporter years later.

    Once the police actually struck, he was ready. First, Mayor Peters called out a volunteer militia. The violence was exaggerated but there was a lot of agitation about safety. Eventually, the city of Boston paid out $34,000 for damages. Three people were killed. By the third day, the strikers were having second thoughts. President Wilson had denounced them. The Mayor’s commission had recommended that the city recognize the union. That was unacceptable. Coolidge then acted. He called out the state Guard, took control of the police force and restored Curtis who had been dismissed by the Mayor.

    The union now attempted to cut its losses. The Central Labor Union now voted against a general strike as Timilty had promised. The police union attempted to negotiate a return to work without penalty. It was not to be. Curtis issued an order that no man who had left his post on September 9 would be accepted back in the police force and they were not allowed to “loiter on the premises of the different station houses.” There were lots of returning veterans who were eager for jobs and the city had no difficulty replacing the strikers. There was talk of the possibility that the dismissal of the officers might cost Coolidge re-election. His response was, “It is not necessary for me to hold another office.” He knew his action was popular. In fact, it made him something of a national hero in this era of the Red Scare and nationwide labor unrest. Here is where Gompers sent his unwise telegram to Coolidge. He did not know that Coolidge was considered a friend of labor and that the unions did not support the police strike.

    Coolidge pounced, publishing the telegram and his response in the newspapers. The last sentence of his response would take him to the presidency. “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” It is easy to see why Ronald Reagan was such a fan of Coolidge and had his portrait placed in the cabinet room. In the weeks and months following the strike, Coolidge received over 70,000 letters. In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote that he tried to help the strikers find other employment but they never worked again as Boston policemen. One of the strikers was William F. Regan whose son, Donald Regan, would someday be the Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief of Staff in the Reagan White House.

    Posted in Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, History, Law Enforcement, Political Philosophy, Politics | 12 Comments »

    Union Rule

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th March 2011 (All posts by )

    The situation in Madison Wisconsin has been so well covered by Ann Althouse on her blog, that I have not felt it necessary to mention it. Yesterday, the situation began to change. This is what union rule would look like:

    The state Senators had passed the limited budget bill that included only the collective bargaining provisions. The Democrats had blocked the fiscal portions of the bill by fleeing the state two weeks ago. Walker has had this option since they left but he and Majority Leader FitzGerald, were negotiating with the Democrats in hopes the standoff could be ended. The negotiations (not reported by the MSM, of course) broke down when it became apparent that the Democrats are nationalizing this controversy. Walker then encouraged the Senate Republicans to go ahead with Plan B. They did and the law was signed by Walker yesterday.

    Why has this issue been so inflammatory? There are even leftist academics who are advocating serious violence.

    My prediction: 10 years from now public higher education, at least in many states, will have ceased to exist. 20 years from now state governments will realize that they still own the buildings and property on their former state university campuses and start charging us rent to use them. 25 years from now citizens will complain that they can’t afford to send their children to college–any college. But by then the peasant class will be so firmly established that it won’t really matter.

    Welcome to the 19th century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Elections, Law Enforcement, Politics, Public Finance, Video | 11 Comments »

    Why this is life and death for the unions

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th February 2011 (All posts by )

    In reading about the Wisconsin stand-off, I ran across this thread at Newsbusters . The last comment is so important, it deserves a post, I think. I can’t verify this story but I have spent some time with union health plan administrators.

    Would someone please note that Unions make the great lion’s share of their $ from negotiating “benefits”, not salaries… or collection of dues.

    This is why the decoupling of the Salaries and Benefits is so important to Unions in Wisconsin. And why the Union’s have countered the way they have. They’ll give up Salary and Jobs for Teachers in a second, but they will fight to death for the Benefit negotiation position. In another life as an executive in CA, I used to do administration for two Teamster’s “Health and Welfare” benefit packages. Do your research, but you’ll find I’m correct about motivation of Unions. I also believe that the amount of money kept by Unions will be very interesting to both your viewers, and the tax payers of the US of A. The way it works is that the Unions negotiate with the “Employer” regarding how much money per member/per month they will need to support the benefit options required in Union contract. In the case of WI, they negotiate with each of the 77 counties. Then the Unions negotiate the terms of benefits with “providers”/Ins Co’s, etc. They make the lion’s share of their money off of what is called the “breakage” created by Employees choosing between plan options, and the administration of the programs.

    Let me explain with an example: A Union begins by negotiating with the Employer/State. They’ll claim their buying leverage will afford Employer significant savings. They’ll end up with a 3-tiered cost structure which allows the Union a profit even with the highest benefit option available as Union already has a very good idea about what Providers will be charging. But it gets even more lucrative for Unions at this point. Let’s say high-end Blue Cross PPO coverage costs $400 for the Family tier. What a Union will do is require $425 from Employer, plus a loaded in admin fee, as a charge for all Families in the employer group. So far, so fair? But, the Union will also offer a few other plans for Employees to choose from. The Union will also have developed relationships with a few cheaper HMO plans, and lesser PPO benefit structure plans that charge, as an example, $325 and $375, respectively.

    At an Open House, employees will choose what fits their needs and the Union is in line for the “breakage”. The left over breakage is then, to my experience, placed in a fund where only the Union has the checkbook. Cars, Vacations and Condo’s, oh my. The Union also makes a “commission” off of things like Pre Legal, Dental and Term Life. As another profit source, the Union also leans on the Administrator for favors I’d rather not list, but usually involving idiocy like buying thousands of dollars of “raffle tickets” and leasing cars for the Union’s Business Agents, not entirely above board. Of course, I am relating my experience, and what little I know of others who also did Union administration. I’d expect any simple research by an actual reporter would open up a Pandora’s box of Slush in the Badger State.

    Very revealing comment. This is why “benefits” is such a life and death issue for the unions.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Leftism, Management, Politics | 9 Comments »

    The “Government Education Complex” defined

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 15th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I doubt if I was the first person to use the phrase “Government-Education Complex,” but I use it often to describe the current education system. Others have clearly started to pick up on the meme, which is good.

    A friend of mine in Indiana emailed me and asked me to define it for him. So I did.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Education | 7 Comments »

    Just say it! Teachers Unions are morally illegitimate

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 5th October 2010 (All posts by )

    It’s nice to know that the rhetoric I’ve been using on my website for about 6 years now, which some called “extreme,” has gone mainstream.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editors are dipping their toes in the water of truth. They ought to dive in head first, and start rescuing children.

    Hating ‘Superman’

    The new film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact.

    Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools. “Klein, Rhee and Duncan better switch us jobs, so we can put an end to those hedge fund hogs,” went one of their anti-charter cheers, referring to school reform chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The odd complaint is that donors to charter schools include some hedge fund managers.

    Or maybe not so odd. Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

    That moral claim is being turned on its head as more Americans come to understand that teachers unions and the public bureaucracy are the main obstacles to reform. Movies such as “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “The Lottery” are exposing this to the larger American public, leaving the monopolists to the hapless recourse of suggesting that reformers are merely the tools of hedge fund philanthropists.

    Teacher’s unions are on the moral defensive because people have finally started to question their moral legitimacy. (welcome to the club) Teachers Unions have none, and, as a concept, they have no right to exist.

    Every dime a teachers union extracts from a tax payer for pay, benefits, pensions, etc., is a dime that can’t be used to better educate a child. It’s so obvious that it’s been staring us in the face for decades.

    Just as Reagan hastened the fall of the USSR by challenging their moral legitimacy (evil empire, ash heap of history), we must openly start telling our neighbors that teachers unions have no right to one iota of say in education. Their interests, and the interests of society are diametrically opposed.

    You don’t negotiate with such an entity, you abolish it. It’s that simple. Get to work.

    You want to teach? Compete in the open field of professionals and processes that can better educate our children.

    Posted in Academia, Education, Entrepreneurship | 9 Comments »

    Addressing SEIU/AFSCME talking points

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 1st October 2010 (All posts by )

    Public Unions are taking well-deserved heat for their pension greed. If you look at all the pension articles, the comments are full of reasonable sounding folks trotting out the argument that the really bad examples of abusive pensions are “outliers.” They then tell you that the average benefit is “only $20,000/year.” It’s best to address this calmly, reasonably, and accurately. Here’s how. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Taxes | 14 Comments »

    Begin with the end in mind

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 17th August 2010 (All posts by )

    I’m a bit of Covey Fan, at least some great stuff from his first book. Beginning with the end in mind, and keeping it in mind, is central to strategic thinking on policy and politics.

    With that out of the way, I’ll tell you that one of the “ends” I’m working toward is the transformation (as opposed to the reform) of America’s education system.

    I can easily defend the statement that America’s education system can’t be reformed in its present context. Taking that one step further, i would argue that even if it could be reformed, we shouldn’t want to.

    I write all this because I just posted a comment to one of my favorite blogs, Brothers Judd. The post on that blog touted an article describing Obama’s “break” with the Teacher’s Unions. This is an interesting development, and there is much more, and much less, than meets the eye.

    The comment I posted is below.

    This is my take, and I think I’ll be proven right. Obama & Co. know that the existing system is unsustainable, particularly for the urban schools. They are creatures of the Union, but know that Unionism is the problem. Hence their attempt to “fix” the system using half-measures like “turnaround models” and charters.

    This is akin to “glasnost” and “perestroika.” Obama thinks he can loosen the leash, maintain control, and then re-unionize charters when results improve. This brings to mind 2 important things for true reformers to remember.

    1. Reforms need to lead to the permanent removal of unionization from education, so we need to work toward the collapse of the union system (USSR), and not its “reform.”

    2. All this talk of Obama truly understanding the problem should be ignored. Whatever his personal motivation to succeed, in his heart of hearts, he is an unreconstructed leftist who believes everything William Ayers believes about schooling.

    He’s Gramsci to the core. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci

    Just remember, like Katrina, if every government school in the US fell to rubble tomorrow, we would see a flourishing of education that would surprise the most Pollyanna optimist. To that end, all half measures should be designed to destroy the current system, not to save it.

    US Government Education Complex = USSR
    Obama = Gorbachev

    In my view, , the Union-dominated education system will appear strong, like the USSR, right up to the moment they collapse. Once they collapse, Unions must be driven from education.

    The most important policy needed to bring that about is the rapid charterizaton of existing schools, combined with the majority of the education dollar following children to those schools.

    If you don’t put a stake through their heart, salt and garlic the coffin, and scatter the ashes, they will come back and fix on your neck yet again.

    Posted in Academia, Education | 9 Comments »

    A “Jobs Program,” not an education system

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 25th June 2010 (All posts by )

    Hey everyone,

    I’d like to express my thanks to the “ChicagoBoyz” for allowing me to become a contributor.

    Check out my profile for my Bio if you want. When I’m not not reading or posting to blogs, I’m probably working for education reform at the Heartland Institute or sailing my modest boat out of Monroe Harbor (weather permitting). Like many happily married men, if I’m not working or doing something I really enjoy, I’m doing what my wife tells me to do.
    ____

    I just saw this yesterday over at Big Government. Why we allow these education bureaucrats and teacher’s unions to bankrupt an entire civilization is beyond me.

    The U.S. Economy Needs Fewer Public School Jobs, Not More

    I don’t have time this morning to copy and paste the two graphs in this post right now, but I urge all of you to go the linked article, print the two graphs, and carry them around in your wallets and purses. Show them to any dingbat who thinks education spending is “for the children.”

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Education | 6 Comments »