Archive for the ‘political’ Category

Speaking of Socialism

November 1, 2010

“Three branches and three levels of government”, I explain, diagraming the hierarchy of national state and local government on the interactive whiteboard. “Now you try. Match the roles with their positions in this table. Yes, Governor is in the executive branch of state government, just as President is in the executive branch of the national government.” We are studying the roots of democracy in 3rd grade Social Studies. “What is a socialist, someone wants to know, why is it a bad thing?” Interesting question and observation. So often teachers can hear adults speaking through the mouths of children. ” Socialism, hmmm, what does it sound like?” Someone says he hears the word ‘social’. “And what do you know about social?” I persist. It’s like having a party or having friends, several agree.” OK, we can look it up” audible groans. “I will look it up”, I encourage. “Let’s see”,

” Any of various political philosophies that support social and economic equality, collective decision-making, and public control of productive capital and natural resources, as advocated by socialists …”

Interesting, I think to myself. This sounds just like our school system. The students are satisfied, sort of, they have no further questions after we discuss the meaning of collective decision-making. On the other hand, my head is imagining what it would be like to have a school system created in the image of democracy. Why? For the very same reasons, ‘we’ capitalist supporters enjoy innovation, self determination and upward mobility. People who actually work within the governmental structure don’t enjoy those economic benefits. We don’t generate capital, so we can’t play the game. I see this incongruous match of public schooling with the teaching of democratic principles a truly fascinating societal tension producing unrealistic expectations for schools.

I googled the topic and found a number of people agree, acknowledge and in fact support the socialist agenda of public education. On the other hand, the detractors also feel strongly that these two philosophies should not coexist indefinitely. What are the alternatives?

Joanne Barkan digs very dig and supplies ample fuel for the fire of educational reform in her recent article in Dissent magazine.


Education or National Healthcare

March 13, 2010

When people are sick they go to the doctor and when they need education they go to a teacher. The difference lies in the treatment plans and the way we pay for these services. Healthcare is considered by some to be a right, just as education is. Well for those who think a national healthcare system would guarantee that right, think again. If education, a long standing right can go down the tubes then so can healthcare.

The economic storm has caused the levy to burst open and monies funding education have spilled uncontrollably down into a deep chasm forming what amounts to an abscess festering like an untended wound. It is too raw to heal without help. If only you’d been able to buy educational insurance maybe your child could be guaranteed the education they deserve. Unfortunately no such options exist.

With all the fuss about the healthcare crisis and all the debate about insuring the uninsured and making healthcare available to everyone it seems to me, the whole preventation has been overlooked. Education is all about prevention and therefore I would like to state that without adequate education our society will be too sick for ANY kind of healthcare system to redeem.

Now what? We grasp for purchase in the spinning vortex of political rhetoric. It is sucking the life out of education, public safety and the general infrastructure of society. I think the only thing national healthcare can offer the public now, is unlimited refills on pain medication to make our economic future more palatable. Put your money where your mouth is, US Government, and stop telling us that we need to accept your bitter pill of healthcare reform. No amount of healthcare will stem the education crisis, and without education what hope do we have for an employable workforce or a viable future? EDUCATION IS OUR BEST PREVENTATIVE STRATEGY. EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN IS OUR BEST INSURANCE POLICY.

For a well researched comparison education and healthcare models refer to this post

Rivers of Communication

April 2, 2008

I live near the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. It originates as a spring in the North Georgia mountains and empties into the Gulf of Mexico in Apalachicola, Florida. I have always admired the natural beauty of the river. It offers a peaceful respite from the noisy commotion of daily life. My children know this better than most. They are rowers and have spent countless hours honing their crew skills through daily practice Tennessee River, Chattanoogawith the team. It was crew that led us to Chattanooga for weekend, a scrimmage with the Baylor School. The races were held on the Tennessee River. Looking up river at the boats with the backdrop of mountains covered by mist created an ethereal setting. I love rivers. My husband and I stayed in town for the night and we watched, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk a 3D IMAX film. It was about river conservation ( a little preachy) but stunning scenery. Apparently climate change is only one of the many problems facing rivers. Dams are another significant problems contributing to global warming according to International Rivers, who protect the vitality of rivers and defend the people who rely on them around the world. Here is a quote from their website:

Dams as climate polluters

Scientific studies indicate that dams and reservoirs are globally significant sources of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and, in particular, methane. The latest estimate published in a peer-review journal is that dams and reservoirs are responsible for almost a quarter of all human-caused methane emissions. This 104 million tonnes of dam methane equals 4-5% of all human-caused warming.

An interesting statistic and that made me think. Atlanta is a booming area as is Los Vegas. Neither city is growing in proportion to water availability. The cities continue growing and increasing demand on a finite supply of water. Similar problems are occurring around the world. It’s like running up huge credit card debt without any way to pay repay it.

So why this sudden interest in rivers? Upon returning to Atlanta, my email contained a note from an old friend from my sophomore year at the American School of London. We’d lost touch for oh, I guess about 30 years! How amazing that the internet provides a river of information and we were able to reconnect. Dams to communication have been removed. As it happens Tim Kingston is actively involved in the International Rivers organization. He is an activist with a passion for rivers, water, the source of life!

Horton Hears a Who?

March 2, 2008

Monday, March 3 is a tribute to Theodore Geisel and considered by elementary school children to be Dr. Seuss Day. As an author Geisel explored topics involving social responsibility. In Horton Hears a Who, Horton the elephant is able to hear the Who’s plea for help from a spec of dust. No one believes him because they cannot see it with their own eyes. For me, Martin Sebuliba is my Who. Have you heard him? In this day of modernity where the impossible is possible and previously unheard voices are beginning to speak over the internet, Martin is leading the chorus, “We are here! We are here! We are here! Can you hear him? He a pleads to help the children survive. He has a vision and the persistence of a man on a mission.

On December 3 I posted an overview of the Springs Alive community in Uganda and their pressing needs. As a result of the post I received an inquiry from a reporter:

Moira Sharkey Says:
January 23, 2008 at 1:39 am edit

I am a reporter with the South Wales Echo in Cardiff, UK and was wondering if the photo on the website is of children from Spring Alive School. The reason I ask is that I am hoping to do a story on a appeal fund launched by local Welsh children to buy equipment and supplies for the school in Uganda but I don’t have a photo of Spring Alive. If this is the school can we use the photo?

Martin reported that the school in Wales planned to send to adult delegates with some much needed school supplies. They acted very quickly perhaps because they had a fund for this type of venture. Here is the update from Martin about their visit.

I also have an update on the visitors from Wales that visited our school ie.Simon and Julian, in one of the successful encounters we have had as regards Global links. These visitors told us that the children in their school have contributed money toward renovating our old structure and they said that with time if this collaboration could be sustained, they would think of other ways on which to make the collaboration with their school beneficial, this needs to appear in the website, I don’t know how yet! Could you advise please? We also will write an update article which we will email Moira, Roath Park School and you.

In one of the most unfortunate encounters with them was when they said that they could not give us the video conferencing kit because we did not have electricity at our school, but they promised that if we got the electricity, they would give it to us. I have to tell you this Kathy in order for you to know that down here in our country, we really are having a struggle to make ends meet, and you being very close indeed you could be supportive in one way or another.


I have promised to create a website for SpringsAlive and if Martin can make some banking arrangements I will be able to post a Chipin.

My friends ask me if this is legitimate. I have been convinced from the outset that Martin is what he claims to be, the Director of Springs Alive and that he is in fact in Uganda. I will be contacting the school in Cardiff Wales for further confirmation and to ask them for advice as to ways of providing assistance effectively. I will admit that I want very much to help but I do not want any donations to fall into the wrong hands. I think this can only be arranged by partnering with a local Ugandan banking institution or perhaps through a University as a possible funding for a grant specifically designed to assist Springs Alive.


If you have any experience with this kind of partnership I would appreciate your advice.


Enough Technology? For some, survival may depend on it.

December 3, 2007

I recently became acquainted with a director of a small school community of nearly forgotten children. They are orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Their common bond seems to be one of survival in the face of catastrophic events. Civil wars, HIV AIDS and starvation plague the country. What do we know of these travesties first hand? Some of these children are part of the Springs Alive community and school a rural part of Uganda near Kampala. I asked Martin, the Director, about his future plans for Springs Alive. Here is what he told me.

In regard to our school acquiring computers in order to be technically equipped, we have learnt that there are various organizations in America and Europe which donate used or refurbished computers to schools, we want to pursue this opportunity with you towards securing these kind of computers not only to our school but even to the community based organizations (CBO) – Springs Alive. … Computers which are mostly offered are those ones that need technical overhaul and not really ready for use if they are to arrive here-

We are also having discussions with an upcoming internet provider who wants to specialize in rural internet connectivity, in order that we tame the bombardment of requests to be technically resourceful and with time once we have acquired these computers, solar power suppliers & internet connectivity we shall start online services (voice & video conferences) involving kids.

I can see Martin’s point regarding the quality of the equipment they receive. If a person knows little about technology and they are handed a ‘fixer upper’ where can they turn for help? I can also appreciate how hard it must be to rely on expensive internet cafes to connect with the global community in search of support. Combing the internet for clues as to the conditions and provisions for children I discovered several corporate initiatives feeding technology needs specifically in Uganda it is an uphill battle getting people trained in rural locations. From what I can tell the country’s infrastructure doesn’t support a cohesive plan for implementation or longevity in any sense of the word.

Where is the hope? It is in the children’s hearts and voices. I recently completed the story of one such child from Northern Uganda called Girl Soldier. It offers a no nonsense personal account of the routine child abductions in Northern Ugnada as well as an overview of the country’s political struggles.

One notable Christian organization organizing support and funding is called Watoto. Their mission is to raise future leaders. Doubtless there are others involved in Ugandan mission. Watoto coordinate concerts across the world to raise awareness of the children’s plight and to spread joy, a paradox. The children have even performed in the White House Rose Garden. A brief news clip from Australia illustrates the impact the children are having on those they inspire to help. So, why do I even bring this up? Because our problems are trivial when it comes to technology. Count your blessing and while you’re at it visit the Watoto site. These children are the future.

Doing my part to promote Pangea Day

September 14, 2007

My update notified me of a special media event in the not-so-distant future. May 8, 2008 will become the world’s first official Pangea Day. The video is circulating via youtube as well as the website. Visit, and you too may be moved by the images and the visionary idealism that despite the superficial power structure keeping the world population at odds. Positive images and messages of authentic examples of unity among all people may turn the tide of divisiveness that keeps humankind dependent on wars and threats to maintain some semblance of balance in the world. We’ll see, on May 8, 2008. Jehane Noujaim is a controversial filmmaker who seeks to understand people by listening to them. She isn’t listening with an agenda. Her goal seems to be one I have had for myself lately. It is to be present with people and experience them and listen to their heart. That is the kind of listening and communicating that leads to trust and understanding. I think she’s onto something.

Know these names, Rhee and Fenty?

September 9, 2007

Channel surfing tonight led me to a C-Span interview of Michelle Rhee the new Chancellor of W.D.C. schools.  Fenty the new mayor sought her out and pledged to support her with a nearly unconditional fervor. She started her role in June 2007. Fenty barely in his mid 30’s, an attorney and graduate of Howard University, waged an intensive door-to-door campaign in the city and won across racial lines.  He is a fresh face and he is building his team with people who are not afraid of change or hard work, namely, Rhee. I lived in DC during the Marion Barry years and despite his best intentions and his personal commitment to education he succumbed to corruption and vice failing the children in DC city schools.  I hope Fenty and Rhee have the integrity of steel.  If so they will become my heroes because they are champions for education.  They are committed to doing what is best for students. I sincerely hope they can turn our national disgrace into national treasure. Our nations capital should be a beacon and not a blight when it comes to education.  They have much to overcome but with vision, leadership and the ability to make difficult decisions I truly think Fenty and Rhee will make a winning combination.

Down to Earth and Kid Friendly

May 1, 2007

GA State Superintendent of Schools paid a visit to Creek View. Kathy Cox exudes warmth and genuine interest in students. As she toured the building she didn’t sit complacently to observe teaching, rather she acted as a catalyst and participant in student learning. She is a former high school teacher but it’s clear that her passion for education still rubs off on all she meets.

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Georgia State School Superintendent Mrs. Kathy Cox visited Creek View Elementary on Monday, April 30. She was introduced by Principal Trussell and student anchors over the Cheetah Channel News. Mrs. Cox made her way around Creek View in the company of her two assistants and our Assistant Principal Mrs. Betty Swanson. This brief clip shows Mrs. Cox in Ms. Shields’ kindergarten, and a 1st and 3rd Grade classroom. The 1st grade teacher is Heidi Holcomb, 21st Century Classroom Coordinator and Mr. Robert Theriault who teaches 3rd grade and is also a 21st Century Classroom educator.

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Your assignment this week:

April 28, 2007

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The Nitrogen Wiki

David Zaks and Chad Monfreda
April 20, 2007 12:31 PM

“Nitrogen pollution is a particularly nasty problem. The element is essential to life, but it seems to seep, leak, and sneak into just about every environmental problem we face. Hypoxia, allergens, carcinogens, invasive species, photochemical smog, ozone depletion, and global warming can all find fault with nitrogen pollution from two of our most pervasive activities, energy and agriculture. It’s hard to imagine where effective solutions would even start, which is why the Packard foundation has turned to the public for help with a wiki.”

The newsletter is called Worldchanging Headlines. It sounds a little like a religious group but it is not, unless you base religion solely on good works. The above snippet from the recent newsletter demonstrates how this group is participating in global reconstruction by promoting the work of groups who use wiki-style problem solving to seek solutions for mammoth problems. Long sentence, I know. Instead of limiting knowledge to the power brokers and tenured experts why not collaborate to form a world of potential solutions? This might produce an example of the Medici Effect (Frans Johansson). In his book, Johansson talks about innovation as the result of world-changing ideas emanating from the confluence of people with unrelated backgrounds. He supplies compelling examples of innovation and they all contain a common thread. The people who are successful making connections between unrelated ideas have broken down their associative barriers (your powers of discrimination are working against you). A maxim found in the book states that quantity does produce quality when it comes to generating ideas/solutions for large problems. Replace the ‘too many cooks…’ motto with “to infinity and beyond”.

Your assignment for the week of April 30:

  1. Sign up for the Worldchanging Headlines Newsletter
  2. Read the Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

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Become an advocate for education.

January 4, 2007

Much like the health clubs offering excellent incentives to get fit, the Internet offers many educational incentives to improve your brain. The problem is not how to start but where to begin and how to remain focused. Most people are creatures of habit. Do you regularly listen to certain radio shows, TV programs and read certain columns in the paper. Over time you come to trust and accept the content from specific sources for the informational or entertainment value. Remember the buzz surrounding the Drudge Report? It is an alternative news source supplying people with more than just the headlines. Offering discussion, insights, opinions and links, the public became keenly aware of it’s power when Drudge was the first to break the Monica Lewinsky story. This kind of site changes people’s behavior. If you have any interest in news and politics the Drudge Report is your quick reference news source. The web enables us to develop new habits and to become better informed, better consumers and better communicators.

The purpose of this blog is to keep you informed about educational trends. Education, like our government is of the people, by the people, for the people. You drive it with your demands and you fuel it with your taxes. That should be a strong incentive for you to become an educated educational consumer. Whether you are a teacher or a parent your main concern is how provide the very best education for your children. In this time of sweeping changes in educational technology, being well informed will make you a better advocate for your students. Some experts are predicting that proprietary software (the programs that live on your computer’s hard drive, like word) will be history in 5 years and that schools will relay on web based – open source solutions. These solutions are summed up best by the latest educational buzz word, web 2.0. Web 2.0 refers to the vast array of free web based programs available to any web users. It’s truly difficult to imagine how some or all of these goodies might be used to create safe virtual classroom for our kids. The open classroom exists as a concept for now. Can schools adopt this out-of-the-box approach and if so how will they accomplish it? What role will you play? Become an advocate for education.

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