Saturday, October 21, 2017

Men Are Responsible For Stopping Sexual Assault. Not Women. MEN. by Steven Singer



Enough bullshit.
So stop blaming women for sexual assault.
It’s not the clothes they wear, the way they style their hair, the words they say, or how much skin they’re showing that cause men to sexually assault them.
It’s a choice made by men.
Males. Husbands. Sons. Boyfriends. Brothers. Nephews. Uncles. Co-workers. Coaches. Bosses. Total strangers with raging boners.
That’s the key factor – a penis.
So stop blaming the victim for being victimized. And stop letting men off the hook with every stupid ass excuse under the sun.
It’s time for men like me to take responsibility.
The mere possession of male genitalia does not make it impossible to resist sexual urges. Nor does enculturation as a male in a patriarchal society determine our decisions – even if it does influence them.
Sure. We live in a world of toxic masculinity. The “Boys will be boys” sentiment dominates the social landscape. But that’s not what actually does the raping and harassment.
It’s us. Individual men.
We’re responsible for our own actions.
And if seeing that in print makes you want to offer a kneejerk reaction against it, stop and take a breath.
Do you really want to argue that men aren’t responsible for themselves? Are we, as men, really such a weak, passive gender that we don’t qualify as agents in our own lives?
I’d like to propose that we’re better than that lame justification. Men are not one slim step above animals. We are thinking, feeling human beings who – when presented with an opportunity to engage in harassment or violence – have a choice in the matter.
Free will does not end with an erection.
There are lots of things we can do with it. Rape is just one of them.
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
You want to know the REAL reason so many men choose sexual violence?
Because we can.
Most sex offenders are white men – almost 6 in 10.
Most were not sexually or physically abused, themselves, as children.
They’re just guys taking advantage of a power trip that’s often consequence free.
In short, society lets us get away with it.
When men know that no one’s going to hold them accountable, some act accordingly.
The presence of alcohol and violent pornography increase the likelihood of sexual violence, but lack of repercussions is the number one consideration.
We figure victims won’t speak out, and if they do, they won’t be believed. The deck is stacked against the survivors of sexual violence and in favor of the perpetrators.
You don’t need a study by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to prove that – but it’s there.
It just goes to show how much of a rational, reasoned action sexual violence is.
It’s not something done by an uncontrollable animal impulse. It’s the result of a cost-benefit analysis.
That’s why all these #MeToo stories are so powerful.
Women all over social media are coming forward and admitting that sexual violence has touched their lives. And we see most every woman in our lives is affected. For the first time, the scope of the problem is becoming visible.
The ground is shaking under the patriarchy. And as a man I am so fucking relieved.
It is absolutely disgusting to me that so many of my gender don’t give a shit about consent.
They act as if women’s bodies are theirs to do with as they want. Pinch them, grab them, grope them, discuss them as mere objects of our personal pleasure. It’s just a man’s right.
Fuck you, Dude.
Seriously.
I’m not a perfect person. I’ve certainly engaged in inappropriate behavior – especially as an adolescent – but I’ve always respected consent.
And if there’s any time when I’ve crossed a line, call me out on it. Hold me responsible. Treat me like a real person – not some overgrown child, an ape that can’t help but fling his own feces.
Yet we too often stop there. We dare women to name us in a venue where we have all the advantages. That needs to stop.
Stopping sexual assault can’t just be the responsibility of women anymore. In fact, it’s not their responsibility at all.
It’s ours. It’s men’s.
Moving forward, guys like me have to step out of the shadows and take our place at the forefront of this fight.
We caused this mess. It’s up to us to clean it up.
This means calling out sexism. No more yucking it up with the guys uncomfortably in public and then condemning it in private.
This means demanding equal treatment for women. Equal pay, childcare, reproductive healthcare. Easy access to contraception, mammograms, gynecologists, neo-natal care.
This means teaching our sons and daughters – but especially our sons – what consent is, why it’s important, and how to tell if you’ve got it.
And it means acknowledging that women are just as much sexual beings as men. No more double standards, no more defining women as a reflection of men and male desire.
It won’t happen overnight.
It will require commitment and strength.
But we can do it.
Why?
Because we’re men.
And if we try, we can be just as strong, just as responsible, just as human, as women.

A Short Comparison Of The Privatization Effort by Bill Worsham


This could probably be a book, but I wanted to get this information out there for anyone who is interested. It seems like these movements often share many of the same traits, so I am
going to list the traits I see comparing the privatization of schools and prisons.

Both efforts took place in response to supposed “failures” the federal government
bought in to.

Both efforts say they help ethnically diverse communities even when there is no evidence this happens.

Both use measures that are questionable or downright fraudulent to measure “success.”
Both wind up hurting the population they claim to help (while the jury is out on charter schools—I taught in one and found it no different, or worse, than the average public school—and the profit-motive built into charters makes it almost a certainty that the schools do not spend funds on students).

Both claim efficiencies that are questionable. For instance, the privatization of inmate meals resulted in claims that maggots were in the food. 

Yesterday, my wife brought home essays where the kids had to write both a for and against argument. The poor kid who did the essay saying not to change school lunch justified it by saying, “I know it is bad but at least we get to eat.” Please listen to me: I have been at three different public schools and a charter. 

I NEVER saw resistance to food like this from the public school
kids. The food is microwaved, so the kids told me, and sometimes still frozen! Seriously, the point is the efficiency creates this kind of thing. They also save on personnel, meaning the student to teacher ratio they advertise is actually just untrue. My wife regularly teaches 25-30 kids and her school advertises a 15:1 ratio. The efficiency isn’t there, partly because it never WAS there in the public school. There are studies where real spending on kids hasn’t changed much over the years. It could be the school districts are not efficient (and they aren’t…I can tell you stories about that) but at the teacher to pupil level, things are about as efficient as they can be. Point is, don’t believe the hype on this one.

Both eventually are exposed by horror stories. I admit the political will has not been there to understand the broader issue with for profit charter schools, but the stories are there. From Florida to Illinois to Ohio, the stories are there. One charter in Ohio recently closed after taking tax money even though no kids ever showed up! Somehow the political will doesn’t exist yet and I suspect it will take something truly harmful to get
people to understand. That is unfortunate.

Both claim to help a population they do not help (and I know that sound repetitive but there is a difference). My wife has a large Latino population, but no permanent ESOL instructor. She has to give ELL kids a 65% regardless of performance. I told her I understood this. She said, “Yeah, but they didn’t get the grades because they didn’t understand, they got them because they spent their time screwing around.” That’s not 
cool. Sets kids up to fail. Fails to set the expectations at a high level. But the charters are doing this. Without the additional helpful things public school actually does already. If you are Hispanic, you aren’t doing your son or daughter any favors with a charter. I am sorry. A recent study suggests that graduation rates and other factors like college attendance are no better for kids who went to a charter school. So much for the “private school paradigm” charters sought to repeat (without knowing why private schools send so many kids to college….I LOVE private schools but not charters).

Both wind up cutting money and pocketing the proceeds. As an employee, you never see any of this money, though there is sometimes a bonus if you move up the state “grade” ladder by some amount. That isn’t in writing, it just happens. The bonus isn’t anywhere near what the owners of the school make. Don’t fool yourself. I know what I am talking about. A friend of mine once had her probation job privatized. Bad medical, dental, life….and no retirement plan followed. I can assure you, however, that the party who owned the company lived very well. Charters are doing the same thing. It is possible if one is a non-profit that this dynamic does not exist, but c’mon—do you really think someone isn’t making a tremendous amount of money? Where does that money come from? Well if charters and public schools are both funded the same—DUH!

Both are supported by people who just don’t understand what they’re really about. No one cared about privatized prisons. After all, the people in them were prisoners. They
might have cared, though, if they saw that we were actually spending more and getting less from these facilities. The facilities justified this based on prison population, which
was increased due to bad law—let’s be honest, everyone admits that now. 

The truth, however, was worse. The owners of these facilities didn’t spend the windfall on the prisons, they spent it on two other things: lobbying politicians and, I suppose, having a good time. Human behavior norms existed. Some people got very rich but it wasn’t the prison guards. Same thing is happening with most charters, especially the expansionist corporatist types. Would that be enough for a “true believer” in “school choice”? I doubt it. But I also know it is all true. I have been in both charters and public schools. I know the difference. Listen: I don’t teach except as a sub for public school and I don’t know if I will while in Florida. I like private schooling and home school tutoring at this point. I don’t have a dog in the fight. All education has been so messed up in policy that I don’t know if my independent mind can take the shackles the present system imposes on me. What I do know is that charters are
not a real answer to any problems that do exists. 

Technology (which charters claim to use but really don’t….surprise! It surprised me too) may be a solution. In fact for older kids it probably is the solution if properly implemented. In fact, if all the schools that bought Pearson really bought the entire thing, along with the hardware to run it, they might change teaching and learning for the better. Yes, I know Pearson has bad curriculum, but that part can change when the schools stop demanding bad curriculum. The point is, Pearson is a supply and demand business and a change in policy would result in good stuff from them.

Still, they have the capability to do it, we just have to set policy that allows for it. That will not happen as long as the software and hardware is so scattered. Schools buy IPads on a
grant or something, but don’t really know how they might use them. The point is, if you let a guy like me who has been teaching for a little bit a chance, I might be able to inform your
decision-making so it is not so damned stupid. Our move to charters, like so many other things, is plain uninformed stupidity. The guy on the other end, who is very smart, is making a lot of money off this stupidity. Personally, I don’t want money, but I would like to see schools and the general population get smart and understand what is really in the best
interests of their kids.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

There Are Very Few Bad Students, Bad Parents and Bad Teachers by Steven Singer

Originally posted at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/there-are-very-few-bad-students-bad-parents-and-bad-teachers/

Maybe the problem with public schools is that people just aren’t trying hard enough.

There are too many bad students, bad parents, and bad teachers out there.

At least, that’s what the rich folks say.

They sit behind their mahogany desks, light a Cuban cigar with a thousand dollar bill and lament the kind of gumption that got them where they are today just isn’t present in the unwashed masses.

Never mind that they probably inherited their wealth. Never mind that the people they’re passing judgment on are most often poor and black. And never mind that struggling schools are almost always underfunded compared to those in wealthier neighborhoods and thus receive fewer resources and have larger class sizes.

Tax cuts feed the rich and starve the poor, but somehow the wealthy deserve all the breaks while OUR cries are always the fault of our own grumbling stomachs.

As a 15-year veteran teacher in the public school classroom, I can tell you I’ve seen very few people who aren’t trying.

I’ve seen plenty of struggling students but hardly any I’d simply write off as, “bad.” That’s a term I usually reserve for wilted fruit – not human beings.

I’ve seen plenty of parents or guardians striving to do the best with what they have, but few I’d honestly give up on. And I’ve seen lots of teachers endeavoring to do better every day, but hardly any that deserve that negative label.

In fact, if anything, I often see people trying their absolute hardest yet convinced that no matter what they do it won’t be enough.

“It’s not very good.”

That’s what I hear everyday.


“I didn’t do a very good job.”

“This sucks.”

“It’s butt.”

“I can’t do this.”

“It’s grimy.”

“It’s trifling.”

Something to let you know that you should lower your expectations.

This piece of writing here is not worth your time as teacher, they imply. Why don’t you just ignore it? Ignore me.

But after all this time, I’ve learned a thing or two about student psychology.

I know that they’re really just afraid of being judged.

School probably always contained some level of labeling and sorting, distinguishing the excellent from the excreble. But that used to be a temporary state. You might not have done well today, but it was a step on the journey toward getting better.

However, these days when we allow students to be defined by their standardized test scores, the labels of Advanced, Proficient, Basic or Below are semi-permanent.

Students don’t often progress much one way or another. They’re stuck in place with a scarlet letter pinned to their chests, and we’re not even allowed to question what it really means or why we’re forced to assess them this way.

So I hear the cries of learned helplessness more often with each passing year.

And it’s my job to dispel it.

More than teaching new skills, I unteach the million lashes of an uncaring societyfirst.

Then, sometimes, we get to grammar, reading comprehension, spelling and all that academic boogaloo.

“Mr. Singer, I don’t want you to read it. It’s not my best work.”

“Let me ask you something?” I say.

“What?”

“Did you write it?”

“Yeah.”

“Then I’m sure it’s excellent.”

And sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes not.

It’s all about trust, having an honest and respectful relationship. If you can’t do that, you can’t teach.

That’s why all this computer-based learning software crap will never adequately replace real live teachers. An avatar – a simulated person in a learning game package – can pretend to be enthusiastic or caring or a multitude of human emotions. But kids are very good at spotting lies, and that’s exactly what this is.



Which would you rather learn from?

When a student reads a piece of their own writing aloud, I always make sure to find something to praise.

Sometimes this is rather challenging. But often it’s not.

Most of my kids come to me because they’ve failed the government-mandated test, their grades didn’t set the world on fire, and/or they have special needs.

But I’ve been privileged to see and hear some of the most marvelous writing to come out of a middle school. Colorful adventures riding insects through a rainbow world, house parties with personal play-lists and famous friends, political discourses on the relative worth of the Roman Empire vs. African culture, and more real life crime dramas than every episode of every variation of Law and Order.

It’s just a matter of showing kids what makes them so special. And giving them the space to discover the exceptional in themselves and each other.

There’s a danger in my profession, though, of becoming bitter.

We’re under so much pressure to fix everything society has done to our children, and document every course of action, all while being shackled to a test-and-punish education policy handed down from lawmakers who don’t know a thing about education. We’re constantly threatened with being fired if test scores don’t improve – even for courses of study we don’t teach, even for kids we don’t have in our classes!

It can make the whole student-teacher relationship adversarial.

You didn’t turn in your homework!? Again! Why are you doing this to me!?

But it’s the wrong attitude. It’s understandable, but it’s wrong.

Every year I have a handful of students who don’t do their work. Or they do very little of it.

Sometimes it’s because they only attend school every third or fourth day. Sometimes it’s because when they are here, they’re high. Sometimes they’re too exhausted to stay awake, they can’t focus on anything for more than 30 seconds, they’re traumatized by violence, sickness or malnutrition. And sometimes they just don’t care.

But I don’t believe any of them are bad students.

Let me define that. They are bad at being students. But they aren’t bad students.

They aren’t doing what I’ve set up for them to demonstrate they’re learning.

They might do so if they altered behavior A, B or C. However, this isn’t happening.

Why?

It’s tempting to just blame the student.

They aren’t working hard enough. They lack rigor. They don’t care. They’re an active threat to this year’s teaching evaluation. They’re going to make me look bad.

But I rarely blame the student. Not in my heart.

Let me be clear. I firmly deny the pernicious postulation that teachers are ultimately responsible for their students’ learning.


However, that isn’t to say the student is solely responsible. Their actions are necessary for success, but they aren’t always sufficient.

They’re just children, and most of them are dealing with things that would crush weaker people.

When I was young, I had a fairly stable household. I lived in a good neighborhood. I never suffered from food insecurity. I never experienced gun violence or drug abuse. And my parents were actively involved.

Not to mention the fact that I’m white and didn’t have to deal with all the societal bull crap that gets heaped on students of color. Security never followed my friends and I through the shopping mall. Police never hassled us because of the color of our skin. Moreover, I’m a csis male. Young boys love calling each other gay, but it never really bothered me because I wasn’t. And, as a man, I didn’t really have to worry about someone of an opposite gender twice my size trying to pressure me into sex, double standard gender roles or misogyny – you know, every day life for teenage girls.

So, no. I don’t believe in bad students. I believe in students who are struggling to fulfill their role as students. And I think it’s my job to try to help them out.

I pride myself in frequent success, but you never really know the result of your efforts because you only have these kids in your charge for about a year or two. And even then I will admit to some obvious failures.

If I know I’ve given it my best shot, that’s all I can do.

Which brings me to parents.

You often hear people criticizing parents for the difficulties their children experience.

That kid would do better if her parents cared more about her. She’d have better grades if her parents made sure she did her homework. She’d have less social anxiety if her folks just did A, B or C.

It’s one of those difficult things that’s both absolutely true and complete and total bullshit.

Yes, when you see a struggling student, it’s usually accompanied by some major disruption at home. In my experience, this is true 90% of the time.

However, there are cases where you have stable, committed parents and children who are an absolute mess. But it’s rare.

Children are a reflection of their home lives. When things aren’t going well there, it shows.

Does that mean parents are completely responsible for their children?

Yes and no.

They should do everything they can to help their young ones. And I think most do.

But who am I to sit in judgment over other human beings whose lives I really know nothing about?

Everyone is going through a struggle that no one else is privy to. Often I find my students parents aren’t able to be home as much as they’d like. They’re working two or more minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet. Or they work the night shift. Or they’re grandparents struggling to pick up the slack left by absentee moms and dads. Or they’re foster parents giving all they can to raise a bunch of abused and struggling children. Or they’re dealing with a plethora of their own problems – incarcerations, drugs, crime.

They’re trying. I know they are.

If you believe that most parents truly love their children – and I do believe that – it means they’re trying their best.

That may not be good enough. But it’s not my place to criticize them for that. Nor is it society’s.


It may feel good to call parents names, but it does no good for the children.

So I don’t believe in bad parents, either. I just believe in parents who are struggling to do their jobs as parents.

And what about people like me – the teachers?

Are we any different?

To a degree – yes.

Students can’t help but be students. They have no choice in the matter. We require them to go to school and (hopefully) learn.

Parents have more choice. No one forced adults to procreate – but given our condemnation of birth control and abortion, we’ve kind of got our fingers on the scale. It’s hard to deny the siren song of sex and – without precautions or alternatives – that often means children.

But becoming a teacher? That’s no accident. It’s purposeful.

You have to go out and choose it.

And I think that’s significant, because no one freely chooses to do something they don’t want to do.

After the first five years, teachers know whether they’re any good at it or not. That’s why so many young teachers leave the profession in that time.

What you’re left with is an overwhelming majority of teachers who really want to teach. And if they’ve stayed that long, they’re probably at least halfway decent at it.

So, no, I don’t really believe in bad teachers either.

Certainly some are better than others. And when it comes to those just entering the profession, all bets are off. But in my experience, anyone who’s lasted is usually pretty okay.

All teachers can use improvement. We can benefit from more training, resources, encouragement, and help. Cutting class size would be particularly useful letting us fully engage all of or students on a more one-on-one basis. Wrap around services would be marvelous, too. More school psychologists, special education teachers, counselors, tutors, mentors, aides, after school programs, etc.

But bad teachers? No.

Most of the time, it’s a fiction, a fantasy.

The myths of the bad student, the bad parent and the bad teacher are connected.

They’re the stories we tell to level the blame. They’re the propaganda spread by the wealthy to stop us from demanding they pay their fair share.

We know something’s wrong with our public school system just as we know something’s wrong with our society.

But instead of criticizing our policies and our leaders, we criticize ourselves.

We’ve been told for so long to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, that when we can’t do it, we blame the boots, the straps and the hands that grab them.

We should be blaming the idiots who think you can raise someone up without offering any help.

We should be blaming the plutocrats waging class warfare and presenting us with the bill.

There may be few bad students, parents and teachers out there, but you don’t have to go far to find plenty of the privileged elite who are miserable failures at sharing the burdens of civil society.