Our monthly meeting of the South of Dayton Democratic Club is this evening at 6:00 at the Wright Library in Oakwood. On the agenda is indicated time for a brief discussion of some of the ideas in my book, Public Education 2030. I sent this e-mail to the club members.
Dear Friends, I see our agenda for this evening includes the opportunity to briefly discuss some of the ideas in my book, Public Education 2030. (You can get a PDF here).
One essay (p. 30) reports on Ted Strickland’s forums on the future of Ohio’s system of public education. In these forums, Strickland challenged his listeners to imagine what a new system might look like. He challenged his listeners to imagine: “We are an artist looking at a blank slate and asking what is the best thing we can create here.”
In my career in teaching math at West Carrollton High School, I became convinced that public education is in need of starting again with a blank slate. I was charged with transmitting a curriculum that I knew was irrelevant to what many of my students needed. I saw how the potential of students and teachers was wasted and how even top students were unmotivated to accomplish much of quality. I became convinced that if public education should have a strong future, it needed big changes.
Strickland’s effort to get forum participants to brainstorm a new system sounded like a great idea — but the discussion went nowhere. Participants wanted to defend their personal stake in the present system — a school nurse wanted to know how nurses would be impacted, an art teacher wanted to emphasize the importance of art in the curriculum, a math teacher suggested that there should be more math requirements, and on and on.
Strickland’s effort in these forums was doomed to fail because starting with a blank slate and thinking anew is not easy and most everyone in attendance at the forums had a stake in the present system.
In the essay, “In Education, Let’s Stop Trying To Improve A Horse and Buggy System,” (p. 24), I suggest that asking someone to imagine a new system of public education would be like asking someone in the 1800‘s to envision the automobile. Most buggy makers if given the chance would have opposed transforming the horse and buggy system, but, I write,
“Eventually some buggy makers came to grips with the reality that their future was in the personal transportation business, not the buggy business. Similarly, school boards must begin to come to grips with the reality that the future must center on authentic education, not on schooling. There are many special interests dedicated to advancing the empire of schooling that now exists, but once the public sees a system of authentic education, the current system of schooling will become obsolete. The task for educational leadership is to envision a quality system of education that will inspire voters to move from the horse and buggy age and invest in the system of the future.”
In the last thirty years there have been many efforts to reform schools — but what is needed is an effort to transform them.
Reformation starts by focusing on the component parts of the system — curriculum, class size, teacher training, teacher evaluation, school evaluation, etc. — and seeks to make improvement in those component
Transformation starts by focusing on the purpose of the system—and taking a big picture view of looking at the system as a whole, seeks to create a system design where all the resources of the system work to accomplish the purpose of the system.
The mission statements of schools commonly state these aims:
Each child will acquire the tools and experience needed to develop his or her potential, and,
Each child will gain the knowledge, habits, temperament, and character that will empower him or her to be an effective citizen
The problem is, such mission statements have little impact on what actually happens in schools. Kettering is spending over $13,000 per child per year. Wouldn’t it be great if the resources of the system were focused on accomplishing these high sounding aims? As it is, the actual mission of every district and every school is to get a high score in the state system of school evaluation.
The way forward is via transformation, not reformation. The place where transformation could have the biggest chance for success is within communities where schools already are deemed “excellent” — the south of Dayton suburbs of our club members. Pumping more money and more effort into the present system can only be a short-term strategy. It cannot be a long term solution. In terms of public education policy, we are moving in the wrong direction and unless there is thoughtful intervention, the long term prospect for public education actually accomplishing its stated aims is not good.
One principle that most Democrats hold dear is the importance of sustaining and strengthening our system of public education. In terms of public education, we must be forward thinking, we must be the party of ideas. We need to be much bolder in our advocacy, much bolder in our building of community consensus about this important topic.
There is much to talk about and I look forward to our discussion. Sincerely, Mike Bock
The first step to solving a problem is to understand the problem — to understand the nature of the problem. If we seek to solve the problem of how to improve public education, then we must first identify the problem to be solved. Pickering says there are two categories of problems — some problems are “tame” and others are “wicked.” Pickering says school reformers make a big mistake by classifying the problem of how to improve schools as a tame problem — when, in fact, it is a wicked problem.
Pickering explains, “Education has been transformed into a wicked problem. We’ve moved from the relatively tame problem of preparing people for machine-like factory work and advancing the ‘melting pot’ theory to a wicked one in which we desire a much more nuanced and purposeful end: helping children unfold their full potential. As Horst and Rittel pointed out, wicked problems are of the social domain. Since education and learning are part of the social domain tame solutions provided by classical systems are doomed to failure.”
Pickering holds that the order of magnitude of the change we need in education is a paradigm change. He says reformers accept the current Industrial Age paradigm of schooling and focus on what can be produced and measured: “test scores, graduation and attendance rates, time-on-task, teacher compensation and evaluation schemes, school report cards, etc.”
When education is seen as a tame problem, Pickering says, “solutions become sound-bytes of the obvious: bad or underpaid teachers, lack of competitions, low standards, complacency, poor curriculum, poor instructional practice. They are framed as beautifully simple, seductive, independent, tame problems to be solved. It makes sense to seek improvement via upgrading in the curriculum, raising standards for teacher certification, etc.”
Pickering says that schools, in the current paradigm, are seen as places of production. But what is needed is a transformation to a new paradigm that will see schools as places of learning. He says, “If we are faced with a tame problem, like how to squeeze another 3% out of an existing system, then reform works just fine. But if we need to realize order-of-magnitude sorts of change, then we are faced with a wicked problem requiring transformation.”
Pickering quotes Peter Block, “Transformation occurs only through choice.” He says,
Unlike reform, transformation cannot be coerced, mandated, sold, bartered, bribed, negotiated, or threatened into existence. Choice is a useless and foreign tool to the classical system construct that loves order, standardization, scalability, and predictability. If transformation is achievable only through choice then perhaps the best answer to transforming our schools lies in our communities.
Transformation means engaging the community, where choice is not simply an empty word or mantra for a narrow agenda but holds restorative power. Wicked problems are dissolved and the creation of an alternative future are only achieved through social processes, not through industrial-age hierarchies and traditional power brokers. Where large bureaucratic institutions move slowly and take only presumed “safe” routes to change, strong social networks have the ability to rapidly prototype new designs for new outcomes. (Conklin, 2010)
Transformation, then, cannot happen but with and through community. Only in community can deeper questions be answered. It is in the community’s answers to the questions: “how do we want to raise our children?” and “what is the ultimate goal of education?” that hold within them the power of transformation. It is the community’s answers that craft a holistic, integrated, interdependent design for learning and the unfolding of their children’s potential and which gives them the power and choice to execute on it.
Unfortunately, our communities have slowly and steadily abdicated their power and authority to the classical system designed to make things efficient through the creation of sameness and predictability. We are now faced with a dual problem – how to help communities both reclaim their efficacy and primacy and to understand and apply socio- cultural systems thinking and practice. Communities must first quit abdicating their power to outside others, “experts,” and distant institutions and then go about the work of creating the future they want.
A revealing scale by which to judge goals and speeches that lately I’ve been applying is what might be called the North Korean Standard (NKS)— as in:
Could this proposal for school reform be made by the Educational Ministry of North Korea?
Could this pronouncement about citizenship be made by a mayor of North Korea?
Yes, the leaders of North Korea want their students to be competitive in math and science and beat the pants off the kids in other nations — And Arne Duncan wants the same. The leaders of North Korea want their citizens to work together effectively and to give service and to show patriotism, and, to vote also — And President Obama wants the same.
At the recent graduation ceremony at Ohio State, President Obama focused most his speech on “citizenship.” His message seemed to be — go forth and practice good citizenship.
Obama said, “Choose a cause you care about in your life and fight like heck to make it happen. There is a word for this. It’s citizenship.”
He said when disaster strikes — a hurricane, a bomb explosion — people pitch in and help, and that’s citizenship.
Obama said that citizenship involves responsibilities “to ourselves, to one another, and to future generations.” He quoted George W. Bush as saying, as a 2002 Ohio State Commencement, “America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens.” He seemed to equate citizenship with patriotism and quoted Adlai Stevenson definition of patriotism – not as “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
These pronouncements align with the NKS, but at first glance it might look like President Obama veered from the NKS when he spoke about democracy and self-government.
Your democracy does not function without your active participation
America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
Only you can ultimately break that cycle. Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated, informed, and engaged citizenship. This citizenship is a harder, higher road to take. But it leads to a better place.
But words by themselves mean little. The NKS is not about what terms are used, but about how terms are used to lull listeners into the comfort of group think. I always liked the quote of Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass:
”I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” ”The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
President Obama did veer from the NKS offered a sense of humility: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers. And I’m not going to offer some grand theory – not when it’s a beautiful day and you’ve got some celebrating to do. I’m not going to get partisan, either, because that’s not what citizenship is about.”
But, then, it is all about rhetoric and meeting or exceeding the audience’s expectations and a little humility might be good for an American mix. It would be interesting to know how the Ohio State professors of rhetoric in the audience may have evaluated it on its message and its impact. On the North Korean Standard, it seemed to do pretty well. The speech is copied below:
President Obama Speech at Ohio State
Thank you Dr. Gee, the Board of Trustees, Congresswoman Beatty, Mayor Coleman, and all of you who make up The Ohio State University for allowing me the honor of joining you today. Congratulations, Class of 2013! And congratulations to all the parents, family, friends and faculty here in the Horseshoe – this is your day as well. Just be careful with the turf. I know Coach Meyer has big plans for fall.
Thank you, Dr. Gee, for that eloquent introduction, although I will not be singing today. And yes, it is true that I did speak at that certain university up north a few years ago. But, to be fair, you did let President Ford speak here once – and he played football for Michigan!
In my defense, this is my fifth visit to campus in the past year or so. One time, I stopped at Sloopy’s to grab some lunch. Many of you were still eating breakfast. At 11:30. On a Tuesday. So I’ll offer my first piece of advice early: enjoy it while you still can. Soon, you won’t get to do that. And once you have kids, it gets even earlier.
Class of 2013, your path to this moment has wound you through years of breathtaking change. You were born as freedom forced its way through a wall in Berlin, and tore down an Iron Curtain across Europe. You were educated in an era of instant information that put the world’s accumulated knowledge at your fingertips. And you came of age as terror touched our shores; an historic recession spread across the nation; and a new generation signed up to go to war.
You have been tested and tempered by events that your parents and I never imagined we’d see when we sat where you sit. And yet, despite all this, or more likely because of it, yours has become a generation possessed with that most American of ideas – that people who love their country can change it. For all the turmoil; for all the times you have been let down, or frustrated at the hand you’ve been dealt; what I have seen from your generation are perennial and quintessentially American values. Altruism. Empathy. Tolerance. Community. And a deep sense of service that makes me optimistic for our future.
Consider that today, 50 ROTC cadets in your graduating class will become commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. 130 of your fellow graduates have already served – some in combat, some on multiple deployments. Of the 98 veterans earning bachelor’s degrees today, 20 are graduating with honors. And at least one kept serving his fellow veterans when he came home by starting up a campus organization called Vets4Vets. As your Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of all of you.
Consider, too, that graduates of this university serve their country through the Peace Corps, and educate our children through established programs like Teach for America and startups like Blue Engine, often earning little pay for making the biggest impact. Some of you have already launched startup companies of your own. And I suspect that those of you who pursue more education, or climb the corporate ladder, or enter the arts or sciences or journalism, will still choose a cause you care about in your life and fight like heck to make it happen.
There is a word for this. It’s citizenship. We don’t always talk about this idea much these days, let alone celebrate it. Sometimes, we see it as a virtue from another time – one that’s slipping from a society that celebrates individual ambition; a society awash in instant technology that empowers us to leverage our skills and talents like never before, but just as easily allows us to retreat from the world. And the result is that we sometimes forget the larger bonds we share, as one American family.
But it’s out there, all the time, every day – especially when we need it most. Just look at the past year. When a hurricane struck our mightiest city, and a factory exploded in small-town Texas. When bombs went off in Boston, and when a malevolent spree of gunfire visited a movie theater, a temple, an Ohio high school, a first-grade classroom in Connecticut. In the aftermath of darkest tragedy, we have seen the American spirit at its brightest. We’ve seen the petty divisions of color, class, and creed replaced by a united urge to help. We’ve seen courage and compassion, a sense of civic duty, and a recognition that we are not a collection of strangers; we are bound to one another by a set of ideals, and laws, and commitments, and a deep devotion to this country we love.
That’s what citizenship is. It’s the idea at the heart of our founding – that as Americans, we are blessed with God-given and inalienable rights, but with those rights come responsibilities – to ourselves, to one another, and to future generations.
But if we’re being honest, as you’ve studied and worked and served to become good citizens, the institutions that give structure to our society have, at times, betrayed your trust.
In the run-up to the financial crisis, too many on Wall Street forgot that their obligations don’t end with their shareholders. In entertainment and in the media, ratings and shock value often trumped news and storytelling. And in Washington – well, this is a joyous occasion, so let me put this charitably: I think it’s fair to say our democracy isn’t working as well as we know it can. It could do better. And those of us fortunate enough to serve in these institutions owe it to you to do better, every single day.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we might keep this idea alive at a national level – not just on Election Day, or in times of tragedy, but on all the days in between. Of course, I spend most of my time these days in Washington, a place that sorely needs it. But I think of what your generation’s traits – compassion and energy, a sense of selflessness and a boundless digital fluency – might mean for a democracy that must adapt more quickly to keep up with the speed of technological, demographic, and wrenching economic change.
I think about how we might perpetuate this notion of citizenship in a way that another politician from my home state, Adlai Stevenson, once described patriotism – not as “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. And I’m not going to offer some grand theory – not when it’s a beautiful day and you’ve got some celebrating to do. I’m not going to get partisan, either, because that’s not what citizenship is about.
In fact, I am asking the same thing of you that President Bush did when he spoke at this commencement in 2002: “America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters,” he said. “America needs full-time citizens.”
And as graduates from a university whose motto is “Education for Citizenship,” that’s what your country expects of you. So briefly, I will ask you for two things: to participate, and to persevere.
After all, your democracy does not function without your active participation. At a bare minimum, that means voting, eagerly and often. It means knowing who’s been elected to make decisions on your behalf, what they believe in, and whether or not they deliver. If they don’t represent you the way you want, or conduct themselves the way you expect – if they put special interests above your own – you’ve got to let them know that’s not okay. And if they let you down, there’s a built-in day in November where you can really let them know that’s not okay.
You don’t have to run for office yourself. But I hope many of you do, at all levels, because our democracy needs you. I promise you, it’ll give you a tough skin. I know a little bit about this. Like President Wilson once said: “if you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
And that’s precisely what the founders left us: the power to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government – the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone. To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land grant colleges, including Ohio State. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or who they love.
We, the people, chose to do these things together. Because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.
Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.
We have never been a people who place all our faith in government to solve our problems, nor do we want it to. But we don’t think the government is the source of all our problems, either. Because we understand that this democracy is ours. As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ourselves with it, too. Because when we don’t, when we turn away and get discouraged and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who’ll gladly claim it. That’s how we end up with lobbyists who set the agenda; policies detached from what middle-class families face every day; the well-connected who publicly demand that Washington stay out of their business – then whisper in its ear for special treatment that you don’t get.
That’s how a small minority of lawmakers get cover to defeat something the vast majority of their constituents want. That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people called to do great things – rebuild a middle class, reverse the rise of inequality, repair a deteriorating climate that threatens everything we plan to leave for our kids and grandkids.
Only you can ultimately break that cycle. Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated, informed, and engaged citizenship. This citizenship is a harder, higher road to take. But it leads to a better place. It is how we built this country – together. It is the question President Kennedy posed to the nation at his inauguration; the dream that Dr. King invoked. It does not promise easy success or immediate progress. But it has led to success, and it has led to progress.
That brings me to the second thing I ask of you – I ask you to persevere.
Whether you start a business or run for office or devote yourself to alleviating poverty or hunger, remember that nothing worth doing happens overnight. A British inventor named Dyson went through more than 5,000 prototypes before getting that first really fancy vacuum cleaner just right. We remember Michael Jordan’s six championships, not his nearly 15,000 missed shots. As for me, I lost my first race for Congress, and look at me now – I’m an honorary graduate of The Ohio State University!
The point is, in your life, you will fail. You will stumble, and you will fall. But that will make you better. You’ll get it right the next time. And that’s not only true for your personal pursuits, but for the broader causes you believe in as well. But don’t give up. Don’t lose heart, or grow cynical. The cynics may be the loudest voices – but they accomplish the least. It’s the silent disruptors – those who do the long, hard, committed work of change – that gradually push this country in the right direction, and make the most lasting difference.
Still, whenever you feel that creeping cynicism; whenever you hear those voices say you can’t make that difference; whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower – the trajectory of America should give you hope. What young generations have done before you should give you hope. It was young folks like you who marched and mobilized and stood up and sat-in to secure women’s rights, and voting rights, and workers’ rights, and gay rights, often against incredible odds, often over the course of years, sometimes over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. Even if their rights were already secured, they fought to secure those rights and opportunities for others. What they did should give you hope.
And where we’re going should give you hope. Because while things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright. You are graduating into an economy and a job market that are steadily healing. The once-dying American auto industry is on pace for its strongest performance in 20 years – something that means everything to many communities in Ohio and across the Midwest. Huge strides in domestic energy, driven in part by research at universities like this one, have us on track to secure our own energy future. And incredible advances in information and technology spurred largely by the risk-takers of your generation have the potential to change the way we do almost everything.
Still, if there is one certainty about the decade ahead, it’s that things will be uncertain. Change will be a constant, just as it has been throughout our history. And we still face many important challenges. Some will require technological breakthroughs or new policy insights. But more than anything, what we will need is political will, to harness the ingenuity of your generation, and encourage and inspire the hard work of dedicated citizens.
To repair the middle class; to give more families a fair shake; to reject a country in which only a lucky few prosper because it’s antithetical to our ideals and our democracy – that takes the dogged determination of citizens.
To educate more children at a younger age; to reform our high schools for a new time; to give more young people the chance to earn the kind of education you did at Ohio State and make it more affordable so they don’t leave with a mountain of debt – that takes the care and concern of citizens.
To build better roads and airports and faster internet; to advance the kind of basic research and technology that has always kept America ahead of everyone else – that takes the grit and fortitude of citizens.
To confront the threat of climate change before it’s too late – that requires the idealism and initiative of citizens.
To protect more of our kids from the horrors of gun violence – that requires the unwavering passion and untiring resolve of citizens.
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy told the class of 1963 that “our problems are man-made – therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.”
We are blessed to live in the greatest nation on Earth. But we can always be greater. We can always aspire to something more. That doesn’t depend on who you elect to office. It depends on you, as citizens, how big you want to be, and how badly you want it.
Look at all America has accomplished. Look at how big we’ve been.
I dare you to do better. I dare you to be better.
From what I have seen of your generation, I have no doubt you will. I wish you courage, and compassion, and all the strength you need for that tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
I’ve shortened and summarized twenty-five of my previous posts on education so that most will fit on one page. I’ve added an “Introduction”, a “Message from the Author” and a “Conclusion” and I’ve grouped the posts into six sections: 1) The Singularity Approaches 2) Reforming Public Education 3) Building A Better System 4) The Aim of the System 5) Great Teachers and the Profession of Teaching 6) Good Character, the Key to Success 6) The Importance of Civic Education.
My goal in putting this publication together is twofold:
To make the case that a redesign of the system of public education is needed and
To invite readers to enter into brainstorming conversations about the future of public education.
The book is a total of only 60 pages and contains live links to all of the articles/books that I reference. You may download a PDF of the book here . It’s an easy read on my iPad and I’m sure it will work on other reading devices as well. I am going to have a few copies printed at Lulu.com — the great online publisher that three years ago printed my first collection of web-posts Why You Are Not Entitled To Your Opinion.
The introduction to the book — posted below — indicates that soon I will be starting a new web-site, OhioTownHall, but this site is not yet ready to be launched. I’m anticipating that this new site will be ready to go in a short time and when it is ready to go live online, I will announce it here on DaytonOS.
The essays in this book originally were written as web-posts. They show the point of view of a retired public school teacher who very much wants public education to succeed and who appreciates the hard work of the many talented teachers, administrators and board members in the present system. The message of this book, however, is that public education is in need of a major overhaul. The system of public education is poorly designed; its goals of public education are too narrow; and as it is, even the highest rated schools are accomplishing way too little.
Most schools post nice sounding goals about developing student potential and forming solid citizens, but, the fact is, schools do not expend their resources on accomplishing these admirable aims. Because of the No Child Left Behind law, schools obsess over government school evaluations and focus their efforts on accomplishing just one goal — producing acceptable test scores. The narrow aim of raising test scores has become the controlling mission of public schools and, to accomplish this mission, school time is precisely controlled, curriculum carefully aligned, and the definition of “good teaching” narrowly defined.
Schools are stuck in the business of schooling — transmitting curriculum, grading, preparing for tests — but to fulfill the wonderful goals posted on their websites, schools would need to be in the business of education. It is a great thought that schools should help each child achieve his or her potential, but a school designed to accomplish this goal would need to be built on a solid theory of motivation and on an enriched understanding of human nature now largely absent in today’s schools. A school focused on helping students fulfill their potential would need to empower and free both teachers and students in ways that seem unthinkable in the present system.
I’ve entitled this book Public Education 2030, The Singularity Approaches because the big point I hope this book will communicate is that we need to be forward looking. We need to do the hard work of building a new system capable of sustaining our democracy; we need to build a system equipped with the capacity to successfully meet the challenges of the future. The term “singularity” is taken from the writings of futurist Ray Kurzweil, an acknowledged genius with over 17 honorary degrees, who predicts that a coming revolution in technology will create a world for today’s children astonishingly different from the world of their parents and grandparents. To thrive in the transformed world in which they will live, children will need a transformative education that will lift them to a full development of their humanity. The qualities of thoughtfulness, leadership, creativity, and character that seem exceptional today will need to be commonplace tomorrow.
This book points to these conclusions:
The aim of public education must be the advancement of the common good, which means — 1) Each child will acquire the tools and experience needed to develop his or her potential, and 2) Each child will gain the knowledge, habits, temperament, and character that will empower him or her to be an effective citizen.
The system of public education must be restructured so that all the resources available to the system will be focused on accomplishing the aim of the system.
The transformation needed in public education will require a vitalization of local democracy resulting in communities regaining local control of their schools.
This book does not attempt to show what a transformed system of public education might look like. The goal of this book is twofold: 1) To make the case that a redesign of the system of public education is needed and 2) To invite readers to enter into brainstorming conversations about the future of public education. I hope these essays will be helpful in promoting thoughtful dialogue. I am posting this book on a new web-site — OhioTownHall.com. — where ideas for restructuring eventually also will be posted. You are invited to join me there.
Last fall, at the end of the bulb planting season, I bought a ton of spring bulbs for 50% off and on several chilly November days, I planted them at the front of Centerville Methodist Church. I planted the bulbs in honor of my brother-in-law, Jim Dunaway and at the four year anniversary of his passing, April 20, they were blooming gloriously. I’m glad they turned out so beautifully and that the members of the church are very happy with their appearance. Last week when I had help from a friend I took these pictures and made a slide show video. I used an organ rendition of Bach’s “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring” as the accompaniment. I posted the video on you-tube along with this description:
My brother-in-law, Jim Dunaway, passed away on April 20, 2009, at age 72 — a great loss to our family and to the many who knew him as their pastor and friend. Jim served over 50 years in the Methodist ministry, and after his official retirement he served as an assistant minister at Centerville Methodist Church. The spring bulbs making these wonderful flowers were planted in honor of Jim, in appreciation of the optimism, love and joy he shared with everyone who knew him. Late in the afternoon, on April 21, 2013, there was slight breeze ending a beautiful day and these little flowers were clapping their hands.
This is great news: Caroline Gentry and Jim Butler — candidates seeking election to represent District 41 in the Ohio House — will participate in a Lincoln Douglas style debate on Friday, November 2. The debate will be at Kettering High School on Shroyer Rd. in the Recital Hall starting at 3:45 PM.
Republican Jim Butler is the incumbent, appointed to the position last January. This is his first election. Caroline Gentry is the Democratic challenger. And this is her first election.
The program will last for one hour and the public is invited to attend.
In the 34 minute debate portion of the program, both candidates will speak four times for total of 17 minutes:
7 minutes First Speaker
7 minutes Second Speaker
5 minutes First Speaker
5 minutes Second Speaker
3 minutes First Speaker
3 minutes Second Speaker
2 minutes First Speaker
2 minutes Second Speaker
A coin toss will determine who is the first speaker.
For the remainder of the hour program, candidates will respond to questions from the audience, taking turns as to who will answer first, and with each response limited to two minutes.
This may be a great year for citizens in OHD-41. Two excellent, articulate candidates, both thoughtful individuals with impressive credentials, both, I believe, well meaning and seeking to do what is best for Ohio, may actually conduct a campaign that will elevate our political discourse and cause thoughtful participation by voters. It would be a great compliment to the citizens of OHD-41 if “Lincoln Douglas” type debates between Gentry and Butler would actually happen.
And, so I’m happy this is actually happening — and between two highly qualified and very articulate candidates. It should be an interesting afternoon and I hope a lot of the public will attend. Kettering HS Principal Von Handorf showed me the Recital Hall — what a great facility — it will hold 200 people.
The original Lincoln-Douglas debates lasted three hours: The first speaker spoke for 60 minutes, the second speaker than spoke for 90 minutes, and then, the first speaker than spoke for 30 minutes. In the Lincoln-Douglas format, there is no moderator asking questions, but instead, the candidates have full discretion in the use of their time. This is a format that I wish could be used more often and hopefully this debate will be such a success that in future elections this format will be requested by the public.
Terry Morris of the Dayton Daily News recently wrote an article about the Butler / Gentry contest:
Both candidates who want to represent Ohio’s new 41st House District are young Oakwood attorneys who attend St. Albert the Great Church in Kettering and have never been elected to office.
That’s where the similarities end between Republican freshman incumbent Jim Butler and his Democratic challenger Caroline Gentry.
Butler says innovation and common sense — not higher taxes — are the way to continue the state’s economic revival. “Making Ohio the best and most competitive state in the country, which we can do, will make people want to move here. Companies will add jobs. Workers will get raises. That will provide more money for government services,” he said.
He’s been endorsed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers Association PAC, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Society of CPAs, Ohio Veterans United, Ohio State Medical Association and Ohio Farm Bureau.
Gentry said government services are in danger right now due to funding cuts to schools and local governments. “We need to invest in safer neighborhoods and excellent schools. That’s what will promote businesses and attract talented people to move here.”
Her endorsements include: Teamsters Local 957, Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters, Ohio Federation of Teachers, IUE-CWA, Dayton Miami Valley AFL-CIO and Ohio Association of Public Employees.
Ohio House of Representatives:
41st District: Centerville, Dayton (wards 9 and 20), Kettering, Oakwood and several precincts of Riverside
Term of Office: Two years
Annual salary: $60,584
Education: Bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy; masters from the University of Maryland; law degree from the University of Cincinnati
Employment: State representative; Attorney at Thompson Hine
Political Party: Republican
Political history: Appointed 37th District representative, 2011
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Kalamazoo College; law degree from Yale University
Employment: Partner, Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur
Rick McKiddy has a new video that reminds voters that the Republican Assembly voted to refuse $400 million in federal money that, if accepted, would have funded a high speed train in Ohio. The video says that, because of this refusal, Ohio lost 6000 good jobs.
McKiddy is seeking election to the Ohio Senate to represent District 6 and is challenging the Republican incumbent, Peggy Lehner. The proposed high speed train would have had a potential big impact on District 6, because one of its planned terminals would have been in Riverside, close to the Air Force Museum. Citizens throughout District 6 were anticipating a potential economic boom that the train could bring to the region, but Lehner voted with the Republican majority to refuse $400 million from the federal government and to stop the project. The $400 million that Ohio could have received instead went to California.
In his campaign McKiddy also is reminding voters that Lehner voted for Senate Bill 5 — the legislation that attacked public employee unions and last year was overwhelmingly overturned by a public referendum known as Issue 2. SB-5 was strongly opposed by firemen, policeman, and teachers.
McKiddy has a great life story. He started working on the assembly line for General Motors and eventually worked his way through college and became a lead negotiator for the UAW.
The story of SB-5 helps explain why the grass roots are awakening, and it explains one of the reasons why I decided to run for this office. My opponent, Republican Peggy Lehner, was appointed to the State Senate last year to fill a vacancy. At that time, the anti-worker Senate Bill 5 was being introduced, and Governor Kasich needed support for his agenda. A Dayton Daily News article quotes Mrs. Lehner, as saying, “I have voted along with the Republican party 98.8% of the time (320 out of 324 times).”
Six Republican Senators refused to support SB-5 — it was just too far out of the mainstream — and instead, voted “No.” The final vote was 17-16. Mrs. Lehner’s vote made the difference. Ultimately, the bill was overturned after more than one million Ohioans signed petitions and voters repealed it. However, I am convinced the governor and Lehner, unless they are stopped, will ignore the votes and voices of Ohioans, and will simply go after our public sector employees one group at a time.
The way I see it, the Republicans in Columbus are not out of control, they are in total control. Under Kasich they control all branches of State Government. They are a monopoly and are guided by an ideology that hurts the middle working class.
The Republicans have controlled the State Senate since 1985. Every bit of legislation passed during the last 26 years has their signatures on it. While they’ve been in control, Ohio has lost over 600,000 jobs, and, unemployment and underemployment has continued to rise. The loss of these jobs has led to home foreclosures and an erosion of the tax base.
The General Assembly made things worse by giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy and by drastically cutting funding to local government and local schools. In the Kasich budget approved by Mrs. Lehner, communities are losing over $2 billion. Many communities will need to raise local taxes or reduce services to make up the difference. Balancing the state budget by transferring taxes from the state level, to the local level, moves more of the tax burden from corporations and the wealthy to working citizens.
The assault on working citizens has not been isolated to jobs and taxes. The Assembly attacked voting rights in HB-194 — legislation approved by Mrs. Lehner and condemned by the League of Women Voters
Yesterday my one student, Juwan, and I went to see President Obama. And a great day it was.
When I was Juwan’s age, in 1964, I made it to downtown Dayton to hear Barry Goldwater. He spoke on the steps of the Dayton Court House, standing on the very steps where Abraham Lincoln also once had made a speech. I simply caught a bus and went downtown and joined a large crowd. It was a memorable experience and I wanted Juwan to have a similar experience.
Now in 2012 to see the president, one has to have a lot more determination and a lot more stamina. I first waited in line at the Obama HQ on Fifth Street. There was a long wait and my name was put into a computer and I was given a numbered ticket and told that I would need personal identification at the gate.
Juwan and I made it to Island Park at about 11:45 and then the waiting started — long lines snaking back and forth. As it turned out, the president would not speak for another four and one-half hours. Everyone seemed in good spirits and the fact that it was such a beautiful day helped. But the line moved slowly. Everyone had to go through security similar to that at the airport. And then we were all packed together.
Here is the New York Times report:
“Appearing with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a raucous rally before 9,500 people in Dayton, the president went into a spirited assault, using his new favorite attack word — “Romnesia” — to highlight his rival’s position on the auto bailout, which the White House says was vital to saving jobs in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.
“Last night, Governor Romney looked me right in the eye, tried to pretend he never said, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt,’ ” Mr. Obama said, one of many instances all day when he suggested Mr. Romney was not being honest about his positions as he seeks to appeal to a general-election audience after a Republican primary campaign in which he emphasized conservative stances.”
I took my camera and shot a lot of video — too much, as it turned out. Shortly after the president began to speak, my camera indicated that the memory card was full. We were standing a ways back from the president — about in the middle of the crowd, so my video shows the event from the standpoint of an average participant. Here is a section of the president’s speech from a better perspective — made by Marc Kovac at Ohio Capital Blog — where he tells of the symptoms of “Romnesia.”
At the end of the speech, the president and vice-president moved into the crowd to shake hands. Most people where we were standing started to leave, but Juwan wanted to press forward. We got within ten yards of the president, and I wish I had had a workable camera. I told Juwan that I was pretty sure that he had waved directly to us.
As we were leaving, I spoke to a man walking next to us. He said that he had finagled to get a “red” ticket — evidently that ticket put him closer to the podium — and, in fact, he said the president had grabbed his hand.
I said, “Then, let me shake your hand.”
And I did, and so did Juwan. Wow. What a day. Exhausting but memorable. And, we shook the hand of the hand that shook the president’s hand.
Nick Kuntz, Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge, met with our South of Dayton Democratic Club this week. Kuntz has served as Juvenile Judge since 1994 and this year is on the ballot for re-election. He thanked the club for supporting his reelection campaign. He said that he loves his work and that during his tenure he has worked to make a lot of good improvements in the county’s juvenile court system. He said that he has visited over 100 other juvenile court systems and has not found a juvenile court system better than Montgomery County’s.
I was very impressed — not only with the judge’s words, but also in his matter-of-fact, yet compassionate attitude.
Kuntz said that he was surprised to have competition in this re-election effort and that, although his opponents are good people, they have little or no experience in dealing with the type of cases he has encountered in his life’s work.
Judge Kuntz spoke briefly about some of the programs for juveniles that he has helped developed in Montgomery County. Kuntz said that in administering juvenile justice, he does not shy away from using the word “punishment,” but believes that punishment must be seen as a first step to rehabilitation.
Kuntz’s web-site is outstanding in its thoroughness. It shows the judge’s resume. It tells the judge’s philosophy and gives details about the programs either initiated by or established during his administration. Judge Kuntz notes that juveniles who are in trouble usually lack a good support system, a good value system, and they lack hope. His web-site explains:
“We need to do whatever we can to give them support, teach them values, and give them hope for the future. We believe in punishment (appropriate consequences) because rehabilitation begins with appropriate consequences.
Incarceration, in and of itself, does little to solve the problem. The trick is to know which ones need to be locked up to protect the community and which ones to treat in the community setting. Experience teaches this.
We believe in utilizing Evidence Based Programs, proven to be successful.
We believe in building on the strengths of the child and their families (Strength Based Service) rather than concentrating on their weaknesses.
We believe in (seamless services) actually connecting our clients to outside resources, rather than simply referring them, and then keep them engaged.”
Judge Nick Kuntz has initiated and/or supported a number of very important youth programs that have been of significant benefit to the community and to the yourth that they have helped. These programs include:
It’s hard to understand why Dayton voters keep returning Mike Turner to Congress.
The “Campaign for America’s Future” tracks ten key congressional votes dealing with the economy and the middle class, and Mike Turner, my congressman to the U.S. Congress, according to this organization, is the worst of the worst and deserves a score of zero. In its report, the CAF analyzes ten pieces of legislation and, Mike Turner, in every case voted against the middle class. Turner voted for the Ryan Budget, voted against a jobs bill, voted to diminish consumer financial protection, voted to weaken unions, voted to repeal Obamacare. Here are the ten votes:
Voted for the Republican FY 2013 Budget (The Ryan Budget) – Would slash domestic spending including converting Medicare into a voucher program,
Voted against the FY 2013 Progressive Caucus Budget for All — H.Con. Res. 112 amendment would reduce long-term federal debt through short-term job-creation measures, such as increased spending on rebuilding roads and schools.
Voted for the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act — Extends the Bush tax cuts giving millionaires an average bonus of $160,000 next year.
Voted for the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act — H..R. 10 would allow Congress to exercise veto power over the health, safety and environmental regulations the executive branch writes to implement legislation.
Voted for the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act — Guts the ability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers.
Voted for the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act — Diminishes the rights of private-sector workers to hold union elections.
Voted for the South Korea Trade Agreement — H.R. 3080 lowers tariffs on U.S. auto exports to Korea while maintaining incentives for outsourcing of U.S. jobs.
Voted for the Surface Transportation Extension Act — H.R. 4348 would weaken environmental protection efforts, fast-track the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and widen the gap between transportation needs and available funding.
Voted for the Interest Rate Reduction Act — H.R. 4628 keep student loan borrowing costs low for 7 million college students but at the cost of ending a vital public health program.
Voted for the Repeal of Obamacare Act — The 31st failed attempt by Congressional Republicans to repeat the Affordable Care Act.
There are many guides that seek to measure how “liberal” or “conservative” an elected official is, but this guide takes on the unique task of measuring members of Congress against the kitchen-table needs and concerns of middle-class voters. Put another way, this is an effort to look at the votes and priorities of Congress through the lens of the daily economic struggles of working families, unemployed people, students, retirees — all those who consider themselves members of the middle class or who are trying to climb their way into the middle class.
That focuses this guide on a particular set of priorities: an economy that produces ample numbers of good jobs — jobs with living wages and strong benefits; health care that is affordable and accessible; top-quality education that fully equips children for the challenges of tomorrow without crippling them with debt; watchdogs who stand against those who would prey upon consumers or poison the environment; economic protection for those going through hard times, simple dignity for seniors at the end of a long worklife., and a democracy in which the voices of ordinary citizens are not drowned out by the rich and powerful.
The key votes in the 112th Congress graded in this voter guide symbolize this range of priorities. It is not a comprehensive measure of all of the consequential decisions that were made on the floor of the House and Senate that impacted middle- class voters. Before Congress went on its August 2012 summer recess, the House had passed 263 bills, and the Senate had passed 66. Many of these bills would have had significant impact, for better or worse, on the day-to-day lives of working people had they been signed into law. (Many of these bills are featured on TheMiddleClass.org.)
The key votes in this guide serve as a clear measure of whether legislators were defending the interests and concerns of the broad middle class. The bills were chosen before we compiled how legislators had voted.