Monthly Archives: September 2015

Cleaning Up After the Governor

From “The Architect’s Brother” by Robert ParkeHarrison -a favorite book of mine.

Today, Sunday, I went into school to cleanup after Governor Martinez. Outside of our school, some very unknowing, reckless person had done all they could to rip out a small tree on our front grass area, and left it, all but twisted away from its base, with strips of the bark lying around, on the ground. We had planted it there in memory of a person in our community. If they had known what it means to us, if that person had the benefit of the deep connection of our community, they would never do such a thing.

What I went there for was not this, and still it serves as a symbol. I went to reorganize my classroom, after my co-worker had been re-assigned. There are many classrooms around Albuquerque that don’t have teachers, that are being covered by principals, computer techs, any personnel who might (or might not) be available. There are not enough substitutes to cover the demand. Teachers have left New Mexico, or have gone to other professions. The Martinez administration spins those as “job opportunities” for the unemployed, but the numbers of the vacancies have grown each year under the Martinez administration, just as our rank among states has declined as concerns child welfare. I know the public has grown weary of the outcries from teachers, but those cries fade, as our numbers decline. There are none so sick of the outcries as we, ourselves, but here I am, with nothing to gain personally, once again, calling your attention to this. I am still ranked “highly effective” in this capricious and arbitrary evaluation system, and am close enough to retirement so that when my evaluation swings the other way, I can step to the exit. So what is this about?

In our own city now, hours are being cut at the high school, music and art programs suffer again so that we can fund out-of-state testing companies. The Las Cruces school board, who took a momentary stand against the PED, was threatened with replacement by the Martinez administration, and the noise of democracy is discouraged. Education is the safeguard of democracy, and the continued worsening of it weakens our democracy. We are headed in the wrong direction, there is every indication, and yet we forge ahead, stubbornly staying a course that has visibly worsened education in New Mexico. Now, my own program, a highly successful 3-4-5 inclusion class, where students with special needs have integrated with “regular” students for over a decade, is eradicated, due to the circumstances of the teacher shortage. My co-worker, the special education half of our team, was required to go to a different school, to a classroom where they had no teacher at all.  Some of our students cried, some whose most consistent stability comes from school.

Two teachers at our school were uprooted, and reportedly this played out at 1/3 of the schools in APS. Uprooting. Just like that tree. The work of education requires someone with the understanding of the community. The person who knocked over the tree in our front grass area has no community with us, just as it is with the reckless unwitting destruction that the policies the Martinez administration have wrought upon our state. Now that the Martinez administration has driven teachers out, it is my understanding that districts will be fined for classrooms that have too many students.

Tomorrow I will go into a different circumstance, and I will be fine. In fact, my job will be easier.  I have loved, and continue to love my job.  It was never about easy, though. Meaningfulness is what myself and many others in my profession are driven by. It is the passing forward of our civilization, and it requires the noise of democracy. We hope our  our Governor will someday value our community, and all the different voices that comprise it.

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The Anthropology of Physics and Free Associative Musings under A Flat Miner

imagesI had a dream yesterday, that my dad was talking to me.  It was in the morning after I had awakened already, and went back to sleep.   The dream snuck in, like they do under the seems of consciousness.  (Yes, I meant that).  Dad was talking to me, but his speech was affected by his thick tongue, the way it was a month before he died, as if he wasn’t fully recovered from being dead yet, like Wesley in the Princess Bride.

He told me that he was glad he finally had gotten a hold of me, that he would remember this connection.  He could sense that I was worried that it would be broken, so he answered things before I spoke them.  He said he would give me his number, so I could get a hold of him.   I reached for a paper and pencil, and as I did I dropped the metaphysical phone by waking up.   I had a sense of excitement at waking, and a calm, that he would call me back.  I have never had a dream like that, ever, in my conscious memory.   In fact, I haven’t held a dream in a very long time.

I once thought that if you spoke a truth really well, that those words, that phrase, would remain like a king of the hill, until they were replaced by something better.  Like a contribution in science, however small, would remain forever, as Marie Curie said, at least as a building block to the next thing, rather than this, more soupy thing we have. There is no high water mark preserved.  It ebbs and flows as consciousness in the individual, so it is for the whole – ontogeny and philogeny.

Just as the observer’s presence influences the outcome of the experience in anthropology, what if scientific observation affects all of science?   Not just in individual experimentation, but what if our presence actually is changing the elemental interactions and outcomes, influencing them over time, so that they are actually different now than they once were?

What if we can fatigue interactions in physics?  For example, once we’ve started too many cars,  their reliability fades simply for the fact that the single interaction has been worn out.  We would have to keep adding a novel element, (like whistling a different tune each time) just to turn the engine over, which would also require some novel element.  Exhausting.

I once had a dream about that.  It was not a good dream.  Gravity stopped working, and I particularly remember the non-reliability of inertia in my dream.  It was a mess.

I preferred my dream yesterday.  Thanks, Dad.

Are these things related?  You decide, just as you always have.

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A way out of the maze…

Escher's_RelativitySkip to the ideas part ( a couple of paragraphs down) if you want to be spared the re-telling of the miserable state of education admininstration at every level above the schools in New Mexico.

In the last few weeks…

Here’s the replay:  the Albuquerque superintendent of schools was “resigned” after 6 months(!) of (service?), preceded by a superintendent who left through the same door.   The city school board had some questionable dealings in the mix, and our electorate may wake up for a proposed recall, of the ENTIRE board. This would be disastrous, however, because apparently the Public Education Department of New Mexico, (Governor Susana) could replace the ENTIRE board if it were recalled.  Meanwhile, the Governor’s run at becoming the next trophy wife of the GOP may be in jeopardy because of her own education administration’s incompetence, losing  $110 million dollars for our state, an act which “puts our most vulnerable children at risk”, according to the auditor.  All this in the light of high school hours which had to be shortened this year to go toward  paying the state for a test which is probably invalid.

Deeper history… 

The State Board of Education, which had to its credit being a democratic entity, was dismantled in New Mexico under the Richardson administration in favor of having a solitary person, a “Secretary of Education”, who would tzar over all decisions and move the state out of a stalemate.  The trouble, supposedly, was that each person in the former board was scrapping for their own district, without looking at the bigger picture, and there was no apparent forward motion on changing national policies.   The No Child Left Behind policy, was the specific policy (maybe it would have gone better if we just kept the board and remained out of compliance?), which promised to hold the teachers’ collective feet to the fire, (and apparently every other part of their body as well), which then evolved into Obama’s Race to the Top – which did nothing to improve upon these broken policies.

In the lowest voter turnout for a Governor’s race in the history of New Mexico, comes Governor Martinez and Hannah Skandera.  Skandera, who came in with what she may have believed to be a voter mandate, (notice the singular), can’t and doesn’t need to hear the voices of parents, students, and teachers, while aligning the state to the education “reforms”, which had already proven disastrous in Florida, where she came from.  Okay, enough of that, moving on…

Ideas for improvement…

Statewide

We need to return to some democratic entity, a State Board of Education, but perhaps of members who represent policy rather than district, or represent districts other than their own.  Why do we need that?  Education has to be above the election cycle pendulum of politics as much as possible.  Gary King, who ran against Martinez in the last Governor’s race, promised to do away with all of Skandera’s reforms, which just sets up the next round of push back.  We need to stop that.  We need a group which can respond to people between elections, with some staying power, to help improve education in New Mexico.   This may cause slower moving policy, but that would be much longer lasting than policy that is wiped away with each election cycle.

In the city…

Apparently the post of superintendent in APS is too tempting for mere mortals to contend with.  I’ve lost track of the number of superintendents that we’ve had to buy out of town, and the name of the position is being changed to “reallybadintendent”.   We need to bust up this big district.  There needs to be less realm, and more local control.  Maybe four districts, with boards that are not just pass-through agents for whatever the policy du jour the state whips up, but shares power and informs policy with the state.  The tax base needs to be distributed equally, which some current re-districting proposals don’t do well.  This is an opportunity, and the need to change every educational administration structure outside of the school shows up in headlines about daily now.  We can do this.

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