Monday, May 2, 2016

The Opening Pages of Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching.

Here are the opening pages to Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching. Chaucer is quoted on war (werre). I believe the school reformers who talk about fixing schools know no almost nothing about the real war to save children. 

Woot: knows.

Grunts: the foot soldiers in the Vietnam War; in education, the men and women who do all the real fighting.



1.

Talk to the Grunts

“Ther is many a man that creith ‘Werre!  werre!
that woot ful litel what werre amounteth.”
Geoffrey Chaucer


I don’t drink much. Besides, it’s seven a.m. and I’m hardly awake.
“Not again,” I mutter, rubbing my eyes and adding a string of pungent expletives.
I hold in my hands another stinging editorial directed at teachers. This one, from The New York Times, carries the headline:

TEACHERS: WILL WE EVER LEARN?

            The author is assistant professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. So you might assume he knows what he’s talking about.
            (You’d be wrong.)
He starts by outlining a “tidal wave” of school reforms since 1983. I taught for decades. So I remember them all. The professor lists vouchers, charter schools, state standardized tests, No Child Left Behind and “Race to the Top.” With implementation of Common Core in the offing a fresh round of reforms is about to commence.
He leaves out a laundry list of changes veteran educators might include but sums up results. U. S. K-12 education remains “stubbornly mediocre.”
I feel myself wavering. Is it too early for bourbon?

***

What is it we keep failing to learn? Apparently, the problem with education in this country is teachers.
According to the professor we have too many dumb ones manning the classrooms. Only 23% come from the top third of their college classes. What about Finland, a country whose schools are almost too good to be true? Finland has smart teachers. America needs to find smart teachers, under some rocks or something, and pronto.
As a former teacher, suddenly I feel like such a dolt.
“Well,” I wonder, “will we ever learn?” 
I set the editorial aside and gather my wits. I don’t think I’m deluding myself when I say I was a good teacher. I don’t think I’m hallucinating when I say I worked with a number of excellent educators and all kinds of good ones during my career. Call me stupid, I guess, but I would argue that teachers come in the same varieties, excellent, good, fair, and poor, as lumberjacks, car mechanics, Congress persons and Harvard professors.
I tell myself: “You can do your bit to answer the professor’s question if you do it right.”
The dilemma is how? How write a book about education that might offer useful insights? How capture the interest of some fraction of the general reading public? And is there some way to poke all the self-styled “education experts” where it hurts most?
I mean—in the ego.
Perhaps some sleazy sex and the right title might help: Fifty Shades of Grade Book? Nope. No way that’s going to sell.
All I did was spend my career in a large rectangular room in close company with teens. All I offer is a memoir about life in the classroom, a love story about working with thousands of kids.
Still, I’m compelled to try.
First, I mean this book as a defense of good educators—an explanation of what they do—and a look at the daunting problems they confront. There are plenty of bad books to choose from if you want to read about what teachers do wrong.
I also believe my book has value because of what it’s not. I won’t be offering the latest plan to fix the schools. I’m not an authority in the fixing field. I’m not Steven Brill or Arne Duncan or Michelle Rhee. U. S. Secretary of Education Duncan and former Washington, D. C. School Chancellor Rhee we shall meet again. Brill is the prototypical critic and school fixer—a lawyer—who wrote a book about education, lambasting teachers: Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools. Brill never bothered to teach. He studied “war” at a safe remove and didn’t have to worry about getting killed or maimed.
What do I know? Part of what I know I know because I sat in class as if in a coma during my own misspent youth. Another chunk I know because I dropped out of college in 1968 and joined the Marines. I know what I know, in part, because I’ve pedaled a bike across the United States.
Most of what I know I learned by teaching: American and Ancient World History, for thirty-three years, at the seventh and eighth grade levels, for Loveland City Schools, near Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s not an especially long tenure in the classroom. Nevertheless, it represents more time spent working with kids than Rhee and Brill and all nine U. S. Secretaries of Education combined. That fact alone ought to tell us something.

Now Available on Amazon.com.



Sample Reviews for Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching

When I set out to write a book about education, I was driven by three purposes. First, I wanted to explain what it is all good teachers try to do and explain some of the challenges that make it hard to save every child. Second, I wanted to pinpoint the one best way to improve schools—an obvious path everyone can follow, but a path that is hard and steep. Finally, I wanted to make it clear that standardized testing was a growing cancer in our schools.

(As a bonus, I wanted to reveal the arrogance of the school reformers who never teach.)

Check out the opening pages of the book.

***



A sampling of reviews follows:

Avery Foster, retired teacher, Loveland High School, Loveland, Ohio


Ms. Foster continued: Should be required reading for all teachers, students, administrators and citizens. 

Carla Conti Leach, teacher, Greensburg High School, Indiana: This is a great book. Mr. Viall totally understands the problems we face today in teaching.

Lori Chisman Barber, former Loveland student and mother: Near the end I was in tears over one sad story about a boy and then a half hour later I was laughing so hard at the ending paragraph that I was in tears again. I think every parent of school age children should read this book.

Julie Huddleston, former teacher, Fulton County, Georgia: Incredibly inspiring and spot-on when it comes to the issues teachers face today.

 Brad Henderson, former Loveland student, Rhodes Scholar: Just finished a memoir by one of the best teachers I ever had—John Viall (my middle school history teacher). I recommend it for anyone passionate about education. What a great read.

Sharon Hammond Nordstrom, teacher, Stockton City Schools: Author John Viall is direct and to the point in his assessment of what’s wrong with education in America. I found his knowledge coupled with wit, humor and sarcasm an enjoyable read…Everyone working with and for students should read this book. (For those who don’t have a clue what is going on in today’s classroom, this book will definitely enlighten beyond belief.)

 Ray Bailey, U. S. Army, Vietnam War veteran: I got the book last night and read half-through non-stop. I’ll finish tonight. It’s great! Your write up of me is right on and just enough. Last night I finished the book. I alternated between laughter and tears through the second half. You did a great job.

Alisha Taul, LEARN—Loveland Education Action Right Now, anti- testing group: I love your book! It should be required reading for politicians and local school boards. 

Martin Garneret, former Loveland student and businessman: I’ve burned through it in four sittings. Incredibly good book.

Vicky Leroy Busby, former Loveland student and mother: Two Legs Suffice made me laugh, cry, shake my head, cry some more, and laugh again. 

Emily Viall, daughter of the author: (Okay, you kind of figure my daughter would give me a good review; but I think her reactions say a great deal about the book): I gasped and laughed and cried out loud, multiple times. 

Monty Lobb (thirty-seven years, mostly with the Princeton City Schools): Upon reading John’s captivating story it became apparent to me, having been an administrator in education for over three decades, that John’s highly evolved communication skills serve as a bridge of rapport that engage not only his readers but I’m sure all of his students who have walked through the doors of his classroom as well. A highly enjoyable, informative, intriguing read as well.

 Terri Woods, retired school psychologist, Princeton City Schools: Current teachers and administrators will recognize the rhythm of typical school days in Viall’s book. It should be required reading for all legislators voting on “school reform” and unfunded mandates. Viall describes the issues teachers face daily and begs the question: “Why aren’t teachers at the table discussing school reform with lawmakers?” 

Karen Streng Tiffany, Cedarburg High School, Wisconsin: I just finished reading and I’m already debating when I will start to re-read it. I know, without a doubt, that I will keep it out on my desk this year. It will be a security blanket, a touchstone, to help me hold my head up, take a deep breath, and fearlessly (OK—maybe not so fearlessly) immerse myself in this calling I hold so dear. It is read, some passages two or three times, and sitting on my desk at school so it will continue to inspire me on a daily basis.

Bruce Maegly, retired teacher, Loveland Middle School: Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching is incredibly well written…a fabulous read for parents, teachers, administrators and students alike.

Cheri King, teacher, Loveland, Ohio: I just finished an outstanding book in support of schools, teachers, and especially students…August is not a great month for a teacher to start a new book as any spare time is spent preparing for the new school year. It turns out reading this book was the best preparation possible…I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about education.

 Lauren Turley, former Loveland student and current Texan: Hello Mr. Viall, I hope you are well! I was chatting with Sarah Mosby yesterday on the phone and she told me that you recently wrote a book on teaching and it is available for purchase. I am quite excited to read it, especially after her recommendation. I am a special education resource teacher to some brilliant third graders in San Antonio, Texas…You were always one of my favorite teachers, which is especially significant as your teaching graced my middle school years! I remember absolutely loving reading all about history in your packets and happily pouring over any and all writing assignments. This attitude has served me well in college and beyond. Thank you and take care.

Steven (former student, appears in book, didn’t know it):  Thank you very much John for helping me through history with my reading you made an impression in my life I’m very thankful how good of a man you are. With my schooling much better thank you; you made me feel much better about taking tests in your class when I should not of been there. I’m just thankful for having a real man at the right time in a classroom if you need any help on your house on your car leave it to me...I know too much I can fix too much and I’ll take care you because you were very good to me.

Calvin Schmieg, teacher, Montgomery County Schools, Kentucky: Such a great story of one teacher’s journey through a career as a middle school teacher. 

Melissa Popham, former Loveland student and legal assistant: I just wanted to let you know that I am really enjoying your book. I didn’t have the pleasure of having you for history, my brother Gary did, but as I read your book I really wish I had gotten to sit through your class. I never had a good attitude about history, I had the attitude it happened I couldn’t change it so why do I need to know it. I got by in school, but reading how you taught and how you strived to change kids with an attitude such as mine I wish I could of had that. (Facebook; 9-23-2015)

Tess Elking, former Loveland student and lab technician: I just finished reading your book. I must say it was highly addictive. I finished it in less than two days. I thought it was well-balanced with humor and information, very reminiscent of your classes!

Joe Bischoff, former Loveland student and businessman: I purchased you book, and read it over four days. Fantastic! ...I am a fan of the book and will be forwarding it on to others who may also find value in it. If you decide to bike across the U. S. again, and find yourself coming through/around NYC, you are most welcome to stay with us…And here's to hoping that you do end up as the Secretary of Education, and can accomplish progress.

Lisa Sullivan, former Loveland student and photographer: This book is informative, charming, intelligent, entertaining, thought provoking, an important and necessary look at the shambles of education in the United States today. A must read for parents and educators.

Deana Callahan Wilisch, former Loveland student and mother: In my opinion, this book should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking about a career in teaching, and for any bureaucrat who has a say in education policies. 
Now available on Amazon.com








Friday, April 29, 2016

The Scores Are In: School Reformers Earn F's

Test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called “the Nation’s Report Card,” are out again this month. And now we know. Now we know what happens when arrogant reformers set out to improve the nation’s schools, contributing only hot air—their opinions—their plans—their pontificating—but not their deeds. (These people don’t teach. They talk. They talk and talk and talk.)

Now we know what happens when people who feel they’re too important to actually work with children bulldoze millions of front line educators who do. We know what happens when they insist on spending billions on standardized testing, because they believe the key to improving learning outcomes is piling up data.

Well, the data is in and reformers score a big red “F.”

More on the damning data later. First, the background: We are now deep into the second decade of misguided education reform. And the basic premise of all this reform has never changed. Men and women like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, billionaire Bill Gates and Wendy Kopp of Teach for America decided if front line teachers and administrators could be punished enough then student test scores would soar. These reformers and their political allies were positive. If teacher pay was tied to test results, if unions were crushed, if tenure could be denied to every man, woman and beast, scores would surge!

In fact, the fundamental premise of all this reforming could be reduced to one balloon filled with hot air. It wasn’t quite as blunt as Shakespeare—to paraphrase: “First thing we do, let’s kill all the teachers.” Still, it was close.

First, Congress passed No Child Left Behind, offering up a promise that all children would be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Congress did nothing to help children achieve these goals, but made sure, if children didn’t, educator’s heads would roll. The states followed suit, passing hundreds of laws designed to hold teachers “accountable.” (More educators’ heads were meant to roll.) Secretary Duncan put it simply. “It’s all about the talent,” he said. It was all about teachers. Everything would be great—if only we had better teachers and administrators in our schools.

Today, it’s time to consider what fruits the reformers produced. We know Congress was forced to rewrite No Child Left Behind, which failed in epic fashion. We know giant testing companies walked away with billions of dollars. Even the boldest reformers were obliged to admit that tests tied to No Child Left Behind produced slim results. Yet, they never blinked. They blamed front line educators for the failure of their great plans. They insisted grandiose schemes would work if only testing companies tried again. The companies should start over, come up with new tests, gather new data, and yet more heads would roll.

True. Here and there, reformers could point to gains, however spurious they proved to be. Yes. Reading and math scores at the third and eighth grade levels rose. (That’s pretty much what any real teacher would expect if you pummeled school children with test prep lessons for weeks on end every year.) Also true: high school graduation rates improved. Yet, as we will see, the new graduates seemed to know less than the old graduates did, in days when educators were free to do as they saw fit.

Meanwhile, years of abuse served to demoralize the men and women who were truly devoting their lives to helping children. Instead of more resources, they got paperwork to complete. Every teacher, every counselor, psychologist and principal knew the added paperwork ate away at the time they had to help children. In many schools, particularly low-income communities, teachers were required to read scripts—a joyless approach—to prove they were actually teaching.

Reformers and politicians claimed it would help if state and federal bureaucrats had more data. This data would then confirm what they believed: Most teachers were terrible. The data would prove America’s educators deserved to be shot, broken on racks, or run over by school buses. What really happened, of course, was that millions of teachers and administrators, all the excellent ones, and all the good ones—the kind who predominate in every school—ended up wasting days and weeks filling out forms and checking boxes.

Unfortunately, real learning, which is like chess, was stunted or curtailed. The “game” of learning was reduced to tic-tac-toe.



Now we learn that only sour fruit can grow in sour soil. Educators were admonished and threatened. You had better play tic-tac-toe. If you know what’s good for you, you had best forgo any thought of chess. Within narrow limits, then, test scores did improve. In a broader sense, reform failed completely. If anyone cared to look, they might have seen that ACT scores, which measure readiness of high school graduates to do college-level work, didn’t budge at all. SAT scores, proof of what fruits reform had grown, declined slowly but steadily every year.

Now we have fresh data from NAEP. We have the data we need to measure the reformers’ success. It is now possible to say, conclusively, that these egotistical fools have earned an “F” for meddling in the schools.

Scores from NAEP are out again for 2015. Did they soar? Did they surge? Were the latest NAEP scores swell?

Not at all! Averages in both reading and math declined, compared to 2013, the last time NAEP gave its tests. Worse, the percentage of students ready for college-level work dropped. In 2013, 39 percent were ready for college-level math, 38 percent for college-level reading. Last year scores dipped to 37 percent in both areas. Worst of all, students at the bottom, clustered in low-income schools, the kind of young people that reformers swore they knew how to save, suffered most from being force fed years of test preparation. The number of students scoring below “basic” in both reading and math increased from 2013.

In other words, tens of billions of dollars had been devoted to massive school reform. Most of the money went to testing companies, company executives, or passed through lobbyist’s hands to self-serving politicians, or to school reform experts who gave high-priced speeches, and to pay bureaucrats to gather, tally and study all the data.

What happened in real classrooms across the land? Hundreds of millions of hours of teachers’ and students’ time was totally wasted on test preparation. More hundreds of millions of hours had to be devoted to bubbling in answers or filling out forms.

Yet, scores didn’t surge.

Scores were stagnant. Or worse. On the NAEP tests, seniors scored an average of 152 in math (out of 300) in 2015. In 2005, the average was 150. All those insults hurled at educators, all those heads that rolled, all those bold plans, all those big words from people who only talked, never taught, all those hours of testing crammed down the throats of children, and all we had to show for it was an improvement of two measly points.

Ah, but it was far worse!

In 2015 the average American high school senior scored 287 (out of 500) on the reading portion of the NAEP tests. That was down five points, from 287 in 1992.

Fifteen years wasted—and almost nothing has been done to help children who suffer most outside of school, those, in turn, who struggle most in any classroom. In fact, reformers have argued that what happens outside of schools doesn’t matter—have insisted educators who claim it does (because it does) are making “excuses.” Certainly, the politicians failed miserably, as they often do. Rather than help the youth of the nation, they passed legislation which served to stifle the joys of learning. The reformers and the politicians made the jobs of educators harder and made the school days of children much, much worse.

Today, the grades are in: “F’s” across the board for the reformers and their pals.



***

I MAKE THE SAME KIND OF ARGUMENTS AT LENGTH IN MY NEW BOOK, NOW AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM.

OR YOU CAN DROP ME AN EMAIL AT VILEJJV@YAHOO.COM AND I CAN TELL YOU HOW TO GET A COPY.

Read what a few reviewers have said so far.


Front cover.




Friday, April 22, 2016

If Only Our Politicians Would Quote Shakespeare

In memory of William Shakespeare, who died four hundred years ago tomorrow, and in view of the sad level of discourse displayed in our current presidential campaign, a few quotes gathered from the Bard may be in order.

After all, if politicians wish to insult one another, they might at least do it with style. Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Cruz next week as a “whoreson ass?”

Or if Senator Sanders lambasted Senator Clinton:         

“Never hung poison on a fouler toad.
            Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.”
              

Governor Kasich could unleash the dogs of war with this blast,directed at Trump or Cruz, or Sanders or Clinton—assuming he makes it to the general election: “Go thou, [insert opponent name here] and fill another room in hell.”

Perhaps, Clinton could score some quick points with this blistering attack on Sanders—kind of hinting he’s old to be running the country: “Thou sodden-witted lord, thou hast in thy skull no more brain than I have in mine elbow.”

Certainly, there were times during GOP debates, where it might have been amusing to see a real donnybrook ensue, a kind of Jerry Springer moment. I think Senator Rubio could have stayed in the race if he had responded to some of Mr. Trump’s insults, with this threat: “I will beat thee into handsomeness.” 

Even Jeb (Jeb!) might have stuck around if he’d gone after Mr. Trump with a little more barbed language. I can almost see it now. Mr. Bush getting Mr. Trump in a headlock, with Wolf Blizter or some other moderator calling hopelessly for calm, and Mr. Bush shouting, “I will smite his noodles.”

Alas, too late, too late, for either man.

The possibilities seem almost endless. We’re hearing about a “New Trump” in recent days, a less bombastic version, prepping for the general election campaign. I think he’d sound impressive if he laid this bomb on his Democratic opponent, whoever it might be, during the first national debate: “He/she draweth out the thread of his/her verbosity finer than the staple of his/her argument.”

Then again, Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton, tipped off to Mr. Trump’s plans to quote the master, might be retort: “Mr. Trump ‘speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in Venice [insert 'Washington' here]. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff:  you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search.’”

Perhaps a pithier version might be better. So, any candidate might savage the arguments of their foe with this:

            “…out idle words, servants to shallow fools,
Unprofitable sounds…”


Really. Not much has changed in four centuries, though, thankfully, men no longer wear cod pieces. I believe Sanders, when questioning Clinton’s Wall Street connections, could lay this on her and make it stick:

“Let me tell you, Cassius [substitute ‘Clinton’], you yourself
Are much condemned to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
To undeservers.”


Or [altering gender below]:

“I know a discontented gentleman
Whose humble means match not his haughty spirit.
Gold were as good as twenty orators,
And will no doubt tempt him to anything.”                                   


Since I tend to vote Democratic, I hope, if it’s Clinton or Sanders vs. Trump, either Democratic standard bearer will note that five GOP-chosen Supreme Court justices decided the Citizen’s United case, unleashing fresh hundreds of millions of Establishment money in all campaigns, by baffling Mr. Trump with this 17th century nugget: “They say if money go before, all ways do lie open.”

I understand Senator Cruz is supposed to be brilliant. We all know there’s no love lost on his part for Mr. Trump. Of the GOP front runner, Senator Cruz might say: “Trump hath never fed of dainties that are bred in a book. He hath not eat paper, as it were, he hath not drunk ink. His intellect is not replenished, he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.’”

Really, this could be great. 

It might even fuel an interest in the general public for reading Shakespeare once again. News commentators could get in on the act, mocking Trump for promises to make our military great —when, back in the day, the candidate decided not to take any part in the Vietnam War. His feet hurt, or something.

“Foul-spoken coward, that thund’rest with thy tongue,
And with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform.”


Megyn Kelly could class it up during her broadcast, highlighting the failure of the GOP to put forward a strong candidate to stop the rise of Mr. Trump:

“A little fire is quickly trodden out,
Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.”


Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, could make it clear that Sanders and Trump had tapped a nerve with the suffering middle class, by quoting:

“And that is the wavering commons; for their love
Lies in their purses, and whoso empties them
By so much fills their hearts with deadly hate.”


Sean Hannity could explain how Senator Cruz captured the deep and abiding concern of all true conservatives:

“I find the people strangely fantasized,
Possessed with rumours, full of idle dreams,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.”


Trump could go two for one, taking out Cruz and Clinton both, with: “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers.”

We could all kind of “feel the Bern” if he would warn that Cruz has plans to involve us in another misguided Middle Eastern war:        

“…He is come to open
The purple testament of bleeding war…”                          

Trump could attack the veracity of Cruz—or Kasich could blast Trump—or Trump could torch Clinton—or Clinton could lambast Sanders—or Sanders could thump Trump with these old lines:

“No marvel though you bite so sharp at reasons,
You are so empty of them.”


Think how much more elegant it might sound for one candidate to attack the other if they only quoted the greatest master of the English language. Lying Ted? Oh, please. Why not: “Through the false passage of thy throat thou liest!”

And why not bring back this gem—since it fits almost any election: “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

It might seem these days that political discourse has never sunk lower. Still, it’s never as bad as we think. Even in this regard the words of Shakespeare still ring true. “Past and to come seems best; things present, worst,” the great poet once noted. Such was true in 1616, the year of his death.

Such is true today, four hundred years later.

Can be applied to any candidate you don't like,
including Mrs. Clinton, with substitution of a pronoun.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Final Four: All I Got for Four Years in College Was This Lousy T-Shirt

If you’re like me, I suspect you had no idea Nike sponsored a dozen teams in this year's NCAA basketball tournament. That tournament wraps up tonight with the championship game at 9:18, Villanova vs. North Carolina. Perhaps you noticed in one recent game that Oklahoma players sported warm-up shirts emblazoned: “Always reppin.” 

Syracuse? Gonzaga? Iowa State? All wore the same shirt with the same slogan, differing only in color, with appropriate university logos underneath.



A Nike spokesman admitted recently that the company came up with the “reppin’” idea after hearing lyrics from a rap song in which the artist Drake sang, “I’m just repping for my town.” 

The shirts, the spokesman claimed, were “inspirational.” Also, did we mention, these fine shirts are available at the Nike store nearest you!

I admit I still love college basketball, but as an educator I find it harder and harder to follow college sports every year. This year’s Final Four featured two teams know more for academic scandal than academic excellence.

Syracuse, for one, imposed a tournament ban on its team in 2015 after evidence showed boosters paid players to come to Syracuse and staff members wrote papers for athletes to insure they remained eligible.

Normally, Coach Jim Boeheim could expect to earn $2 million for leading Syracuse to the 
Final Four. But this season he was suspended for nine games as a result of the scandal, during which his team went 4-5. Sadly, this only seemed to prove his “value,” to the school, if not to student athletes. 

There was added irony knowing Syracuse might not have made the tournament field, save for the fact two teams with superior records, Louisville and Southern Methodist, were banned entirely. Louisville’s particular brand of shame involved using prostitutes to lure top recruits to that institution of…higher learning. As for Southern Methodist, the school found itself on probation after enrolling one star recruit in an online course and helping him get a “good education” by allowing a school employee to attend to tedious chores, such as doing actual course work. Larry Brown, coach of SMU pretended dumb, but this was the third program he led to success on-court, and scandal in the classroom.

Yet, in this case, academic fraud, unlike crime, sis pay—and Brown earned $1.9 million in his first season with SMU.

For various reasons, then, I’m rooting for Villanova. Their opponent tonight, North Carolina, avoided academic probation in 2015 by the hair of their powder blue chin, when the NCAA issued a final report on a massive academic scandal. To put it bluntly, hundreds of UNC student-athletes, over the course of a decade, were carried by coaches, academic advisers and professors. They were enrolled in courses that never met, had papers written for them, and if they still failed, had grades altered.

It was, said one critic, the “plantation mentality” in college sports. Use the players, mostly African-American kids, get what you want out of them, provide little in the way of actual education. Use them up, then send them out to face life in the real world—where only 1% of college athletes go on to play pro sports—arm them with a worthless diploma or no diploma at all. 

But, hey, at least they’ll have plenty of t-shirts.


Or, as Nike might say: “Always reppin!’”

The student-athlete gets free t-shirts. Coaches make millions.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Governor Nice Guy and the Ohio Jobs Miracle

If you haven’t been paying attention you might not have noticed that Governor Kasich is baling sweet political hay, bragging about all the jobs he has brought to his state. The figure he cites (and what good conservative could doubt that a semi-conservative GOP governor was telling the truth) is 400,000.

So, good work Governor Nice Guy. (And, please, please, please, can you save the GOP from Donald Troll!)

It seemed to me, as an upstanding liberal, that if the Governor was allowed credit for creating jobs for Ohio, then the same kind of credit might be due President Barack Obama for his work across the United States. There aren’t “magic jobs,” I don’t think, created only by Republicans, whereas jobs created by Democrats don’t countI think a job gained is a job gained is a job gained, as Gertrude Stein once opined.

For that reason—because I don’t believe in voodoo economics, I like to peruse the Labor Bureau statistics. Sometimes GOP types loves statistics. Sometimes GOP types insist the same statistics are bogus.

(Rule of thumb: all statistics that make President Obama look good, indicate Climate Change is real, or prove the Top 1% is rolling in dough, are unreal, false, mathematical impossibilities, and part of a nefarious communist plot.)

Here’s what we know for sure. 

Governor Kasich took office on January 10, 2011. We should not blame him for the state’s high unemployment rate on that day. In February 2011, less than a month after he took over, Ohio unemployment was 9.0%. By the end of the year Governor Nice had turned it around and cut unemployment to 8.0%.

How was President Obama doing during those same months? In February 2011 the national unemployment rate was also 9.0%. By the end of the year it had fallen to 8.5%. 

Advantage: Governor Nice. 

Well: The Ohio and U. S. economies chugged along, straining to make up for damage done when President Mission Accomplished watched Wall Street drive a great nation over a giant fiscal cliff.

Even in those difficult times, however, the jobs magic of Governor Nice continued. Here are his stellar numbers, my liberal brothers and sisters. By February 2016 state unemployment had been slashed.

Only 4.9% of Ohioans remained out of work. 

Morale of the story: When you really, really cherish job growth, and not comments about human genitalia, John Kasich is the man for the job.

Not Donald Troll! Definitely not Donald Troll!!


See column far right, fourth from top.


As for that sneaky Muslim in the White House, with plans to kill granny, steal all the guns, and evil enough to want to bring health care to twenty million Americans who lacked it, liberals must swallow the cruel facts and…

OH, HELL NO! my right-wing friends! WT-job-creating-F is happening here?

By February 2016, President Obama had caught up with Governor Nice. You read that right. The dark-skinned guy, born in Hawaii (which last time geographers looked was still an official state in our union) had cut the unemployment rate in Hawaii, Ohio and THE OTHER FORTY-EIGHT STATES to:

4.9%!

 

I understand how hard this might be for some. I realize how much conservatives want to believe the myth that President Obama wrecked the economy and is wrecking it still. I also know many five-year-olds believe the Easter Bunny is real.

The fundamental concept here is not difficult to grasp. If numbers are right where Mr. Kasich is concerned, the exact same kind of numbers are right where President Obama is concerned.

For the plain fun of it all, here are job-creation numbers for the last six years, since the slide into the Great Recession (which President Obama could in no way have caused unless he was proud possessor of some kind of Muslim time machine, which Rush Limbaugh may well soon insist is true) was halted and turned around:

2010: 1.06 million jobs added (the tide turned for good, with job gains every month, starting in October 2010.)

2011: 2.09 million jobs added.

Figures in box show monthly job gains in thousands.


2012: 1.8 million jobs added.

2013: 2.2 million jobs added for the year.

2014: 2.95 million jobs added (the best total since 1999 when President Lustful was chasing women around the White House).

2015: 2.65 million jobs added in twelve months.

Then as Forbes and other news outlets reported the U. S. economy added 151,000 jobs in January 2016.

Even Fox News had to admit another 242,000 jobs were added this past February. But Fox News was quick, in a fair-and-balanced right-wing kind of way, to ignore this alarming fact. Alarming to right-wingers, at least: That meant, under President Obama, once he halted the precipitous fall touched off when Mission Accomplished Bush still grasped the policy wheel, that we had had job growth for 65 straight months.

So that’s where we stand.And that, boys and girls, left, right, center and crazy, is what is commonly called:

MATH.