Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mitt Romney Takes on Teachers' Unions!

I WOULD ARGUE THAT TWO RECENT STORIES ABOUT Mitt Romney and his family have a direct bearing on the subject of U. S. education.

The first focused on Ann Romney's love of horseback riding. The other outlined her husband's first big speech about schools, and the policies he would implement if elected president, to address America's supposed "education crisis." Governor Romney, who once famously said that he loved Michigan because all the trees were "just the right height," wanted his audience to know that when it came to schools, he was less sanguine. Apparently, America's teachers aren't the right height or don't have enough leaves.

In any case, Mr. Romney's main points can be boiled down as follows:

A. teachers' unions are really, really bad (and, by the way, support President Obama)
B. all parents are really, really good (and should vote Republican) and totally committed to their children's education
C. therefore, we can fix everything if we set up more charter schools and have more parent choice
D. ...because, if we didn't already mention it, all parents are really, really good and committed to their children's education
E. and teachers' unions are really, really bad and frankly, most of their members are scumbags
F. so, we should grade all schools; then parents, all good, all committed, can choose schools wisely, and, of course, all parents will choose wisely, because, well...you get the idea
G. and since private enterprise is always good, and because unfettered business cures all ills in all societies, it would be great if we turned public schools over to for-profit companies, which would mean we'd end up with nothing but "A+" schools, because companies could break teachers' unions (which support President Obama)
H. and have we mentioned yet that teachers' unions are responsible for every problem in U. S. public education?

NOW, DON'T GET ME WRONG. In most stories I've read, Governor Romney comes across as a gentleman. He's a devoted husband, good father, regular church goer, a good human being. Ann Romney seems like a likeable, lovely woman. But it would be stretching the truth beyond recognition to assert that people like the Romneys understand the kind of  realities that confront families farther down the economic scale, teachers who work with children of those families, public school teachers, in general, or the issues that most affect America's public schools as we enter the coming election season.

Indeed, like so many others who claim to want to fix the public schools, Mr. Romney's family long ago decided that the public schools weren't quite good enough for their son and sent him off to an elite prep school at the end of seventh grade. So Mitt never had to walk down a high school hallway, in some city, say Detroit, and rub elbows with any gang members. Not many homeless kids could afford tuition at Cranbrook School, where young Romney was insulated from contact with society's less fortunate individuals. And you can bet he wasn't hanging around with classmates who came to school hungry in the morning, or who went home to neighborhoods crawling with drug abusers at night.

The problem now, when Mr. Romney talks education, is that his isolation from reality is complete. He and his loved ones live in rarified air, and Mrs. Romney, for example, is able to indulge her love of horses. She competes in riding events at an elite level. She has a dressage tutor, who helps her with form, a top man in his field, so successful he has been known to serve guests at his riding school from $4,000 bottles of wine. In fact, on their tax returns for 2010, the Romneys were able to claim a $77,000 loss related to part ownership of a horse named Rafalca.

That's more money than most families see in a year.

Meanwhile, Mitt and Ann's four sons, raised in a home where they had every possible advantage, including good parents, fared well in school. But a recent study by John Hopkins University tells us that not all students come from the same kind of homes. Instead, 15% of U. S. students have problems with chronic absenteeism.

That is:  they miss 10% of all class time, or more.

I taught in a fine district until I retired. But I could explain to Mr. and Mrs. Romney, rather quickly, that not all parents are good, no matter how fine the district. Not all parents are like them, or like Mr. and Mrs. Obama, or the majority of moms and dads I met. I had Abe in class one year. Abe was absent or tardy 107 times in a 180-day school year. When he did arrive, often late, for first period history, I had trouble educating him not because I was a member of a teachers' union, but because Abe had a devil of a time staying awake. I remember once when he told me his mother let him play video games until four a.m. the night before.

So, Abe's mother wasn't an Ann Romney. She wasn't like the mothers Mitt Romney has in mind when he talks about fixing U. S. education. Abe's mom soon added several lines to her goofy parent resume when she came down to school to pick up her older son, who happened to be getting suspended for fighting, and got into a battle with our school resource officer, leading to her own arrest.

THIS MAN, ROMNEY, WHO WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT, who says he knows how to fix the schools, sees the world through the green-tinted glasses of the top 1%. My wife, a speech therapist, still working in the public schools, could reveal grimmer truths. She once worked with a child with severe emotional disorders who lived in a rusted out automobile with Uncle Buster, a regular marijuana user, but still his best option, because mom and dad were long gone from the family photo. She worked with a nine-year-old boy, a victim of sexual abuse by his father, who had what medical people call encopresis, or leakage from the anus, around partially-formed stool, a common problem in cases of abuse. So he had accidents at his desk almost every day. On yet another occasion a mother "interested" in her child's education came to school to see the principal. Mom was carrying a butcher knife and said she was "tired of being followed." Then she chased the principal down the hall, out of the building, and across the parking lot.

It's not just anecdotal evidence Mr. Romney might consider. Take Chicago, where in 2010, the average student missed 26 days of instruction. We know that tens of thousands of teens in the Windy City belong to gangs; and in one twelve-month period 245 school-age kids were killed or wounded in gang-related violence.

What solution does the Governor offer for that?

Let's grade schools!

Mr. Romney might even pick up a newspaper and see what he could discover. It's never hard to find sad examples, of parents who fail; but here's one of my "favorites," a story I stumbled across in 2008, involving a Pennsylvania mom named Elizabeth Ann Fox. Ms. Fox was charged with child endangerment after leaving two sons, ages 4 and 2, home alone for hours. Police were notified when the boys managed to crawl out a bedroom window. One officer entered the home but was driven back immediately by the overpowering smell of garbage and human feces, which littered the kitchen floor. A second officer located mom--at a fast food restaurant, of all places--where she was enjoying a hamburger and a shake.

Mr. Romney ought to try to work those kind of examples into his next speech about what must be done to fix America's schools.

In the end, Governor Romney is blind to all the ugliness, because he travels only in circes of wealth and privilege. Or perhaps, because he hopes to score political points, he doesn't care to look for any ugliness.

Too bad, too, because we know there are 1.6 million homeless children in the United States today. We know that in 2010 more than 70% of black children were born to single mothers. We know on certain Indian reservations poverty, depression and hard drinking add up to mean that one in four children will be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. We know that here in Ohio, one out of every ten children in Scioto County, where illegal use of painkillers has spread like plague, is born with illegal drugs in their blood streams. And we know that at any given moment, 1.5 million American children have a parent in prison.

If Romney and the critics wanted to see the full picture they wouldn't stop there. What about parents who kill their children? Even these stories are not hard to find; and nothing Mr. Romney has to offer, so far, when he talks about education, would ever do the unluckiest children in our society the slightest bit of good. Consider one example, out of many, a case from West Palm Beach, Florida. It involves Jorge Barahona, accused of murdering his stepdaughter, Nubia, and for the attempted murder of Victor, his ten-year-old son. The boy showed evidence of prior injuries: broken collarbone, broken arm, burn scars on buttocks and abdomen, rope marks on wrists. Emily Rodriguez, Victor's first grade teacher, later told reporters she remembered how Nubia used to visit her class at the end of the day to see how her brother was doing.

Does Mr. Romney really believe the key here would be to focus on Rodriquez because she's in a teachers' union?

YET, THERE THE GOVERNOR WAS, telling an audience last week:  "Wouldn't it be great if we could look back on the last four years with confidence that the [school] crisis had been confronted and we'd turned the corner toward a brighter future?"

Nope. The problems won't go away. Blame it on President Obama. And blame his evil allies, the teachers' unions.

They just can't seem to alter harsh realities.

I am pleased to say that this post was viewed almost 13,000 times on AddictingInfo.Org.
Teachers are getting fed up with all the attacks we face.
Mitt Romney and a whole lot of others who criticize us have no clue.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

North Carolina Minister Calls for Concentration Camps for "Queers"

I'm never sure why some posts catch on while others languish. Recently, I tokk Mitt Romney to task over his stance on gay marriage. One Romney supporter reacted angrily, called me a "liar," and said I was thinking with my "groin."

I can't say I ever realized my groin had powers of cogitation. So I tend to do my thinking with my brain. I'm in favor gay marriage, not because my groin is doing any thinking, but because no matter how hard I try, I can't see why we deny equal rights to American citizens because they're gay; and I can't see how their marriage would be a threat to mine marriage or my children's or anyone else's.

Then a friend shared a link on YouTube and I had a chance to hear Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina. Worley says God is agin' gay marriage. He says the Bible is agin' gay marriage. And he says he's agin' it, too. I don't quite understand how Worley rates with God and the Bible, but let that pass. Reverend Worley has the solution for the "problem" of gays who want to marry. He says, "No."  He's agin' it. And while he's at it he has another idea rattling around in his head and he just has to spill it. He says we should lock them all up in concentration camps.

I think he thinks Jesus would approve.

Here's how this man of God puts it in his sermon:
"Build a great big large fence... put all the lesbians in there... Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out..."

"...And you know what, in a few years, they'll die out... Do you know why? They can't reproduce."
I listen to the tape; and I'm surprised, if Worley wants to follow the path the Nazis took in 1933, that he ignores some of their most effective measures. He fails to suggest that we make lesbians and queers wear pink triangles on their uniforms.

He fails to mention tattooing them on the arms.

So, is Worley right? He claims the Bible is his bedrock. And the Bible is clear about this issue. I'm sure Worley would be happy to quote Leviticus: 20:13: "If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them."

The question, really, is why Reverend Worley refuses to pursue his reading of the Bible to a logical end.

He isn't going to be a weasel and back down from the truth is he? Let's have the blood.

As a liberal, I respect people of faith, all faiths. I respect good Christians and I know plenty. But if Worley is going to take a stand on Leviticus he can't be such a wimp. All those people who sat in church and "amened" him (if you watch the video) and didn't have the slightest inclination to stand up and walk out in disgust, I say make Jesus proud! Come right out of the hater's closet and admit your feelings. Let's not stop with stopping gay marriage.

Let's have some killing.

Don't stop there, either, Reverend. Don't stop there, people of Providence Road Baptist Church. Be proud of what you believe. Call for execution of witches and wizards. That's in the Bible, too. Preach a sermon about that, Mr. Worley. Quote from Leviticus:  20:27. Come, come, Mr. Worley and all you fine parishioners. Let's copy Islamic fundamentalists and stone adulterers. Let's have death in Jesus's name. Leviticus: 20:10. Let's end the plague of children who curse parents. Let's kill them, too, as suggested in Leviticus:  20:9.

Don't pick and choose your verses, Mr. Worley. You're an expert on the entire Bible.

You've already suggested a fence 150 miles long. That's more barbed wire than the Nazi's had at Auschwitz, Buchenwald or Treblinka. Take your thinking further. Stop the abomination of gay marriage before our nation lies in moral ruin. The Nazis tried horrific medical experiments, including chemical and medical castrations, to "cure" the gays. Surely, a man like you, a man known for his understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ, could twist some text in the Good Book to justify a little human mutilation! In fact, Reverend Worley, I'm surprised you turned out to be such a coward when it came to your interpretations of the Bible. I'm surprised you stopped with the fencing. I'm surprised you failed to say, "Bring on the gas. Bring on the Zyklon B."

And you call yourself a Christian minister!

Friday, May 25, 2012

What's Mitt Romney's Stand on Witchcraft?

With gay marriage back in the mix as a political issue for 2012, I've been thinking a lot about religion, morality and human rights. I've been thinking a lot about Mitt Romney.

I'm a liberal and I support gay marriage.

That doesn't mean I'm some "godless" communist, as the crazies on the far-right like to put it any time they encounter someone with whom they happen to disagree. I'm just some ordinary guy, doing the best I can to understand the world around me.

So it sparked my interest when the New York Times ran a story about rhesus monkeys and how they're overrunning New Delhi in India, biting pedestrians and stealing groceries out of bags as people stroll along the streets. Monkeys, it turns out, are believed to be the living representatives of the Hindu god Hanuman and tradition holds that Hindus should feed them accordingly, Tuesdays and Saturdays, every week.

There was a similar story about Mr. Romney in the Times not long ago. Not about monkeys. No. Romney is a good Mormon. His church teachings hold that ancient Israelites fled to America many centuries before Christopher Columbus arrived. These ancient Israelistes developed their own civilization, which later fractured in a bloody civil war, involving two groups, the Nephites and Lamanites, the latter triumphing in the end and going on to become the people we call today the "Native Americans."

Conservatives tend to be sure they're right because they have (or think they have) religious truth and the U. S. Constitution on their side. Liberals, of course, tend to skeptical. So I might not buy the Hindu take on monkeys. I might not buy Mormon teachings about Nephites and Lamanites, either. Yet, as a good liberal, I understand that what Mr. Romney chooses to believe in no way harms or influences me.

Now we hear voices raised in certain conservative circles, warning that we must not allow gay marriage. Some Christian extremists (and all religions breed occasional extremists) insist, "God hates fags." If we allow gay marriage, Reverend Pat Robinson likes to warn, God will punish our great nation. It's right there in the Bible, they tell us. See Leviticus: 20:13:  "If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination:  they shall surely be put to death:  their blood shall be upon them."

I'm a liberal, see. And if nothing else, I'm skeptical about putting homosexuals to death.

Now, let me say, that some of the very finest people I have known are Christians, or were, including my mother, a devout Roman Catholic until the moment she passed away. I hope they all get to heaven in their own fashion; and if conduct and compassion are a guide, I believe they will, and so, in whatever manner God intends, I hope they'll all be happy. With a bit of luck, I might even join my Mom and Mr. Romney.

But I do wish, if people were going to base their entire stance against gay marriage on Biblical principles, that they would explain their position on other issues the same way. If Mr. Romney is against gay marriage based on ancient religious teachings, shouldn't he also take a stand against witchcraft, and not just change his position whenever it suits him to gain a little in the wiccan vote? This matter is addressed in Leviticus, too, 20:27:  "A man or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death:  they shall stone them with stones:  their blood shall be upon them."

I'd like to hear him address the plague of children cursing parents in troubled modern times. Mr. Romney doesn't curse much, himself, according to reporters. He has a reputation as a fine father, too, and his children probably don't do much cursing, either. If other boys and girls do, however, what would be Dad Romney's stand when we look at Leviticus 20:9?  "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death:  he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him."

In the end, if you're going to base your case for intolerance toward homosexuals on what men and women were originally taught two or three thousand years ago, then I'd have liked to have seen someone ask during the Republican primaries this spring:  "Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, you both oppose gay marriage. What is your stance on adultery?"

I'd like to have seen Mitt lay it on Newt, and watch Newt squirm, when Mr. Romney quoted Leviticus yet again (20:10):  "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adultress shall surely be put to death."

I don't think it makes me a godless communist to admit I'm puzzled by such matters. I can't see how gay marriage is a threat to me, or to my my wife's happiness or mine, or how it harms my straight neighbors if they mind their own business. If Mr. Romney wants to sit in church and study his particular version of the truth, I don't see where that would be my concern, or anyone else's, be they observant Jew, devout Baptist or practicing Muslim.

If a loving pair of men or loving pair of women want to go to a different church and stand up before God and marry, and maybe later adopt and raise good kids, I don't understand how society has a right to block their way.

I'm just your average liberal.

That means, as far as I have the capacity to understand these questions, that I'm for religious freedom and personal liberty, too, as far as both can be extended in any society, without harm to the common good.

If you want to feed the monkeys, that's your business, too.

P. S. Based on one angry conservative reaction (so far), let me note again the sentence above that says I am for "religious freedom and personal liberty" both. You do me no harm, no matter what you believe, Buddhist, Tao, Fulan Gong, Presybterian, Methodist, Sunni, Shiite, etc.

I'm just a guy who can't figure out how gay marriage hurts ME.

I think the angry conservative needs to stop seeing mirages; or maybe take reading lessons. If my writing is unclear, I apologize for that.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Far-Right Conservatives Invent New Language: Part 2

God said, "Let there be
And, lo, there was Sean Hannity.
IT'S NO SURPRISE, FAR-RIGHT TYPES are hiding under the covers as the 2012 election approaches. After all, they're terribly afraid. They're afraid that gay people want to join them under those covers. They've been listening to Fox News (fair-and-balanced!) and know in their hearts that President Obama is a Muslim. They think liberals want to take away their guns and ammunition and make them carry daisies for personal protection. And they know Nazis intend to foist health care upon unsuspecting, uninsured Americans.

In fact, our foes on the right bend terms so thoroughly these days, if you're a liberal, it can be downright confusing, because it seems the Far-Right is making stuff up, like they can't tell the difference between a liberal, a socialist and a podiatrist.

It's time, then, for a second installment of Far-Right lexicon, where I explain conservative terms and definitions:

Creationism:  on the first day God created the heavens and the earth. On the second day He made the Founding Fathers, on the third day Rush Limbaugh, on the fourth automatic weapons and the right to bear arms. On the fifth day He created gay people, which you could say was His mistake, and maybe He ought to own up to it, but did at least give His conservative creatures someone they might fear and hate and persecute when life got boring. On the sixth day he created real Americans (see below; see also Far-Right Conservatives Invent New Language, Part 1) and traditional marriage.

Then He took the next day off.

Garden of Eden: where Adam and Eve lived, after God finished His labors, and Nature was pure and clean, but not so clean that the the first woman couldn't exclaim, "Drill, baby, drill."

Defense of Marriage Act: where God defined marriage as between one man and one woman, which was kind of confusing, since Adam and Eve had only sons. Not to be confused with Deuteronomy 21:15, where God gives advice on how a man with two wives should handle family dissension. Nor to be confused with Judges 8:30, where Gideon has seventy-one sons, many wives, and enjoys the favors of a concubine for good measure. No Steve and Steve, see. Just Adam and Eve, and Eve and Eve and Eve....

Sermon on the Mount: when Jesus blasted food stamps as a "government giveaway" and insisted Paul Ryan was his homeboy, because Congressman Ryan had a deficit reduction plan that both protected the rights of downtrodden millionaires and denied health care coverage to cripples and lepers.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God: Biblical admonition against closing tax loopholes for camel herders and Big Oil companies.

IT'S NOT JUST RELIGIOUS TERMS that now confuse. This was made clear when Richard Mourdock, an Indiana Tea Party stalwart, who took out Dick Lugar in the Republican Senate primary in that state, spoke with reporters at Fox News. Murdock was asked to comment on his idea of bipartisanship. Mourdock replied, like a politician who had jut ingested hallucinogenic drugs:   "I have the mind-set that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view."

So, we have:

bipartisanship: when labor unions are dead forever, and Big Coal companies, for example, are no longer bothered by government regulations, including stupid rules to protect drinking water, which commies and liberals want to fluoridate in any case. Safety rules will also be repealed, so that workers killed by buildup of explosive gasses or cave-ins are dead, like unions, and coal barons earn massive tax credits for creating jobs; as in, when workers are killed by gas or cave-ins (see: right to work law, below).

Dream Act: the dream that every Mormon multimillionaire with really good hair, running for president, can have his own illegal-immigrant gardener, while simultaneously assuring Fox News viewers (also called real Americans, below) that he intends to "secure America's borders" if elected. Securing the border will apparently keep out waves of gardeners armed with rakes and hedge trimmers.

stand your ground law: a well regulated militia being necessary to protect Sarah Palin from the lamestream media, the individual's right to carry a gun into a Victoria's Secret fashion show shall in no way be infringed, since the Founding Fathers meant for everyone to have the right to gun down home invaders, including Jehovah's Witnesses who ring doorbells on Saturday mornings.

right to work law: passed with the support of campaign donations from huge corporations, who are actually people--as Mitt Romney tells us, when he's not talking about trees in Michigan being just the right height. When billionaires party, sometimes jokingly referred to as:  the "right to work for less law." This legislation protects the right of non-union workers to earn $729 per week on average vs. $938 for unionized workers.

War on Christmas: when the average non-union worker begins to get restless because his paycheck doesn't allow him to buy as many presents as he was hoping, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity fill his head with scary, end-times warnings that secular humanists want to deny his children the right to say, "Merry Christmas" to teachers and deny him, the happy non-union worker, the right to put up festive holiday decorations.

tree hugger:  when a conservative hugs a tree which is exactly the right height, as Mr. Romney puts it. That is:  when the tree is a stump.

tax increase: what conservatives protect the average worker from, because nothing says, "We love the average worker," like low-paying jobs with no health insurance. This means the average worker, who is safe from being forced to join a union, and makes on average $10,972 less per year, is protected from paying $7 extra in weekly payroll taxes and $500 in annual union dues. In return the average worker votes to support the interests of millionaires and billionaires, who are, really, almost personal friends, like drinking buddies, people who still say, "Merry Christmas," too, only way, way richer.

socialism: the idea that raising taxes 3% on top wage earners (say, the hedge fund manager who earned a $1.2 million bonus in 2012) will reduce the deficit, when in fact conservatives are way too smart to fall for that trick and know any attempt to raise taxes will end with the liberties of real Americans (see below) squashed like cockroaches. So, when you really think about it, the top 1% are altruistic heroes.

deficit reduction: the idea that you cannot raise taxes on Albert Pujols or said hedge fund manager, or Joe Ricketts, billionaire owner of the Chicago Cubs, who wants to spend $10 million dollars of his own money to warn you that President Obama is intent on raising your taxes and squashing your freedoms. (See: socialism, above); but cutting three teacher's jobs, because each makes $36,000 per year, will cut the deficit, which is killing this nation, the greatest in the world, and now those unemployed teachers can go to work at Wal-Mart and you can save the economy and create more jobs in the long run and thank god billionaires are looking out for what is really in the workers' best interests.

real American: anyone who watches Fox News religiously (and we do mean, religiously), who mistakes Bill O'Reilly for an honest-to-god Biblical prophet; also, anyone who believes there really is a War on Christmas (see above), and thinks liberals want to kill and eat the Easter Bunny.

auto bailout:  the attempt, by President Obama, to introduce socialism, communism and botulism in America; not be be confused with capitalism, which is perfect and good and what God intended, and what Jesus was preaching about, and what Joe Ricketts wants to protect when he pours $10 million of his own money into a slimy advertising campaign to defeat President Obama, who wants to raise taxes, while simultaneously asking city and state government to raise taxes to pay for tens of millions of dollars in improvements to his very own Wrigley Field.

At any rate, as far as I can tell, that's what Far-Right conservatives are really saying. And if I can be of service, and bring liberals and conservatives closer together, so that we all use Webster's Dictionary again, I am happy to have done my civic duty as a good American.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stop Blaming Teachers and Start Blaming Pediatricians?

Can a teacher make a child stay home?
Or is that one on parents???
SCHOOL CRISIS? YOU SAY WE HAVE a "school crisis" in America? You say you believe a majority of public school teachers could be replaced with bags of cement and no one would notice the difference in effort level?

You say you believe Michelle Rhee when she says nothing matters in education except making sure every child has an excellent teacher every year, while she earns fat speakers fees to spout opinion?

You say you find yourself nodding in agreement when billionaire Michael Bloomberg says the real problem is that teachers are stupid and gives advice on fixing public education, although he never went to public schools?

You say you believe Arne Duncan when he promises to save U. S. education by instituting national curriculum standards and you think he's the best Secretary of Education since Bill Bennett went gambling in Las Vegas?

Well, according to a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, it seems public school teachers are having trouble educating children who don't come to school! What next? Do researchers discover that people who don't go to the gym are in worse shape than those who do?"

Any teacher in America, with, say, four years experience could have told you this. But here's what researchers now know:  Roughly 15% of American school children are chronically absent. That is, they miss one day, or more, out of every ten. If that doesn't sound like much, it's 18 school days per year (and you can try it at work and see if the boss thinks he's at fault, or if the problem is you). Put it another way:  a kid who misses that often stays home for one entire school year by the time they finish 10th grade.

No Child Left Behind? Maybe if a child get's left behind we should quit blaming teachers and go snooping around doctors ' offices.

NOW THE PHD'S AT JOHNS HOPKINS tell us policy makers have been looking at absenteeism in the wrong way. Again, the sarcastic former teacher and current crabby blogger that I am, mumbles, "The typical policy expert, when it comes to education, probably couldn't tell the difference between a pile of dog doo and a steak dinner."

Robert Balfanz, research professor at Johns Hopkins School of Education, feels the need to explain, however: "We don't see the problem clearly because in most places we don't measure it." (He's wrong, of course, because ordinary teachers see it every day.) At any rate, he notes that according to state and federal laws schools must track average daily attendance for all, which masks the problem of pupils who miss most often. Even more stunning--or stunningly obvious--statistical analysis shows that student attendance may be as effective in predicting student academic progress as test scores, the very heart and soul of No Child Left Behind! Yep! You guessed it. Get to the gym and you have a chance to get in shape. Get to school and you might get a good education.

Who knew!!!

Unfortunately, only six states and a handful of urban districts track chronic absenteeism; and none have figured out what to do about the problem. Well, I have an idea--no stupider than the ideas our leading reformers come up with every day. I say, we quit bashing teachers and start vilifying pediatricians!

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, Oregon has the worst problem, with 23% of students missing once or more every ten days. But I've been looking at this problem on my own; and it's ironic, actually. Rhee promised she was going to save the Washington, D. C. schools when she was chancellor; but the average kid in her district missed more than 20 days a year. Duncan is Secretary of Education because he "saved" Chicago schools. Or so he likes us all to think. The average kid in his old district, which Arne fixed, you should all remember, missed 26 days in 2010. As for the billlionaire, Michael Bloomberg? In one recent year, 140,000 New York City public school students missed more than a month of classes.

Meanwhile, I doubt you could find ten real teachers in the entire country who'd be surprised to hear what Maria Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation, which funded the study, has to say:  "There are so many efforts at school reform, but what people overlook is that none of them work if the kids don't show up."

I've been saying this since I started writing this blog and since I started banging away at a book about education. I know there are bad teachers out there and we have to do more to get them out of all our classrooms. But you have to be blind, deaf, dumb or maybe a right-wing, union-bashing, Fox News-loving troglodyte to think that all or even most problems in U. S. education come down to teachers. Let's hear a little more truth about the "home crisis" in America, which has nothing to do with the men and women working hard at the front of almost every classroom in the land. If the experts and the researchers just tried a little real teaching, themselves, they might trip over a few very harsh and very hard to miss realities. In New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg has had three terms to make good his promise to fix the schools a special task force is hard at work this very day. Among other tactics, they are using automated wake-up calls from famous athletes and celebrities to contact 30,000 at risk kids every morning and try to get them to out of bed and into class.

I find it hard to see how we can blame teachers for any of this.