Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Baker's Dozen of My Favorite Posts

If you liked my post on attendance here are a few of my other favorite posts. I will say, I saved my best stories for my book, Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching.

My book is now available on 

1) Sham Standards: Governor Kasich and the Standardized Testing Fetish: I first started this blog in 2011, concerned that standardized testing was doing real harm in education. 

In this post we consider what happens when Loveland Middle School brings in fourteen veterans from five different wars and lets them talk to 700 students? 

It’s not standardized education but it’s learning that truly matters. Joe Whitt talks about his experiences at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Ace Gilbert, a decorated Vietnam veteran, makes listeners cry, and Seth Judy talks about ten surgeries he endured after being wounded in Iraq in 2003.

(This selection is expanded into an entire chapter in my book, Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching.)


2) How Many Reformers Does It Really Take to Fix a School? After almost fifteen years, why hasn’t school reform worked? “Perhaps we need to look at schools like automobiles to grasp why it is we’re not speeding down the intellectual Interstate like the reformers say we must. Imagine that there are three autos, all broken down alongside I-10, in the Arizona desert. The drivers are three real teachers. Each has been carrying five passengers, five students. One car is a new Lexus LX 570. The second is a 2006 Honda Civic. The third is a battered 1972 Chevrolet Impala.” 

What ideas will the reformers come up with to help real teachers and real students? Hint: none of them will actually help.


3) NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook—Copying Education Reforms: In an effort to fix failing franchises, the NFL decides to copy education reform. In a stunning news conference, Commissioner Roger Goodell explains to reporters: “We believe a Common Core Playbook will save our struggling teams. Beginning with the 2013 season every coach and every team will use the same playbook.”

What could possibly go wrong?


4) Why Teaching Matters—Part II: You can have an effect on students in many ways and may not know for years exactly what that effect was, or whether you did any good. Joey once racked up 38 zeroes in a row in my class. So we sat down and talked. 

A series of eight similar posts can be found by clicking on the year 2011 (December) and 2012 (January).


4) Sample Reviews for Two Legs Suffice: I’m proud to say, readers of my book have called it “inspirational” and said it “should be required reading for all teachers, students, administrators and citizens.” One reader had this to say: “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.”


5) The Essence of Corporate Education: It turns out many corporations, both at the K-12 level and in higher education are in business to make money, whether students learn or not. When all is said and done, it turns out “‘corporate’ is to ‘education’ as ‘cigarette manufacturer’ is to ‘public health and well-being.’”


 6) Are Poor Public Schools Killing the U. S. Economy? When U. S. students finish fifteenth in reading (out of 65 countries tested), tied for thirty-first in math, and twenty-third in science, critics claim public schools are killing the economy.

Oddly enough, jobs are lost to Bangladesh, a nation not even rated, with an illiteracy rate of almost 50%, and Mexico, which finished #48 in reading and #50 in math and science.


 7) Does Arne Duncan Realize that Teachers and Students Are Dying? In one terrible week, Colleen Ritzer, a Massachusetts high school teacher, is raped and murdered by a 14-year-old student in a bathroom at her school. Two days later Michael Lansberry, a Nevada middle school teacher, is shot and killed by a 12-year-old as he tries to stop the boy from shooting classmates.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan insists kids drop out of high school mainly because teachers make it too easy.


8) Confessions of a Bad Teacher: I Loved Teaching like an Addict Loves Crack: “My name is John and I have a problem. For thirty-three years I was a bad teacher. And I thought was good.” 

I finally face up to reality after hearing all the 
school reformers say America’s teachers are no good.


9) 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 deeds. (These people don’t teach. They talk. They talk and talk and talk.)

It turns out that despite billions spent on standardized testing seniors scores for NAEP reading are down five points and math scores are up three. It makes you wonder if our leaders know what they’re doing at all.


10) ExxonMobil Announces Commitment to Fixing U. S. Education: ExxonMobil runs a slick commercial, explaining how it hopes to get involved with fixing America’s schools. “I know if you’re like me, your first reaction is probably, ‘Who better to understand the needs of children than oil executives?’” 


11) America’s Teachers: We’re Dumb and We Suck! This was my first really successful post, in which I apply the same kind of statistics used to prove America’s teachers are failing to prove that America’s doctors and nurses are failing even worse! 



12) Why is Being a Liberal so Hard: Romney and Ryan Bring Back the Fun: This was a political post, but it clearly resonated with tens of thousands of readers. “Sometimes,” I wrote, “it’s tough being a liberal. Rush and his legions of Dittoheads call you a ‘libertard’ and pretend they’re better Americans than you. As a liberal, you think this country and the world could be better and want to help make those twin ideals come true. Conservatives warn that you’re a communist and insist you and your type want to wipe your feet (or worse) on the U. S. Constitution.


The Limited Efficacy of "School Reform:" Absenteeism

As a veteran classroom teacher, I often find myself thinking that “school reform” fails for the most basic of reasons. 

That is: school isn’t the place where many problems in school begin. Consider the question of student attendance.

(And remember: teachers lack telepathic powers; they cannot educate a child who is not present for class.)

Over the years, as a teacher dealing with struggling seventh or eighth grade students, I often found it was my first task to convince them to stop making excuses. All too often, that also meant dealing with parents who were purveyors of the same kinds of excuses. As a teacher, then, I came to believe in many cases my job was to force people, young and old, to give up on all their alibis. No student (or parent) was going to make progress if they kept evading responsibility.

On my end, I tried to make sure no student willing to work would ever fail my class. If a young man failed a test, I told him to study again, come in after school and take the test again. If he got an “A” the second time around, I gave him the “A” and wiped out the “F.” I always wanted kids to succeed. As for missing homework, if a girl needed a second, third, fourth or fifth chance, I gave it. If a child fell behind, I offered ten chances if ten were required. I gave out my home phone number if students or parents needed to call and ask for help. I called home, too, when kids fell behind—my record for one student, fourteen calls during a year. And what I found was this: a student might have a good excuse for one missed assignment—or two—or even five—but eventually the stack of excuses grew too tall and tipped over with a crash.

Then most teens would look in the mirror.

Unfortunately, parents were often the problem—and in many cases “school reform” had a very hollow ring.

I was a team leader for more than a decade, and I remember one occasion when our team of teachers proved incapable of knocking over a mother’s giant pile of excuse. Nicole, a seventh grade girl, was missing entirely too much school. Repeated absences were killing her grades.

I called mom—more than once—and finally convinced her in April to come in for a morning meeting to talk. 

Of course, as teachers, you have to guard against your own tendency to make excuse. So I began with this: Maybe the problem was our team. Maybe Nicole was unhappy with how we were treating her. Maybe attendance had never been an issue before. Maybe the problem was us.

In fact, it might be me! Perhaps I had offended Nicole and now she shut down. So I checked her records for clues. 

It turned out Nicole missed 45 days in fifth grade, when her family lived in a different district. 

Records for sixth grade records were incomplete; but in three quarters of the year, after moving to Loveland, she missed another 42 days. 


It wasn’t just me or my team. 

In our meeting with mom, a few days later, it was readily apparent Nicole’s mother had an excuse for every situation. Nicole was unlucky, she claimed. That’s why the girl missed so much school. Nicole was a “carrier for strep.” Members of our team put on a polite façade. Behind that façade, however, I was wondering: What about the previous week, when Nicole missed an entire day for a dental appointment?

Michelle Miranda, a dynamic young teacher on our team, tried to pin mom down. It was like mud-wrestling with eels and mom wriggled away. Steve Ball, a veteran and a great educator, tried next. Nicole, he explained, was on target to miss forty or fifty days of class during the current year. Absenteeism was killing her academically, making it hard to keep up in math, where concepts built one upon another. Nicole’s mother squirmed out of danger again, making another excuse, this time in her own defense. Mom wasn’t failing in her duties. Nope. “Nicole doesn’t like all the snobby kids in Loveland,” she explained. “That’s why she stays home.”

In other words: mom was innocent. She wasn’t failing as a mom. It was all those other snobby kids!

I explained to mom that Nicole could always come in and complete makeup work for my class. Honestly, my door was always open.

I had already explained this in calls home several times before.

Mr. Ball and others on our team made the same kind of offers—but Nicole had to come to school to get help.

By now, time was running short and first bell classes were about to begin. Always obsessive about missing time for instruction, I motioned my team to get going to first period. Steve hung back a moment and the three of us, mom included, walked out in the hall, where I tried one last shot. I told mom we liked Nicole and said Nicole had plenty of talent. But mom had to get her to school. 

Mom replied, “I just didn’t realize she had missed so many days.”

I saw a shadow of resignation cross Mr. Ball’s face. He thanked her politely for coming, pivoted, and headed for class.

I had first period conference. So I talked to mom a few more minutes, gave her my home phone number once more, and assured her I’d be happy to stay in at lunch or stay after school anytime Nicole wanted help.

To be honest, however, the only excuse I could think of for a mother like this, who allowed her daughter to miss more than 120 days of instruction in just three years, was that perhaps no one had taught her how to count. 

That meeting was on a Monday.

I stayed after school three afternoons that week and let students who had fallen behind come in and catch up on work. I offered the same option every day during lunch and even offered to come in early every morning before school.

Nicole missed two more days of class that same week and never bothered to try to stay and catch up.

Yeah: not a question of school reform.


I saved my best stories for my book.

I cover this topic at greater length in my book, Two Legs Suffice (Chapter 15: The Poison Ivy Dilemma) now available at

For sample reviews of my book, check out this post.


For a recent look at this problem, nationwide, readMore Than Six Million Students Nationwide Are Chronically Absent.

A chart I once prepared for our school board,
showing students with serious attendance issues.
Mary, an eighth grader, was pregnant. Karen had a drug addiction.

Monday, June 13, 2016

"Snowballs" Fly in History Class and Other Mistakes

I said when I wrote a book about teaching that my focus was on what worked in an ordinary classroom, with an ordinary teacher, in an ordinary American school. I wanted to focus on what real teachers do and why what they do can be infernally hard. I wanted to focus on how to improve what happens in any classroom.

So I skipped over most of my mistakes. 

Naturally, I made plenty, as all human beings do.

In my class, I’m sure former students would admit, we did all kinds of skits. Eventually, I realized how good they could be at performing what I called “plays without scripts” and we set skits up to last for entire periods. 

Early in my career I set up a role-playing activity based on the Boston Massacre, which seemed like a good idea at the time. 

I expected it to last ten minutes—and since snowballs were thrown at British guards in the winter of 1770—I decided we needed “snowballs” to enhance the show. Part of my plan, involved members of the audience throwing a few paper wads.

I was young then; but I should have known!

Once you allowed teens to throw a few snowballs, their enthusiasm for history knew no bounds. (If you remember the Christmastime incident in Philadelphia, years back, where drunken Eagles fans pelted Santa Claus at halftime of  an NFL game, you have some idea.) The snowballs were a mistake from the start; but the debacle was complete when the student in the role of commander of the redcoat guard decided to wave his sword—my blackboard pointer—at the leader of the rebellious colonists. Before I could warn him to be careful, he brought down his weapon squarely on the head of one “dirty rebel,” a student named Darryl.

The blow split his scalp neatly and Darryl did what any dirty rebel might do.

He bled profusely.

(Perhaps it is needless to say we never tried that skit again.)

Before I ever set foot in a classroom I spent two years with the United States Marines. Like my drill instructor at Parris Island and several basketball or football coaches I had admired, I felt there was a place for ass-chewing when it came to motivating people and considered ass-chewing a kind of art. So I worked in the medium whenever I thought it would help; and by “help” I mean help get students going or cut off the kinds of misbehavior that led to far more serious troubles in the end. (I explain this all in my book.)

On at least one occasion, however, ass chewing backfired and that meant it was a mistake. (Some educators might argue it always is. I leave that for wiser heads to debate.)

In the case of F. G., a student in one of my gifted classes, it was definitely a mistake. Like many gifted children, he appeared unmotivated at first glance, at second, and at third. He and I talked repeatedly about getting his work done. I liked F. G., too, but the work he did turn in was incredibly sloppy and incomplete. At some point I questioned him sternly about lack of effort. 

I found out later he took offense. 

Not realizing, I soon got on him again. Finally, I called home. His step mother answered. She liked the boy, she said (he was mild-mannered and capable of hysterical comments at any time), but she couldn’t believe how disorganized he was. His room was “filthy,” “just unbelievable,” she explained. “It looks like he’s a barbarian or something.” 

The boy’s father had blown up repeatedly, she continued. You couldn’t see the furniture in the room under heaps of dirty clothes and toys and junk. Finally, they took away his bed and dresser and chair till he agreed to clean up his room. 

He didn’t clean up, though. Passive aggression was more his style. 

He slept in a sleeping bag and kept piling up junk. 

I realized then that chewing him out wasn’t doing any good. In fact, this approach was exacerbating the problem. In later years, as I became more adept in the subtleties of working with teens, I might have recognized the problem earlier and adopted a fresh approach.

Again: I was young.

Still, in working with a 150 kids ever year, you can’t avoid making mistakes. A third example—this one near the end of my career—involved a project turned in by one of my better students. (I mean “better” in terms of work. I liked or loved all but half a dozen of the 5,000 teens I taught. In fact, I think that’s the only mindset a teacher should have. I think you have to work on it; I think you have to try to like all the kids.

The project in this case, a game of some sort, was terrible. Even a brief perusal made it clear the work was rushed and the results incredibly sloppy. I took the young man gently aside and told him he’d have to fix it or start over. 

This questioning of the quality was not my mistake. The project was terrible. But the next day, after he told me he planned to start over, and thinking no one would know whose work it was, I showed his game to a class later in the day, as an example of what not to do. As always, my message was simple. We must all work hard to produce quality work. 

The project, in my mind, was a prop, to make my point to this particular class. I knew it was going into the garbage, regardless. So I bent it double and stuck it in the trash. 

It turned out some of game maker’s friends were seated before me and had seen his project on the bus to school. They knew whose it was and told him about the fate of his work on the ride home that day. The game-maker was humiliated. 

I had held his project up as an example of what not to do.

The boy’s mother contacted me as soon as she found out and told me, perhaps more politely than I really deserved, that I had made a mistake. She could have chewed my butt. I knew at once that she was correct.

I offered to apologize in front of her sons class. 

I offered to apologize in front of his class and the class where I trashed the game. 

I said I’d be happy to apologize directly to him. 

I offered to apologize to all of my classes. 

Mom felt this might compound the boy’s embarrassment. And she said he would be angry if he knew she called me to intercede

I told her I’d say I heard about the problem from one of his friends and promised to take him aside the next day and apologize in that way

And I did.

A fourth example of the kind of blunders I committedand I think its safe to say all teachers make their own brand of mistakes—should suffice. Generally speaking, I got huge mileage out of a humorous approach in the classroom. This included using comical essays when it came to minor matters of discipline (also explained in my book). I also used to tease students, particularly ones I liked, and especially those who could give it right back.

I never once meant to offend.

I don’t believe a teacher ever has a right to insult a child. I don’t believe sarcasm directed at students has any place in a classroom. So, if I teased a kid I liked, I was watchful for any expression or hint my jokes struck the wrong spot

One year, I fell into the habit of teasing Kate whenever the subject of women’s rights came up. Kate was one of my most talented students, possessor of a superior intellect, \a thoroughly likeable young lady in ever respect.

So I used her as an example—employing what I thought was obvious sarcasm, in regard to the historical mistreatment of women. Talking about the endless battles Susan B. Anthony fought to win the right to vote for women, I might say in effect: “Oh course, Kate, you realize women do belong in the kitchen.”

I suspected Kate was going to end up in medical school—and had no doubt she could do whatever she set heart and hand to do in the future.

I thought the juxtaposition of ideas—the absurdity that women should have been limited in any way—that Kate, herself, was so talented—was clear. Certainly, Kate never complained. 

Her manners were probably too good. 

At the end of the year, however, when she filled out an anonymous survey I always used, she let me know how she truly felt. I wanted teens to answer questions about my class honestly, to tell me what they thought, and set it up, as best I could, so I wouldn’t know whose answers were whose. But seated at my desk, trying not to look over anyone’s shoulder or see their responses, I noticed Kate was using a green marker and writing on a yellow legal pad when she marked down A, B, C or D answers.

Students were allowed to add any comments they might care at the end. So Kate wrote a paragraph, saying her feelings had been hurt.

How did I know it was her?

Only one sheet of yellow legal paper with green responses was turned in that year.

My inclination was to apologize as soon as I read her comments, after her class went to lunch. I would have hunted her up and apologized on the spot.

Still, I always encouraged students to be honest about my class and promised never to question anyone who complained.

I was afraid she might feel I was putting her on the spot.

I gave the survey as close as possible to the end of the year. So, for the next two or three days, before summer vacation, I gave her the space I thought she might need; and I can only say I made damn sure in years to follow I was careful in discussing women’s rights.

Finally, after Kate had gone on to high school, I wrote her a note of apology—which was the least I could do.

If she’s not a doctor today or using her impressive talents in some challenging career, I’d be very much surprised.

Kate: again, I apologize to you.

In the "good old days" this kind of statement could actually fly.
In my mind it was always ludicrous that this was true.

"Stupid Essays" as a Creative Punishment

A few examples of what I always referred to as “stupid essays” in my class will have to do. (I have more I could offer, but you can read more in my book.) Angie got in trouble one day for some minor infraction. So I told her to write 150 words on this subject: “I Collect Belly Button Lint for a Hobby.” 

Angie didn’t stop at 150 words. She was a collector in the truest sense and her essay filled five pages! She had lint from actors, from every president in the last twenty years, and dreamed of finding the Holy Grail of belly button lint—from the button of Elvis Presley (assuming Elvis was still alive). 

In most cases, the punishment topic fit the “crime.” One day, Rob came flying through my door, with best friend in hot pursuit. Before I could tell them to slow down, Rob tripped on his feet and somersaulted across the front of the room. (My desk was in the rear.)

He dusted himself off without injury, but I made both young men write about their lives as “The Human Cannonball.” 

Wendy R. (a straight-A student) had to write after laughing too often and disturbing my class. I forget the exact title but remember she pinpointed her friend Wendy M. (also a straight-A student) and all her friend’s own laughter as the fount of her difficulties in my class. “At times,” Wendy R. protested, “Wendy’s nostrils will go in and out as if they were controlled by a motor.”

So how could she not laugh?

I loved the creativity represented by that kind of line and used all kinds of stupid essays for more than thirty years.

Max was another student who talked a little bit too much to friends during class. So I had him write about having a giant tongue. In his essay he called Landen, the friend who lured him into sin, to inform him of his tragic condition. The essay followed the conventions of a popular Budweiser beer advertisement of that time.

Here’s part of the essay he turned in:

“Hello.” [Landen answers.]


“Hey, man. I would finish the lines in the commercial but I just gotta ask. What’s wrong with your voice?”

“Miy tung.”


“Miy tung iz big,” I said angrily.

“Oh, I see.

“Wat sod I du?”

“Gee, got me.”

“Tanks, yor no hep.” Then I hung up…..

One last example of how stupid essays worked probably deserves special mention.One day a young man got in trouble for talking during detention. I told him to write “My Life as a Cucumber.” 

The story he turned in the following day began: “I started out the first part of my life in a little cold plastic bag. The bag sat on a shelf in the store, for a long time before some one decided to buy the bag of seeds.”

This essay is not particularly funny, but carried the name of the author, Brian ------. 

Only Brian’s handwriting seemed surprisingly good. Normally, his writing was an atrocious scrawl. 

I still have my notes describing what transpired next: 

“Caught Brian ------ lying today because his mother wrote his punishment essay. When I asked him about it Brian said:

1) He wrote it and she corrected it.

2) No, she wrote part of it.

3) Okay; she wrote it all.”

I had to call Mrs. ------ that evening and she offered lame defense: “I don’t see anything wrong with a mother helping a child.” 

“Nor do I,” I responded. “But you weren’t helping. You did the entire essay for him and let him off his punishment.” 

I told her Brian would have to write a different essay entirely; but if it had been in my power I would have given her a topic all her own to complete: “What Happens to a Boy when Mom is an Enabler?”

That would have been fun to read.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Teaching Geography to Donald Trump

I know people like to blame public schools for the problems of the nation. Kids can’t multiply. Can’t read.

Can’t whittle.

I’ve argued before that this story of failing public schools is a myth. But for now, we can put the matter aside.

When it comes to Donald Trump and geography, he’s a product of private schools. So don’t blame the public schools. 

I taught American history, myself, and always stressed to students that there are two sides (or more) to any story. So I understand why some people like the message Mr. Trump is trying to sell. 

I even agree in part. I agree that the War in Iraq was a huge mistake. 

I agree the GOP establishment has ignored the needs and concerns of the average American worker. 

I agree there’s way too much money in politics. In fact, for all those reasons, I’ve been voting for Democrats, almost exclusively, since 2004. 

Still, I would never vote for Mr. Trump in the proverbial million years. Let’s start with the matter of geography, first. Mr. Trump, this is Indiana:

Indiana is lodged between Ohio and Illinois. If you get in a limo and have your chauffeur head west from New York City you will find it in 650 miles.

Anyway, Indiana is, for all intents and purposes, part of the United States. You would have to drive many more miles, and turn southwest, to hit Mexico. And did you know not all Mexicans are rapists? You did not? 

Well, it’s true.

Mexico is a foreign country. Indiana is what we here in the Midwest refer to as “a state.” I was born and raised in Ohio, Mr. Trump. So I am a “Buckeye.” Since I was born in Ohio, I am a citizen of the United States. Remember John Kasich? One of those guys who ran against you for the GOP nomination for president? He’s our governor. And since I was born in this country I am an American.

True, my ancestors were Irish. Back in the day, did you know many native-born Americans didn’t like my ancestors—didn’t like their religion, not one bit. (It reminds me of your position in regard to Muslims; but that is a question for later.) The Irish were loyal to the Pope, their enemies claimed, not the U. S. Constitution.  “No Irish need apply,” job advertisements read. There were violent protests too. A Catholic church in Boston was blown to bits. A priest in Maine was tarred and feathered. In 1855 an anti-immigrant riot in Louisville, Kentucky, aimed at Irish and Germans, left 22 dead.

That’s another topic we need to talk about, sir, with both you and many of your followers: the right to protest. 

Did you know that that right is protected by the First Amendment?

Yes, there are more amendments than you seem to realize. There’s the First. Then there’s the Second, the one you seem (lately, at least) to dearly love. The Fifth is cool, too; the Fourteenth, and so forth.

No one cares about the Twelfth anymore. So you can ignore that one, I would think.

Anyway, the right to protest—against you, against Mrs. Clinton, against any of our leaders—it’s all good, unless violence is involved.

I can hold up a sign reading:

I cannot, however, use said sign to bash your supporters on the head. The people who attacked your fans in San Jose, California were clearly wrong. I hope many of them get arrested and spend Election Day in jail.

Maybe they can vote absentee.

One reason I could never vote for you is your support of violence to suppress peaceful protest. Yes, some of the people who have disrupted your rallies are annoying; and, yes, you have every right to be heard. But when that guy sucker-punched a black man being led out of one of your rallies and later said, “Next time time, maybe we’ll have to kill him”—and you said you might pay his legal bills?

I thought I sniffed a whiff of fascism.

By the way, Mr. Trump, I would urge you to be a bit more skillful and not get your “ism’s” confused. You are correct when you identify Senator Sanders as a “socialist.” He believes in socialism.

Unfortunately, you labeled him a “communist.” Communism is not the same as socialism. You can have one of your aides look it up. In fact, communist leaders have often jailed or executed socialists.

Hitler did, too.

I know. It gets confusing at times—especially when the Nazi Party was, in name, at least, a socialist party.

Not really the same.

We’ll get back to geography in a moment, sir. I know you’re a busy man, what with all that Tweeting you do.

But you also worry me when you talk about using waterboarding and worse and toss out the idea of “torture” in cavalier fashion. You know who was good at torture? Well, Hitler. The Spanish during the Inquisition. Saddam. (Remember when you said he was good at getting rid of terrorists? He was actually really good at getting rid of anyone he did not like.) You can get people to admit anything if you torture them enough. Torture Senator Cruz and that poor schlub would admit to being a member of ISIS. So: check out the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments when you have a moment.

The U. S. Constitution takes a strong stand against “cruel and unusual punishments,” I can assure you that.

And you know the Muslims—that entire people you so happily vilify? Remember that First Amendment I mentioned? It’s right there, in front of the Second. Well, it guarantees freedom of religion for all! 

Even Muslims! I know you and many of your most brilliant supporters might find that hard to believe; but it’s true.

In fact, did you realize that under the U. S. Constitution no religious test for office can ever be required?

Those Founding Fathers! What wisdom they showed. Sure. They were dicey when it came to equal rights for blacks and women—but on religion, they were great. Anyway, that means if President Obama was a Muslimand for some reason many of your supporters insist he ishe’d be qualified to run for and hold any office in this land.

And while I’m on that topic, do you remember when Fox News tarred Obama for membership in the church of Reverend Wright? (Say what you want about Reverend Wright; but he was indubitably minister of the Trinity United Church of Christ—and Mr. Obama was clearly going to a Christian church—and so he couldn’t be a Muslim—and it would be stupid to think he was—and it wouldn’t matter, legally or morally, if he was—not if he swore to uphold the U. S. Constitution—which he didand which is all the Founding Fathers ever required.) Anyway, I know all of this may befuddle your adherents and I know a steady diet of Fox News won’t help. But here’s another nugget of history for you to nibble. You can’t be a Muslim and a communist—although many on the crazy right have claimed Mr. Obama is both. You see, communists hate all religions. Jews? Hate them. Episcopalians? Hate them too.

Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs?

Yep. All of them.

So. Back to geography, where we started. Remember President Obama, his birth certificate and all?

Guess what! Hawaii is not part of Kenya! 

Hawaii is a state!

And, even if President Obama had been born in Kenya he could still take a seat in the Oval Office. The citizenship of a child is based on the citizenship of his or her parents. For example, a child born to a member of the U. S. military—say a 28-year-old recently returned from her tour with the U. S. Air Force in Afghanistan, now stationed in Ramstein, Germany—would be an American citizen even if delivered on that base. Even if that soldier was a Muslim, as many in our armed forces are.

Born on an ocean liner in the middle of the Pacific? Same deal. Born on an airplane flying over Kenya. Or Hawaii. Or outer space. Still the same. The child’s parent/parents’ citizenship determines their citizenship. So: I’m a citizen. You’re a citizen. Mrs. Trump—I mean the third and current Mrs. Trump—was able to become a citizen after she waited a few years. My Irish ancestors, good Catholics all, and good Americans in the end, were allowed to become citizens, too.

This is a great nation in that regard. You might have noticed that statue in the harbor. Statue of Liberty, it’s called.

Did you know people have been willing to die for our freedoms for 250 years? So, we come full circle to that “Mexican” judge you breezily insulted. What a funny un-American name: Gonzalo Curiel. He’s probably a rapist.

Ha, ha. I’m messing with you, sir.

Actually, because he was born in Indiana, he’s an American. Just like you. Just like President Obama.


Oh yeah, did you know, in 1970, Raul, the judge’s brother, served a tour in Vietnam? Have you ever been to Vietnam? As I understand it, you have not. You missed your chance to make the military great, back when you could have done your part. 

I think your feet hurt or something.

Yeah, you can be a good American even if you have Mexican roots, or if, like Senator John McCain, you were born in the Panama Canal Zone.

You know Senator McCain, the man you said was not a hero? When your feet hurt too much to serve your country, his entire body was hurting because he was being tortured in a North Vietnam prison.

That word, again. Torture. Only countries run by scum use torture today.

Go figure, Mr. Trump. 

I hope you learned a little, sir, by reading this. You seem a little fuzzy when it comes to American values, if you ask me.


(Mr. Trump was the leader of the birther movement for many years; but now he finally understands: Hawaii is part of America.