Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers #4.


Matt Farmer joins us in-studio on Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers.

This week’s edition of Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers was jam packed.

Plus we got ambushed by some brief technical noise. It was obviously caused by The Man trying to silence us.

No way that was going to work.

The first half hour consisted of our usual look back at the week with a discussion of Mike’s blog posts about Betsy DeVos and Florida charters.

We were then joined in-studio by Matt Farmer who talked about his life as a lawyer and a street busker.

Plus we were honored with two of his recent Trump-centered songs, the most recent being Alternative Facts.

Most of the second half of the show consisted of an interview with Yonatan Shipira, a former Israeli helicopter pilot turned peace activist and artist.

Next week we have as our guest Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union.

This morning students at Swarthmore College are sitting-in, demanding that the administration divest in fossil fuel.

Swarthmore students protest. Vietnam in the 70s. South African apartheid in the 80s. Today, for the environment.

Dear Anne Lowry,

Despite the landslide victory in the referendum earlier this week and the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, the Board and administration have refused to engage with students on divestment. A few hours after the referendum results were announced, President Smith and Board Chair Spock emailed the campus reiterating the Board’s 2015 decision not to divest, citing the College’s investment guidelines adopted after it divested from apartheid South Africa in 1991 that the “Investment Committee manages the endowment to yield the best long term financial results, rather than to pursue other social objectives.”

We are deeply disappointed that the Board refuses to engage with the student body on this important issue. That is why, tomorrow (2/24), students are staging a sit-in to hold the Board accountable and to demand that it take students’ voices seriously.

Will you join us tomorrow in demanding accountability and action from the Board? Attached are detailed instructions for how you can help by calling and emailing the administration while students sit-in on campus.

This is not the first time that students have gotten a “no” from the Board. The anti-apartheid divestment campaign spanned eleven long years: eleven years of being ignored, sidestepped, and rejected by the Board. Despite the Board rejecting divestment four times, students and faculty persisted, taking increasingly escalated action, and in 1989 the Board committed to a plan to divest from apartheid.

Due to student and faculty efforts, the Board stood on the right side of history. Now, as the Trump administration partners with the fossil fuel industry to push disastrous climate policies that threaten millions of people and our futures, we need our Board to take a stand for justice once again. And we are confident that if we stand together as a community, we will win. 

Will you join us in sending this powerful message to the Board by calling and emailing tomorrow?


Abby Saul ’19 and September Porras ’20

81% of AFSCME Illinois state workers vote for strike authorization.


From AFSCME 31.

In the first-ever strike authorization vote in Illinois state government, an 81 percent majority of the members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 have voted to give their union bargaining committee the authority to call a strike.

The vote comes after Governor Bruce Rauner broke off negotiations with the union more than a year ago and has refused to even meet with the AFSCME bargaining committee ever since.

“We have come to this juncture for one reason only: The refusal of Governor Rauner to negotiate with our union,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

Instead of working toward compromise, Governor Rauner has been seeking the power to unilaterally impose his own extreme demands, including a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would take $10,000 out of the pocket of the average state worker, a four-year wage freeze and an end to safeguards against irresponsible privatization.

“Bruce Rauner may think he can dictate, not negotiate, but this vote shows that AFSCME members are determined to stand up for basic fairness,” Lynch said.

“I voted YES to authorize a strike because my family needs health care we can afford, because my community needs public services it can rely on, and because Governor Rauner needs to come back to the bargaining table,” said Stephen Mittons, a child protective investigator in the Illinois Department of Human Services in Chicago.

“As public service workers we are willing to do our part, but it can’t be Governor Rauner’s way or nothing at all,” said Nicole Power, an Illinois Department of Revenue employee in Springfield. “I can’t understand Bruce Rauner’s stubborn refusal to negotiate. He has to be willing to meet us in the middle.”

“We live in our communities, we care about our communities and we serve our communities,” said Steve Howerter, a counselor at Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. “We understand the situation the state is in money-wise, because we are taxpayers too. And so we are willing to do our part, but what we’re not willing to do is give up our voice.”

AFSCME Council 31 represents some 38,000 Illinois state employees who protect kids, care for veterans and the disabled, respond to emergencies, help struggling families and much more.

The vote to authorize the union bargaining committee to call a strike does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. The bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to chart its path, and pending litigation could also play a role.

“State workers don’t want to strike. We are keenly aware of the importance of the public services we provide, and we are willing to compromise,” AFSCME director Lynch said. “But if Governor Rauner continues to refuse his legal obligation to bargain in good faith, he risks a strike that would shut down state government, and he alone bears responsibility for the harm a strike would cause.”

A win for Illinois special education students. We’re not done yet. Contact your Illinois legislators now.


Illinois State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia.

– From Bev Johns

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia has drafted the Amendment to House Bill 2808 to maintain in Illinois law Special Education Personnel Reimbursement.

Please thank her (see below), and urge her to work to get her Amendment actually added to HB 2808.


Please call/email with this message:





(1) Immediately contact the Sponsors of House Bill 2808. 

State Representative Will Davis: 217-782-8197 708-799-7300

States Representative Robert Pritchard: 217-782-0425815-748-3494 bob@pritchardstaterep.com

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia: 217-558-1002 630-264-6855

(2) Please send an email to the Governor’s Secretary of Education, Beth Purvis, with a copy to Sara Shaw. beth.purvis@illinois.gov  Sara.Shaw@illinois.gov

An easy way to get the telephone numbers of your State Senator and State Representative is to send a TEXT message to 520-200-2223 (you will also get those for your U.S. Senators and Representative).(3) Call your own State Senator and State Representative.

The TEXT message must state ONLY your Zip Code (nothing else) such as 62650-2479 OR 62650.

Almost immediately you will get a text message.

Listen to Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers on the radio.

Data driving me crazy.

As an artist and retired art teacher I believe that classrooms, like all the built environment, should reflect good design principles.

But what are those?

A tweet by Michael Antonucci intrigued me.

Some of you may know Antonucci as a guy obsessed by teacher unions and a writer on the same topic. As you might guess, he is critical of the NEA. Not like I’m critical. I believe in the value of teacher unions. He thinks they are an assault on individual liberty. We have met a few times at NEA national meetings, which he covers for his web site and other outlets. I enjoyed our conversations even though we rarely agreed on the main stuff.

Antonucci rarely gets into teaching practice which is why I was intrigued by the tweet.

I went to the source.

Two researchers at Carnegie Mellon did a funded research study comparing test success in a sparsely decorated classroom as compared to highly decorated classroom.

Students did better in a sparsely decorated classroom.

You can see the picture of the sparsely decorated classroom in the video. It looks like a jail cell.

The study consisted of 24 kindergarten students divided into two groups. They were given a science lesson and then tested.

Jesus. Aren’t there rules about the humane treatment of subjects in a research study?

For the study, 24 kindergarten children were taught in laboratory classrooms for six science lessons on topics they were unfamiliar with. Three of these lessons were taught in a decoration-heavy  classroom, and three lessons were given in a spartan classroom.

The results showed that children learned in both classrooms but they learned more when the room was not heavily adorned. Children’s accuracy on test questions was higher in the sparse classroom (55 percent correct) than in the decorated classroom (42 percent correct).

I want to stop for a second and comment on the two researchers in the video. It appears that one of them has arranged her books on the shelf by color spectrum. I’m sorry. But even for someone advocating sparse classrooms for kindergarten students being taught science, arranging books on a shelf by color seems to be behavior that is a little obsessive.

I don’t want to even get too much into the issue of what conclusions can be drawn from a study of 24 kindergarten students.

I taught art to kindergarten students. Way more than 24 of them. They are snowflakes. No two are alike. Generalizing from a group of 24 is dangerous.

What if a study showed that after teaching science (whatever that  means) to a room of 40 kindergarten students who came from poor families, had no breakfast, walked a mile through a safe passage zone in sub-freezing weather, then scored lousy while in a room with peeling paint, no heat and no books.

I suppose that is a different design issue.

There is a telling remark by one of the researchers. She says that since we can’t do anything about the impact of poverty, teaching in a sparse classroom is something we can do to improve test scores.

I’m sorry, but why exactly can’t we do anything about poverty?

Now there’s a research question!

In doing research it is important to define the question properly.

These two researchers wanted to know whether a highly decorated classroom distracted 24 kindergarten students from performing well on a science test.

I think the question was whether a science test distracted 24 kindergarten students from looking at things that interested them.

Listen to Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers on the radio.