Tzimmes and borscht.


Machu Picchu tour guide, Beto.

“That’s mixing tzimmes with borscht,” my mom used to say. Yiddish for apples and oranges.

Long posts have become difficult now that I’m back teaching.

95 students today.

Yes, my think-tank friends. Some of us with views on education actually teach children. In a classroom no less.

So, this is my “tzimmes and borscht” posting. A bunch of disconnected items.

The picture at the top is Beto.

He was our guide to Machu Picchu in the summer of 2006. With reports today that a deal has been reached between the government of Peru and Yale University on the ownership of artifacts and art that were taken by Yale professor, and what they used to call “adventurer,” Hiram Bingham, my thoughts went back to what Beto had to say.

“What do the Peruvians think of Bingham,” I asked?

“Well, on the one hand, they appreciate the fact that he brought to the attention of the rest of the world the great things that the people of the Andes were able to do 1500 years ago. On the other hand, he was a thief and a looter. He didn’t even give everything he stole to Yale. You think he didn’t keep the really good stuff for himself?”

Tuscaloosa and NCLB.

Sam Dillon’s story on resegregating Tuscaloosa schools suggest’s that NCLB is a remedy. But each family, individually, would have to request a transfer from a low-performing segregated predominantly black school to the newly redistricted white schools.

Leo beat me to the punch. And that’s OK.

I went looking for the same thing as Leo Casey when Democrats for Education Reform blogger, Joe “sourpuss” Williams claimed the farmworkers supported NCLB. Leo busted Joe good. This is in addition to Williams repeating the already discredited big lie that UFW leader, Cesar Chavez, was kept silent on education issues by an AFL-CIO bribe.

Is there a point?

Can someone at Educator Roundtable, or Philip Kovacs in particular, give an explanation for reprinting a 24 year old report and a one sentence remark of approval from the NEA of something in it? Is there a point you are trying to make? Context? Anything? Should we just guess?

Well, it’s better than nothing.

Ed Sector thinker, Andy Rotherham wants us to read an exchange he had with Randi Weingarten. He says if we read it we will see the real Andy and not the caricature. So, I read it.:

I could give a bombastic
one, blaming the teachers unions for
all the various problems that face public
education – for refusal to change, inflexible
defense of an unworkable status quo,
and so forth. That one would make the
critics swoon, but it wouldn’t be honest,
because the teachers unions are not the
root cause of our educational challenges.
In fact, many aspects of teacher contracts
that we’ll discuss at this conference are
really symptoms of the larger problems
we’re facing in public education today.

Thank God, Andy doesn’t think we’re the problem. We’re only the symptom.

Who needs a caricature when you have the real thing.

Pulling my hair out: Staff development.


The first day of school was August 20th. It was an Institute Day. The lounge question after an Institute Day or Staff Development Day (another is coming up in October) is why are they always so bad?

Scott McLeod, on Tech Learning asks that same question.

But I have to say that as teachers we can be our worst enemies on this. I read the evaluations that come back and there is a major disconnect between what is said on the evaluations and what is said in the privacy of the lounge and hallways.

Three over coffee.

It was in the fifties this morning, but it was sunny. So if I sat in the sun and wore a sweatshirt, I could still have my coffee outside. Division Street looked sweet.

  • Thousands of anti-war protesters marched through Washington today. There was some confrontations with the D.C. cops. The NY Times reported that Army veteran Justin Cliburn, 25, of Lawton, Okla., was among a contingent of Iraq veterans in attendance. ”We’re occupying a people who do not want us there,” Cliburn said of Iraq. ”We’re here to show that it isn’t just a bunch of old hippies from the 60s who are against this war.” Well maybe not all are a bunch of old hippies from the 60s, but some of us are.
  • Oh, man! You’re kidding. The Nation is printing this:

    According to Bob Woodward’s Washington Post cover story about Greenspan’s forthcoming memoir, to be published this Monday, the former Fed Chair writes: “The Iraq war is largely about oil.”

  • It’s the 40th anniversary of the death of Otis Redding.

Oh I’ve been loving you a little too long
I don’t wanna stop now.
Oh with you my life
Has been so wonderful
I can’t stop now.

Jena Six conviction overturned.


Black students couldn’t sit under the tree.

With thousands of protesters planning to march on Jena, Louisiana on Thursday, the state appeals court vacated the conviction of one of the six black students who had been charged with murder. Louisiana’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, ruled that the Mychal Bell had been tried improperly as an adult in the case.

The remaining five students were not tried as adults.

What passes for the local excuse of a district attorney, Reed Walters, contended at Bell’s trial that the tennis shoes Bell was wearing constituted a dangerous weapon.

Read Marian Wright Edelman’s essay here.

There was an NEA member from every district.

To those who have complained that the NEA “suits” in DC have sold out their membership on NCLB, check out David Hoff’s blog at Edweek. Hoff covers the NCLB hearings.

The union had at least one of its members from every congressional district represented on the Education and Labor Committee. The union brigade stood out with their red-and-white stickers that said: “A Child is More Than a Test Score.” I saw them talking to several members of the committee in the hallway.

Keep the wonks and politicians out of our bargaining.


Reg warns Congress to stay away from our collective bargaining process.

As I was listening to Jonathan Kozol last night at Rockefeller Chapel, I realized why, although he is nothing if not a decent and civil man, he is brings out the most hateful words from the education policy wonkers. He asks what is really a simple question. Have these people who write long policy position papers and pass regressive and bureaucratic laws that impact teachers and kids, ever spent a day in a classroom?

And so you read the wonkers’ debates about “multiple measures” last week, and “comparability” this week, and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry by their arrogance and presumptuousness.

Kozol brought the audience to laughter when he derided the wonkers for never using a one syllable word when they can use a three syllable one. He pointed to their use of the term, “proficiency,” when all of us would have simply said, “skill.”

So, today their pomposity is directed at the term, “comparability.” For the rest of us, that means “pay.” Wonker Andy argues this. Committee President Kate argues that.

But here’s what Reg Weaver, NEA President said to Congressman George Miller’s Education Committee:

We are gravely disappointed that the Committee has released language in Title I and Title II that undermines educators’ collective bargaining rights. This is an unprecedented attack on a particular segment of the labor community — the nation’s educators. Time and time again, our members in bargaining states don’t simply negotiate about money, they negotiate about the very conditions that impact teaching AND learning. In almost every circumstance, those conditions — class sizes, professional development, collaborative planning time to name just a few — have a direct impact on students.

Finally, let me address a point about which there should be no mistake. NEA cannot support federal programs — voluntary or not — that mandate pay for test scores as an element of any federal program. Teachers aren’t hired by the federal government; they are hired by school districts. As such, the terms and conditions of their employment must be negotiated between school districts and their employees. To attempt to enact any federal program that mandates a particular evaluation or compensation term of a contract would be an unprecedented infringement upon collective bargaining rights and protections. This is offensive and disrespectful to educators.

So, Andy may have influential friends in high places. He may have served on this advisory committee or that blue ribbon panel. Kate somehow gets to be an expert on teachers.

But Reg was for years a teacher in a classroom. He’s from Harvey, Illinois. Don’t mess.