Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't abolish teacher tenure By Donna Brazile

(CNN) -- Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," and coupled with the blurb, "It's nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that."
The cover is a slap in the face to every teacher who has dedicated his or her life to bettering the lives of children. Right now, we should be lifting up and championing educators. The last thing we should be doing is discouraging or dampening the enthusiasm of a new generation.
Worse, the Time story gives sloppy credence to the well-funded, well-orchestrated attacks from a small cadre of wealthy business interests, many of whom have never even set foot in a classroom. These attacks on public education, educators and neighborhood schools have unfortunately become the norm. It's gone too far. Enough is enough.
Due process policies such as tenure are put in place to protect good teachers from being fired without cause. They aren't there to protect "bad" teachers. In fact, research from economist Jesse Rothstein suggests removing tenure might worsen educational outcomes because it would eliminate one of the major attractions to the profession. And since one of the biggest challenges in public education these days is teacher retention and recruitment, abolishing tenure could be incredibly harmful.
Recently, Democrats for Public Education was formed to show that Democrats remain united around a core set of principles. As a co-chair, I've seen how in just two months after officially launching, scores of elected officials, activists and party leaders in all 50 states have signed up to join our organization as supporters. They understand it's time we collectively push back against efforts to undermine our schools, our teachers and the children themselves.
DPE conducted a poll with Harstad Strategic Research, a Colorado-based firm that worked on President Barack Obama's historic 2008 election and 2012 re-election. The poll shows voters support public education in resoundingly large numbers. Roughly two thirds of Americans agree with traditionally Democratic positions when it comes to education.
I've seen an awful lot of polling through the years. And there isn't a profession out there that wouldn't love to have the kind of favorability numbers enjoyed by local public schools and teachers in this survey.
Moreover, any campaign manager would give his or her eye teeth for their candidate to have these results and engender these warm feelings among the masses. Contrary to what some naysayers -- and magazine covers -- continue to hawk, the American people are proud of their public schools. And they're proud of their teachers, too.
Overall, 82% of voters able to rate their local teachers believe them to be excellent, very good or good. So, even though we've seen lawsuits from California to New York scapegoating "bad teachers," the divisive views espoused by Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee simply aren't rooted in public opinion.


Kurdish women a force to be reckoned with for ISIS By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz

Derik, Kurdish-controlled northern Syria (CNN) -- Don't be fooled by the pretty songs they sing in their downtime -- these women are among ISIS' most deadly enemies.
Brandishing Kalashnikov assault rifles and wearing military fatigues, the women perform military parade drills at a memorial ceremony for slain fighters in a dusty lot in northern Syria.
"Our martyrs do not die. They live on in memory!" their Kurdish commander, dressed in green camouflage and wearing a pistol on her belt, declares as the scores of uniformed female militants stand at attention.
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG), they have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the ground for more than a year.
They are fighting and bleeding on the front lines of the battle to keep the terror group out of Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria -- and to keep this Kurdish movement's ideology, which was founded partly on a pillar of gender equality, intact.
"We as women defend and protect our people," said Hadiye Yusuf, the female co-president of the largest of the three Kurdish enclaves in northern Syria, in an address at the memorial ceremony.
"We carry weapons to protect our homes and avoid becoming slaves of ISIS," she added.
The fiercely secular YPG stands in sharp contrast to its bitter enemy, which has kidnapped thousands of women and hid them from public life in the areas that they control -- a chilling reminder of what could await Kurdish women if the war against ISIS is lost.
Assistance from the U.S.
It was only recently that the YPG started to receive help from the United States in the form of weapons drops and airstrikes designed to blunt the advance of ISIS, which now controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The much-needed aid was a surprising turn of events for the YPG -- a group that includes many fighters who have long battled Turkey, a key partner in the American-led NATO alliance.
But it wasn't until jihadist militants mounted a relentless siege of Kobani, the Syrian border town within sight of international television cameras, that much of the world realized ethnic Kurds were an effective fighting force within Syria.
'Statelets' within a country
As much of the rest of Syria ripped itself apart in a vicious civil war, Syria's Kurdish minority spent three years quietly building a series of mini-states in the north of the country.
They refer to these three enclaves as Rojava. Until recently, some outside observers saw them as something of a success.
"They tried to run them as pretty autonomous statelets that were actually rather admirable in some ways. They included many different ethnic groups, faith groups, and they tried to be inclusive," said Hugh Pope, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a conflict mediation organization.
Bulletins pasted on walls on the streets of one Kurdish-controlled town urge business owners to post signs in the three official languages of Rojava: Kurdish, Arabic, and Syriac -- an ancient Christian language spoken in the Middle East for nearly 2,000 years.
"The municipality will help in preparation and translation," said the bulletins, printed by the municipality of Derik. "Our language is our identity, our history, our existence and our dignity."


TIME: Apologize to teachers

I just want to say that I am very unhappy with the recent attacks made on educators!  I am an educator and I feel very unhappy about how the Koch brothers and Teach For America are spending millions of dollars trying to undermine the accomplishments of public education and public school educators.  I just want to give a real special shout out to all of my fellow educators! We are responsible for future! Take your jobs seriously and represent! We know what it is that we do and how good we are at it! Show and prove people!

Here is proof:

Time magazine's latest cover blames teachers for the problems in America’s schools.
This outrageous cover doesn’t even reflect Time's own reporting. While the cover article looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of the wealthy sponsors of anti-tenure lawsuits.

The articles inside the magazine present more balanced view of the issues. But for millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover and a misleading attack on teachers. Our educators deserve better treatment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Within black families, hard truths told to sons amid Ferguson unrest By Michael Martinez, Stephanie Elam and Erica Henry,

CNN) -- From parent to son, uncle to nephew, grandparent to grandson, there's a raw, private conversation being re-energized in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
It's an intimate lecture that most Americans won't know, but parents like Kelli Knox of Southern California know it too well because it begins the loss of their children's innocence and exposes them to a painful national truth that's increasingly become a matter of life or death.
As challenging as parenting is, black families in particular are assuming more burdens: At kitchen tables and in living rooms, they hold honest talks with their boys about how life can be different for them and what they ought -- and ought not -- to do in public, especially near police.
Think twice about wearing a hoodie. Pull up your pants. Shut your mouth around police. Swallow your pride. Don't drive with more than three friends. And keep your hands where they can be seen.
These are just a few examples of the rules that parents tell their young black sons -- and sometimes daughters -- about how to stay safe. Though stark and blunt, the admonishments follow a trend of violence that touches upon the most fiery issue in America: race.
The 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 2013 police shooting of a North Carolina man who was apparently seeking only help and this week's riots against Ferguson police -- these sensational cases all involve shooting victims who were unarmed, young black men.
"I've had this conversation with my son since middle school on how to behave," said Knox, 46, of Inglewood, California. "When the police come, this is what you do. This is how you speak to them. Do not get into a power struggle. Listen to them. If they are trying to give you a ticket, get the ticket. Because it's not worth it. It's just not worth it."
A 'sad' day and time
Whether at reunions, picnics, or the mall, families and friends make it a point to apprise sons, nephews or grandsons of what Knox calls "the rules of engagement" for young black men when they encounter police or other figures of authorities.
Robert Spicer tells his eldest child, Crishawn, 15, to be aware of even how he dresses.
"I stress to him his appearance is important, the way he conducts himself, the way he talks to people," said Spicer, 44, a tow truck driver who lives Los Angeles.
His wife, Lashon, 42, said the California couple worry about their four children every day.
"You don't know what's going to happen between dropping them off and them coming home," she said.
To read more, click on the following link: