Sunday, December 27, 2009

Y2K+10 :: Resolved

4LAKids: Sunday 27•Dec•2009 ¡Happy New Year!
In This Issue:
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
4 LAKids on Twitter
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
At some point, while I was blathering on about something-or-another, someone accused me of being a moral voice.

It is not a mantle I meant to take up; I am happy to be a curmudgeon or even a gadfly. An optimistic cynic; a happy warrior with words taking on a very odd windmill. I do take delight in speaking truth to power – but it is my truth ...not to be confused with The Truth.

That said I am concerned with ethics as they are practiced and observed and ignored in this school district. Ethics, like democracy, is not a spectator sport.

You will read below of ethical relativism; over-prescribed/overindulged/overdosed ...with a pandemic of collateral damage as the unintended consequence. We do not teach our students values – or to value values - in our schools and homes and communities. We are pretending that not teaching ethics is somehow ethical: “Whose ethic's would we teach?” We are compounding that twisted logic by not practicing and/or modeling ethical behavior in those venues. Students aren't going to learn this stuff from the news or the popular media or on the playground.

It is not the End of Civilization as we know it that worries me; CAWKI is not a standard we should be all that proud of.

I AM AS LOST AS ANYONE ELSE IN THIS WILDERNESS, but I'm sharing forward two bits of someone-else's-thinking for The New Year.

The first, “LETTER TO A YOUNG ACTIVIST IN TROUBLED TIMES,” resonates within me – not as a Call to Arms or even to Action – but as a Resolution to be Resolute. It is a decidedly post-feminist voice, a Latina who speaks of cojones and ovarios and in metaphors of the sea so even gray old white men can get it.

Maybe throwing open the window and shouting that We're Mad As Hell and Not Going To Take It Anymore is a First Step.
Maybe the Second Step is to take up a can of Krylon and and spray-paint What Great Ships are Built For on our walls's not graffiti if it's your wall!

Maybe it's a Twelve Step Program.

A private sharing of the previous resolution prompted the sharing with me of the second: THERE'S ONLY ETHICS.

the truth that the Ethics of the 20th Century will not serve us for 21st is Cartesian,
the division between Obedience to the Unenforceable vs. Obedience to the Enforceable cries out to us from the Nineteenth Century. What we do not learn we are doomed to repeat. What's past is prolix.

Next Friday ushers in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century and of the Third Millennium; that first ten years (The Aughts?) are behind us as unlamented as the Go-Go '90's and the Great Y2K Panic.

If you are looking for Something to be Resolved About for 2010 + Century XXI + Millennium III consider these.

Looking towards and beyond the horizon let us be resolute:

¡EverOnward/Hasta Adelante! - smf

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

Mis estimados:

Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.

I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for "good" in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas, "the new normal," the grotesquerie of the week. It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people's worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet ... I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is — we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised since childhood for this time precisely.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over — brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially ... we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered — can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally wounded selves.

Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say "fat chance," and "management before mercy," and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been to Hell and back on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are. Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, that smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs like "barely" are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.

In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile core — till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair — thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts — adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ... that is not what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth,

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.


Dr. Estés is a psychoanalyst; Member Hispanic Journalists; Post-trauma specialist and Storyteller. She is the author of Women Who Run With Wolves among other books.

by Rushworth M. Kidder

Ethics is not a luxury or an option. It is essential to our survival. To support that point, let me give you three assertions, two definitions, and one conclusion.

HERE IS THE FIRST ASSERTION: We will not survive the 21st century with the ethics of the 20th century.

Why do I say that? Well, a few years ago, in 1989, I discovered myself one Monday morning in March standing a few hundred yards from the wall of Reactor Number Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union. Looking back later, and checking the clips to see what else had been written on that subject, I discovered that I was probably the first western journalist ever to get that close to Chernobyl. I was taken there in the company of two members of an emergency response team who had come in right after the accident on April 26, 1986, to help clean up the mess. The fallout from that disaster was detected in every country in the world capable of sensing radioactivity in the atmosphere. The explosion and its aftermath killed thousands of Soviets.

Why did it happen? That night in 1986 there were two electrical engineers—not nuclear but electrical engineers—in charge of the control room. Perhaps the most charitable way to put it is that they were "fiddling around" with the reactors. They wanted to see what would happen as they performed an unauthorized experiment. According to Soviet accounts, they were trying to see how long the turbine would freewheel if they took the power off it. In order to take the power off, they had to shut down the reactor. To do that, they manually overrode six separate computer-driven alarm systems. Each system would come up and say, "Stop! Don't do this! Terribly dangerous!" But instead of shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms. When my friends got in there, they discovered there were valves padlocked in the open position so that they would not automatically shut down and turn off this experiment. That is how deliberate this whole thing was.

Now, the question this raises for me is, What was going on in the minds of those electrical engineers as they did that? Obviously, these were bright people. Jobs at Chernobyl are plum jobs, and they go to the equivalent of the Russian 4.0 grade-point average, the 800 on the SATs, the Phi Beta Kappas of the Soviet Union. These two knew what they were doing: If knowledge alone were all that mattered, they would have been doing fine.
So what went wrong? It seems to me that before they could have overridden a single computer alarm system, there must have been an ethical override. Somewhere the conscience had to shut down before the alarm systems could be turned off. They could not have been unaware of the possible consequences of what they were doing. What blew up Chernobyl was not a lack of knowledge. It was a lack of ethics.

That's a crucial point for the 21st century. There is no machine you could have put those engineers in front of in the 19th century and said, "Do the most amoral thing you can to this machine," that would have produced the damage of Chernobyl. Or, to change examples, what substance could you have loaded into the 19th century’s biggest ship, put a drunken captain in charge, and run it aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska to create the environmental damage the Exxon Valdez did? How in the 19th century could a private bank – a bank that helped to fund the Napoleonic wars, that still held deposits from the Queen of England – have been brought to bankruptcy in three weeks through the activities of a 29-year-old employee in Singapore who was trading derivatives on the Nikkei exchange and using fraudulent faxes to cover his horrendous losses?

How in the 19th century could a few young people in Manila have developed an intellectual creation – since that’s what a computer virus is – and launched it out into the world to do an estimated $10 billion (U.S.) in damage?

These stories – of Exxon Valdez, the Barings Bank, and the “I Love You” virus” – have something in common with Chernobyl. Each points to the way in which our technologies leverage our ethics in ways we never saw in the past. And that is a new phenomenon. Every managerial system, however large or small, rises in its structure to the apex of one or two decision-makers. What is going on in the conscience of those individuals directly determines the use of that system. So, however large and powerful the technologies, what governs them is the ethics of those in charge.

And make no mistake about it: The scale of our technology is increasing rapidly. In the 21st century, Chernobyl itself will be small potatoes indeed. Imagine the scale of our future technologies. Then imagine the ethical sophistication needed to manage them. There is a risk here that can be expressed very simply: We may not survive the 21st century with the ethics of the 20th century. Something significant has to change.

THAT BRINGS ME TO MY SECOND ASSERTION, which is that we are not in good shape to promote such change.

What's the reading on the nation's ethical barometer? Well, there are some good signs. When a McKenzie Quarterly survey in 1998 looked at what made bright young business students accept one job offer over another, “high compensation” was only a tiny part of the equation. The top reason, they found, was a desire to work where the “values and culture” of the organization are in good shape. And when the Gallup Organization asked the U.S. public to identify the “most important problem” facing the nation in 1999, “ethics, morality, and family values” came out at the very top – for the first time in the 50 years that Gallup has asked that question. In other words, there is increasing interest in the question of ethics, and increasing evidence of wanting stronger ethics.

But while we're interested in ethics, there is a serious concern about whether we're doing anything about it. That's especially evident as you look at our educational institutions. The 1998 annual survey by “Who’ s Who Among American High School Students” asked more than 3,000 of the nation’s best and brightest whether they cheated to pass exams. That year, after 29 years of asking the same question, a new record was set: 80 percent admitted to cheating on exams. Why? The top answer, given by 56 percent, was “competition for good grades.” But a nearly equal number (53 percent) said that cheating “didn’t seem like a big deal.” They simply didn’t understand the importance of ethics.
A survey a couple of years ago by the Pinnacle Group in Minnesota found that 59 percent of the high-school students surveyed would willingly face six months probation in order to do an illegal deal worth $10 million. Sixty-seven percent of them said, "Yes, I plan to inflate my expense account when I get out in the business world." Fifty percent would pad insurance claims. Sixty-six percent said they would lie to achieve a business objective.

Or look at a survey of almost 16,000 students at 31 top universities by Professor Donald McCabe of Rutgers University: 76 percent of those planning careers in business admitted to having cheated at least once on a test. Nineteen percent admitted to having cheated four or more times. In addition, 68 percent of future doctors, 63 percent of future lawyers, and 57 percent of future educators admitted to having cheated at least once.

You may think we are only talking about students. We're not. We are talking about America's middle managers in the year 2020—and about the CEOs, the senators and representatives, the heads of major nonprofits in the year 2030. We are talking about the people who are going to be piloting your airplanes while you sit back wondering, "Does this guy really know how to fly, or did he just fake his way through his exams?" We are talking about the people who are going to be managing your pension funds.

Is the fault with the kids? I don't think so.

There was a story reported in one of the New York newspapers a while ago about a ten-year-old child who found on the street a wallet full of money, full of credit cards, and full of identification. He reportedly took the wallet to school, where he could find no one—no teacher, no administrator—willing to tell him what was the right thing to do with that wallet. Essentially they all said, "Gee, I can't impose my values on you, kid. I mean, if I told you what to do, that would not be right. You have to sort it out for yourself—otherwise it's my ethics and not yours. Besides, you're poor and this guy is obviously rich. Your mother might be mad I told you to send the wallet back. No, you figure it out for yourself."

I once raised this example at the dinner table at a small liberal arts college in California, telling the story and asking the students what they thought. All of them, to a person, said, "Those teachers and those administrators were absolutely right. There was no way you should impose your values on that kid."

What's going on? Why do they feel this way? Why has our educational system delivered us into a situation where even the most fundamental concepts of honesty, responsibility, and respect for others are not being taught?

THAT QUESTION PROMPTS MY THIRD ASSERTION, WHICH IS SIMPLY THIS: The difficulty we are up against is what the philosophers describe as ethical relativism.

It is the notion that there are no absolutes, no common values, no core set of moral ideas out there that can be shared and understood. It is the notion that all ethics is situational, negotiable, fluid, intensely personal. Let me give you an example of where it surfaces: a school committee meeting. Let's say the board members get thinking about the big issues facing the world in the next century and how to shape an education system so the kids are best prepared. Pretty quickly someone realizes that we've been teaching kids mostly about the facts—of the environment, or of math, or of history. And they realize that that's good, but it's not enough—that we will not survive the next century without a better ethical sense. So someone proposes that we teach character and ethics. And no sooner is that said than somebody else in the back of the room stands up and says, "But whose ethics will you teach?" It's a question intended to squelch further discussion. What is behind it is this notion that there is no ethical commonalty—and that, if you dare to teach ethics, you are imposing your values on my kid, and I won't have it!
So let's examine this issue of ethical relativism further. That, after all, is the subtext of many of the arguments you will hear when you raise the question of ethics these days. Start talking about ethics, in fact, and oddly enough up pops the name of somebody who would be horrified to see himself used in this way: Albert Einstein. "See," people are fond of saying, "Einstein proved that everything is relative. There are no absolutes out there in the physical world. So how do you expect there to be absolutes in the moral realm? This is the 20th century: We no longer believe in absolutes and constants."

Well, the next time you run into your friendly neighborhood physicist, ask her what would happen if when she went into her laboratory tomorrow she said, "Okay, everything is relative. Today I think we will set the speed of light at sort of at . . . well, about here! And we'll say Planck's Constant is this, and Avogadro's number is that, and the acceleration due to gravity is right about here for today." Ask her how successful she's going to be in physics if she genuinely believes that Einstein was saying that all things are relative and that there are no constants.
Don't fall for that argument. There are constants in the physical realm. But are there any constants in the moral realm? A friend of mine who teaches at Stanford, when his students raise the issue of ethical relativism, says, "Okay, I am going to parachute you into some country, and you do not know where it is. When you get out of your parachute, walk up to the first person you see, take away what that person has, and run away with it. And see what happens." With the possible exception, he says, that you have landed in front of a Buddhist monk and taken away his begging bowl and he says, "Ah, that's karma!," you will have run squarely into property laws. We

summarize them in the Ten Commandments as, "Thou shalt not steal." But you will find them in any culture into which you drop.

It would appear, then, that there is at least one universal moral element out there: Culture by culture, people by people, there is profound agreement that stealing is wrong. That constitutes, it seems, at least one solid piece of ethical common ground. Yet much of the so-called "ethics" taught in the last 30 years was done in ignorance of this apparent fact. It was done under a regime described by educators as "values neutral education." The teacher, in this regime, is supposed to have no particular point of view—to be a sort of moral blob who leads the students into "clarifying" their own values without in any way suggesting that there are sets of values that the teacher himself or herself holds and operates under or that are widely accepted as standards. The fact that we have produced an educational system in which our teachers have regularly been told that it is not correct for them to take a stand on some of those fundamental moral principles suggests the depth of the problem we are facing. Yet all is not lost. I remember talking to a fifth-grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She had shown her students a video tape of the news coverage of the riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles in 1992. When she asked her students how many of them would have broken into stores and stolen stuff if they had been there, every hand went up.

She was taken aback, but she used that moment to engage them in what she felt was a really good discussion of property rights, respect for others, and the Golden Rule. But the point of the story, as she was telling me, was the comment she made later to her principal. She told him that she was so grateful that her school had a character education program that allowed her to talk about values in the classroom – a program that had just been launched, after full discussion with the community, the year before. Why did that matter? Because, as she said to him, “If this had happened in my classroom last year, the only thing I would have dared to say would have been, “Well, kids, if that’s the way you feel, let’s get out our arithmetic books and talk about subtraction – because I’m not allowed to talk about this in class!”

What would have kept her from having that discussion? The false notion that you can’t teach values because “whose values will you teach?” Fortunately, the community had answered that question for her. They had agreed on a set of core values that is so widely shared by every culture that they would raise no difficulties if a teacher worked with it in the classroom.

What's needed, then, is a recognition that there is a core set of values that can be and must be taught. What are they? We've found one—the idea of not stealing. Are there others? Well, what about the Golden Rule?

Who said, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets"? That was Jesus. But who said, "That which you hold as detestable, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole law: the rest is but commentary"? That's how the Talmud puts it. Islam says it this way: "None of you is a believer if he does not desire for his brother that which he desires for himself." Or, as Confucius said, "Here certainly is the golden maxim: Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us." And so it goes, down through Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's great religions. Common ethical ground? I would say so! Teachable? Certainly!

NOW, I PROMISED YOU TWO USEFUL DEFINITIONS OF "ETHICS," SO HERE THEY ARE. The first one resides in a phrase we used as the subtitle for the recently published report on ethics prepared by Independent Sector. It is a phrase from Lord Moulton, a British jurist in the 19th century, who described ethics simply as "obedience to the unenforceable."

Obedience to the enforceable? That, he said, was merely law—an important part, but only a small part, of the reason we behave as we do. Obedience to the enforceable is what prevents us from driving 65 miles an hour in a school zone: You get caught. Obedience to the unenforceable, however, is what keeps you from going into a supermarket and, just as a little old lady is about to put her hand on the last shopping cart, elbowing her away, seizing the cart, and running off down the aisle with it. There is no law that says, "Thou shalt not steal shopping carts from little old ladies." You don't do it because people don't do those things—because of the very real but ultimately unenforceable canons of society.

This concept of ethics as obedience to the unenforceable helps explain some of the things we see going on around us in the regulatory and legislative climate today. We clearly will be regulated one way or another—that is the nature of the human experience. Our choice is only whether to be self-regulated or to be regulated by externalities. When I was growing up, we didn't throw litter out of the car window because "people don't do those things." Now you don't throw litter out of the car window because there is a $500 fine. Why? Because it was discovered that people did do those things. As the ethics of self-regulation dropped away, in other words, the law rushed in to fill the void. And that will ever be the case. If you ask yourself why we are such a litigious society, regulated by vast bodies of law at every turn, is it not largely because our ethics has dropped away and the law has swept in to replace it? What used to be obedience to the unenforceable has become obedience to the enforceable. What used to be regulation by our own good habits has become regulation by the will of the legislators.

THE SECOND DEFINITION I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU grows out of our concern over dictionary definitions of the word ethics. They usually talk about ethics in relation to the difference between right and wrong.

Frankly, for most of us, most of the time, ethics is the battle of right versus right.

Few people, facing an ethical dilemma, say to themselves, "Here, on one hand, is the great, the good, the wonderful, and the pure and, on the other hand, the awful, the evil, the miserable, and the terrible—and here I stand equally torn between them." We don't do that. Once we define one side as evil, we've pretty much dismissed it. It really doesn't cross our minds, for example, that the way to resolve a problem we have with the chairman of our board is either to go talk to him or to go poison his chowder.

NOW, I ALSO PROMISED YOU A CONCLUSION, SO HERE IT IS. After all we've talked about, it may not surprise you to learn that there really is no such thing as "nonprofit ethics." Neither is there any such thing as "medical ethics," or "business ethics," or "legal ethics," or "journalism ethics."

There is only ethics.

It applies to all kinds of ways, and it applies across the board. Don't be under any illusion that somehow one can be unethical in personal financial matters but ethical as the manager of a nonprofit. Don't be under any illusion that a corporate executive can be a cad in family matters but a paragon of virtue at work.

Don't be under any illusion that an elected official can say, "Oh, that is my private life. You should not take that into account. Judge me as a politician." The public no longer credits that line of reasoning—as our politicians keep finding out. There is no dividing up ethics into compartments: There's only ethics.


Rushworth M. Kidder was a professor of English at Wichita State University for ten years before becoming an award-winning columnist and editor at the Christian Science Monitor. He founded the Institute for Global Ethics in 1990. The author of ten books on subjects ranging from international ethics to the global future, he won the 1980 Explicator Literary Foundation Award for his book on the poetry of E.E. cummings. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Lincolnville, Maine. The foregoing is based on a keynote speech presented to the Human Services Council of Northeast Florida, an organization of nonprofit entities, in Jacksonville on October 1, 1992. Revised January 2001. ©2001 by the Institute for Global Ethics. Bio from Wikipedia & Harper Collins website.


LA Times Editorial

●●smf's 2¢: Self-congratulating, The Times acknowledges its proper Fourth Estate role (plus an impending visit of the Secretary of Education) in overdue Reform @ Fremont …and the tooth-gnashing finger-pointing over Teacher Tenure. (However, It isn’t just new teachers evaluated solely on how well they follow the Open Court script that are LAUSD’s problem!)

The Editorial Board is absolutely correct …It shouldn’t have taken outside pressure or so long.

But, they remind us: “eight years ago, the state took on decision-making authority over [Fremont]” (see: 3 Oct 01 article, following). So primary (if not exclusive) responsibility and accountability for Teacher Tenure – which comes too soon and too easily and lasts too long - and for Fremont lies in Sacramento. Not to mention cash flow.

December 27, 2009 -- These are welcome, if basic, changes for L.A. schools: Evaluating new teachers properly and letting go of the substandard ones before they gain tenure. Restructuring a high school that despite years of effort has remained in the basement of educational achievement.

As glad as we are to see Supt. Ramon C. Cortines institute such reforms, we wonder why Los Angeles Unified School District hasn't been doing these things for years. Instead, the announcements came only when the district was under heavy outside pressure. The first came just days before The Times was to publish an expose of the district's lackadaisical evaluation of new teachers. The reconstitution of Fremont High School was announced on the day U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in town. Duncan has made hard-nosed reforms such as restructuring failing schools a priority, and the school district is hoping to get a sizable chunk of the $4.3 billion in grants he has to bestow.

That's not to diminish Cortines' role in pushing the pace of educational change. He has been superintendent for just one year and has accomplished more than his predecessor, retired Vice Adm. David L. Brewer, did in two.

But these two long-overdue changes demonstrate that although district officials have historically and to some extent legitimately blamed the teachers union, lack of money or state regulations for achievement lapses, they also have failed to undertake meaningful improvements that were within their grasp. Teacher tenure laws and the district's contract with United Teachers Los Angeles may make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers, but there's nothing to stop L.A. Unified from firing unpromising instructors during their first two years.

Meanwhile, L.A. Unified did so little to improve Fremont High School that eight years ago, the state took on decision-making authority over the school and nine others in L.A. Unified. Students were reading primary-grade picture books; dropout rates were legendary. The state was supposed to provide an improvement plan that would show results within 18 months; if that failed, it would take over the school entirely or impose other sanctions. But no sanctions were imposed, and here's where Fremont is now: 12% or so of students are proficient in reading and writing. About 2,000 students start out as freshmen; by senior year, there are proficientless than 600.

Reconstitution is a fresh-start attempt for failing schools. The staff is let go, but can reapply to continue working there. The school would require uniforms or a stricter dress code. These restructured schools don't always succeed, and Duncan's push to increase their numbers might be misplaced. But Fremont can't do much worse than it has since the beginning of the decade.

We admire Cortines for responding to Duncan's visit and to the Times story on teacher evaluations with corrective action instead of defensive posturing. We just wish the district hadn't waited so long to do the right thing.


Oct 3, 2001: STATE STEPS IN AT TEN LAGGING SCHOOLS:Audit teams are visiting the campuses and will recommend plans to shore up weaknesses.


October 03, 2001 -- The state Department of Education is poised to assume broad decision-making authority at 10 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses that have failed to meet goals for improving their test scores despite four years of warnings.

Only three other schools in the state were targeted by the highly unusual intervention.

Partly in response to his district's poor showing, Supt. Roy Romer will announce a turnaround plan today to retrain principals and boost reading and math teaching at those and as many as 10 other low-performing schools. He also warned that principals at schools that do not improve rapidly enough could lose their jobs.

"We've got to elevate these lowest-performing schools," Romer said. "We have to have this happen."

Another reason for urgency, he said, is new figures showing that only 44% of the district's ninth-graders passed the English-language arts portion of the state's high school exit exam this year. Only 24% passed the math portion. All students must pass both sections of the test by 2004 in order to earn a diploma. The test was voluntary this year only.

"Our performance is not good, we know it and we're focusing on changes," Romer said in an interview.

The schools where the state will intervene include: Avalon Gardens Elementary School; Gompers, Mt. Vernon and Sun Valley middle schools; Mann Junior High School; and Fremont, Locke, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Wilson high schools. Of the three other schools in California coming under state scrutiny for their weak performance, two are in the Visalia Unified School District in the Central Valley: Goshen and Houston elementary schools. The other school is Lower Lake High in the Konocti Unified School District in Lake County.

The schools were first identified based on their test scores on the Stanford 9 test in 1997; each failed every year since then to make improvement targets and did not avail itself of funds from a key state school improvement program.

David Tokofsky, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, said the district's dominance on the target list demonstrates "a failure of instructional urgency."

Each of the 13 targeted schools will be visited within the next few weeks by a state-appointed scholastic audit team that will recommend a detailed plan for shoring up weaknesses. If the schools do not improve, the state can ultimately convert them into charter schools or authorize students to transfer elsewhere.

[article continues: part 2 | part 3]

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
No budget/No clue: SCHWARZENEGGER: "Dear Santa:" …with a cc: to Uncle Sam: from various newsfeeds Schwarzenegge...

LAUSD'S RACE TO THE TOP: Amber Banks | December 26, 10:13 AM -- January 19, 2010 marks the first of t...


SCHOOLING LOW-INCOME PARENTS IN HELPING STUDENTS: Educators have long believed that low-income students would soar ...


THE TURNAROUNT FALLACY: School turnaround efforts have consistently fallen far short of hopes and expectations.: By...

UTLA FILES LAWSUIT ON SCHOOL GIVEAWAYS: Ed Code states that schools can’t convert to charters without majority te...

TEACHER'S UNION SUES OVER CHARTER SCHOOL: By Dennis Romero in LA Weekly News Blog | Tue., D...

Breaking News 12/21: UTLA SUES OVER NEW SCHOOLS GIVEAWAY: Union sues LA school district over charter plan San ...

Follow the $: SCHWARZENEGGER + ROMERO SPELL ED REFORM C-H-A-R-T-E-R-S: by Steven Harmon | Contra Costa Times excer...

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is an elected repreprentative on his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.