Sunday, November 30, 2014

Just watch and see. Thankfully.

4LAKids: Sunday 30•Nov•2014
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Casting about for stuff to write about I came across an article from a year ago July that comes from me to you and the LAUSD Powers-That-Be exactly 18 months too late: 7 BIG MISTAKES K-12 EDUCATION NEEDS TO AVOID IN 1:1 COMPUTING PLANS []

I don’t know what the equivalent word of “Trifecta” for seven instances is (“¿Septfecta?") …but here’s the example of one:

#7: Follow Functionality, Not Fads, In Choosing Tech
#6: Touch Shouldn't Trump All Else (Keyboards anyone?)
#5: What Do Repair, Replacement, Support Costs Look Like for a Platform? (The LAUSD Apple contract looked at short term Repair. Replacement and Support – and ignored long term.)
#4: Lack of Staff Professional Development is Like Tossing Money Away
#3: Collaboration Should Be a Focus of Every 1:1 Plan
#2: Flipped Classrooms Are Here to Stay (Devices must go home for 1:1 to work.)
#1: Stop Focusing on Consuming Content -- Producing It Matters Much More.

WHICH KIND OF SEGUES INTO THE NEW STANFORD HISTORY CURRICULUM …and to David Tokofsky’s gift horse’s mouth inspection. [story follows]
• I know it’s free …but did you see what they did to our Bruins?
• Wasn’t MiSiS “free” also?
• History of course isn’t tested in the great English Language Arts, Math and a little bit o’ Science (+ the FitnessGram) Standardized Testing Regime …so maybe free IS the right price for History Curriculum!
• As John Arbuckle said: “You get what you pay for.”

TUESDAY’S BOARD MEETING SHOULDV'E PROVED INTERESTING ...except it got postponed for a week! Someone was bound to to have asked some sort of question about the iPads for All/CCTP Phase 2B return-from-the-grave. Miracle or malevolence? I know we are in the middle of a honeymoon with the new superintendent ...but this plays like some drawing room farce where the old lady love of the previous superintendent makes a surprise appearance on the arm of the new one! What is the Board of Ed to say or think? We won't know 'til next week!

“THE PROBLEM IS: FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – which theoretically protects student privacy) IS ‘HOPELESSLY OUT OF DATE,’ said David Hoffman, global privacy officer for Intel Corp.”

That is a problem, one of many.

BUT THIS IS THANKSGIVING WEEK – and I’m sure there are many readers who will be thankful to return to school after a week with children and once-a-year relatives and pre-and-actual-and-post Black Friday doorbusters underfoot. I’m also sure the IT crew is really looking forward to impact of all the new MiSiS fixes plus the Cyber Monday online shopping on the LAUSD servers.

4LAKIDS is THANKFUL FOR EDUCATORS LIKE DR. GENEVIEVE SHEPHERD, a true hero of multicultural understanding in LAUSD. She is retiring from LAUSD after 55 years of service and leadership.

Dr. Shepherd was instrumental in getting national recognition for the Tuskegee Airmen and in naming the magnet school at Dublin ES after former Mayor Tom Bradley. She has been principal of Dublin/ Tom Bradley Global Awareness Magnet School since 1985 and served as director of the District’s Title I Program for Intergroup Education.

Dr. Shepherd is a long time educator and community activist who is known locally, statewide and nationwide. She – not literally but actually - wrote the book on multicultural education in LAUSD: Multi-Cultural-Bilingual-Selected Reference Guide for-Los Angeles Unified Schools.

She’s a member of that most troublemaking of Greek campus organizations: The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa. Dr Shepherd was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Who's Who in Black Los Angeles at The Staples Center in 2008 and was honored as Distinguished Educator of the Year Award at California State University, Los Angeles, also in 2008.

But she proudly says that the most gratifying aspect of her career is seeing her students succeed.

"Anything a mind can conceive, and then can believe, can be achieved," has been the motto of Dr. Genevieve A. Shepherd, almost since birth.

According to her biography, she began her teaching career at the age of five. Every time she and friends played school, she walked in with her frayed book and announced, "I'm the teacher and if you don't let me teach, I'm going home." She practiced teaching on 3 year olds, trees, animals and anything else around willing to be taught.

At nineteen, she was told by a counselor that she could not be a teacher. On the steps of a bungalow at Los Angeles City College, the motto flashed across her mind and silently she said to herself, "Just watch and see." That was the true beginning of her teaching career.

Dr. Shepherd is a native Angelino. Her educational experience includes: an Associate of Arts degree from Los Angeles City College, a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State College, Los Angeles; Master of Science, Pepperdine University; and a Ph.D. from Golden State University.

So much for never being a teacher.

She is married to Rev. Edell Shepherd; together they are the proud parents of three children, Edell Lugene, a musician; Deborah, School Teacher and Jaime Shepherd, Technology Coordinator.

Dr. Shepherd is much sought after as a guest speaker and lecturer. She has conducted numerous workshops and seminars throughout the city, state and nation.

Her most requested sessions include: Believers, Receivers, Achievers (Building Self-Esteem), Survival of the Endangered Species (the Black Male Child), A Multi-Ethnic look at Education and Practice What You Teach (for teachers only). Her dynamic message captures, inspires, enthralls and challenges audiences to Wake Up, Sit Up, Shape Up, Sweeten Up, Fire Up and Go MAD (Make A Difference) in Society.

She transforms audiences as her motivational message impacts lives.

Additionally Dr. Shepherd works closely with high school students preparing to take the SAT tests. After her motivating presentation, students are challenged to increase their test scores.

Dr Shepherd is retiring at the end of this year, but no one believes for a minute she will slow down. At her church, he serves as Sunday School Superintendent and Corporate Secretary; Board Member, Corporate Executive and Vice President of Our Authors Study Club; she’s a member of Council of Black Administrators, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, California School Administrators, National Education Association, National Association of University Women,; Board Chairman of the Y.M.C.A. Metro L.A., 28th Street/Crenshaw Branch and Vice President and Instructor - Aenon Bible College.

Dr. Shepherd is also a poet, an example follows. It isn’t Kipling or Wordsworth, but like all real art, it is True. Like all true art, it is Real.

Leave No Child Behind
© Dr. Genevieve Shepherd
To say “Leave No Child Behind” sounds just fine.
But what are we really trying to say
each and every day?
That we have no other choice!
Every child has the right to excel.
Children can do well
If it’s truly to be
It depends on you, it depends on me.
To turn things around and do things differently.
To expect nothing less than the very best.
To teach, monitor, test and assess.
To catch the child caught betwixt and between.
To snatch them back with a sheer determined gleam.
Always saying, yes you can!
I’ve taught you so well
Now I know what you can do.
Walk in my footsteps each and every day.
I’ll role model what you need to do and say.
I’ll show you why you must achieve.
I’ll teach you exactly how to succeed.
Ill always endeavor to answer every question you ask.
I’ll be there to support you and see you through each task.
Sometimes I’ll have to go out far on the limb to reach
But wherever you are,
No matter how far.
Patiently, I will teach.
I will teach you all you need to know.
In this classroom there is no such word as slow.
L.D. is not Learning Disabled
But Leaning Differently
I know you are capable
Physically, socially and mentally.
What I teach you today will return to me in a better way.
And so I’m determined
And I’ve made up my mind
From this day forward

Thank you Dr. Shepherd.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Teresa Watanabe, LA Times |

Nov.26, 2014 :: Venice High sophomore Vanessa Pepperdine had always hated history class: the dry lectures, the boring textbooks, the forgettable factoids about famous dead people.

"You just read out of the textbook, and it wasn't interesting," Vanessa said.

But during a recent period of World History, Vanessa and her classmates were engaged in excited discussion about the 1896 Battle of Adwa between Ethiopia and Italy. Their teacher, Daniel Buccieri, showed them an illustration of the event and peppered them with questions.

Who do you think won? How do the American and Ethiopian accounts differ and why? How was Ethiopia able to defeat Italy in this pushback of European imperialism?

With that, the students became sleuthing historians in search of truth rather than passive recipients of a droning lecture.

That's the aim of a free, online Stanford University curriculum that is picking up steam nationally as educators grapple with widespread evidence of historical illiteracy among U.S. students.

Only about a third of Los Angeles Unified School District high schoolers were proficient on state standardized U.S. and world history tests last year; nationally, 12% were proficient in U.S. history in the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

L.A. Unified became the curriculum's largest booster this year when it signed an 18-month, $140,000 contract with the Stanford History Education Group for training and collaborating on more lesson plans. So far, 385 teachers and administrators — including about 40% of the social science instructors in the nation's second-largest school system — have attended Stanford-led workshops this year.

Nationally, the curriculum has been downloaded 1.7 million times by educators in all 50 states since the program was launched in 2009.

As the teaching of history comes under national scrutiny, with critics attacking the new Advanced Placement U.S. history guidelines as anti-American, the Stanford program takes no sides. With more than 100 ready-made lesson plans covering a range of U.S. and world events, the curriculum features a central historical question and provides primary documents for students to use in shaping their own answers, backed by evidence.

Was ancient Athens truly democratic? Were the "Dark Ages" really dark? Why did Chinese students support the Cultural Revolution? Did Abraham Lincoln actually believe in racial equality? What made the Vietnam War so contentious?

"This overturns the traditional textbook," said Sam Wineburg, the Stanford education professor whose research more than two decades ago laid the groundwork for the approach. "Students explore questions with original documents and cultivate a sense of literacy and how to develop sound judgment."
In a 2001 book, Wineburg argued that students must be trained to question history in order to understand it, just as professionals do; the curriculum is called "Reading Like a Historian." The ability to question the credibility of information and its sources, he said, is critically relevant in today's digital age — judging claims, for instance, that President Obama was born in Kenya.

The Stanford group has also developed free assessments, more than 65 so far, that gauge mastery of the targeted skills through short essay questions rather than traditional multiple-choice tests. In a test run five years ago, 236 students in five San Francisco high schools using the curriculum outperformed peers in factual knowledge and reading comprehension compared with those in traditional classes, Wineburg said.

For school systems such as L.A. Unified, the curriculum came at an opportune time — just as the district is shifting to new learning standards known as Common Core. The standards focus on cultivating such skills as reading complex texts and integrating and evaluating information from multiple sources.

"The Stanford curriculum aligns almost perfectly with Common Core," said Kieley Jackson, a district coordinator of social science curriculum.

Not all teachers have embraced the lessons. Some say they take too long, typically four days, although Stanford trainers say they can be adapted for one or two. Others say they are short on content. And some instructors prefer their approach of lectures and textbooks. Only about a quarter of social science teachers at Hollywood High use the curriculum, said Neil Fitzpatrick, the department chair.

But Fitzpatrick and many of the 60 colleagues who attended a training this month praised the curriculum and shared ideas on how they modified it — actions that Stanford fully supports — with bingo games, film clips, Play-Doh, poetry, poster sets, Google images.

Buccieri, of Venice High, said he added the Italian perspective of the Battle of Adwa to further enrich the lesson. He said he began incorporating elements of Wineburg's approach after reading his book more than a decade ago and found the Stanford curriculum on his own four years ago.

"History isn't a set of answers I'm passing down to kids," he said. "It's more a set of questions and problems. To me, that's more exciting."

Many students seem to agree. Michael Corley, a history teacher at Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, said nearly 90% of about 100 students he polled preferred the Stanford curriculum over their textbook.

Students don't feel they can argue with the textbook, he said. But using the Stanford lesson on Prohibition to debate why the 18th Amendment banning alcohol was adopted and evaluating perspectives about it from a medical doctor, anti-saloon activist and children's rights advocate? Now that excites them, he said.

He added that the Stanford curriculum seems to especially engage boys, perhaps by appealing to their competitive "gamer mentality," and said his students who typically earn Cs and Ds also do well because the lessons spark their interest. "You can see what they're truly capable of," he said.

At Venice High, Buccieri's 10th grade students said their teacher's approach has completely changed their attitude toward history.

Rosio Salas said she had 10 substitutes in one year who did nothing but assign textbook readings and worksheets. She didn't remember anything she learned. "You just did it because you had to do it."

Now, students say history is exciting. They understand it. They even remember it — as classmate James Gregorio proved by explaining that a Serbian terrorist's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria ignited World War I.

"You're not just sitting there having to listen to him," sophomore Drew Anderson said. "You get to figure things out for yourself."

●●David Tokofsky’s 2¢
| from Letters to the Editor of the LA Times |


28 Nov. 2014 :: To the editor: The article describing some students at Venice High School playing games to access world history saddens those who believe history need not be "gamified," put online to download and reduced in scope to stimulate thought and engagement in classrooms. ("L.A. Unified adopts free history curriculum from Stanford University," Nov. 26)

To the generalist, the lesson presented — in which students play the role of history detective — appeared captivating. A keen eye, however, would recognize that a lesson presented for nearly five days has to come at the expense of learning many other standards and eras. Without a textbook, who would know that other eras were deleted and not being taught?

History methodology revisionists argue that "less is more," and they are right with respect to deepening engagement. But unfortunately they often inadvertently diminish content and scope in service to their hip methods.

Sadly for students, educational fads often repeat themselves as history does: the first time as a tragedy and the second time as farce.

David Tokofsky, Los Angeles

►The writer, a former California Teacher of the Year, was a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education for 12 years. Before that he taught History and coached the Soccer and national champion Academic Decathlon teams at Marshall High School.

STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP > Home > Curriculum > Reading Like A Historian


by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |

Posted on November 25, 2014 4:41 pm :: While LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines was pretty clear on how he expected it to proceed, others in the district are not so sure.

• SUPERINTENDENT DEASY: “Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.”
• BOARDMEMBER ZIMMER: “[The Apple/Pearson/LAUSD contract] was absolutely cancelled. The resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”
• FACILITIES DIRECTOR HOVATTER: “There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended.”
• STOTHER MARTIN IN COOL HAND LUKE: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The district’s Chief Facilities Director says the choice of devices might not be so wide as Cortines suggested, and at least one board member is uncertain how it will all play out. Last week Cortines gave the go-ahead to spend capital improvement funds to outfit 27 schools with tablet devices and 21 schools with laptops — the so-called Phase 2B. The so-called Phase 2A authorized devices for 11 schools.

In a written statement, Cortines said school principals “will be key in determining which educational tools are best for their school communities” and added that this round would include “more options than previous phases.”

But Mark Hovatter, the facilities director whose department oversees the procurement of devices, says school leaders will only have two choices: iPads pre-loaded with Pearson curriculum or Chromebooks with content developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Those are the only two that are within the budget that the board has authorized,” Hovatter told LA School Report. “They already approved Phase 2B under that contract.”

The board approved expanding the iPad program in January, allocating $114 million to the project. Under the existing contract the price tag on each Apple tablet is about $780 with all the bells and whistles, including a nearly indestructible protective case and keyboard. A Chromebook is about $100 dollars cheaper.

But how can iPads be part of the deal if the district’s contract with Apple was halted by former superintendent John Deasy?

Never happened, said Hovatter.

“There was never any cancellation of a contract, and the contract was never suspended,” he said. “We just made the determination not to place an order against that contract.”

That is a difficult position for board member Steve Zimmer to square. “It was absolutely cancelled,” he told LA School Report.

In August, Deasy said he was halting the iPad program and the corresponding deal with Apple and Pearson, amid questions about the bidding process.

At the time, Deasy told the school board, “Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.…Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology.”

For Zimmer, Deasy’s actions indisputably put an end to the deal with the companies. Furthermore, Zimmer added, “the resumption of the iPad contract, as it was, will never get through the Board of Education.”

Beyond that, Zimmer says he doesn’t believe the Pearson curriculum actually exists.

“Until I have it in front of me, until I see it demonstrated with a real child at every grade level, then the Pearson curriculum does not exist,” he said. “I have never seen it. I have never held it. I have never seen a child use it.”

But Hovatter contends that without any action by the board, the contract remains in place.

“The board never made the decision not to move forward, it was the [former] Superintendent who made that decision,” he said.

“If there had been a board action that had directed us not to move forward then of course, we would have to go back to the board” for approval to continue under the existing contracts, he added.

In other words, Cortines is not required to return to the board for another round of approval. That means Zimmer, other board members, or principals and teachers who had hoped for a better deal or different type of device, will have to wait a little longer.

The district intends to re-open the bidding process to new vendors and curriculum developers for Phase 3 of the one-to-one program. A timeline for that has yet to be determined.

The Common Core Technology Project team is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the rollout and set a timeline for the project.

●●smf: The Board of Education meets on Tuesday. In closed session. The open session meeting was postponed until Dec. 9th.

by Kimberly Beltran, SI&A Cabinet Report |

November 24, 2014 :: (Calif.) It’s been a time-tested disciplinary tactic for teachers for decades but as concerns over taking recess away from misbehaving students continue to mount, more and more school districts across the nation are seeking to modify the practice or restrict it altogether.

Among the latest local educational agencies to take on the increasingly controversial subject, Berkeley Unified School District last week adopted a new policy limiting the amount of time a student may be kept from recess for misconduct.

“A clear and adopted board policy is what is required for teachers to be able to use recess restriction in limited and appropriate situations,” Pasquale Scuderi, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, wrote in a memo to the board late last week. “The proposed policy ensures among other things, that no student will ever be prohibited for more than 10 minutes of any activity in a single day.”

The issue represents a collision of goals within the education community and exposes the pitfalls of making any one change independent of competing concerns.

Some child advocates argue, for instance, that restricting a pupil’s recess time runs counter to federal and state initiatives aimed at increasing students’ physical activity – a position supported by research showing playtime reduces obesity and improves mental function in the classroom.

Critics also complain that punishment is meted out in a haphazard manner – some kids are being kept from recess for not completing homework assignments, others for behavioral challenges –neither of which is typically grounded in clear policy.

Many educators say recess restriction works and is one of few tools teachers have to control behavior in a classroom with between 20 and 30 students.

Board members at Connecticut’s Wallingford Public Schools, for example, recently realized that a wellness policy adopted in 2006 to meet federal child nutrition requirements prohibits the district from denying recess as a form of discipline. In June, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill requiring school boards to adopt, as they “deem appropriate,” policies “concerning the issue regarding any school employee being involved in preventing a student from participating in the entire time devoted to physical exercise in the regular school day.”

Trustees are now working to devise a policy that complies with both mandates but leaves in place the option for teachers to use recess time as an incentive for good behavior.

“I don’t see what the problem is if a child stays at the wall,” Wallingford board member Michael Votto told the local Record-Journal. “If they stand by the wall for 10 minutes, I don’t think it’s a big deal.’

Other than an obligation to “administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin,” there is no federal law dictating school discipline policies, and while some states have laws on their books giving teachers authority to remove problem students from the classroom most leave the specifics up to local districts.

California’s Education Code, for example, doesn’t dictate policy on recess restriction but rather simply states that: “The governing board of a school district may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her supervision is allowed for recess.”

Legal experts on both sides of the debate interpret this law differently, with those opposed to the punishment arguing the intent is that if a district doesn’t have a policy specifically addressing it then they don’t have the right to use it.

Berkeley Unified School District’s policy adoption last week follows a push two years ago by the mother of a kindergartner who was repeatedly being kept from recess for misbehaving. She, like many parents focused on the issue, has said it’s often the kids acting out in class that need recess the most.

“It’s not effective,” Sinead O’Sullivan told, an independent local news site that covered last week’s discussion by the school board. “The kids who get [recess taken away] are the high-energy kids who can’t control their bodies. It’s the last punishment they need.”

Similar arguments were made in August when the Grand Island school board in Nebraska approved a revised wellness policy that allows a child to be removed from the playground if he or she gets in a fight with another student, but denies the use of restricted recess as punishment for misbehavior during other parts of the school day.

The new rules in Berkeley are similar to several in policies adopted by a host of other California districts and less restrictive than some others, including Palo Alto, which in October rewrote its student discipline rules to ban the practice of taking away recess time as a disciplinary measure “unless the safety and health of the student or other students are at risk.”

Berkeley Unified’s policy allows recess restriction only after the teacher or administrator seeks alternative disciplinary actions “consistent with our positive behavioral support systems,” and requires all schools to create guidelines within their individual PBIS plans to “create a positive recess behavior plan which analyzes behavioral function, additional environmental supports needed and/or alternative consequences.

Other regulations in the policy include:

• Recess restriction shall not be used as a penalty for incomplete homework.
• The student shall remain under employee supervision during the time of the consequence.
• The student shall be given adequate time to use the restroom and get a drink or eat lunch, as appropriate.
• Teachers shall inform a site administrator in writing of any student who has their recess restricted. When a student has their recess restricted either two times per week or three times a month, parents or caregivers will be notified and the site Response To Intervention team or the administrator will review that information and seek alternative means to address the needs of the student.
• A student will not be restricted for more than half of any given recess period wherein the consequence is assigned, and a maximum of 10 minutes of restriction per day should be adhered to in all uses.
• Recess participation may not be restricted for students where such a consequence is explicitly prohibited by a student’s IEP or 504 plan.
• Data will be reviewed annually following the passage of the policy and data will include data disaggregated by ethnicity.

“Staff is not putting forth a policy to encourage the use of recess restriction as a corrective action,” Berkeley’s Scuderi wrote in a memo to the board and district superintendent Donald Evans. “However, a clear and thoughtful policy being put in place will allow teachers and administrators some discretion to apply the consequence in a limited way where it is reasonable and appropriate to do so.”

By Steven Zeitchik, LA Times |

●● smf: The documentary feature “Happy Valley” is not about public education, but 4LAKids is recommending it anyway. It’s also not really about college football or Joe Paterno or Jerry Sandusky or the University of Pennsylvania or child sexual abuse. It’s about the perfect-storm/ critical-mass collision of all those people, places and things – and the fallout therefrom. It’s about uneasy truth that must be told. It’s not an easy picture to watch and totally inappropriate for the holiday season; you should see it anyway.

28 February 2014 :: Around their Brooklyn home, the documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev and his wife have developed a kind of code phrase -- a "thumbnail," they call it -- for how people talk about the Jerry Sandusky affair. "Rhythmic slapping” is the term, and, picking up on a descriptor used by the key witness and former assistant coach Mike McQueary, it sums up people’s reflexive need to seek out the prurient aspects of the controversy.

And yet there is also, Bar-Lev has found, a desire for distance, an interest in lamenting or condemning aspects of the case so that people feel better about it, feel as if it’s something that happens far away from their own lives and consciousness.
I think one of the things that really stands out about Sandusky is how everyone thinks that someone else was culpable ... And really we're all responsible in some way. - Amir Bar-Lev, documentary filmmaker

“I think one of the things that really stands out about Sandusky is how everyone thinks that someone else was culpable,” Bar-Lev said in an interview here last week, returning home after weeks on the road with the film. “And really we’re all responsible in some way.”

Bar-Lev has become an expert in the notorious case and its fallout. His new movie, "Happy Valley," which opened in theaters in Los Angeles last weekend, takes a look at the ways — some obvious, some subtle — our culture participated in the incident, and in fact continues to do so. As top-tier football institutions have been shaken by assault scandals and alleged cover-ups in the past few months — the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson affairs, among others — “Happy Valley” speaks to a charged set of questions that were hardly put to rest when Sandusky was sent away on a long prison sentence in 2012.

Sandusky, of course, was the Penn State defensive coach who almost three years ago was found guilty on 45 charges of sexual abuse. The many-tentacled scandal that led to that courtroom moment — particularly the tentacle that involved legendary Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, who it turned out had been made aware of Sandusky’s activities years before but did little to stop them — was a watershed event. It rocked the university’s State College campus, raised difficult questions about the culture of modern athletics and brought down Paterno, who saw his job and legacy vanish seemingly overnight, then died shortly after.

“Happy Valley” (the title is an ironic nod to the Penn State nickname) is not especially interested in issues of criminal guilt — those have long been established — but in the ways the town, the media and society at large responded to the incident. Through his months of filming on the Penn State campus, Bar-Lev discovers uncomfortable cultural truths in the various explanations and rationalizations.
'Happy Valley'

Most notably, he unveils what he and a Penn State professor named Matt Jordan call a “shaming spectacle” — the idea that in public condemnations of Sandusky, people can feel better about the event and its outlier status without undergoing a more difficult process of self-scrutiny.

In both making the film and tracking the reactions since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the director says he’s most noticed an innate discomfort with the subject. That is not, he said, simply because of the nature of child sex abuse, but because of how Sandusky went about his crimes. Instead of blunt force, Sandusky used a variety of seduction techniques, building trust with boys through the many perks of Division I Athletics and a nonprofit he founded for underprivileged youth.

“Sandusky was recruiting young men in the way that was not that different from how this country recruits young men to college football programs,” Bar-Lev said. “He may have been doing it for a different purpose, but he was borrowing from the playbook of Paterno and other football coaches regarded as heroes.”

Bar-Lev added: “In some ways I think had these been more literal rapes, where Sandusky physically held them down, we would be able to talk about it more."

With football reigning supreme at Penn State, the Sandusky scandal raises the question of whether beloved programs at high-end schools operate above the law, its instructors shielded by the bubble of fandom and its administrators willing to look the other way when presented with evidence of wrongdoing. (Incidentally, these are also issues explored in this fall’s indie breakout, “Whiplash.")
We say that Joe Paterno put blinders on, but we all put blinders on to inequities all around us. I think that's what makes this so fundamentally difficult to deal with. - Amir Bar-Lev

The Rice and Peterson cases raise similar questions. The running backs’ superstar status among their respective fan bases seemed to offer them wide berth to engage in the acts of domestic abuse they've been accused of. Questions about how much the Ravens and Vikings organizations — not to mention NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — knew about their activities have dogged the case and continue to draw criticism to the league.

But where many football fans are eager to see these scandals as the acts of lone deviants, Bar-Lev views them broadly — very broadly. Sandusky’s actions, he notes, were over the years enabled not just by a football program that was deemed above the law but by a larger economic system.

“I’m sure something like this could just as easily happen in more socialist cultures as well,” said Bar-Lev, who speaks in an articulate, at times academic, manner. “But there is a class component to the story. It’s not an accident that Sandusky went outside his world, to the other side of the tracks, to find many of his victims.” There was, Bar-Lev argues, a wide gulf between the redoubt of privilege that Sandusky occupied and the impoverished football-playing world many of his victims came from, and the director concludes that the exploitation of this gap was key to his crimes.

Matt Sandusky, the coach's adopted son, is a key figure in the film. Coming from a hardscrabble family, he was adopted by Sandusky and his wife and given a new life before he was, he says, abused by him.

Matt Sandusky has begun to break his public silence by appearing with Bar-Lev at screenings and talking about the abuse he suffered; he describes in the film the cult of personality that lay at the heart of the scandal.
"If people thought of Joe Paterno as God, Jerry was like Jesus," he says. "They could do whatever they wanted, they could do no wrong." Just being near Jerry Sandusky, the young man notes, gave him a sense of importance and power.

As Bar-Lev has toured the country — he even took the film to State College recently, where he found a mostly receptive audience, and some scattered protesters — he has encountered many people, even those with no connection to Penn State, who'd rather avoid the subject. He said he believes the reaction is telling of the scandal itself.

"There’s something about the failings of everyone in this case that come close to a lot of our own failings," he said. "We say that Joe Paterno put blinders on, but we all put blinders on to inequities all around us. I think that's what makes this so fundamentally difficult to deal with.”

The director has developed a specialty in what might be called hero revisionism — he previously directed “The Tillman Story,” which took another look at the popular legend around the late soldier and football player Pat Tillman, and is currently working on a documentary about the Grateful Dead that reevaluates the mythos of Jerry Garcia and the relationship between the band and its followers. (Bar-Lev, interestingly, is not a big sports fan but is a hard-core music devotee.)

It is in these areas of fan worship that he says we find something uniquely American, even human. Among the many other implications of Sandusky, after all, is a pulling back of the hero veil.

"I think the underlying questions of the movie is 'Can we still go on? Is it OK to cheer now that we know all that we know?'" Bar-Lev offers no easy answers. But all of us who have ever admired and rooted for a public figure will now find ourselves asking questions.

Kenneth Turan’s Review: The documentary 'Happy Valley' looks at how veneration of football factored into the Sandusky scandal

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources

ONLINE EDUCATION RUN AMOK? Private companies want to scoop up your child's data |


Diane Ravitch: “Texas Approves Textbooks That Acknowledge Moses as One of Our Founding Fathers” |

From the wonderful folks who brought you NCLB+Common Core: U.S. PROPOSES NEW GUIDELINES ON TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS : US Dept of Ed proposes rules that would shift money to colleges ranking higher on educating teachers …and (Surprise! Surprise!!) Eli Broad likes ‘em! | |

Debate > RESOLVED: EMBRACE THE COMMON CORE; Urgency vs. Following-through on what we’ve already started |

No Turkey Left Behind>NCTQ: NATIONAL COUNCIL ON THANKSGIVING QUALITY (Part I) …And yes, Virginia, there is a part II+II I







Red Queen: IT’S NOT THE INSTITUTIONS, IT’S THE WAY WE LET THEM BE MANAGED | "We need to recognize not only where the buck should stop, but demand accountability once it gets there." |

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Regular Board Meeting including Closed Session items - December 2, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. -

Regular Board Meeting - December 2, 2014 - RESCHEDULED TO DECEMBER 9, 2014
Start: 12/09/2014 10:00 am

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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 as 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.
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