Monthly Archives: June 2014

Teaching the Teachers

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teach_teacherIf you thought someone tossed a cherry bomb into the henhouse, you were probably just hearing the reaction of Wisconsin’s education community to a national report last week assigning low ratings to this state’s teacher education programs.

Being unfamiliar with the rating organization, we have no opinion as to whether great significance should be attached to its findings. But we would venture to suggest that within the context of teacher education, even a stellar performance may not mean a lot.

One thing is certain: If you’re curious as to just what our Colleges of Education do, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story about this kerfuffle will be a singularly unsatisfying place to look for answers.

The bottom line is, nobody gets to teach in Wisconsin schools unless they’re certified by the Department of Public Instruction. Although some progress has been made in “alternative certification,” generally speaking certification is earned by enduring a number of courses wherein aspiring educators are invited to contemplate the many and varied theories of education.  The content is the gaseous sort of stuff that lends itself to pretentions of deep thinking, leading deliberately to no right or wrong answers.
Teachers who bring actual skills to the classroom slog through this Ed-school mush to obtain the all-important credential because without certification, it would have been illegal—for example—to hire Mike Holmgren to coach football at a Wisconsin school.

The really good teachers are those with knowledge in a specific field of mathematics, the sciences or the arts, but that isn’t what colleges of education are for. They exist for the dubious purpose of telling people how to teach; whether those people have any idea what to teach must be attended to elsewhere.

Read about last week’s ratings if you like, or better yet, rotate your tires.

Skin Game

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americanfootballBy now everybody knows about the Washington Redskins being stripped of trademark protection by the U.S. Patent Office, just as everybody is accustomed to the Obama administration’s calculated resuscitation of racial animosities that had been trying to die out in 21st Century America.

But we feel the urge to comment on the flap over the Redskins’ trademark because, quite apart from sheer amazement that the Patent Office has now been converted into a blunt instrument of political warfare, we have a somewhat different view of what it all means.

The conventional theory is that the team’s revenues will suffer because (pending years of appeals,) anyone will be free to offer what would otherwise have been bootleg Redskins merchandise.  But wait: That’s merchandise regarded, according to our moral guardians at the Patent Office and elsewhere, as “disparaging,” “racist,” “derogatory” and a manifestation of “bigotry.”

We’ve puzzled before over the reasoning skills of those who imagine fans of athletic teams—often made up of the fans’ own children—naming the teams after things they despise.

Here, we have a federal bureaucracy maneuvering to damage a private enterprise in the apparent belief that these United States are swarming with people who see entrepreneurial advantage in selling apparel that expresses racism, bigotry, and derogation of Native Americans.

If bigotry is a sound marketing technique in today’s America, it’s news to us.  Either there’s no market for Redskins merchandise, or those who make up the market don’t regard the stuff as racist.

Chalk it up as another empty gesture by an administration that never, ever, takes an action not calculated to garner some political advantage, however trivial, and is indifferent to collateral damage.

What‘s the IRS afraid of?

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IRSOur custom is to dismiss conspiracy theories, applying Occam’s Razor, the 14th century philosopher’s insight that the least complicated explanation of a thing is the likeliest to be true.

This tends to give government the benefit of the doubt, or at least it used to. But what if we’re at the point that a conspiracy is the simplest explanation?

Last month it was shown that conservative political donors have an extraordinarily high likelihood of being subjected to an Internal Revenue Service audit.

Even so, ten days ago we thought the IRS “losing” two years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s emails through an alleged  computer crash would be used up by now as a topic for this commentary.  But on June 17 (the 42nd anniversary of the Watergate burglary) we learned that six more people’s IRS emails—all six under investigation in the targeting scandal—went missing in a convenient epidemic of computer crashes.

Then last Friday IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s phenomenal arrogance under congressional questioning netted a richly-deserved reaming from mild-mannered Paul Ryan.

Monday night, a defiant Koskinen testified that “budget cuts” prevented the IRS from preserving email records it’s required to retain under federal law.

The IRS is used to scaring Hell out of normal people. What on Earth could have so terrified this savage bureaucracy that high-ranking officials stand in front of the nation making preposterous statements no one believes, potentially exposing themselves to criminal liability?

The only conceivable explanation is that they fear worse consequences were they to tell the truth.

The kind of country the next generation grows up in depends on exposing what—and who—frightens the IRS.

Rule by Ignorance

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More bad weather daily newspaper headlineWe hope you’re half as eager as we are for the day when we can quit writing about bloviating politicians trying to scare people into submitting to the will of the environmental Left, but for now the scare campaign is unrelenting. On Saturday, the Hustler-in Chief incited California graduates to ridicule political leaders who sin by believing what their own eyes tell them:

Obama said rising temperatures and sea levels and intensifying storm patterns define “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet face.”

Trouble is, Obama’s own government keeps records showing things he rails about aren’t happening; temperatures are flat, sea-level rise isn’t accelerating, and severe storms have been less frequent, not more so.

Obama is gambling that he can inoculate his pet scam against data showing there’s no warming going on by trashing it before the kids figure it out for themselves.

Overwhelming the System

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Information OverloadCuriously, in the first million words of commentary spoken and written about the waves of unaccompanied minor children being herded illegally across the southern border, we don’t recall anyone mentioning the phrase ”overwhelm the system.”

Maybe it’s beyond imagining that officials of the United States government would deliberately contrive, or at least acquiesce in what amounts to an unarmed invasion of the country by people who will become wards of the state.

Or maybe it’s too easy to imagine government officials at best condoning and at worst abetting such an invasion as responsible people in positions of authority cringe at the prospect of acknowledging their belief that the chaos on the border is taking place with official support.

The first version took a heavy hit Friday, when Investor’s Business Daily, based largely on the views of former Border Patrol officers, became the first media voice to mention the infamous “Cloward-Piven Strategy” for engineering the ruin of social institutions.

It didn’t get any better for the Obama administration when that same day brought word that current border agents are being threatened by their bosses with criminal charges if they talk to reporters.

Cloward and Piven, recall, were two leftist professors who in 1966 openly promoted a plan to “overwhelm the system” by flooding state welfare programs with impossible demands, collapsing state finances and giving Democrats an excuse to intervene, massively enlarging the federal government.

There are lawful ways to pursue that detestable strategy. An arranged invasion isn’t one of them.

DPI: Department of Political Interference

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Career breakThe antics of the education bureaucracy at Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction show DPI to be at the service of “progressive” indoctrination in the schools and the public employee union agenda.

But now it’s acting as hired muscle on behalf of outsiders bent on exterminating competitive approaches to education.

Last Thursday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty publicized information that DPI has voluntarily made itself an instrument of Eric Holder’s “Justice” Department and its never-ending effort to harass, intimidate, and ultimately destroy school choice programs.

This latest intrusion into Wisconsin is part of the Obama administration’s double game where better education for minority students and teacher-union interests collide.

For instance, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio fights to roll back charter school growth and President Obama, who pretends to admire the charters, says nothing. On March 17, The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley wondered why:

“A clue might be found in the White House budget released this month, which exposes a president’s real priorities and which proposes $248 million for charter schools, compared with the $295 million it requested in the previous year,” Riley wrote. “In other words, the president is asking for less money than before to spend on an education model that he has praised to high heaven from the stump.”

Four days later, responding to a U.S. Department of Education report that black students are likelier than whites to be suspended over discipline problems, Holder issued a statement hinting at a racial bean-counting approach to social pathologies that harm vast numbers of minority students.

The administration, Holder said, “is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”

A more promising approach might be to disrupt the taxpayer-to-union pipeline.

Round up the usual suspects…

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protestConnoisseurs will remember the mobile command posts parked for weeks on end in 2011, on and just off Madison’s Capitol Square.

The big, windowless, electronics-equipped tour buses belonged to the Teamsters, the Boilermakers, the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU, said to be Barack Obama’s favorite,) and others. And their purpose—happily failed—was to thwart any reform that involved taking back control of Wisconsin government finance from the unions that viewed it as their own ATM.

So it was a why-are-we-not-surprised moment last Friday when the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reported that the SEIU is to be found at the heart of the dysfunction in the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Strassel notes that in light of the ongoing scandal over substandard healthcare, “The VA battle is only just starting, but any real reform inevitably ends with a fight over organized labor.

“Think of it as the federal version of Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states where elected officials have attempted to rein in the public-sector unions that have hijacked government agencies for their own purpose. Fixing the VA requires breaking labor’s grip, and the unions are already girding for that fight.”

Two-thirds of the VA workforce—some 200,000 union members—are represented by the SEIU or the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).  Nobody’s better positioned to observe the failures of government-run health care, nobody’s more aware that remedies could include alternative providers of the service, and nobody’s more determined to block such reforms. To that end, Strassel says, the AFGE is busy demonizing legislation that would formally establish the freedom of veterans to exercise choice of the facilities where they receive care.  The union calls it “outsourcing.”

Do the words “public schools” and “teacher unions” ring a bell?

The War on Warming

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Stop Global WarmingThe good news is not many Americans—barely one in three—are much concerned about global warming. This despite the ceaseless drumbeat of apocalyptic propaganda from campaigners for big government and the chiselers angling to cash in on taxpayer subsidies for producing more expensive energy.

The bad news is, for once, the Obama administration has done something politically smart. The global warming rule it rolled out last week for carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s existing fleet of power plants may be the kind of assault on our economy that would have us shooting at a foreign adversary, but the political setup ensures that a lot of the rhetorical bullets will be mis-aimed.

The new CO2 rule, which soon begins a four-month public comment period and a year or two of further development sure to be followed by prolonged litigation, is what candidate Barack Obama was talking about in his belatedly famous remark that “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket.”

He hoped to launch the skyrocket in 2010. Because the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to take up the legislation, we now get to ride the rocket by executive fiat.

The grab for one-man rule probably isn’t politically smart, but what is smart is the Environmental Protection Agency’s gambit of setting a 30 percent nationwide average CO2 reduction target and pretending each state gets to reach the target however it wants. Watch for spineless energy executives selling out their rivals for favorable treatment, rather than oppose an EPA that’s arguably exceeding its authority.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly 18 years since global temperature averages have trended recognizably up or down, but in the vicinity of Lake Superior, some warming might be welcome right now.

The War on Jobs

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findajobThe headline may look like a shameless attempt at negative spin, five days after the Labor Department announced that U.S. payrolls had climbed back slightly above the number of workers who were employed before the recession took hold in 2007.

And it would be spin indeed, if the raw number of employed Americans were all there was to it.

But this is the Obama “recovery.”  To be carefully weighed alongside the number of jobs is what kind of jobs people hold and population growth, to name just two factors.

Citing Labor Department statistics, The Wall Street Journal reported there are now 1.6 million fewer manufacturing jobs and 941,000 more jobs in the accommodation and food-service sector than when the recession began.  Construction jobs are down by 1.5 million compared with pre-recession. Jobs in temporary help services are up 307,000.

Higher-paying jobs are being exchanged for lower-paying and part-time employment. Job creation is not keeping up with population growth, the Journal reported.

The number of adults not participating in the labor force is larger by 13 million than pre-recession.

Don’t look for things to improve soon. People at the stage in life when they should be learning to think of themselves as part of the work force and contributors to a growing economy are unemployed in massive numbers.

Moreover, teens and others who have limited job skills face the prospect of becoming even less employable as the administration pushes cynically for a higher minimum wage.

Democrats have had some electoral success by running against fictional Republican “wars,” notably on women. Republicans will miss a bet if they don’t talk every day about a “war” they don’t need to make up, the Obama Democrats’ war on jobs.  It just happens that a great many of the casualties are women.