from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Good insight 

Entitled "If I were a Blogger, here's what I would write today" offered by our guest blogger, Schner, a-k-a the Love of My life:

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Bush said, "From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth." Think about that for a moment. People have rights, the president said, because they bear the image of God.

What's wrong with this statement? Well, to begin with, and all too typically for George W. Bush and those who write his words for him, it substitutes theology for history. It has nothing to do with the Constitution, of course, so presumably Bush and his speechwriters were thinking of the Declaration of Independence when they spoke of "the day of our founding." Leaving aside such quibbles as whether any of those who crafted the Declaration were thinking of women at all, it's crystal
clear that the Declaration proclaims the basis of human rights to be, not the fact that human beings are in the image of God (the Biblical concept Bush alludes to), but the fact that "they are endowed by their Creator" with these rights.

In other words, Thomas Jefferson (the original author of the passage in question) grounds human rights on the divine origin of the rights themselves. Bush grounds them in the mankind's own divinely analogous nature. Jefferson says we have rightsbecause God gave them to us. Bush says we have rights because we are like God. It's a very, very
big difference, and deftly substitutes a specifically Christian, and Jewish, theology for the natural-rights philosophy that for 228 years has been the moral underpinning of American government.

"From the day of our founding," then, we have proclaimed no such thingas the president claims. But George W. Bush just did, and made it a new American foundational doctrine, rooted in one particular tradition of religious faith.

Did anyone notice?

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Friday, January 28, 2005

To be, or not to be (a Democrat)? 

I am resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, wherein we do not register by party. Thus officially we are all "independents." And while for much of my adult life I have been oriented towards the Democratic party, it was not always so, nor have I been absolutely consistent in my voting and my support.

I grew up in Westchester County, just north of NYC. My parents both had an interest in politics, and the entire game in our town (Mamaroneck) was the Republican party, so they both gravitated there. My father started by being active on the local zoning board, and my mother got involved in more of the party mechanics, in fact becoming vice-chair of the town party organization, a position which eventually helped land her a job as an Assistant Attorney General ujnder Louis Lefkowitz during the first one + terms of Nelson Rockefellar as governor -- she was not sworn in until November of 1959, b ecause there was a securfity probem -- you see, she had been at the OPA and the NY State Police kept coming up with hits for a Sylvia Bernstein who worked there who was a communist. It was not my mother, who had worked there under her maiden name, Livingston. Eventually the State Police cleared her and she worked in the AG's office until her death in 1963. It was not until I read Carl Bernstein writing about growing up as a red Diaper baby that I realized the Sylvia whom the state police confused with my mom was his mom!!

As a pre-teen I leafleted in the 1956 election cycle for Eisenhower. I can remember singing a song to the tune of the Disney Song [from Snow White] "Whistle while you work:"

Whistle while you work
Stevenson's a jerk
Eisenhower has more power
Whistle why you work.

In 1960 my parents were not too enthusiastic about Nixon, although it was not until later that I learned their distaste actually went back to when they were all at the OPA -- my mother had apparently actually had some not so pleasant dealings with him. On the other hand, they were not excited about JFK because they were far too aware of some of the activities and attitudes of Joseph P Kennedy.

And yet, by 1960 I was already beginning to lean to Democratic, although there were problems with the national party. I was growing up in a time of the development of the Civil Rights movement. We watched Little Rock on the TV ... and that was but a few years after my earliest tv memories, which were of the Army-McCarthy hearings. While I did not like the rascism I saw in the Southern Democrats, I also saw that most of the Blacks I admired were Democrats [because of FDR], Jackie Robinson being the msot notable exception. Race mattered, because I was shocked by a trip to Miami over one Christmas to see signs for separate bathrooms, and my parents having to explain that to me.

By my junior year of hs, 1961-62, I was an active teen Democrat. Now, that was partially because the town chair had a very lovely daughter on whom I had had a crush, although that had ceased to be the reason, and some other issues were in my consciousness. I was not saying the New York State Regents prayer even before the Engel decision came down, and it was during that Fall that I ceased reciting or standing for the Pledge of Allegiance .. I was becoming very concerned with the issues of civil rights and civil liberties, perhaps growing up in a nominally Jewish household, and knowing as I did survivors of the Holocaust who attended our Temple, and hearing tales from my mother's mother and her siblings (of whom I think either 5 or 6 were still alive) of persecution in Poland before coming to the U.S. [of course, several had been born here, but they repeated family tales .. and I had vague memories at Passover Seders of my mother's paternal grandmother, born in 1862 and who lived well into her 90's, who had also been born in Poland, and emigrated to the US in the early 1880's].

Civil Rights became a defining issue for me. I was involved in protests the summer I graduated from hs -- 1963 -- and on August 28 of that year I came to Washington for the March -- it was an important moment in my adolescence. After JFK's assassination, hearing LBJ speak to the Congress on behalf of the Civil Rights bill, saying in his Texas accent "we shall overcome" had a profound effect on me. And yet, without the courage of Northern Republicans like Everett Dirkson the SothernDdems might have been able to kill the bill. So I was still conflicted about party identification.

Also, when I was in college [at Haverford], my father had remarried and moved to NY City, wherein we saw the election of a very progressive Republican mayor, John Lindsey, at a time when many of the Democratic figures in the city were, to put it bluntly, hacks who were at the least ethically challenged.

I also responded positively to the War on Poverty -- LBJ was clearly influenced by his own personal experiences, including his service as a school teacher in poor communities in Texas. That appealed to me, because I have always had a belief that we have responsibility to a larger community.

Don't worry -- I'm not going to recapitulate my entire life story in this entry!!!

The point is that I had a mixed background politically. And that has been as true for much of my adult life as well. There have been Republicans I have greatly admired -- Sen Mark Hatfield comes to mind immediately. The Barry Goldwater of the 1970's and later is another -- he was blunt enough to play a major role in getting Nixon out of office, and in his libertarian orientation made it absolutely clear that he had no problems with gay rights -- this had become important for me because of experiences of living in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights, two communities with substantial gay populations, and coming to know quite a few a ordinary people, often with interests and concerns very similar to my own. Here again it is the issue of human dignity, perhaps the best way I can put it.

And yet ... had I been given my choice of whom to support for President in 1968 it might well have been Nelson Rockefellar, even though I had sat in at his NYC office in a Civil Rights protest. There were some things about Gene McCarthy that did not draw me, and as much as admired how far RFK had come, from his days as an aide to Joe McCarthy to an outspoken advocate of the downtrodden, perhaps in my still relative immaturity (I was 22) I had not totally forgiven him for his past [and his father] and also resented that he was not willing to challenge LBJ on the war until after McCarthy had wounded Johnson in NH. As it happened, I was in Sweden when Johnson announced that he would not run again, and I could not fully explain in terms that the Swedes could understand what was happening. I knew I couldn't stand Nixon, and quite frankly I knew too much negative about Humphrey, and I was still very judgmental then [as if I am not now!!]

I have never voted for a Republican for president. I have chosen not to vote -- in 1984, because I could not bring myself to vote for Mondale, and because I knew it would not make a difference. I had worked as a volunteer for [and been offered a paid job by] the Hollings campaign, and somehow in the midst of all that, even though I had moved to Virginia in 1982, in 1983 I was asked if i was interested in returning to Penna for a fairly serious job with the state party -- I was not, and I don't know how serious the discussion was, but the person raising the subject was the state party chair at the time.

So I guess by the early 1980's I was pretty much of a Democrat -- when I moved to Arlington County, one of the first people with whom i was in contact was a former college classmate, John Milliken, who at the time was on the Arlington County Board, later ran un successfully for Congress, then later served as Virginia's Secretary of Transportation. Through him I met the man who was running as a Democrat for the County Treasurer spot, Frank O'Leary. I became heavily involved in helping him win. At the time a heavy majority of the local elected officials in Arlington were Republican, although the state legislators were all Democratic. But that election in 1983 was a major turning point -- today the only elected non -Dedm is a Republican on the school board, who incidentally is the only Republican for whom I have voted in the past 22 years, since moving to Virginia. It felt good to be part of that transition, as it had back in Media Pennsylvania where I had lived before, when we went from one seat on the Boro Council to having everything except one financial job.

So why do I hesitate to call myself a Democrat? There are three reasons. First, the Democratic party really does not stand for anything, so that while in most cases I agree with "Democratic" positions, that is not always the case. Second, I have seen far too much intolerance on some issues --abortion, for example, when it is matter of conscience for some who agree on all other issues-- to make me want to swear loyalty. My wife is pro-life, albeit with exceptions for rape and to save the life of the mother. She votes Democratic despite that because she is strongly pro-Environment, believes in government support of the Arts, and is opposed to the death penalty [when I say "pro-life" she is consistent]. The third and final reason is that ultimately I do not swear loyalty to a party .. I will vote my conscience.

I do not believe that this country will survive for much longer as a democracy if we continue to be riven by party, to be intolerant of those who disagree with us, even on our most basic issues. If we are not willing to work hard to find common ground, we will not have to worry about terrrorists hurting us, we will destroy ourselves. The lack of comity in recent Congresses clearly demosntgrates the problem. This is one I saw coming -- in October 1983 at Charlie Peters' Neoliberal Conference in Reston VA, I rembmer constantly asking how we could restore some comity in our political processes and public discourse -- how could we learn how how to disagree without being disagreeable. I was concerned then, and now I am close to despair on this point. I am an active participant in progressive and left-leaning boards and lists, and I see as much intolerance there as I do from many on the right. I can see some vituperation in the current contest for Chair of the DNC.

So although I have not, since age 10, worked for a Republican as a volunteer, I remain somewhat reluctant to identify myself as a Democrat. And yet, I see interesting things happening, from the ground up, and with leadership from a variety of sources -- Howard Dean is clearly one example, but so are others who are willing to challenge the traditional way of doing things -- Barack Obama, Brian Schweitzer, many at local levels. So perhaps there will be enough clariy and comity that I will comfortable making a formal affiliation, who knows. For now I remain as I am -- leaning Democratic, bujt open to other possibilities -- i view myhselfs as an eclectic progressive - there is no political figure with whom I agree on everything, and I would be shocked to find one. Thus I remain reserved enough to want to be able to disagree on those issues which matter for me. That is far easier to do as an independent. And at 58 going on 59, I am unlikely to either run for office or to have a position of great responsibility in a political organization or campaign, so I have the luxury of remaining independent.

And that's more than enough blogging for this evening.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I know I am not alone in these sentiments. It will be a shameful day for the U.S. Senate if they vote confirm as the 2nd highest law enforcement officer [because technically the President is the highest] a man such as this,

Who has lied to the United States Senate in his confirmation hearing about the role he played in keeping Bush from jury duty;

Who lied to the judge about the reason Bush should not serve, when the real reason was to avoid presenting the then governor of Txas with a Hobson's choice, to lie about his drunken driving charge to to allow it to finally become public;

Who in his role as principal legal advisor to the governor on matters of executive clemency did not present all or even a balanced amount of the information relevant to the clemency appeals of inmates facing capital punishment;

Who in his role as principal legal advisor to the president has actively solicited legal opinions to justify ignoring long-standing U.S. international agreements, ratified conventions, and U.S. statutes prohibiting participation in torture;

Who refuses to answer relevant direct questions from United States Senators during said confirmation hearings, and even when he responds later in writing does not address the import of the questions;;

Whose actions have jeopardized the safety of all American military personnel who may fall into enemy hands in the current conflicts in iraq and Afghanistan, and in any future conflict in which this country may be embroiled

Who throughout his career has evinced far more dedication to the politicacl welfare of George Walker Bush than he has to upholding well-established principles of the American legal system, or even to the Office of the Presidency which he presumes to advicse legally.

I hereby state my clear determination that I will never offer political or financial support of any kind to any United States Senator who votes to confirm Gonzales. Such an action will forever disqualify in my mind that person from holding office on the grounds that s/he, like the President who nominated Gonzales, is thereby violating the oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Kenneth J. Bernstein

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Fascism? Another post 

There is much in the news today that again forces me to consider how far down the road to Fascism this country has already gone. Today there are detailed reports in the Washington Post, including about how Rumsfeld has set up a group to do field ops a la CIA, but without the oversight that Agency must undergo at least from the Intelligence Committees in the Congress. There is an additional news story today about how Special Ops personnel are being used within domestic borders, ostensibly to support local and state law enforcement in the war against terror. So why do these raise my concerns about Fascism?

One of the key steps in the development of the total fascism of the Nazi Germany is when Hitler made the Gestapo not subject to the law. This allowed the existence of a group which could simply take any action it wanted against any domestic opponent, and made it far more difficult for there to be any resistance or opposition, something that was already problematic given Hitler's dictatorial powers as Fuhrer. If one examines the two news stories,and combines awareness of what there represent with knowledge of previous actions by this administration to avoid oversight and to place its actions outside restriction by law, international agreement, legislative oversight, or press examination, the overall picture is frightening to contemplate.

The Secretray of Defense has gone from his own private intelligence analysis shop -- the office of Special Plans, under Doug Feith, cooking the analyses for political purposes -- to his own operations division. This is precisely what the recent piece by Sy Hersh was addressing, for which he was accused of treason by Tony Blankley, who advocated his prosecution and possible execution. There is no oversight for the actions of these personnel, except from Rumsfeld and his minions like Steve Cambone and Gen William "my God is bigger than his god" Boykin, even though their actions could embroil this country in yet another war. The use of Special Ops military personnel is in theory restricted by the Posse Comitatus statute, but given how Gonzales and others have argued that the president is not restricted by Constitution, Treaty, or statute if it interferes with his prerogatives as Commander in Chief, and given that the "war on terror" is and will be ongoing, there is clearly little restriction on how these personnel can be used against domestic opponents. And given that the administration believes, even without Patriot Act II, that it can arrest and imprison without trial even American citizens it views as terrorists, that it has held at least one of these in a military prison [brig] and argued against judicial oversight of its actions, we are moving dangerously down a path where the millitary is used as the intrument of a Fascist dictatorship.

It is not a military dictatorship that I am describing, since those at the top have almost no military experience themselves. It is a clear perversion of what we still call the "Defense" forces ofr political, economic, and personal reasons of those at the top of the current power structure. We must note that as the administration controls who will be in key military positions, it can and probably is moving to ensure total personal loyalty among those commanders, thus removing any possible center of authority and respect around which opposition in the military could coalesce.

We are still not yet in Fascism, if for no other reason than reports such as these, and those by Sy Hersh, can be published. Mere schoolteacher that I am, I nevertheless have not been 'disappeared" for posts like this -- YET. But one must realize that each new disclosure adds more details to what is becoming an increasingly frightening prospect.

The President claims a mandate for his policies and actions. Let us consider an historical perspective. Hitler assumed office as Chencellor, appointed by Hindenburg, on January 30, 1933, shortly after his party won the most votes, but still substantially less than 40%. After the Reichstag fire, Hitler asked for and received extensive powers that moved him in the direction of dictatorship. He moved to outlaw all parties except his own, assumed dictatorial powers, then held a referendum on his new and absolute powers for which he received 90% approval. This did not happen all at once, but like his actions towards the Holocaust, which begin with the opening of Dachau within months of his taking office, Hitler indicated to the world the direction he was going, and yet world remained silent.

This president has admitted that a dicatorship would be nice if he were the dictator. At the time some people interpreted that as a bad joke. I do not think it was. It is interesting that he will not let anyone give him bad news about Iraq. This is far too reminiscent of the fear that people had of telling the Fuhrer that his plans were not working, that they would not interrupt a nap to tell him that reserves at Normandy needed to be moved to counter the invasion ... oh there are so many examples.

Will there be a clear demarcation when we will have passed into fascism? I don't know. When teaching about the Holocaust, I pointed out to my students the many incremental steps that Hitler took with little effective opposition. I used the metaphor of the frog, who if placed in boiling water would surely jump out, even as he was scalded, but if put into cold water for which the temperature was gradually but continually increased would not realize that he was being cooked. I keep returning to this illustration because I believe we are all being cooked by this administration. I could be clever, and note that they "cooked" the intelligence, but most readers already know that. We could say "our goose is being cooked" and that familiar line would also have resonance -- Americans dying needlessly in Iraq, our killing so many Iraqis that we are poisoning a large portion of the world against us, making us all less secure, which therefore becomes a justification for removing even more of our civil liberties.

We have no chance to speak in the electoral process for most of us until 2006. We cannot wait until then. Clearly in those high profile elections that will occur this year, in Virginia and New Jersey and New York City, we must organize to turn them into referenda on what this administration is doing, to defeat badly anyone who is unwilling to denounce the destruction of American democracy and the loss of respect and honor this nation used to have. We need to place maximum pressure on all members of Congress and as many media figures as possible to prevent further descent down the slippery slope.

Otherwise the question will not be, at one point will we be fascist? We already will be, and we no longer will be allowed to ask such questions.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Friday, January 21, 2005

and again the snows will come 

I sit on a Friday night in my neighborhood Starbucks, blooging courtesy of the T-Mobile connection. We had one day day this week starting late because of snow. Tomorrow we will probably get in excess of 5 inches, perhaps as many as 8, which almost certainly means another delayed opening on Monday. Meanwhile Washingtonians crowd the supermarkets as if we were facing a recurrence of Noah's Flood. And I reflect on the week past, especially in my classroom.

Today my students took a test on World War II and related material. It is amazing how poorly some did, although it was a deliberately difficult test, to refocuse their attention at the start of a new semester. This is the first time we have ended the first semester prior to winter break, so many do not really know how to organize their time and their study. In the past they would have come back from Christmas to review before exams, rather than embarking as we did on a major unit of study.

Still, I must admit surprise as well as laughter, at some of the responses I encountered. It is hard to believe that even my lowest level student could truly believe that Hitler was the US President during the war. And I now wonder about the social encounters of the student who answered that the term used to mark the end of the war with Japan was V-D Day! These were two of the more memorable answers I encountered.

Does it matter that many did poorly on the test? Perhaps. But I am not sure the test was a full measure of what they had absorbed. On Wednesday I did an intensive day on the Holocaust. It was difficult for some of them, and here I mean not just my few students of Jewish background. On the board were the names of the 6 biggest killing camps with the number of deaths in each. Also up was a list of European nations in decreasing rank of percentage of Jewish population killed. And with that as a backdrop, I spent the period reading selectively from a chronology of the Nazi era, beginning with Hitler taking office on Jan 30, 1933 and ending in 1945. The had to take notice that the first concentration camp, Dachau, opened for business within two months of Htiler coming into office. Those who were pro-life learned about the forced sterilizations and forced abortions. They learned that the story of the 1936 Berlin Olympics should not be viewed as the triumph of Jesse Owens, since he got his 4th Gold medal (and Mac Robinson his second medal) because Avery Brundage didn't want to embarrass Hitler further, so he replaced Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, two Jews, with two Blacks who had already won medals.

They learned that the Einsatzgruppen killed over 1.5 million by shooting them, and that turning to camps and gassing was as much to spare the feelings of those poor killers as it was for efficiency. They learned that when the NY Times first published in 1942 that over 400,000 had already been killed, it was on an inside page of the paper of record. And they learned about the Wannsee Conference, the detailed planning of the Final Solution, a meeting attended by a German Secretary of State named Martin Luther.

That was on Wednesday, January 19. We did not watch the Inaugural, because Thursday was the day to review for the test. it was also, as I reminded them, the 64th anniversary of that same Wannsee Conference, an event not at all commemorated or even mention in the various news reports of the events of the day.

On Wednesday my students learned that I took this personally, not just be cause I have a Jewish name, not just because I had many relatives killed in the liquidation of the Jewish community of Bialystok. They learned that the camps killed Gypsies, the crippled, the mentally weak, the chronically ill, Jehovah's Witnesses, Homosexuals, political opponents of the regime. They learned that the GeStaPo was placed above the law. They heard my belief that to even tolerate demeaning language used towards any group is to take the first step down the slippery slope that inevitably leads to Auschwitz.

So far no one has complained about my lesson on the Holocaust. And this year I can still teach like that. But I can well conceive that I may be barred from doing so in the future, as this country remains at serious risk of losing its democratic basis. My students know that I believe it is absolutely necessary to speak up and protest the violation of the rights of anyone lest we, like Pastor Niemoller, one day turn around to discover there is no one left to speak up at the violation of our rights.

And again the snows will come. I do not ask as did Villon, "Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?" For now a deep snow will cover this city with a whitedness that will bespeak a purity that it does not have. For underneath is the moral decay of so many who seek only to remain in office or position, unwilling to challenge those who pervert our constitution, who are destroying the Republic and the very fabric of our society.

Now when the the snows come they are white, seemingly clean and fresh. Someday, perhaps soon, they will perhaps be the sooty gray of the old industrial heartland cities. Only that gray came from somehwat honest work. This discoloration will be that of corruption, of decay...

and again the snows will come ........

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

National Board Certification 

As is obvious from the name of this blog, I am a school teacher. In that capacity, I am currently participating in the process to become a National Board Certified teacher, that is, I am participating in the certification process sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This is an extensive and potentially costly [although my $2,300 fee is being paid by the State of Maryland and my school district] process that requires crfating several video tapes, during a fair amount of writing, submitting samples of student work, and a lot of material documenting our accomplishments in improving student learning, communicating with parents, providing service and leadership to the educational community, and one's role as a teacher as learner. Further, one has to sit for a number of tests wherein one writes in a controlled environment [on a computer, while timed].

There are currently three natioal Board Certified teachers at my school, and there are three of us doing the process now. It can be more than a bit intimidating. The way the material must be submitted is very precise, and when one's portfolio is grade one gets a score, but no comments as to what might need improvement. I won't describe the entire process of creating the portfolio or how it is scored, but since this will over the next few months consume an increasing portion of my time and energy, I thought a few comments might be in order.

The process does require one to think quite a bit, and in great depth, about one's teaching practice. On the one hand this is not particularly difficult for me -- I have been a journal keeper for much of my life, and my prior educational training -- my MAT at Hopkins and my doctoral work at Catholic - required me to maintain a reflective practice. And yet to do such reflection knowing it will be examined by others can be quite sobering. I tend to be highly critical of my own teaching. I always worry about the kids I do not reach, or the lessons that do not go as well as I would like. On the other hand the feedback I get from students and parents is overwhelmingly positive. I have tuaght primarily freshmen in high school, and every year a handful come back and ask me to write their college recommendations because of how much being in my class made a difference in their high school experiences. Yet the positive feelings that come from such encounters do not wash away the doubts about what I might have been able to do better, about the kids I did not reach in that way.

I have resumed posting to this blog. I am still an active participant in www.dailykos.com -- yet I worry about the time and mental energy these actions take, and whether they could be better used thinking about my teaching, preparing for my classes. Ultimately I think my blogging -- like much of my reading -- is an essential underpinning of my teaching, even though I sincerely doubt I would get any credit fro it were I to submit it as evidence to the National Board process.

Blogging requires me to think, to express, to ponder the ideas of others, to participate [expecially at dailykos] in interchanges with those with whom I ight well be in disagreement. All of these are skills that I am attempting to impart -- or should i say inculcate - in my students. By partipating in online exchanges, or even in thinking how I express myself on this one-way blog, I am working on the very things I want my students to be able to do. And in the struggles I encounter I am provoked in new and often quite interesting ways to think about my teaching practice.

Normally I teach government, in the past to 9th graders, next year I will teach it in 10th graders. This year only I am teaching US History since Reconstruction. In any case blogging has required me to think even fruther about the nature of evidence and documentation, certainly a key issue in history. It has required me confront how to disagree while maintaining the dialog, that is, to disagree without being disagreeable. That is also something I wish more of my students could learn, so that perhaps their generation will not be so prone to flaming and attacking as is mine [and I am 58+]. Blogging has also made me think more clearly about the difference of writing to a specific individual or group and expressing to a larger and perhaps more varied audience.

The last point ties in directly with the certification process. My portfolio will be read by other teachers, not by professors, or educational experts, unless in holding one of those titles they remain in a relevant classrom, in my case in high school social studies. How I justify and explain what I do is very different to that audience than it would be were I writing to parents who know something of me from their children or to teachers who already know something about my idiosyncracies. Those who read my portfolio will do so anonymously. Only those who see the videotape will know my name [because it is used by the children] and how I appear and sound.

I expect that I will from time to time post here about the work I do for my portfolio. I cannot post complete essays for reasons too complicated to explain here, but I can post snippets, as well as reflections on the process of reflection [does that qualify as meta-reflection?]. I will note that my wife has informed me that any time I start to get depressed about my teaching, she will pull out the videotapes I made in this process to remind me what a good teacher I am. I have told her that the tapes shows me at close to my best, and I am all too aware of those occasions which don't measure up. Still, her comments are somewhat illustrative of the value of the certification process. Even knowing that not all lessons go so well, I can use the tapes to help me rethink what I have done that works and use the knowledge and understanding so gained to fix those lessons that don't work.

And now I think I will go and reflect the old-fashion way, in a handwritten journal, somethings that has been a part of my life at least since I was 12.

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Thoughts inspired by Armstrong Williams 

Given the recent flap about the DOE paying Armstrong Williams to make positive comments about NCLB, I ahve recently posted a diary entry to dailykos wherein I bloviate a bit. In part I wonder aloud who might have paid Bob Novak. If you have any interest, I suggested you go to http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/1/15/183913/502

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Why I worry about Fascism Part one 

I have recently participated in an exchange on a list of Quakers where the discussion was whether America is moving in the direction of Fascism. Most on that list seem to react negatively to such assertions, offering among other reasons the fact that we [still] have protected civil liberties. While in general ia gree with that assertion, I note that the lack of civil liberties and the existence of a totalitarian state are only some of the indicators of Fascism.

I am most worried by the icnreasing elements of corporatism, whjich was major component of the original fascism of Mussolini. Clearly we have had a long tradition of the blurring of the distinction of corporate and governmental interests. On this we can reflect on Smedley Butler's remarks in his famous "War is a Racket" statement. Or we can look at Charles Wilson, SecDef under Eisenhower, who noted that when he had previously run General Motors it was on the assumptions thyat was good for GM was good for America.

This is not something confined to Republican administrations, to be sure. After all, the division of Halliburton, Kellogg Brown Root, which has gotten all the attention about its contracts in Iraq, was original Brown & Root Construction and it had very close ties to LBJ -- Goerge Brown basically helped buy LBJ's first Senate primary, and the company got rich during his presidency for among other things building the Naval port at Cam Ranh Bay,

Still, I think most impartial observers could agree that the tendency towards blurring has been far more profound during the administration of Bush 43 than at any other time in at least that past 100 years.

Further, we have seen in how the administration has gone after some holding Ameican citizenship, such as alHamdi and Padilla, that it is willing to try to circumvent any current guarfantees, and its proposals for Patriot Act II would attempt to legislatively eliminate others. In its demonization of its political opponents, attempting to delegitimize them any way possible, in its misuses of religion,and in its creation of a cult of personality about the current president, it shows many pf the other signs. I could add on this the distorting of governmental reporting when it conflicts with preconceived notions that the adminstration has about the government's role, or anything else in the worlds about which it comments. This includes censoring and rewriting remarks from scientists, and removing access to document on education that contradict the adminstration's espoused positions, even if those documents meet its won standards of "scientific" research.

We still have relatively free freedom of expression,despite an outgoing AG who arrgued that if we criticized the president we were aiding terrorists in theirr attacks on the US -- okay, he didn't EXACTLY say that, but it was the clear import of his remarks.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

Posting Yet again -- first time since May 

Primary reason for absence has been lack of time. I was prodded to do so today for several reasons, the most important of which is that my name is crossed out as a pster blogger at Dailykos [where I spend far too much time posting]. The other reason is I now have a wifi laptop so I can post other than when I amj at home in my study.

I will not offer that much in this post, except the notice that I am back. I will make other posts, confined to specific topics, in a moment or two.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.

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