Saturday, April 12, 2014

Voting with Our Wallets

(This was a column I wrote for the Effingham Daily News a few weeks ago.  Considering its topic, I thought I would share it with the rest of you.)

Conventional wisdom suggests that people often vote with their wallets.  Based on some recent election results, conventional wisdom seems vindicated.  The selection of Bruce Rauner as the Republican gubernatorial candidate makes sense.  After all, we live in a state that has been broken by politicians, and Mr. Rauner was the only non-politician running.  No one can begrudge a person for choosing a candidate without a Springfield pedigree. 
On another topic, conventional wisdom also suggests that a number of factors contribute to the educational success of a child.  Heredity itself plays an important role, as does parenting and the overall home environment.  Unfortunately, those are also elements that are difficult to quantify.  How much of a role do genetics play, for example?  What about socio-economic status, or the educational experiences of the parents themselves?  It seems that for every convincing theory arguing this way or that, two or three other theories boldly proclaim otherwise.  At the end of the day, education is complicated.  Perhaps that is why we argue about it so much, and perhaps that is why our state and federal legislatures spend so much time paying lip service to the merits of education in the first place.
Try as they might, however, politicians cannot legislate a home environment. They cannot make laws that will lead to a child being raised by a family that values education. 
We can, however, legislate public schools to a certain extent, and we can do that because they are public.  We can influence the classroom environment, because the classrooms belong to us.  We pay for them.
And make sure of this, we will get what we pay for.
Bruce Rauner has not been vague about his disdain for public employee unions.  He has not been coy about his plans for public employee pensions.  That is probably one reason why he won the Republican primary.  People see a broken system and they have decided that some culprits in this mess are the very same unions he has chosen to battle.  Like the border-state governors he hails as heroes, Mr. Rauner has very openly targeted public employee unions as a menace to the pro-business environment he hopes to cultivate.
And perhaps there is logic to that, at least in the short term.  Perhaps if Mr. Rauner’s plans all work out, skittish businesses might be more likely to choose Illinois as a place worth considering.
Children, however, are not educated in the short term, and children rarely get to choose where they go to school.
 My own child will begin kindergarten in five months.  Like any parent, I pray she enters a classroom each day that is led by a talented, caring, and hard-working teacher.  Fortunately, area communities are full of such educators.  Teachers retire, however.  Teachers are replaced.  Each time we, as a public, allow the teaching profession to become a less-attractive option for our college-age generation, students suffer.  Over time, our nation as a whole suffers.
            Before continuing, though, let us pause and ask ourselves some questions.  We just decided a few paragraphs ago that the predominate indicator of a child’s educational success stems from the home environment and all that that entails:  parenting, heredity, and resources.  Thus, what difference does it make what the child’s classroom environment looks like, particularly if it’s not even your child?  Why should you care if the school across town is falling apart when your children go to the school across the street? 
            At the end of the day, why would we even concern ourselves about what is done unto others and to other’s children, as long as our children are doing fine?
Bruce Rauner has made it very clear that he will take the lead in making public-education a less-attractive option for a generation eager to join the work force.  That is not hyperbole, it is simply a logical extension of his proposed policy.  If you decrease the ability for a profession to earn in the present and retire in the future, you have significantly decreased the likelihood that talented, caring, and hardworking people choose that profession. 
Unfortunately, this is not a scenario that is going to happen someday. This is something that is happening right now. In about a month, Eastern Illinois University will graduate one of the smallest classes of student teachers in its history.   Considering EIU ‘s reputation as a teacher’s college, this should be alarming.  However, it also makes perfect sense.  After all, a society can only treat a profession unprofessionally for so long before it sees the consequences.
To conclude, we should all vote with our wallets. We should take those wallets out, in fact, and place them next to our ballots.  Before we mark our ballets, however, we really ought to have the guts to open them up and at least glance at the pictures inside.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy birthday, HARPER!

So much to say about this little princess. This is going to be a multiple post topic. First, here are a couple favorite pics. 

Date Night!

Shonn and I had a great night with our besties, the Bennetts and the Smiths. Olive Garden and lots of laughing!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wild Summer 2012

EIWP 2012

A site for discussion about writing:
Calling all educators!
Attention all writers!
Everyone is welcome!
Like us;
get closer;
follow us.

learning experience.

Imagine change.
Fall into a good book.
Value work and words.
Praise focus and motivation.

What starts here CHANGES THE WORLD!

EIWP 2012--I like it wild!

(This is a found poem written from phrases found on the 3rd floor of Coleman Hall during the bathroom break writing crawl.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thirteenth Summer

The Last Thirteenth Year

Our newspaper claims they say “Pharaoh, Pharaoh”
a mating call of the plagues of Egypt coming in sevens or tens

locusts brought on the wind, cover the eye of the land
eating every tree until the Pharaoh admits his sins.

But these come every thirteen years,

teens walking hand-in-hand
under power lines along an abandoned track.

Listening to cicadas, their twirling wings like vibrating atoms,
I feel more like a pharaoh than a lover,

letting go of the last thirteenth year
when you walked with me under singing oaks

holding a dog’s leash instead of a hand.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If you really knew me. . .

In high school, friends from another school, who nonetheless knew my mother,
assumed I was a cheerleader.
They judged me based on my size,
my smile,
my personality.
But I wasn't and never had been a cheerleader.

My colleagues who only know me as the teacher who cannot say "No,"
assume that in high school I was the student leader.
The student involved in every activity,
especially Student Council.
But I wasn't ever involved in Student Council.

If you really knew me, you would know that I was a caver.
Not spelunking, that's what you non-cavers call it.
I was a belly-crawling in the mud,
through an opening that not even my hard had would fit through,
through an opening that my now after-birth hips would never fit through,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Haikus and a Lost Dog

Haikus for a Lost Dog


She felt cold, tundra

of white, clean the firm silence.

Empty steppe links breaths.


Wrapped in off-white sheets

her tail a permanent curve

she rests on old snow.


Pillow replaces

her, bearing her scent after

she moves to smooth steel.

Haikus from a Lost Dog


They freeze-dry their pets

in some countries, preserving

bodies, not just hides.


In movies, women

sit on dogs and bury them.

Someone digs them up.


For taxidermists

only outer hides remain.

My breath blows through fire.