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Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM PDT

Walker's Wine and Wickets Protest

by CSCrash

Tonette's nausea inducing event Wine and Wickets put on in order to renovate the Governor's Mansion (the run down shack that it is) brought out a protest to the doorstep, both front and back, of the Governor on Thursday. I was there out on the water. A chilly day, and a chilly reception for Scott and Tonette.

My brother and I arrived to a flotilla of around eight or nine boats close to 5 pm. By the end it was around 16 boats. Chants of "Recall Walker" were strong. Plenty of pot shots shouted to the bourgeoise crowd milling around taking in the view of civic discontent. I kept trying to get someone to shuttle out a glass of Chardonnay, and a nearby boater was insistent that he wanted some pot roast. All to no avail.

The crowd looked pretty stuffy and pretentiousness was as thick as the sweater vests. The Queen's court looked like they were watching the Governor's grass grow. The most excitement likely came from taking in the rebukes of the protesters. Queen Tonette's address to her court was roundly booed with zeal from the flotilla.

I just wish I could hold a fundraiser to fix up my house. I linked to video I took here.


Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 06:07 AM PDT

The value of experience in teaching

by CSCrash

There are many reasons to value experienced teachers, or employees more generally. Especially in the field of education, experience matters. However, more and more we hear the call to clear the field for the younger generation of employees. We should be careful to consider the sources. If you haven't already you should be sure to read Diane Ravitch's best seller, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. It explains so much of what is really behind the corporate reform movement in education. As a father of three, I know that if I had a choice to place my child (especially the one who struggles with attention) in the class of an experienced teacher vs. a young and green teacher, it's a no brainer. I'll take the experienced one almost every time.

Experienced teachers have better classroom management skills. Teaching does not exist without classroom management. The latter permits the former. Anyone who has ever taught an hour in a classroom would affirm this.

While there are certainly some veteran teachers who should consider a career change. The very same could be said for many more younger teachers. The unfortunate fact is that we are under some severe brain drain in the profession. The young ones leave, not just their school or district, but the field of education entirely within the first five years. We burn 'em out too fast. Many, not all, of those that are able to survive the grind struggle to keep fresh in a field that offers little to no upward mobility, other than jumping into administration, gaining an associate professorship, or private tutoring. The workloads have become entirely unrealistic, the work environments entirely too political, the students and parents have become entirely too savvy and manipulative of the system, private interests entirely too interested in finding a way to suck profit out of the system, and the public too is entirely too convinced that public schools are broken. Truth be told, this is not a child's playground. This system chews 'em up and spits 'em out. Unless you've got some experience, you will likely find too many pitfalls to succeed.

In order to figure out how to survive this landscape, younger teachers need mentors. In districts where they are making radical changes, the experience is walking out the door and the younger teachers will suffer in decreased mentoring. Education innovation and success depends on the ability of the professionals to collaborate. That holds true for collaboration between mentee and mentor. Data shows that younger teachers who have mentoring programs are more successful and stay in the profession longer.

Education depends upon being able to pull in the community into the schools. The experienced teachers are the ones who have vital community connections to parents, families and local businesses. Those connections are key to making the school a success and the community benefits as a result.

The institutional knowledge of not just their school, but also the district and community are important. Traditions and history must be maintained as part of any successful organization. Some of that is only held in the memories of experienced teachers. If they aren't around to contribute, we risk wasting valuable time, energy and money on ideas and methods that have at one time already been tried and failed. Oftentimes, that won't stop a young administrator with a fragile ego.

Last, the experienced teachers are usually the most vocal. They know the players, they know the system, they've seen what works and what is smoke and mirrors, they know what benefits kids and what is a waste of time. They are, by design, protected from retaliation, so don't feel terribly threatened by bully adminstrators. This, their higher salaries, and the ability to threaten the egos of some adminstrators because of their knowledge, and oftentimes their popularity make them easy targets of criticism from the educrats and corporate reform insiders.

Enthusiasm does not a teacher make. Energy is important, but perky doesn't cut it. Young teachers should not be held up as a sole solution for improvement because they possess enthusiasm. In fact, many are timid creatures trying to find their feet, get along within a new system, are learning how to deal with parents for the first time and are less likely to take risks and innovate in the classroom. They are much more likely to go along with whatever is handed to them without even questioning it. Ideal for administrators, but not kids. Because of the somewhat more firm ground they stand on regarding their jobs, the experienced teachers are actually more inclined to take risks in the classroom where appropriate. That is when they feel they can deviate from the tried and true methods and strategies developed over time.

There are many very good education blogs that have come along in recent years that should be put on your list of must reads. Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier write letters to each other in Bridging Differences.  Anthony Cody's Living in Dialogue is excellent in providing first hand information and analysis. Not to be missed is The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss with the Washington Post.


Given a choice of a teacher with very little or no experience or a teacher with a great deal of experience, which would you choose for yourself or your child?

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So I'm reading over at Badger Democracy about all the reasons that Walker has failed the citizens of the State of Wisconsin. There are many. The blog is broken down by topic area and then provides a brief description of how he has failed in this area. Clear articulation of his unethical behavior, his clear misrepresentation of the hard right legislative agenda we are all being forced to deal with, and his upside down priorities will be very important to success in his recall. It has been a wild ride and we need some time to slow down, process it all, and develop some very clear converging message points.

In any event, as I was reading the entry it got me thinking. Thinking about some other ideas we should be thinking about and messaging. Namely, as we approach Labor Day 2011, I believe it is important for all of us to take some time to reflect on the importance of unions in our lives. We should also think about how it has changed our nation and society. What would our lives be like, our state, or our nation had their never been a labor movement?

I would like to solicit your ideas here in the comments section regarding why you feel unions are important. Rules are 1) only one reason per comment. 2) be clear and thoughtful (cuz unions are sexy won't cut it) 3) Ideas will be compiled and put into a letter that I will draft and send to every legislator and the Governor in Wisconsin from me and my union on Wednesday so that it reaches all of them before Labor Day.

I'll start us out. Unions are important as a check on the power of employers or managers.


What do you believe is the most important value to a union, public or private?

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Governor Scott Walker and his henchmen have, for months, attempted to characterize the cuts coming to state employees as rather modest and insignificant. We decided to try to put faces on the cuts and make a statement about the ridiculous attitude and economically dangerous policies of Governor Walker. The statement I read outside Governor Walker's office before delivering 70 pounds of peanuts to his office yesterday is below. Unsurprisingly, no one was available to come speak with us and receive the worker's peanuts that symbolize Walker's flippant characterization of the the cuts taken by public employees starting yesterday, August 25th. Nothing more than peanuts. I left a written note for the Governor explaining the peanuts and demanding restoration of collective bargaining rights

The event was covered by WTDY radio and NBC 15, who provided two interviews. Thanks to everyone who came. It was a blast. I think the best part was sneaking the wheelbarrow full of peanuts around the Capitol Police who were far too fixated on the gathering Solidarity Singers to notice us get into and out of the elevator. Once we were set up they didn't really know what was going on or what to do.

Afterward, we joined a rousing session of the Solidarity Sing Along with over 100 of my brothers and sisters. We also went back later to make sure they hadn't thrown the peanuts away. They were put into large trash bags and put behind the security desk. I told them that if the Governor decides he doesn't want them, we would take them back and donate them to a shelter, or he could do the same as long as he did so in our name.

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Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 05:11 PM PDT

Will Walker's charm offensive work?

by CSCrash

Today's political forecast for the state of Wisconsin: Mostly cloudy, no clearing in sight, an approaching bipartisan front with strong chance for recalls.

The most recent round of recalls that did not swing the state Senate to the Dems did accomplish something very important. That being a conciliatory tone being struck by the bully-in-chief. This could be a good thing if it bears real fruit. Instead I fear it will be more smokescreen prior to an new round of extremist legislation. This time targeting a social agenda. Worse still is that if Walker's charm offensive is successful it will soften his image in the minds of the average voter. That coupled with our notoriously short attention span could be deflating for the Walker recall.

On quite the other hand the two ideas of extremism and conciliation cannot really coexist. If Walker's henchmen in the legislature decide to go for broke ahead of a possible recall (good chance) of the Governor, Walker will either look like the good cop reigning in his nutter counterparts in the legislature, or will appear to have been utterly disingenuous in his efforts to work with Democrats.

One thing for certain is that the pressure created by the recalls that are done and the one to come is working to change behavior. Check out this political cartoon that shows how it is playing out. It's real effect is yet to be determined. I also believe that after all of this has shaken out, the change in behavior is what people like and now see the recalls as a good exercise, which contradicts the Governor's stated hopes that people are sick of elections. Even Rep. Robin Vos' home district paper ran an editorial stating the recalls are a very positive direction for our state's democracy. Vos is among the closest of Walker's henchmen and women.

I'm not saying for second that I believe Walker's efforts are sincere. The man is a ruthless politician who has demonstrated his willingness to go to just about any length to advance the agenda of his party. It will be up to the voters if they want to swallow this swill. If they do it will make the recall more challenging.


Does Feingold's decision not to run for governor mean the recall of Scott Walker should be delayed?

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So it is on the tip of everyone in Wisconsin's collective tongue. When can we start the recall of Scott Walker? With a summer of recalls finishing on the upswing for the good guys there are many wishing to keep the momentum. The next steps are important. While the numbers are moving our direction, without question, the crown jewel of it all will be to remove the Governor from office. The earliest it could be started is the first week of this November. Some believe it might be better to wait until the Presidential election in November 2012. Many would wish it to happen today. It can't happen today, nor can it wait until November, 2012.


When should Governor Scott Walker be recalled?

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Tue Aug 16, 2011 at 03:39 AM PDT

It's not the "what", it's the "how"

by CSCrash

What are the priorities of the Walker administration? Balance the budget? Maybe. Create jobs? Let's hope so. Improve the reputation of the state with business? Likely. These were all issues that were central to his campaign. So why so much opposition to what Walker has stated he wants to do? What was missing is the "how". How would all of these goals be achieved? Now that the vague campaign speeches are long part of history, we know that the "how" of achieving these goals under Walker could never have been a part of his campaign speechs. He needed to cloak his methods in order to get elected. In addition, there are a whole host of new priorities that cropped up once they gained all the majorities in the legislature. In so many aspects of life, it isn't really the "what" that bothers people, it's the "how".

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On August 25th state employees in Wisconsin will receive a paycheck. It will be a paycheck that reflects significant changes. Among those changes will be a loss in pay, no deduction for union dues (already in place), and no deduction for union sponsored health insurance plans (a clearly punitive action directed at only unions and their members). Many employees will be wearing black to commerate the occassion.

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Sat Aug 13, 2011 at 03:38 PM PDT

You Can't Always Get What You Want

by CSCrash

As a union organizer, who took my job in Wisconsin in January before the Walker bomb dropped, and everyone was still hyped on the Packers, the last six months are hard to get my head around. I think the longer one lives in strange times the easier it becomes to step outside of yourself, become detached, and try to look at things less emotionally and more clinically. I believe this holds true for the way I am seeing the result of the election last night. Now having some time to process it, look at some numbers, discuss it with colleagues and generally reflect, if that is possible this early. There are several important take-aways from the results. Some of these take-aways are indisputable and some are my conjecture.

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