Sunday, October 11, 2015

Captain "Queeg" Rauner Launches U.S.S. Illinois?

Rauner Gives "Christening Speech" for U.S.S. Illinois?

Imagine the desperation of the “event planner” as the Greeks prepared for a thousand ships’ launch to bring their purloined Helen home from the licentious grips of young Paris in Troy. 

How many bottles of fine Retsina were available?Or is that a contradiction?

“The tradition of christening a new ship for good luck and safe travel goes way back. Many ancient seafaring societies had their own ceremonies for launching a new ship. The Greeks wore olive branch wreaths around their heads, drank wine to honor the gods, and poured water on the new boat to bless it. The Babylonians sacrificed an ox, the Turks sacrificed a sheep, and the Vikings and Tahitians offered up human blood.”

Champagne bottles, heavy glassed vessels needing to stand up under severe and long-term circumstances were the bottle of choice after America’s Prohibition.  Ining a heavy champagne bottle.  Prior to the country’s release of once-considered immoral principles, water and ciders had been the spirit sending most nearly constructed boats to sea. 

In fact, before steel hulls, would-be bottle breakers would have found themselves enduring extra innings swinging a heavy champagne bottle against wooden frames. This week, the First Lady Michele Obama took several whacks at the U.S.S. Illinois, a new nuclear submarine, to finally break the bottle and the moorings holding back our latest war weapon in an arsenal for which we all spend untold trillions.

“The $2.7 billion vessel is the 13th in the Virginia class of submarines, which can carry out a range of missions including anti-submarine warfare, delivery of special forces and surveillance. The 377-foot submarine will carry a crew of more than 130 and a payload of weapons including torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles.”

This is quite an upgrade from the earlier U.S.S. Illinois commissioned in 1902 and eventually mothballed as a trainer in the Great Lakes.
In earlier days, someone was given the job of scoring the bottle or seeking the weakest point to assist the person swinging it against the bow or side.  It took Mrs. Obama several attempts, but there’s not as much irony in that activity as there was in Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner’s speaking at the event.
The captain of a self-described failing ship of state that is sinking in waves of union workers?

The Groton Shipyards in Connecticut, where Rauner spoke about the newly commissioned first class nuclear sub, is the proud working conglomerate of nearly a dozen unions who work in harmony and craftsmanship to create some of the most sophisticated and futuristic pieces of armament the U.S. has ever designed to assure the safety of its peoples in a very hostile world.

That’s right: unions.
“In the shipyard, where some 2,000 Metal Trades Council members are employed, nine unions represent workers in different trades, including the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers Local 614; United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 1302; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 261; Laborers International Union of North America Shipyard and Marine Local 364; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 1871.
There are also the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 106; the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1122; United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada Local 777; and the Teamsters Local 493.
The unions themselves are collectively represented by the MTC, headed up by MTC President Kenneth J. DelaCruz.”


“Collective” is not a word the current captain of the ship of state of Illinois prefers to hear or consider.  In fact, collective bargaining is just one of the sticking points before negotiating a budget solution, which is leaving thousands of impoverished Illinoisans in pain and suffering as winter quickly approaches.

"Time's up," said Rauner last week.  This was followed by threats to remove the guarantee on state worker health insurances, and more pain for the most vulnerable if his Turnaround Agenda was not accepted by the Democratic majority.  in fact, the governor (of Illinois) is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget to the General Assembly, something Rauner refuses to do until they adhere to his demands.

Last week, our homeless shelter was beyond full.  People arriving in the middle of the night found us full and unable to help.  The money available to assist “new” or “returning” individuals with social or psychiatric needs is no longer available as the offices run out of money to assist as the budget crisis continues. And the Governor, according to the Tribune, is "doubling down."  
Please remind the Captain that people are suffering.  Work on a budget, not a forced idealistic solution. 

Call: 217-782-0244

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rauner: I Told You I'd Make Them All Nuts!

The Forced Psychosis of Being Homeless

I enjoy being around positive and community-minded people.

I spent this morning and the better part of the afternoon with many of them in a helpful seminar listening to Mr. Donald Dahlheimer from Elmhurst, a licensed specialist in the identification and treatment of mental health issues.  We were all there because we are volunteers and site mangers for the homeless in the northern tier of South Suburban PADS – an organization devoted to helping those in need of emergency shelter during the colder months.  

As you might have experienced, the colder months have broken down the front door quickly. And we’re busy.  Our shelter reached well over its occupancy in the first two hours of opening this last Thursday.  It’s a blessing that we have another “sister” church to send our guests to after dinner. 

In our current state budget morass, the homeless are just one group of the many marginalized and impoverished who stand as serviceable pawns for the drawn-out battle between an intractable Governor Rauner and his nemesis Michael Madigan.  When will their suffering call forth enough pressure by the comfortable in our state to make one of the two uncomfortable enough to budge?

No one has blinked yet. 

And, if Thursday night’s numbers are indicative of what’s about to come, this winter will be harsh indeed. 

The Illinois Department of Family Services estimates that about 48,000 people are served by state funded shelters each year. 

Public schools in Illinois saw a 7.7% increase in the number of homeless students in the last measurement – the 2013-14 school year.  That number was over 59,000 students in our state who were homeless.  20,000 of these students are in Chicago. 

While we shoot, let's put the poor in-between.
Mr. Dahlheimer (sorry about the digression) was there to help us work with the many of our guests who arrive in a mentally agitated state or with severe mental health issues.  How do you interact to provide safety for someone who is in a heated conversation with a non-entity? 

The presentation was clinically informative, but wasn’t nor would any program ever be able to provide the outline of reacting to a specific situation.  On the other hand, I found his PowerPoint’s description on “Common Symptoms When Psychosis Is Developing” disquieting.  

Mr. Dalheimer’s list of “Changes in thinking and perceptions” for those entering a psychotic period was exactly what we should expect from any person becoming or enduring homelessness.

·      Sense of alteration of self, others, or the outside world (e.g., feeling that the self or others have changed or are acting different in some way)  
·      Social isolation or withdrawal
·      Sleep disturbances
·      Reduced ability to carry out work or social roles
·      Odd ideas
·      Difficulties with concentration or attention
·      Unusual perceptual experiences (e.g., reductions in or greater intensity of smell, sound, or color)

I watch the homeless walk among us during the day, and I witness the looks and comments they receive.  This is not a sense of alteration; it is an accurate comprehension of alienation.

I see the results of a month or more on the street – the need to become loud, to drop social convention for protection, the acquisition of distrust, the necessary loss of personal interactions.

I perceive the wariness of loss of possessions or meds, the indignity of sleeping next to an unknown stranger only a foot away, the unnerving soft padding of people moving about all night for a variety of reasons.

I observe the difficulty of a battered parent with five children trying to organize their studies and ready them for bed in a strange and unusual environment filled with strangers.

I fathom their schemes for quick and sudden relief from the present, sometimes fantasy or, worse, sometimes the lotto – or maybe substance misuse. 

I often excuse their failure to comprehend the byzantine procedures of the system that has granted them kindness momentarily but demands reintegration as well as paperwork in return.

In my experience, being homeless in Illinois is not dissimilar from experiencing a “Developing Psychosis.”

Give me what I want or they get it.
According to Social Justice News Chicago, many programs to assist the homeless, especially the children, will start shutting down if the budget impasse continues.  Worse, “Once the shut down, even if funding is restored some of them might not be able to just reopen, which means that the infrastructure for hoping the homeless will be lost,” according to Julie Dworkin, the policy director at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Tell him to present a budget.  Call the Governor’s Office please:  217-782-0244

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teachers: Love You Just the Way You Are…

“I came to the conclusion that NCLB has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education.  I had never imagined that the test would someday be turned into a blunt instrument to close schools – or to say whether teachers are good teachers or not – because I always knew children’s test scores are far more complicated than the way they’re being received today.” -  Diane Ravitch (

Keeping Them in the Box (or “love you just the way you are”)

Idiom:  In Pulitzer Prize winning author Tony Morrison’s The Big Box, several “unruly” children from various backgrounds find themselves placed (incarcerated) into a Big Box complete with toys, articles of clothing, food, furniture – all of it to remind them what would be best for them if they were to conform to what society expects of them.  In fact, although not directly stated, they have been placed in the box for behaving/thinking outside of the societal norms by which they should be constrained.  If you’re a teacher or nurse or public servant, it’s worth a read.  Pull up a chair at your local Barnes and Noble’s and give it a good look.  You’ll find it in the children’s section.

Rules of Conduct for Teachers – 1915

·      You will not marry during the term of your contract.
·      You are not to keep company with men.
·      You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless at a school function.
·      You may not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream stores.
·      You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the chairman of the school board.
·      You may not ride in carriages or automobiles with any man except your father or brother.
·      You may not smoke cigarettes.
·      You may not dress in bright colors.
·      You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
·      You must wear at least two petticoats.
·      Your dresses may not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankles.
·      To keep the classroom neat and clean you must sweep the floor once a day, scrub the floor with hot soapy water once a week, clean the blackboards once a day and start the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM when the scholars arrive.

Given these historical circumstances, we’d hardly expect a governess/educator to demand anything - much less a living wage.  Pity the Ichabod Crane, Mary Poppins, Miss Crabtree, Anna [The King and I] – were they to shed their timidity for a sudden temerity and request deserved respect and compensation.  That would be out of character and totally unacceptable.  They might even lose their heads?

Teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, and public servants are taught through hammering stereotypes and reiterated imagery that their professions’ nobility is derived from the following:  practiced compassion over personal reward, good works over self-interest, and graciously granted respect for the sacrifices each profession makes.  We illuminate our minds with these strobe images of the dignity of penury through self-sacrifice.   

But those once admirable stereotypes have changed recently, haven’t they, my educator friend?
Anyone familiar with the print media (in Chicago especially) is aware of the persistent vilification of the teaching profession, the new emphasis on privatization of the schools, the demand for testing as a measurement of teachers, not students.  And with those angry new caricatures we have at times come to doubt ourselves and our work – and I might emphasize – our value.  See the teacher shortages in Indiana as a direct result of years of bashing the profession.

For decades, any real threats by public servants demanding respect, seeking appropriate compensation, or calling for a voice in their respective professions have been countered with the media’s cynical rejoinder that they are coldly willing to hurt kids, or patients, or crime victims, or the populace.  The economy, destroyed by speculators; retirement savings, drained to less than half their value; foreclosures, still rising unabated – we look at our pension and feel – of all things – guilty.

“Honestly,” one teacher whispered to me at a recent gathering, “I feel scared when people ask what I do for a living.  They’ll either hate me or feel envy.  So I make up things.”  It won’t get better.

In the new world or the “new reality,” our discomfort will be enhanced with the media’s consistent call to simplify the process – teach measureable skills only, reduce the scope of class choices, or just add more time.   And be paid accordingly. 

In academics, they (public servants) are often reminded to remain in their domesticated positions as governess, tutor, nanny, baby-sitter, or hired help “in a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs” (Chris Hedges).  Our job is simple: teach to the test.  Replacing real teachers – the ones who educate children to think critically or inspire them to reach for their potential – the privateers now seek those who design curriculum that can objectify and assess basic skills at the expense of insights, gifts, or desire.  

“Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence.  This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations.  They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions.  They want them to serve the system…They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority.  Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts – those who march to the beat of their own drum – are weeded out” ( 

Here’s a peek into the corporatist’s future educational model.
And No – this is NOT from The Onion. 

Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation has been throwing more than $1.4 million into a scientific plan to create a biometric wrist band (called a pedometer) that will measure the emotional engagement of students in a classroom.  In other words, the student’s response – excitement or ennui – could be demonstrably identified and graphed for a class period and thereby allows a charting of student-to-teacher response.  Voila, we have a way to measure a student’s interest/learning – or – do we have a measure of how a teacher is doing in exciting a student or all the students for that matter?  It doesn’t take much to realize the ridiculousness of this attempt to reduce and codify instruction like we would review an electro-cardiogram.  But the Gates Foundation is serious enough to drop a ton of money on this project.  In fact, additional money will be spent this year to begin testing the device in middle schools this fall ( )   

The company spearheading this project, Affectiva Inc., states in all seriousness that such data could be used, for example, after watching a film in order to ask students questions about scenes in the film that aroused them.  That’s just one example.  Forget theme, symbol, holistic response, personal response – just what aroused you.  I personally spent most of 8th grade sitting next to the Susie Wettergren and would have been in a constant state of excitement, so I guess I would have been identified a great student – or my teacher would have been considered exceptional. 

One persistent problem with asking the educated to educate is that those who deliver the academic experience are not mindlessly obedient like the drones that function at basic levels of existence in third world labor shops.  And in fact, their greatest danger is in educating those in their charge to think independently, or outside of the box, if you will.  Despite the historical costume of subservience, real teachers provide or nurture a student’s further passion for learning, most especially in the intangible areas of art, music, dance, acting, etc.  Like real teaching, these qualities are not measureable test outcomes.  They are not subject to a single curve of improvement of failure; they grow in spurts of discovery and momentary drops of frustration, failure or confusion. 

On the other hand, corporate entrepreneurs and business-model-minded people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Arnie Duncan, Michael Noble, Rahm Emanuel, Penny Pritzker, etc. are trying to shift that timeless paradigm of education to a measureable, data-driven curriculum concept, one that tabulates basic improvement in a student’s achievement as easily as a good or bad business quarter, an electrocardiogram, a simple test score.   That’s placing both students and teachers in the box.  That’s wrong-headed.

Respect yourself.  Respect your good work.  Fight back. Refuse to sign the contract with Pearson PARCC this year!