Long Live the Troll

“I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it’s true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it it’s the end of paradise.” — Dennis DeYoung

We were driving home from a volleyball tournament on Sunday and came upon a vehicle that looked like it had the stereotypical Trump flag. You know the one. It’s the flag that is somehow bigger than any American flag nearby. Often these flags are flown above the American flag if there even is one. That’s a whole different conversation. Below is what we actually saw.

So, obviously we chuckled for a few seconds as we considered the expert troll job that had been done on us an everyone else. Then, it hit me as it has before on numerous occasions. The last five years have been the lowest point in our nation’s collective history. I know that’s saying a lot but it is unfortunately true.

Good leaders lift us up. They make us reach for the stars and if we can’t take hold of the stars we at least can grab the moon. As Lincoln said, they appeal to the better angels of our nature. They manage to somehow inspire us to be more than what we are because they have moments where they are more than what they are. They do this at the worst of possible times. They are at their best when everything seems dark and gloomy.

To say one thing is the tragedy of the last five years is to insult all of the victims of numerous tragedies. You have hurricane victims on Puerto Rico that never got the aid they needed. You have families at the border who were forever separated. You had victims of forest fires that saw aid delayed. We have had over 600,000 victims of the Coronavirus and probably 500,000 of those could have been avoided with simple competent governance.

His trade wars impacted workers in numerous industries and the tax giveaway to the rich also impacted lower wage earners negatively. Meanwhile, people of color, those of various sexual orientations and gender identities suffered as well. So, for me to come on here and say the tragedy of the last five years was anything other than those things could be the height of insensitivity. Yet, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

That is because all of those things could be wrapped into a simple bow. The style of leadership that inspired some to offer more fealty to him than to the country is a dangerous style of leadership. It has made us collectively worse than we have ever been. The flag above is a perfect example. It takes an awful amount of hate to get someone to fork over the dough to buy such a flag and then mount it on their truck. It shows that they want to give out a collective FU to their neighbors that may have supported the ex-president.

There has always been vitriol and tribalism in the United States. The framers didn’t envision political parties in the midst of immediately forming two factions. While the names have been different, you could claim that the two factions really haven’t changed all that much. Yet, these last five years there has been a tremendous change.

Think of the arguments in favor of the “rigged election.” Biden’s crowd sizes were so small. No one flies a Biden flag. How could he have possibly won when there are so many Trump flags out there? How could he have won when so many attended the Trump rallies? It just doesn’t makes sense to them.

I never saw a flag for any other president before this. Republican or Democrat they just didn’t exist. Sure, there were political rallies and sure sometimes candidates got riffing and started spouting stuff that wasn’t true, but with only a few notable exceptions (George Wallace or Spiro Agnew) no one was inciting violence. That is until now.

The tragedy of the last five years is that everyone of us has become the worst version of ourselves. More that death, destruction, economic ruin, and horrible discrimination, that statement is a powerful one that has to be soaked in. We have been made worse. While each of us must contend with our own consciences to grapple with the cold, hard reality it is also a reflection of really bad leadership.

In the most difficult moments of our nation’s history there was always a unity that was established at least at the end. The civil war was dreadful and yet the country found a way to reunite. Natural disasters have inspired moments where we saw the worst of humanity and yet the best of humanity prevailed. Beyond COVID, I’m not even sure what the singular moment of the last five years will bring other than the man himself.

It isn’t even so much deciding whether we are for him or against him. Those decisions were made a long time ago for almost everyone. If you are still on the fence about Trump I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that. The decision we have to make is how we will choose to move forward. Will we hold those grudges against those in the other camp or try to find the piece of humanity that exists in everyone? It’s a hard road to travel down, but we’ve travelled it before and up until now we have always come out on the other side.

The Hype Machine

“Dirty little secrets, dirty little lies, we gotta put our little fingers in everybody’s pie. Love to cut you down to size. We need dirty laundry.”–Don Henley

It hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school. I like to listen to one of the sports radio stations when I travel to help pass the time. In the span of 45 minutes, I heard a loud siren go off on the radio with the booming announcer voice saying, “Breaking Houston Texans news.”

I braced for the worst. Had David Culley hired Rich Kotite as a consultant? Had Deshaun Watson been traded to the Eagles for a cheesesteak? Maybe Whitney Merciles had his leg amputated in a freak drive by cupcake wars accident. Nope, both of the lawyers in Watson’s long-going legal battle spoke today. Mind you nothing actually happened in the case. They just spoke.

That news required three sirens. That was only in the scant 45 minutes I listened on the radio. A part of this is by design. The siren went off three different times because radio people are taught to reset every conversation every 15 minutes. Most people only listen for that long. They certainly don’t listen to an entire show continuously. That makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the hype. Why are the comments by Tony Buzbee and Rusty Hardin breaking news? No court has made any determination. The league hasn’t issued a suspension or even made a statement. He certainly hasn’t been traded and won’t be until the issue is resolved. Talking about it is one thing. You have time to fill and you need to have a conversation. Talking about how much Eric Murray or Myles Straw suck will only fill so much airtime. It is the treatment of all news as BREAKING NEWS that is the problem.

For people in my age bracket, 24 hour news (along with talk radio and other forms of commentary) is a relatively new phenomenon. At least it popped up in our lifetime. Headline News and CNN weren’t there when we were kids. There might have been the occasional call in show with a bloviating blowhard on the other end, but it certainly wasn’t the cultural sensation it is today.

We certainly didn’t have Fox News or MSNBC to contend with. This doesn’t even mention really partisan stuff like OANN, Newsmax, and The Young Turks. When 24 hour news came out I was hopeful. Instead of tiny five minute chunks on the evening news, maybe these networks could dedicate an hour or two to do deep dives into issues.

Instead of just a casual mention of Islam, maybe they could spend a couple of hours talking the differences between Sunnis and Shiites. Maybe they could offer a tutorial on the origins of the religion and how that evolved into the factions and geopolitical strife from today. Maybe a lengthy special about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians would be huge.

Instead of educating, the radio and television networks have chosen to incite. Of course, this is not universally true. There are people that give terrific background on key issues that could educate the public. The problem is that even with those few people, the education is used as a tool to persuade. It is a powerful tool and an effective tool, but it is still a tool at the end of the day.

Instead, the networks have chosen to amplify conflict and rotate an endless supply of trivia and minutia on a mindless loop. The effects are meticulously planned and savagely executed. Even though the typical audience tunes in for 15 minutes at a time, there is a dedicated audience and they get subjected to the amplification effect. Talk about something for five minutes and I’m informed. Talk about it for four hours straight and I’m outraged.

That’s assuming the very best. That’s assuming that as a news department I have an eye for accuracy and a desire to report the facts. If my aims are somewhat more sinister then I can fill people’s heads with bullshit and get them outraged out of thin air. So, people start raging about big government taking their guns, rationing their meat, and implanting a microchip inside of a miniscule vaccine.

Even if you aren’t peddling bullshit, you are still blowing things well out of proportion. Even the truth in excessive amounts loses context. Even something 100 percent accurate can distort the truth if the significance is overblown. Simply put, outrage and stress are drugs. Like any drug, it loses its effectiveness over time. Our body becomes resistant to it. Only more of it will make an impact. That one cup of coffee doesn’t wake me up anymore. Now I need two. The outrage at 50 percent volume isn’t getting under my skin anymore. You better crank it up to 75 percent.

To borrow from the Watson situation, I posed a question in the station forum about the need for sirens. Simply put, what is going to happen when real news comes down? Will there be a louder siren? Will there be a voiceover destined to give me heart palpitations? How will we differentiate real breaking news from the trumped up crap we have been peddling as “breaking news?” Will any of us possibly give a damn by that point?

Profiles in Courage

“A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he laid down and he died.”– Gregory Lake

Those that come looking for irony certainly can find it in abundance in the current news cycle. One of those comes in the conclusion of the Liz Cheney story. At least, it is the conclusion of her story in regards to her leadership position within the GOP. The greatest irony is that the only person within the party showing leadership has had her title removed. Isn’t it ironic don’t you think? A little too ironic, yeah I really do think.

Numerous stories surround this particular one and they serve only to highlight the courage Cheney is showing. We don’t get to pick our heroes in real life. Most of them are closer to Batman than Superman. They are flawed. They have psychological foibles and sometimes they aren’t likeable at all. Enter Liz Cheney.

Cheney isn’t likeable for anyone close to the middle or left of center. Her father is one of the least likeable politicians in modern history. In many ways, she is more conservative than her father. She voted with Trump more than 90 percent of the time and has more conservative bonafides than anyone in the House. So no, I don’t like her. However, we have to consider what she is up against and what she was willing to give up to simply state the truth.

Bob Corker and Jeff Flake spoke the truth. They whispered it to the cameras as they were walking out the door. Paul Ryan and John Boehner spoke the truth. They spoke the truth well after the door was shut. They wrote it down in books and obscure interviews well after they could actually do anything about what was going on.

All of the Cheney news has to be held up in concert with the news that numerous “prominent” Republicans want to start a new party. I have to put prominent in air quotes. Christine Todd Whitman and Tom Ridge headline this group. I will forgive you if you immediately crank up the Google machine to figure out who they are. The fact that John Kasich might be the most prominent former Republican to be openly critical of Trump is noteworthy.

They are in fact former governors. Ridge was also Secretary of Homeland Security back in the day. The fact that the term “former” is placed in front of their titles is not lost on anyone. There isn’t a single current Republican heavyweight willing to speak the truth other than Cheney. She shares the stage with Mitt Romney and Adam Kinzinger.

While they deserve credit for speaking out, neither are in positions of leadership or likely to be. Cheney was and she knowingly surrendered it to speak the truth. There are those that blather on about karma or comeuppance, but I go back to my original point. We can’t pick our heroes all the time. We can’t discount courage because it comes from someone we don’t like. We will only see more of it if we support it now.

It doesn’t mean we have to agree with Liz Cheney. It doesn’t mean we have to like Liz Cheney. It doesn’t mean we have to forgive Liz Cheney. It does mean that we need to support her efforts now by simply acknowledging the sacrifice. She sacrificed her position of leadership for the truth. She likely will surrender her seat in the House as well. None of those other “prominent” politicians were willing to do that. None of them put their careers on the line to speak the truth. Sure, they muttered it after the fact. What good is that?

Keeping the irony train going, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he did not want to stifle debate. Huh? He just engineered an ouster of someone that did nothing other than simply aim to hold the ex president accountable for something he did and things he continues to say. Talk about cancel culture. He effectively cancelled Cheney for holding an opposing viewpoint. That’s the very definition of stifling debate.

If you want to understand where the GOP is going then consider this whole situation. He isn’t ousting her for policy opinions. It isn’t that she isn’t conservative enough. It isn’t that she didn’t vote the way she should on matters of policy. She simply saw the truth about the election and January 6th and dared to say it. Ironically, many others said it and then backed off when they discovered their cover was blown. She didn’t care. She doesn’t care. She kept saying it. It appears she will continue to say it until other voices join her in the wilderness. We pray it won’t be too late.

Political Nihilism

“I look inside myself
And see my heart is black
I see my red door
I must have it painted black.” — Mick Jagger

The dictionary defines nihilism as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.” Obviously, political nihilism is particularly political in that bent. So, we could adapt that definition to meet our particular ends. So, instead we abandon political principles or the principles of ideology.

One of my favorite books and movies is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Even though I work primarily as an English teacher I hesitate to make definitive statements about an author’s intent. I know in numerous interviews he has denied being a nihilist. However, one cannot ignore that there is at least a current of that floating through that story.

Like in the book, destroying decadent and bloated existing structures can be appealing at first. After all, where do we think the appeal of “drain the swamp” comes from? We attack that which has no real meaning. We tear away the façade to see what is left inside. The trouble is that there is nothing inside and nihilists aren’t eager to put anything inside. So all that is left is an empty hole.

Donald Trump was famously a Democrat up until 2000. He flirted with an independent run for the presidency then and has donated to the Clintons and other prominent Democrats. I’m not sure he was ever really a Democrat in ideology. He doesn’t really have any ideology. He used whatever empty vessel he could to get what he wanted.

There are some conspiracy theorists that believe he has always been a Democrat and used a run as a Republican to destroy their party from the inside. Conspiracy theories are lazy and usually stupid. One would have to assume he were a lot smarter than he is to play a con for that long. Besides, for an entire party to fall prey to that level of con just proves how rotted to the core they are.

Like Tyler Durden, the problem with nihilists is that they destroy good and worthwhile things while they destroy the bad. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. If Trump’s goal really was to destroy the Republican party then he also may have taken democracy down with him. I guess that’s a small price to pay.

Whatever his motives (I’m assuming destroying the party on purpose is not it) the outcome cannot be any clearer. He likely will not run in 2024. Sure, he will keep the grift alive because that’s what it all is at the end of the day. Yet, look at the hopefuls that could end up throwing their hat into the ring. Take a look at how they are positioning themselves to appeal to a willing Republican base. Compare that with the Republican primary just six years ago.

The 2016 field was a veritable who’s who of senators and governors. Sure, you had a few personalities in addition to Trump, but there was some serious meat on that bone. Now, you have some senators and governors but they aren’t casting themselves as serious people. Serious people don’t spend their time on wedge issues that don’t matter in the end. Rumor has it that Greg Abbott is thinking of running. In times gone by he would have hid his head in shame instead. He has only bungled the response to the virus and stood over the worst energy crisis in half a century. You’d halfway expect him to be slobbering drunk at his introductory press conference.

Bobby Jindal (former governor of Louisiana) famously said that the Republican party can’t afford to become the stupid party. Well, a scant few years later and they’ve not only become that party, but they are openly bragging about it. It has become a badge of honor.

I’ve talked about the destruction of the party before. It is happening at horrifying speed. I can only compare it to the destruction of a star. Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. The last time we lost a major party a civil war broke out. I don’t think the destruction of the Whigs was responsible, but it was sure a side effect. It is impossible to know whether one had a causal impact on the other.

The nihilists want the Republican party to go down. At least they want what was once the power structure in the party to go down. Remember, life is meaningless after all. So, they don’t particularly care what institutions and traditions go with it. They didn’t have any meaning anyway. The rest of us will be left to pick up the pieces.

A Day in the Life

“It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that’s why they call me
They call me the workin’ man.”– Geddy Lee

I promise this all has a point in the end. My teaching style got passed down to me honestly. I like to tell stories. These stories always have a point, but sometimes it just takes a little longer to get there then most people would like. My first love was always history because it afforded me the opportunity to tell those stories. I haven’t taught history in quite some time.

I have two primary jobs at the current time. I am a case manager for special education students. That means that I write and participate in their annual ARDs and I monitor their progress throughout the year. That usually means calling or emailing home when things are not going well or pulling them out of class to motivate them to do their work.

My second job is support facilitation. That’s a fancy title for someone that goes into support a teacher with special education students. They usually are not my particular students on my case load. I am there to support them in that particular class. Usually it is English, but I have been in social studies, math, and science classes as well.

The idea behind support facilitation is relatively new. It is based on the idea that students will do better if they stay within the regular classroom rather than being pulled out. As an added bonus, I get to work with all students, so it is like having two teachers in the classroom. Some teachers are better than others at using a second teacher. In some rooms I am a glorified tutor and second hand waking up students and going around to offer help on assignments. In other rooms I actually get to do some teaching.

I have been doing this particular job for eight years now. I enjoy it more than old-fashioned teaching for a few reasons. First, it affords me the opportunity to see multiple teachers at work. I’ve learned more about the art of teaching in the last eight years than I did in the first fifteen. That comes from simply observing different teachers and how they do things. Sometimes, it’s a lesson of what to do and sometimes it is a lesson of what not to do.

The second major advantage is that I am not responsible for lesson plans or for grades. I can help plan the lesson if the teacher wants to use me as a resource, but I am not responsible. It affords me the opportunity to have a different relationship with students. I am a helper and therefore most see me as more of an ally than an adversary.

The pressure comes on the other end. I am there to make sure they succeed. When my students fail, I am usually the first person called on the carpet. What did I do to help them be successful? This is where documentation comes in. How many times did I call home? Did I pull them out and work with them individually? Did I work with the teacher to make sure their accommodations were given to them? I need to have proof of all of these things.

In most years this is not an issue. Our students pass the vast majority of the time. I’d love to tell you it is because of how good I am. Maybe I am good, but I’d give the students the credit most of the time. They do the work on their own with a little help. This year has been different.

I work at a special place. It is a place that fits in with my vision for education and the one I’ve had for a long time. It is a school where students learn a particular trade they can use to get a job in the field they choose. We have more than 30 of them in total. Students can easily come out of high school making 15 dollars an hour and more in their particular trade. In some cases they can earn as much as 25 or 30 dollars an hour.

That kind of carrot makes it easy to motivate students. We have literally graduated every student the last few years. We have had 100 percent accepted to go to college in past years. We have a literal handful every year we worry about earning enough credit for make it to the next grade level. This is at a campus of nearly 1500 students.

That is until this year. Now, we have nearly 200 students that might not advance to the next grade level or graduate on time. That’s up from the normal ten that we have every year. Something is missing. Everyone in education knows exactly what it is and we have no idea of how to fix it in the short-term. Our students don’t feel connected.

Our schools succeeds because every student sees their future. They see a career in a field they love and they know they have to graduate and pass the state licensing tests (or other certification tests) to get the job they want. They are motivated to be here. They choose to be here. That connection hasn’t been there this year because many are still at home and the ones here are barred from doing the kinds of activities we used to take for granted. These are hands on activities that can’t be replicated on a computer.

It makes my job much harder. Fortunately, our administration team understands the bind we are in. They understand how hard it is to support a special needs student through Zoom. They realize how hard it is to support students that have missed more school than they’ve attended. They understand how hard it is to support students that feel disconnected. That makes explaining it easier, but it doesn’t make performing the job any easier.

I say all this to say this: there are real costs to having students stay home. As good as we are and as creative as we are, we cannot replicate the connection students have here. So, I get those that want to damn the torpedoes and bring everyone back. I also get those reluctant to do so. The infection rates are real and I’m not sure we can get every student vaccinated by next year. So, here we are. We are at an impasse and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

We don’t need no education

“He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs and he likes to sing along and he likes to shoot his gun, but he don’t know what it means.”–Kurt Cobain

A tip of the hat to El Jefe over at the Beauty Salon for tipping us all off on this story. Then, we were lucky enough to have Rachel Maddow pick up on it to over at MSNBC. Briscoe Cain got his heart handed back to him when he stuck his size eights back in his mouth. I’ll leave the evidence below.

Those that haven’t been the beauty salon probably don’t know the general vibe there. The folks over there like to poke fun at idiots like this, so that was the general tenor of the article in question. I frequent the salon and possibly even contribute some stuff, but that is neither here nor there. I want to take this down a serious road for a moment.

Mr. Cain was the architect of the voter suppression bill before the legislature. He is the one that inserted the line about the “purity of the ballot.” He is the one that said he did not know that was a not so subtle signal for racists. So, either he is lying and got caught red handed or he didn’t know and he got caught with his pants down. Take your pick.

We can chuckle and guffaw, but I’m afraid that misses the point. The point is that all of those folks that want to teach American exceptionalism in our classrooms are purposely or unwittingly attempting to white wash history before our very eyes. I use the term white wash very intentionally here, because that is exactly what it is.

These folks come in all stripes. There are those that are racists that don’t want to be confronted with their racism. There are those that want to apologize or cover up for the racists of the past. You’ve heard these folks. “I never owned a slave. My family never owned slaves. I’m not a racist. So why should we be bombarded by this message?” I even get that on a certain level.

The reasoning goes back to Mr. Cain. One of two things is going on here. Either he is a racist that is trying to install a racist agenda or he is ignorant of our racist history. I can’t decide which one is worse. In one case, you have an idiot forwarding a racist agenda accidentally because he doesn’t know any better. In another instance, you have a racist that is floating a racist agenda past most Texans because they don’t know any better. Take your pick.

They removed the language from the bill, but much of the bill was intact. It can’t be an accident that all of this is happening after the U.S. Supreme Court watered down the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Apparently, systemic racism doesn’t exist anymore. Except we can literally point to hundreds of bills nationwide that says that it does.

I don’t know Briscoe Cain. I don’t know what exists in his heart. I can’t read his mind or tap into his true feelings. What I can do is judge the impact of his decisions. I can look at this bill and know it will hurt our poorer citizens and people of color. I can’t help but think that if we were taught the history of oppression we would be able to avoid this. Either those that propagate it would know better or the rest of us would more easily recognize it when they tried. Perhaps it would even be both.

The Quiet Part Out Loud

“But when the wrong word goes in the right ear, I know you’ve been lying to me.” — Cy Curnin

There are stories that come up that defy belief. They almost always involve someone saying the quiet part out loud. Justin Lafferty did that in the Tennessee legislature this week when he tried his hand at defending the three-fifths compromise.

If you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole I suppose I can try to sum up the argument for you. Lafferty praised the compromise because it limited the power of slave owning states. By counting African Americans as less than a person, it limited the number of representatives they were able to send to Congress and thus limited their political power.

Excellent. The fact that it took 78 years and a bloody civil war to end slavery is neither here nor there. Rafferty went on the offensive and said that those that questioned his views were just looking for something to fight about.

“I did not say anything on the floor with any malice toward any of my friends on the other side.”

Justin Rafferty’

Indeed. He went on to say that if people are looking for trouble they will usually find it. Nope, I wasn’t looking for this one. This one just kind of fell in my lap. Others have argued that the compromise didn’t impugn anyone’s humanity. Huh? What in the holy hell are they talking about?

This is exactly like the folks that go out of their way to find ways to praise Adolf Hitler, but always try to qualify it somehow. Sure, he did bad things, but he had an excellent singing voice and never passed gas at all during his time in the bunker. So, I suppose that somehow balances out the genocide. Yup, I see where you’re going there.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to censure this guy or silence him in any way. For the love of all that is good and holy, don’t get in his way on the way to microphone. Let them announce their stupidity to the world so that everyone knows exactly where these folks are at.

You can call it cancel culture, wokeness, virtue signaling, political correctness, or whatever other catch phrase you want to call it. What it basically amounts to is that polite society has figured out that some beliefs are repugnant. It doesn’t mean they go away. They just get driven under ground. When you utter them out loud you get rebuked and/or shunned.

The last administration made it okay to say these things. Suddenly, these people were brave for speaking their truth. Facts didn’t matter anymore. You cannot impugn their feelings. Everyone is allowed to feel what they want and he feels like the three-fifths compromise was a good thing. Good for him. The rest of us get to think he’s a racist dumbass. Congratulations.

There has to be a delicate balance to these things. We need to know who these people are and God forbid anyone silence them. Yet, they need to be out of power. As much as they want to attack Robert Byrd (who has been dead for awhile) or point out something Joe Biden might have said in the 1970s, racism is a Republican problem. No, not all Republicans are racist and no, not even most Republicans are racist. Yet, if you are racist you are probably a Republican and recent trends seem to indicate that its power is growing in the party. Therefore, if good and decent people want to push back against racism they need to vote against Republicans until they get their house in order.

By the numbers

“Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play. Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day.”– John Lennon

Many of us are contradictions. I spend my time at work working with students in their English classes. It seems someone there seems to think I can write a little. Yet, I work with numbers as well and work with statistics in my spare time. Yet. ask me to support a math class and I might become a basket case.

So, take all of this with a grain of salt. However, it is hard to imagine that the framers of the constitution had this in mind when they put everything together. Who knows, maybe they did. There were only 13 states in the beginning, so population distribution could not have been nearly as big a deal as it is now. Below is a simple chart of the five biggest states and the ten smallest states in terms of population and party representation.

 PopulationDemocratsRepublicans
California39.6 mil20
Texas29.7 mil02
Florida21.9 mil02
New York19.3 mil11
Pennsylvania12.8 mil11
Wyoming0.58 mil02
Vermont0.62 mil20
Alaska0.72 mil02
North Dakota0.77 mil02
South Dakota0.90 mil02
Deleware0.99 mil20
R. Island1.06 mil20
Montana1.09 mil11
Maine1.35 mil02
New Hamp.1.37 mil20

Immediately, you notice two things when looking at the list. First, the population disparity is tremendous. I don’t think the population in Wyoming would fit into the greater Clear Lake area much less Houston in general. Of course, the representation doesn’t necessarily follow predictable lines as both states are represented by Republicans.

In fact, the biggest five states have six Republican senators and four Democratic senators while the smallest ten states have nine Democratic senators and eleven Republican ones. So, the population breakdown is not perfect, but there is a correlation between population size and who represents the state. That becomes much more obvious when we include states six through ten in population.

We know two things about the founding fathers. First, they could not have envisioned 50 states. Secondly, the framers themselves could not have envisioned political parties. They certainly couldn’t have foreseen what they would become. So, a system of representing states with equal zeal has turned into a representing a political party and its agenda.

Democrats represent people. Republicans represent land. Land can be loosely translated to wealth. It always has been throughout history and there is no sense of it changing now. While the numbers above don’t necessarily reveal this, it should be noted that 50 Democratic senators (or those that caucus with Democrats) represent 41 million more Americans than those that caucus with Republicans.

This doesn’t appear to be changing for the better. In fact, population is becoming more and more stratified and representation much more predictable based on population. You might need to add together 15 to 20 states from the bottom until you equal the population of California. Yet, California gets two senators and those 15 to 20 states get between 30 and 40 senators.

I honestly don’t know how you fix that. I don’t even know if we are meant to fix it. It seems to me that this is a system that really can’t sustain itself, but I’m also a lifelong Democrat. I’m going to tend to see that situation as unfair because I’ve always been a believer in one person, one vote.

I suppose that’s the question when you get down to it. We left Great Britain in part because they used an antiquated system known as virtual representation. Shires and localities kept the same number of representatives no matter how populations shifted. They had so-called rotten boroughs that had zero people and a representative. The Senate is getting close to that now.

When the senate does not represent the population breakdown of the people it can hardly be a surprise when it fails to do the people’s business. If I literally represent no one then why should I be expected to fight for anyone? Again, who knows how that can change. Maybe they can make the Senate more proportional but still smaller than the House. That would require a change in the constitution which isn’t likely to happen. Maybe someone has a DeLorean that we can take back to Philadelphia in 1787.

Who are we?

You can hide, hide, hide behind paranoid eyes.” — Roger Waters

This one might be shorter today. I’m on a break between administering one of our state tests. Measuring how morally bankrupt we are is a challenging feat. It’s not a matter of policy. One can disagree with policy aims that seem fairly universal for any number of reasons. So, that’s not it.

You could even make statements about how the three-fifths compromise was a good thing. Simply being a racist is not enough to be morally bankrupt. Besides, that story is way too involved to address in the short time we have here. No, the biggest indicator going on right now is what is going on with leadership in the U.S. House.

Representative Liz Cheney is the third ranking member of the Republican caucus, but that likely won’t be for long. Cheney refuses to back the “Big Lie” that Donald Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. She has come out forcefully that we cannot continue to say this and be a functional democracy.

Kevin McCarthy and the other leaders in the GOP have not only indicated that they disagree with her (which is bad enough) but that she has no place in the GOP standing by the results of a free and fair election. This by itself is crazy enough by itself, but when you consider that in the backdrop of the wild and wacky world of Matt Gaetz it becomes that much more clear.

It is increasingly clear that Gaetz is likely to be charged with some sort of crime. It might be trafficking under age girls across state lines. It might be statutory rape. It might just be being a smug asshole and womanizer. Of course, the last two might not be actual crimes. It just makes you a scumbag and someone not worth defending.

I guess no one is actually defending him, but is being allowed to maintain all of his committee assignments including the judiciary committee. You would think someone that is connected to the department of justice in terms of oversight would have a conflict of interest if they themselves were the target of a major investigation. I guess I would be wrong.

McCarthy’s comments towards Cheney and his lack of comments towards Gaetz speaks volumes. Gaetz has been a big supporter of Trump. I suppose that gets him enough consideration to at least leave him the courtesy of not mentioning his troubles. He has said Cheney is making it difficult for the GOP to move forward and perform well in 2022.

Let’s consider that for a moment. Why would acknowledging the results of the last election make it difficult to move forward. Seems both parties have done that for over 150 years without it impacting their electoral chances the next time around. In fact, the lack of accepting defeat is usually the kiss of death. So, why is this time any different?

Well, therein lies the rub. The GOP and Trump spent so long cultivating this lack of trust in the process that they have become married to it. They trashed mail in voting even before a mail in vote was cast. They did everything in their power to sabotage mail in voting. They questioned the results immediately and sued over 50 times to get the results changed. Trump attempted to strongarm numerous officials to change the results in their states. On top of all of that, he fund raised on the Big Lie.

When someone in your party has the audacity to speak the truth and that becomes the bridge too far then you have achieved full on moral bankruptcy. When that same party idly stands by while one of its members stands accused of sex trafficking and statutory rape then you have achieved full on moral bankruptcy. When you do both at the same time it is now time to fold up shop and go into the dust bin of history.

Appreciate your teachers

“Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello, teacher! Tell me, what’s my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me.”– Roland Orzabal

This week is teacher’s appreciation week. I know a lot of these things get lost in the hustle and bustle of secretary’s day, librarian’s week, counselor’s week, engineer’s week, mother’s day, father’s day, Arbor Day, Okay, I was getting a little carried away on the last one.

Basically, every profession seems to have either a day or a week dedicated to its appreciation. While it is important to appreciate everyone, by the time you get through it all you end up getting the equivalent of the assistant manager’s day sale at Foley’s. It ends up being a little much and it’s hard to hear someone mention a once a year sale that happens every other week.

So, I get the fatigue. Certainly, not everyone has a good teacher for their child either. In an honest moment I would admit there have been years where I have been more effective than others. Sometimes it was just my own inexperience. Sometimes my administrators put me in positions where I was going to struggle to succeed. Sometimes I just didn’t do as good a job as I could. Then, there were years I was on my game.

People occasionally ask us what we would want for teacher appreciation week. This largely depends on which teachers you ask. If I get more than a single gift from a parent or student it has been a banner year. That is just what happens with high school teachers. Elementary teachers are much more involved with each individual student, so the bonanza they get is kind of the trade off we get.

This is more of a look at what teachers want universally. Little gifts are nice and I certainly wouldn’t turn them down, but for individual teachers it is so hard. I don’t drink coffee, so Starbuck’s cards go directly to my wife. She certainly feels appreciated. Everyone likes Chick Fa La unless you are a vegetarian or vegan. In each and every case it is the thought that counts.

I have worked for thoughtful administrative teams and teams that weren’t as thoughtful. In general they seem to think if they let us wear jeans they are golden. Occasionally if they feed us then we are that much happier. The truth is that it is far more important what happens the other 35 weeks of the year. I have a simple list.

Treat Us Like Adults

I have always marveled at the difference between how my wife has been treated at work and how I have been treated at most of the places I have taught. If they need to go to the doctor or run an errand there are no issues. I have worked at places that made me bring in a doctor’s note when I missed. They flip out if you have to leave occasionally to run an errand.

Some of that is by design. You can’t leave students unattended or shirk a duty, but in general you can get by handling adults the way other businesses handle adults. If someone is not handling their responsibilities you deal with them individually. Collective discipline for the actions of a few or one is really annoying.

It’s not all about the money

Everyone loves to talk about how underpaid teachers are. I’m not necessarily on the pay train. My salary has nearly tripled since I began teaching. A part of that is because I have gone on and gotten a master’s degree. A part of that is because I get a small stipend for teaching special education. I’m also keenly aware that some districts don’t pay their teachers nearly enough.

I taught in an urban district my first year. The teacher association fought for higher salaries even though we were the highest paid teachers in the area. They noted that teachers talked with their feet. Somehow the math never worked out. They continued to beat the drum for more money. Somehow I don’t think that was it.

It is difficult to know you are getting the exact same amount as the jackass that is the last one in and first one out the door, but there might be people saying the same about me. Education has tried performance pay numerous times and it’s just hard to do. We know who’s good at their jobs and who isn’t, but there is not an accepted empirical way to measure that.

Enough with the testing

I don’t think people that work outside of education really get how much testing eats into our schedule. We have five STAAR tests we give at the high school level. School virtually shuts down on those days. That’s one less week of instruction. Add to that the PSAT, SAT, TSIA, and AP exams and you are probably talking about another week.

Then, you get the benchmarks and mock exams. You take a benchmark every six weeks and a mock exam for each of the tests as well. With the pandemic we ended up having the students stay home that weren’t participating. So, you essentially cut out three to four weeks of instruction just with testing.

We can ignore for the time being whether testing really tests for what it should. If you add the time teachers spend preparing for the tests you are losing maybe as much as a fifth of the year directly preparing for the test or taking the tests and practice tests. So, what exactly are we doing?