Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Like Austin But Different

I have lived in Austin but it was at another time when I was another person and George W. Bush was still the Governor.   Austin has long been an it city and Nashville is trying to claim that crown as the high point of the social calendar is the Stanley Cup and the Predators bringing a true award to a city that is full of them, just musically related.

As I wrote in the last post I struggle in Nashville/Smashville daily.  I don't think I could live in Austin today either as the political climate there has dramatically changed to resemble more of Tennessee only with fisticuffs.  But hey we have the Beav!  No one brings the smut to the party like Mae Beaver.  Did I say smut? I mean stuff.  This hateful woman has a bag of hate she will bring with her on her run for the Governor's gig.  Yikes it makes me miss Bush in any gig at this point.

I just found this article in the Guardian and it perfectly summarizes the division that marks the old country with the new. 

Nashville lies at the heart of a divided country: ‘Trump got bubbas to the polls’

As the president staged a rally attended largely by out-of-towners, Democratic-leaning denizens of Tennessee’s ‘Brooklyn’ pondered an urban-rural rift

Repentant Trump voter James Walker in Nashville, Tennessee. ‘I thought it would be a positive change and it would shake things up. It has shaken things up but in a bad way.’



David Smith in Nashville
UK Guardian Friday 19 May 2017

Men in stetsons, check shirts and jeans swing their partners around to the thrum of drums, fiddle, keyboard and steel guitar of Mike Oldham & The Tone Rangers. The walls at Robert’s Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, are coated with beer logos spelled out in neon or on lampshades or mirrors, old concert posters, photos of country music greats and three rows of cowboy boots for sale. The tiled floor is barely visible under the heaving crowd.

At this and other honky tonk bars on Broadway, Nashville’s main tourist drag, the music is old country: songs about drink, divorce, hardscrabble heartbreak, the miserable struggle to make ends meet. It is a playlist that has taken on new resonance in the era of Donald Trump, like a requiem for white working class voters in small towns who, feeling left behind with nothing to lose, propelled him to the White House.

But Nashville is a booming city where southern civility, religion and conservatism collide with a young, creative and liberal population. Paradoxically, the heart of country music is increasingly at odds – in class, culture and politics – with the heartland that surrounds it. In this it mirrors the dislocation of other burgeoning American cities that are islands of Democratic blue in deep red Republican states.

“There is a vast gulf in ideology and approach to the world,” said Bruce Dobie, a Nashville-based media entrepreneur. “It’s just crazy right now. My street and city are overwhelmingly Democratic. We’re astonished by everything we see at the moment.”

Dobie estimated that when the US president rolled into Nashville on Wednesday for a campaign-style rally, around 80% of the crowd was from out of town. Trump’s warm-up acts were country singers the Gatlin Brothers and Lee Greenwood, whose rendition of “God bless the USA” earned a cheer with the words “to the hills of Tennessee”. Trump joined him on stage, grinned, shook his hand and raised two thumbs up as the crowd chanted “USA! USA!”, some with fists raised, in a near-religious frenzy.

“So I’m thrilled to be here in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, southern hospitality and the great president Andrew Jackson,” Trump said, referring to the 19th-century populist described by the state museum as “champion of the common man” and notorious for forcing Native Americans off their land.

The crowd waved signs including “Promises made, promises kept”, “Lefty media lies” and “Women for Trump”. Carma Williams, 63, a retired office manager who had travelled from 70 miles away, said: “I love him because he’s honest. He’s doing everything he said he would do during the campaign. I think he’s the first president who’s done that.”

Outside the Nashville Municipal Auditorium there was a modest gathering of protesters. One stood out. James Walker was wearing a red “Make America great again” baseball cap, sunglasses, a beard, a black North Face jacket and khaki trousers. He held aloft a sign that said: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

The 31-year-old explained: “I voted for Trump. I thought it would be a positive change, a change that Obama didn’t come through on, and it would shake things up. It has shaken things up but in a bad way. I realise now that some of the things that were just campaign promises seemed to carry on beyond the election and become a reality.”

Walker, who grew up in California and spent two years in the military, said he ordered the trademark “Make America great again” hat many weeks ago but it had only just arrived. “So that was the spark: I know what I’m going to do with this.”

He expressed a desire for atonement. “I don’t know what that’s going to be but this is the first step: showing up and being honest.”

Walker now works as a wine broker and lives across the Cumberland river in east Nashville, dubbed the city’s “own Brooklyn” with its embrace of beards, tattoos and artisanal foods, along with Jack White’s record label and an explosion of diverse guitar bands and songwriters. Walker added: “It’s mostly Democratic, blue territory. Only a few of my friends admitted to voting for Trump and did so in confidence. Today is the first day I’ve gone public.”

Beside him at Wednesday’s demonstration was Lisa Kaas Boyle, an environmental attorney holding a bag that posed the question: “What would Dolly do?” – a reference to country music hall-of-famer Dolly Parton, who supports gay rights but said of Trump and rival Hillary Clinton: “I think they’re both nuts.” Surveying the queue of thousands of Trump supporters that snaked up and around and down a grassy hill, she said: “I’m shocked by this huge turnout. It really feels like a gut punch for me. I’m sure they came from far and wide. It’s shocking to me that people have no regard for their fellow Americans.”

Boyle has just returned to Nashville after 30 years, partly to be close to family and partly in response to Hillbilly Elegy, author JD Vance’s personal insight into problems of the white working class including alcoholism, divorce, domestic violence, drugs and hopelessness. As the Washington Post put it, elites in both parties are studying the book as “a sort of Rosetta Stone” to understand the conditions that enabled the rise of Trump.

The 52-year-old, said: “After reading Hillbilly Elegy, I feel progressives have to be involved. I can’t just hang out in California with my like-minded friends. I have to make a difference here.”

In last year’s election, Trump trounced Hillary Clinton by 26% in Tennessee, a “Bible belt” state that was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and was last won by a Democrat when Bill Clinton, a southerner, carried it in 1996. Among the few counties he did not win were those containing Memphis and Nashville.
‘There are a lot of liberal artists’

Now, Nashville is thriving with an influx of young professionals priced out of other cities. A record 13.9 million people visited the area in 2016, up 45% over the past decade. The music industry is worth $10bn to the region, according to a 2013 report commissioned by the Music City Music Council, and includes Americana, jazz and other genres as well as country.

It has come a long way since the Grand Ole Opry barn dance became a radio hit in the 1940s, leading to a recording industry and stars from Hank Williams then to Taylor Swift today. It has long been seen as music of the conservative heartland – when Elton John denied a rumour that he would perform Trump’s inauguration, he suggested, “Why not ask ... one of those fucking country stars? They’d do it for you” – but its relationship with politics has always been more complex than often assumed.
Downtown Nashville. Visitors to the area, drawn by its famous music scene, are up 45% over the past decade.

Bob Dylan, the troubadour responsible for some of the 60s’ defining protest songs, spent the end of the decade in Nashville and collaborated with Johnny Cash, “the man in black” who performed for presidents and prisoners. Merle Haggard’s 1969 Okie from Muskogee was regarded as a conservative anthem but he later defended the Dixie Chicks after they condemned George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq and recorded a song in support of Hillary Clinton.

During last year’s presidential election an informal survey conducted by the trade publication Country Aircheck found that 46% of industry professionals supported Trump while 41% favoured Clinton. But unlike Hollywood, most prefer to remain silent, perhaps fearing that any declaration of allegiance risks losing half their audience.

Earlier this month an analysis by BuzzFeed found that of the 87 artists currently on either Billboard’s Top Country Albums or Hot Country Songs charts, only five – Sturgill Simpson, Justin Moore, Chris Janson, Maren Morris and the Brothers Osborne – have gone on the record with clear pro or anti-Trump views.

Sitting at the bar at the Red Door Saloon in east Nashville, Clay Johnson, 29, a composer, said: “Trump probably got a lot more support from country music artists than hip-hop artists. But there are a lot of liberal artists. It would be wrong to paint them all as conservatives.”

Musing on the urban-rural divide, he added: “In rural Tennessee you’ll see people who’ve lived there and grown up there. In Nashville people tend to come and go like in any city. It’s population versus space. It’s shitty how one side can dictate how the other side lives because they live different lives. It’s the same anywhere. When you live in the city, it’s different from living on a farm.”

At another table as the clock ticked past 1am was Zie Campbell, 25, a freelance illustrator and teacher. “Tennessee is a red state, Nashville is not,” she said. “It’s a melting pot, as much of a New York as it’s going to get down here. This has been very hard for our specific community because we are surrounded by ignorance and bigotry.

“In the rural areas there’s not a desire to experience anything else. ‘My dad smokes Marlboro Reds, I’ll smoke Marlboro Reds. My dad listens to Johnny Cash, I’ll listen to Johnny Cash.’ In the city you don’t have that option any more: whether or not you are seeking it, you’re forced to see others.”
Zie Campbell, an illustrator and teacher in Nashville: ‘This has been very hard for our specific community. We are surrounded by ignorance.’

Campbell’s parents live 220 miles away in Knoxville. Her father voted for Trump but she found Clinton’s defeat “devastating”. She continued: “I am an example of the exact opposite of my dad’s opinions. When the sexual harassment allegations against Trump came out, my dad and I had a long conversation. I cried. We decided we’re not talking politics after that.”

‘If the other side is willing to bomb Dresden, how do you fight that?’

How can the rift between urban and rural, between blue and red, be healed? “I don’t know if there is something to be done,” Campbell said. “I don’t think anyone is trying to sway anyone else. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of grey area.”

Dobie, the media entrepreneur, said: “That’s the $64m question. If you’re a modern Democrat you’re not in the mood to pussyfoot any more, having been subjected to what amounted to the bombing of Dresden in the last election. Trump committed Dresden. No one is in the mood be accommodating or easy.

“We’re now in a moment when I don’t see much room for sitting around the campfire and holding hands. If the other side is willing to bomb Dresden, how do you fight that? You really have to take it to the streets.”

Both parties are likely to compete fiercely for what might be described as the country music constituency. Dobie said: “Struggling to meet bills, shooting a deer, breaking up with your girlfriend – the lyrics of the country song speak the needs, desires and concerns of the conservative folk and that’s why it’s been successful.

“That’s the crowd we’re all talking about. That’s the demographic that’s up for grabs in America and Clinton couldn’t harness. Trump got the bubbas to the polls; Clinton did not. The bubbas are listening to country music.”
Clay Johnson, a composer in Nashville: ‘It’s shitty how one side can dictate how the other side lives.’

The divisions here are reflected across America, after an election that exposed brutal faultines and the education split among whites was said to be the critical factor.

Nadine Hubbs, a professor of music at the University of Michigan and author of Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, said: “In the US, our cities are places where many of us go to prosper while small towns or exurbs or suburbs are often places where people are left behind.

“Nashville and Austin [in Texas] are really good examples of this phenomenon. To bridge the gap there are economic inequalities we need to pay attention to. Often the most unbridgeable gaps are the ones created by contempt for another group: lack of respect and stripping of dignity.

“The way people who are prospering look down on folks who are in rural spaces, often associated with country music, creates the kind of divisions that are really hard to bridge.

“The elites talk about the need for education of people in rural spaces; well, we know almost nothing about them. The economic and social segregation of the classes is worse maybe than it’s ever been in our history.”



Cop Jesus Martyr

I have tried to reconcile my feelings about living and swimming in the deep red sea and I verge on utterly loathing Nashville to feeling sorry for it or feeling sorry for myself living here.  It is a constant push pull of emotions that wreck havoc on my emotions daily.

I frequently talk to my Baristas about my observations living here and the one thing that stands out is how I am approached or addressed here by my "professional' colleagues here in Nashville.  They are the only true contacts I have on a regular basis and have little comparisons to what defines professional and educated here in the deep red sea and it is not good.    And when I attempt to bond or talk about relocating here I elect to  talk about transit and sidewalks and the lack of a downtown which given the growth of the city is an issue I find significant.  Apparently them's fighting words here as the next question is a defense, "What did you come her for?" A query I find akin to an interrogation and hostile versus a more "What brought you here?" Which may still veer on the response "None of your fucking business!" But at least it has a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn more about you.

I realize now that any criticism any criticism what.so.ever in Nashville is perceived as a type of assault and that to the Southerner you are an interloper, an outsider who is going to try to change or mock them and their lifestyle.  I think that defines the entire Southern personality - defense and offense.   So I can't see me in the near or ever future compromising nor understanding what it means nor actually caring.  Right now I am in survival mode.

But what I have truly come to find repugnant is the Cop Military obsession that dominates the culture here.   Every day there is a news article, story about those in service as if they are agents of God doing God's work.  And then I found this essay about the Soldiers of God as they are believed to be.  Well think about the song, Onward Christian Soldiers and it brings on a whole new meaning when swimming in the deep red sea.

Now my first experience in Seattle with a police shooting was in 2010 of John Williams the woodcarver.   This led to the Justice Department intervention and the shakeup in our Police with regards to what we have now seen nationally with regards to similar shootings which have in turn escalated across the country over similar shootings and deaths at the hands of Police.    Here I am 7 years later and I never thought I would be afraid of Police as I am here.  In Seattle I felt Police were assholes but they were not deadly.  The 2010 incident was again about the fringe and I like many felt that it was horrific but isolated and selective.  Since that time you might say I "woke" and in turn read Radley Balko's great book on the Militarization of Police, followed the emergence of Black Lives Matter and the resulting attention to ever increasing criminalization  of America.

Then in turn my own experience in 2012  affected how I see the criminal justice system and that too affected how I see the industry behind it and how it is a system that  is only about self preservation and has nothing to do with community, safety or justice.   As the saying goes - until you walk a mile in another shoes you have a hard time understanding what it is like.  I have walked one hard and many a mile.   So to find my sanity to finish my dental work I needed to change - my name, my address and my perspective.   So hello Nashville.

So why did I come here?  It's complicated as they say on Facebook.  I remember sharing my story about the night of Feb 8 in 2012 and the facial wash (as that is what it looks like as if you have just thrown water on someone's face)  of those who heard just fragments of that story you can visually see and feel their need to extricate themselves immediately from my tainted company.   As the years have gone on and  the stories about Bill Cosby and College rapes came to light it did not change how I feel and what it means to be as angry and afraid as I was then; I was propelled through courtroom after courtroom - both civil and criminal - fighting those who failed me that night I died.   To have no one believe you nor support you it takes everything to fight for survival and I have been fighting an awfully long time with no back up. And it exhausts you in ways you can never imagine.

So when I came to Nashville I was prepared to spend a couple of years finishing my dental work and in turn going back to school to either earn an MFA or at least take courses on writing in order to refine my skill set and write the books that are within me.     I am trained as a Teacher and took the necessary steps to attain a license and in turn pursue teaching or at least subbing  as a source of income during the process.  I knew nothing about the schools nor actually cared as it was just a means to an end.    Then I walked into the schools with more Doctors than a hospital and realized that being educated in a state with minimal education attainment and to teach in the public schools here was again a Christian soldier complex that is shared by those in civil service here.  As one has to be a Martyr to spend well over six figures to attain a license to teach in the one of the states with the lowest salaries in the country on record.  I thought of the story of the Vanderbilt grad who went to Harvard to get another degree only to be refused to become a Principal here.  Why would anyone spend that money, attend the most expensive colleges in America to do that?  A martyr or an idiot. Pick one or all of the above.    Maybe God could step in and solve the endless problems in the schools here leading to this.  But that is not just here so at least that is somewhat comforting.  But then poverty is everywhere and public schools are ground zero in exposure to said poverty and I have said repeatedly I teach content and if you want a social worker get one as that is not me.  But in today's schools we have to literally live up to the adage in loco parentis and one must be loco to do that. 

At this point re-evaluating my purpose and trying to somehow Tim Gunn it, as in make it work, while being afraid and and angry as I was when I was living in Seattle makes this utterly frustrating and disappointing, fulfilling the expression "no matter where you go there you are"  my new mantra.  And true I may be many things but even I cannot believe that I am deserving of this much derision.   But my fear was I too was coming down with a news disease - the Martyrdom  Complex.

Now how did I come to that conclusion?   Well I already had court transcripts describing me as a drunk lying whore so one cannot deny that is the posturing of a former Prosecutor intent on winning, but my own Lawyers who simply just sat there and did nothing to contradict that I also found distressing.    I have nothing good to say about either although one now lives in Alaska and is defending women who have been victims of sexual and domestic violence so maybe somewhere deep in those cavities of a brain he knew how he failed me.  I have laughed as almost all the Attorney's I encountered in that time have moved on or into new areas of work so perhaps there is some Justice.

But to move on to a new life you need a life and when I go to the Nashville Public Schools on a daily basis and to the Y and home and my encounters are limited to the damaged souls teaching and the high point is buying a coffee and planning my dental rejuvenation it is life not living.  But with my baggage not yet fully unpacked I need to figure out what goes and stays and that is not as easy as one thinks.

So when the Vanderbilt patient coordinator encountered me that day when I was on another damaged denture, I was sick with a cold/allergy and more infections racing through my mouth and hating my every moment I said the same bullshit that all good martyrs do  - blame, point fingers and guilt trip.  I admit that I said, "I should just blow my teeth out then maybe someone will help me."  And that comment opened the door for the responsive Jesus Martyr complex that dominates the culture here.  Having the Police come to my door four days later and in turn have them diagnose me as depressed and anxious aka "mentally ill"  was "ya think?"  And then in turn give me a dental referral made me realize that I must not be that crazy.  And they concluded their analysis with the comment, "but at least they cared about you."   Really? You call cops on people you care about?  How about a cup of coffee? A walk in the park? A movie? No, in Jesus country the reverence for Cops runs just second to Jesus.

And the recent "coincidence" of the odd encounter with not one but two Teachers at a middle school coming to my "aid" while sitting on a bleacher adjacent to the school facing a park one morning was another straw added an already over stuffed back.  The Police Officer who was there that day was purely coincidental as he was checking in to the school where in every Middle and High School here there are posted Police, which to say overkill verges on both pun and irony if not tragedy.  And when I spoke of this to one of other Teachers in the school about it, what was his response?  "At least they cared about you."  Yes clearly that explains Police Shootings - they cared.

Now one wonders why I am a target? Well as a true martyr I have come to realize that yes it is discrimination.    I am a woman on my own.   I am not young but not that elderly looking that would inspire the standard inquiry that I may need help so that seems to confuse people here more.  That I have no husband or family and am functioning independently mystifies those who worship Jesus.  If I was a true Martyr I would be like the Transgendered woman Teacher intent on telling me how successful she is with her six students or the Doctor who berated 6th graders over her six figure debt or the woman on crutches who found me in her room as her teen age daughter sat there curious as to why I was not more appreciative and responsive to doing menial task work or the class the following day being ignored and shoved into a room with cats.  Yes this is my professional day which in a normal world wold be just that horrid.  But I am a woman of a "certain age" with no man, rotting teeth, and I should be happier and that would come from Jesus clearly.

There is no Jesus unless he sells seriously cool drugs that I could possibly connect to.  But there is one thing I have comes to term with that the Jesus/Christian Persecution complex explains what we are all feeling right now and the rise of the Trump.  This alienation and defensiveness is what he plays upon and exploits. He uses that poor you syndrome to the perfect pitch that any singer on American Idol aspires to.   There is nothing quite like the idiocy of the Christian Martyr.    This family defines it in spades. 

Understanding this doesn't make it easier or better it just explains it in ways that I get, I really do. And I can't wait to leave but in the interim those books I want to write just get better written in every way.

The Evangelical Persecution Complex


Alan Noble The Atlantic Aug 4, 2014 U.S.

Persecution has an allure for many evangelicals. In the Bible, Christians are promised by Saint Paul that they will suffer for Christ, if they love Him (Second Timothy 3:12). But especially in contemporary America, it is not clear what shape that suffering will take. Narratives of political, cultural, and theological oppression are popular in evangelical communities, but these are sometimes fiction or deeply exaggerated non-fiction—and only rarely accurate. This is problematic: If evangelicals want to have a persuasive voice in a pluralist society, a voice that can defend Christians from serious persecution, then we must be able to discern accurately when we are truly victims of oppression—and when this victimization is only imagined.

There are some understandable reasons for this exaggerated sense of persecution. Globally, Christians face incredible discrimination. In North Korea and many Muslim-governed countries, Christians risk imprisonment and death for their faith. The Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, was exiled, and many Christians are still persecuted by the ISIS, a jihadist group. Christians with a global perspective on their faith rightly identify themselves as part of a persecuted people in the 21st century.

In the United States, evangelical values have often been in tension with public policy and cultural mores, especially in the last several years; this includes recent debates over contraceptives coverage, abortion rights, and the rise of same-sex marriage. Some Christians anticipate major restrictions to religious liberty in the future as a result of these tensions, a concern that is not unfounded. But in anticipating such restrictions, it is easy to imagine, wrongly, that they are already here.

Evangelical sub-culture plays a huge role in this perception. The “Jesus Freak” movement of the mid-1990s, started by the popular musical group DC Talk, made martyrdom and exclusion hip—these were signs that someone was a “true” Christian. Teens were encouraged by youth-group leaders to read historical accounts of Christian martyrs and reflect on how they could be Jesus Freaks, too. Being a “loser” in the world’s eyes for the sake of Jesus was, paradoxically, cool. But the emphasis, perhaps unintentionally, was on being a “freak,” rather than following Christ and accepting the consequences.

The wildly successful Left Behind books tell a similar narrative of persecution. Published between 1995 and 2007, the epic novels tell the story of the biblical end times through the lens of certain Christian traditions: the rapture, the church’s persecution at the hands of the anti-Christ, and its ultimate triumph upon Christ’s return. Like the “Jesus Freak” movement, these books seemed to glorify persecution—the kind that Christians in other parts of the world have long experienced, but is unheard of in the U.S.

Even in the last year, two films have been released which depict brave Christians standing up against a hostile, violent, and corrupt world. God’s Not Dead tells the story of a Christian college student who is forced to sign a paper declaring that God is dead or debate his arrogant, atheist philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo. The student accepts the challenge and debates the professor for three classes, eventually forcing him to admit that he really hates God because of his mother’s death. The rest of the students then stand up and declare that “God’s not dead,” driving the atheist professor from the room. This film made $62 million at the box office.

Even more explicit is the recently released Persecution, a thriller about a pastor who is framed by the government for murder because he tries to stop the passage of a federal bill to restrict religious freedom.

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

These narratives appeal to broader audiences, too. Several major conservative political pundits and organizations have made a name for themselves by selectively highlighting cases of alleged persecution of Christians. The most well-known example is the so-called “war on Christmas,” which is predicated on the claim that the holiday has been secularized by retailers’ marketing choices. FOX News has a reputation for running these sensationalized stories of suspected or alleged discrimination.

For example, Todd Starnes, a popular commenter on the network, recently published God Less America, purporting to expose the “Attack on Traditional Values.” Starnes has built a career almost exclusively based on reporting alleged incidences of Christian and conservative persecution. But his work almost always offers a skewed vision of religious liberty in the U.S.—he often exaggerates or omits facts. Earlier in his career, he was fired from the Baptist Press for reporting “factual and contextual errors.” Yet, his continues to be enormously influential—as I wrote last year, “Starnes sells us what we want to hear. We want to believe that we are the underdog. And Starnes sells us that story, wrapped in language of patriotism and faith.”

Being a “loser” in the world’s eyes for the sake of Jesus was, paradoxically, cool.


A number of other news organizations and Christian groups are also guilty of this. Take a recent story covered by CitizenLink, the “public policy partner of Focus on the Family,” a highly influential, socially conservative advocacy group and ministry. The story is about a small Texas church that acquired an old community center in a residential area and turned it into a church and school, which violated local zoning laws. After unsuccessful attempts at changing the zoning laws, the church sued the town on claims of religious discrimination—a community center and Girl Scout camp were allowed in that area, but not a church, they said. When CitizenLink reported on the lawsuit, it framed this as a fight against “anti-religious discrimination.” But the minutes from a local town council show that residents opposed rezoning because they were concerned about the noise and traffic the church and school would bring to their quiet neighborhood.

Without digging deeply into CitizenLink’s story, readers will be left to believe that this small Texas town is intentionally targeting Christians for persecution. As the public-policy arm of one of the most powerful evangelical organizations in the U.S., CitizenLink’s influence is considerable. If an evangelical Christian reader chooses to get her news from CitizenLink and similar sources every day, it’s easy to see why she would believe that there really is a war on Christians in this country.

All of these cultural factors are framed in a deep theological conception of persecution. Traditionally, Christians have had a very broad view of what it means to suffer for Christ—broad enough to include everything from genuine martyrdom to mild ridicule by nonbelievers. Behind this is an essential part of the faith, which says that every Christian will be persecuted by the world: True believers will lose jobs, face exile, and suffer from violence.

The problem is that for most of U.S. history, Christians haven’t been persecuted—at least not in comparison to early believers or even what Christians in places like Iraq face today. So, the question for American Christians is what to make of the Bible’s warning that we will be persecuted. For many evangelicals, the lack of very public and dramatic persecution could be interpreted as a sign that they just aren’t faithful enough: If they were persecuted, they could be confident they are saved. This creates an incentive to interpret personal experiences and news events as signs of oppression, which are ostensibly validations of our commitment to Christ.

The danger of this view is that believers can come to see victimhood as an essential part of their identity.

Other Christians would argue that these biblical warnings are not intended to mean that victimhood is a sign of salvation. Instead, they are meant to assure believers that suffering in life is not a sign that God has abandoned the faithful, or that the Gospel is not the truth. This is a radical thing about Christ, and, coincidentally, the reason why Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality”: Christ’s suffering on the cross is an inversion of worldly conceptions of success and power. His model is of sacrifice and selflessness—persecution is a constituent part of his divinity, not a sign that he was defeated.

That’s not to say there aren’t very real incidents of discrimination and even hatred toward Christianity in the United States. But as members of the largest faith group in America, Christians are relatively well-protected and more often accommodated than actively harmed.

As evangelical morality increasingly comes into conflict with dominant cultural mores, evangelicals need to be even more careful about the debates we chose to engage in, the rights we chose to assert, and the hills we choose to die on. Too much is at stake for evangelicals to waste our resources and credibility on frivolous and occasionally self-provoked “injustices.” Imagined offenses drummed up by sensationalists and fear-mongers should be exposed and denied. At times, even legitimate offenses should be overlooked, when they are petty. By focusing attention on real and substantial incidences of persecution, evangelicals will be much more effective at educating their neighbors and fighting for truly important matters of religious liberty.

And this has implications for those outside of evangelicalism, as well. It’s a challenge of tolerance: Just because some claims of persecution are contrived doesn’t mean actual persecution doesn’t exist here and elsewhere. And even though the traditionally powerful influence of evangelicals in America is waning, that doesn’t mean it is just to infringe upon our rights.

Tensions between Christians and non-Christians are likely to grow in the coming years as cultural mores shift, and out of this tension will come negotiations, dialogue, lawsuits, ignorance, and conflict. For evangelicals, preparation for this must begin in our own house, as we learn to better discern good theologies of suffering, edifying stories of persecution, and distorted reports of discrimination.






Monday, May 29, 2017

Welcome to Suburbia

I have said repeatedly that Nashville's boom is going to bust as despite the claims that 85-100 people are moving here a day, there would be not one single apartment or house available and that wages and jobs would be commensurate with the rates of rents and costs to live here. And that is not the case.  And people want to live with like people and that means educated people. We have the entire equivalent of the educated populace in Tennessee in Nashville (33%) and it is not saying much. And saying we overtook Memphis as the State's largest City is not saying much about either city frankly.  We are the Government hub and have jobs here - period.

We do have many many migrants here and many schools so some of that is related to the transitory nature of the city and in turn the traffic problems that also plague Nashville.  There has been little done to infrastructure here for decades and now both the State and the City are moving forward to resolving again decade old problems that have truly become of import with the growth of residents. But Nashville is not nor ever will be a Top 10 city.  It cannot as it has no downtown core and the focus of employment is hospitality, the lowest tier on wage and professional growth.

As for the actual industry that requires education and training, medical care, that is at risk due to the constant ebb and flow of what defines "Obama-Trump Care."  So until that resolves I don't see that driver of jobs to add more to an already overflowing cup.  (It takes 18 people to support one surgeon so there is your driver of medical costs).  Hey someone has to come up with then endless codes and bullshit that drive up costs of care.

And those people who are the support personnel at the schools and hospitals here are not highly paid in comparison to other cities but that same bullshit 'cost of living less' myth that dominates the dialogue seems to justify the wages is again not true so instead people move to suburbs where it is cheaper and in turn the costs and times of said commute is demonstrated daily on the three highways into Nashville.   In Nashville we don't refer to them as suburbs but instead counties so often we find that what is an actual suburb of the city is also in a completely different county with a different tax base and their own struggles for growth.  Case in point Murfreesboro which has a massive college at the center of the town but in turn exceeding violence and confusion with regards to growth.  And this goes for Franklin the wealthiest and nicest of the suburbs that exist in Williamson County.

But there are many other counties within an hour or less drive to Nashville, my favorite is home of the Beav as in Mae Beavers right wing nut job, Mt. Juliet.  That is where I found the store with the most racist divisive 'antiques' I had ever seen not in pictures.  My office now has "Colored Entrance Here" above the door.

And all of these have jobs and businesses that are hiring or laying off or are ensuring that in a right to work state wages are low enough but not that low to want to inspire a union.  Nashville is very proud to note that even the retail here is overcoming odds.  Of course they are not conventional retail stores but whatever, this is the South.   And our own retail lacks other than celebrity one's but hey!

I do believe that the current Mayor is responsive and gets that times and people are changing. I commend her but the State Government located in the center of town often overrides or seems unresponsive to that and there is also the fear of the outsider that dominates the dialog in the region. Anyone who has moved here feels that same social ostracizing at some point unless you are willing to don the hat of Christian Bible Belter, which I do not and in turn affects much of what I think and feel.  

When I tell natives that I have had cops called on me twice, once for sitting in the park adjacent to a school, they respond, "I have never heard of that."  Well you just now have.  But the reality is that implies I am lying.  This is the standard when people are either stupid or embarrassed or assholes as they don't want to deal with that in the least.  And it of course all falls to you as you are at fault.  True I will "cop" to the first that I overplayed it in the Dentist office and the other I was just sitting there so no.   But regardless cops and coming to my "aid" is over kill. But again this is the place where we love Cops and Military to the extreme.

Nashville will NEVER be a city on par with the major urban cities.    It is not even listed on the data below and in the article in NY Times it shows it is declining in density.  The most dense cities are Seattle, New York, even Chicago  but in America and even the "it" cities the suburbs are the growing at faster rates.  People gravitate to what they know and most Americans grew up in them so living in them is the norm.  I grew up in Seattle so density and urban living is the norm for me and that and that Jesus thing is one reason I cannot stay here.  I have no patience nor willingness to remain in a city with people whom I find repugnant. And the people my age are few and far between whom I can socialize so while many people are moving here they are not my peers and I need a larger cohort with whom to socialize.  So no this is not for me for many reasons but it is for now and that is fine for now.



Five Thirty Eight
Mar. 23, 2017

Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year

By Jed Kolko

The suburbanization of America marches on. Population growth in big cities slowed for the fifth-straight year in 2016,1 according to new census data, while population growth accelerated in the more sprawling counties that surround them.

The Census Bureau on Thursday released population estimates for every one of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. I grouped those counties into six categories: urban centers of large metropolitan areas; their densely populated suburbs; their lightly populated suburbs; midsize metros; smaller metro areas; and rural counties, which are outside metro areas entirely.2

The fastest growth was in those lower-density suburbs. Those counties grew by 1.3 percent in 2016, the fastest rate since 2008, when the housing bust put an end to rapid homebuilding in these areas. In the South and West, growth in large-metro lower-density suburbs topped 2 percent in 2016, led by counties such as Kendall and Comal north of San Antonio; Hays near Austin; and Forsyth, north of Atlanta.3

Those figures run counter to the “urban revival” narrative that has been widely discussed in recent years. That revival is real, but it has mostly been for rich, educated people in particular hyperurban neighborhoods rather than a broad-based return to city living. To be sure, college-educated millennials — at least those without school-age kids — took to the city, and better-paying jobs have shifted there, too. But other groups — older adults, families with kids in school, and people of all ages with lower incomes — either can’t afford or don’t want an urban address.

Worst off were rural areas. Counties outside of metropolitan areas, where 14 percent of Americans live, shrank slightly (-0.04 percent) in 2016, the sixth-straight year of population decline. Nonmetro areas in the Northeast and Midwest had larger losses. Nonmetro America has the slowest job and wage growth, as well.

The broad national trends hide some dramatic and surprising swings in local population. Here are a few of the places that are on their way up or down in the 2016 population data:
Up: Sunbelt cities

Many of the fastest-growing large metros were in Florida, with the Cape Coral/Fort Myers metro area the biggest gainer for the second year in a row, displacing Austin in 2015. (Cape Coral/Fort Myers also topped the list in 2004, 2005 and 2006, at the height of the housing bubble. Make of that what you will.) All of these fastest-growing large metros were in the South or West.

FASTEST GROWING METROS PERCENT CHANGE IN POPULATION

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL +3.1%
Provo-Orem, UT +3.1
Austin-Round Rock, TX +2.9
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL +2.7
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL +2.6
Raleigh, NC +2.5
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL +2.5
Boise City, ID +2.3
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL +2.3
Charleston-North Charleston, SC +2.2
—` 0

SLOWEST GROWING METROS

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA -0.8
Syracuse, NY -0.5
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, PA -0.5
Pittsburgh, PA -0.4
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT -0.3
New Haven-Milford, CT -0.3
Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY -0.2
Rochester, NY -0.2
Cleveland-Elyria, OH -0.2
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI -0.2
Fastest and slowest growing large metros in the U.S., 2015-16

“Large metros” are those with at least 500,000 population as of the 2010 census.

Source: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
Up: Educated rural areas and the Pacific Northwest

Two types of smaller places saw surprisingly strong growth. First, population growth accelerated in many midsize metros in the Northwest. Among all metros with at least 250,000 population, four of the 10 areas where growth accelerated most from 2015 to 2016 were in Washington (Olympia and Spokane) or Oregon (Eugene and Salem); another northwestern city, Boise, Idaho, was also on the list. Second, unlike rural areas overall, educated rural areas grew, too. In nonmetropolitan counties where at least 30 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree, population grew 0.8 percent in 2016 — slightly ahead of national population growth of 0.7 percent. Even better, growth in these educated rural areas is accelerating and is at its highest rate in eight years.

Down: The Rust Belt

Other places, though, are growing more slowly or even shrinking. Of the 104 metros with at least 500,000 people, 16 lost population.5 All but one (Honolulu) of these 16 were in the Northeast and Midwest, and the 10 that lost most included seven across eastern Ohio, upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Chicago was the largest metro to lose population in 2016. Many of these areas are former manufacturing strongholds that are now struggling economically.

Down: Former oil boomtowns

During the shale boom of the late 2000s and early 2010s, oil and gas hubs such as Williston, North Dakota, and Midland, Texas, were among the fastest-growing parts of the country. More recently, however, drilling has slowed, jobs have left town, and people are doing the same. Williston swung from 10.1 percent growth in 2015 to a 3.0 percent loss in 2016. Dickinson, North Dakota, and Midland and Odessa, Texas, also lost people in 2016 after growing sharply in 2015. Among larger metros, Houston’s population growth slowed the most, from 2.5 percent in 2015 to 1.9 percent in 2016 (Houston actually lost jobs in 2016). More surprising, growth decelerated almost as much in San Francisco, San Jose and Denver. Their population slowdowns, though, were accompanied by big wage gains (in the Bay Area) or large home-price increases (Denver), suggesting that limited housing or high costs, not weak demand, is holding back growth in those areas.
The big winner: The past (or at least past trends)

Year-to-year population shifts can be noisy, the result of one-off changes in local industries or economies. It’s better, therefore, to focus on the broader pattern of population growth over time. The 2016 data suggests that the past is reasserting itself.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the fastest growth was in the lower-density suburbs of large metros, with midsize and smaller metros growing more slowly and nonmetro counties lagging — just as in 2016. And, in those earlier decades, growth in the South and West far outpaced that in the Northeast and Midwest — as in 2016. For individual counties, the correlation between growth in 2016 and growth from 1980 to 2000 is very high, at 0.72, and has been increasing in recent years: The further we get from the years before the housing bubble, the more population growth patterns look like the pre-bubble era. Of the 10 fastest-growing large metros today, all but Charleston, South Carolina, had rapid growth in the 1980s and 1990s, and all of the 10 slowest-growing large metros today were near the bottom of the pack then, too.

For all of the changes this century has brought — demographic shifts, the housing bubble, the Great Recession — and even with increasing wealth of many big cities, U.S. population growth is settling back into familiar habits rather than finding a new path.


Pass Fail

As I wrote in my last blog Schools' Out, I discussed the crisis in the schools in Oklahoma and how they are moving to a four day work week.  In that post I included articles on the successful community school that is a model for public education meeting the needs of our current population and in turn another link where their Teacher of the Year is packing his bags and leaving for a better paying equivalent position in Texas.  He was derided by his fellow staffers for demanding a living wage and that all of that should be supplemented for the love of the kids.

Okay, time to talk about the love of the kids for a minute here.  Love doesn't pay the bills and love doesn't make you a Teacher, it takes years of effort, bullshit but required academic courses and in turn professional courtesy and relationships that enable you to be successful and in turn your students.  It is Simba, the circle of life.

I am repeatedly asked "What about kids these days" when people find out I am a Teacher.  I would rather at this point be a Doctor and asked "What about this wart on my ass?" as that I could actually answer.   My answer is "What about adults these days?" which brings the standard shake of the head.  It is actually a little more complicated and of course you get into the issues of poverty, race and ethnicity as we are sure that only good kids come from good people and that is where it gets really really complicated.  Makes you want to be a Doctor and look at ass warts all day, doesn't it?

And today another article about D.C. schools those right in the shadow of the White House or whatever we are now calling it these days?   I call it Castle of Doom.

The same complaints and issues that DC faces are the same most face.  The move to this issue of Restorative Justice is the new trial by error in both Seattle and here in Nashville.  Interesting as two days before school ended at one school I was at I saw several kids being suspended for the rest of the year so I guess that program is working out well or not.  I have seen a lot of signs adorning walls, right next to the ones about bullying.  My first suggestion is that staff read them and actually practice what they preach.   It is the first time however that I embrace scream therapy as it is the only thing that gets any traction.  Usually the kids are horrified or laugh but when they realize I have had to shout and scream to get anything they suddenly for one brief minute realize they are insane.  Note I said a minute.  The children here are the most damaged human beings I have ever encountered and I want nothing to do with them.  First rule of Teaching: If you are afraid of your students you need to leave the profession.

Would I if I was paid more? Yes and maybe.  Schools need strong leadership, clearly driven staff who are collaborating and in turn supported.  Well I have never worked in said schools but I have heard like the Unicorn they exist but in reality schools only matter to the parent and child and they have no concerns or interests in anything beyond their immediate needs so what works for one doesn't for another and that also kids makes it complicated math!

In 8 weeks Nashville Institutions re-open.  They too will be staffed by many Substitutes as there are not enough Teachers to fill the gaps.  I will not be one of them.  I have long learned that being a closer is a way better gig (many disagree but I have it all worked out) than opening.  And in turn here in Nashville the subs will be of varying skill set and education and in turn set the tone for the year making it near to impossible for the permanent Teacher to set right for weeks, the second worst gig in the school, the late hire.   That is why I laughed when the M'lady Teacher was so proud of her 6 kids and their academic achievement after taking the gig in October.  I just thought wow to think I am standing in the shadow of a trans Annie Sullivan!   Lying here and in her case I though was and is a well practiced art.  Next year she gets 23 kids, can't wait to hear about that or not as I will never set foot in her classroom again.

There are a lot of those but you work around it and try to figure how to make it work.  But you can't when you are trapped in the rooms as these DC Teachers are.  I get it and the problem is from the top down so blame the Teacher's union as that should solve it.




One D.C. school lost more than a quarter of its teaching staff this year.
By Alejandra Matos The Washington Post May 28 2017

Nearly 200 teachers have quit their jobs in D.C. Public Schools since the school year began, forcing principals to scramble to cover their classes with substitutes and depriving many students of quality instruction in critical subjects.

The vacancies hit hardest in schools that already face numerous academic challenges, according to data The Washington Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

At Ballou High School in Southeast Washington, more than a quarter of the faculty quit after starting work in August. Many of their classrooms now have long-term substitutes. Dwight Harris, 16, an 11th-grader, said his Algebra 2 class has been chaotic since his first teacher left in January.

“No one is teaching. It’s been like that for months now,” Harris said. “We don’t do anything, so I leave and go to my biology class or English class and go do other work.”

Most teachers wait until summer to call it quits, but in DCPS a rising number are leaving during the school year.

The mid-year resignation rate for DCPS was higher than for some other urban school systems The Post checked. In the D.C. system, 184 of about 4,000 teachers — nearly 5 percent — quit from September to mid-May. That was a 44 percent increase over the 128 teachers who left in the 2013-2014 school year.

In Denver Public Schools, which employs about 4,600 teachers, 115 teachers left in a comparable period this year. In Baltimore City Public Schools, with about 5,150 teachers, the total who quit was 145. In Seattle Public Schools, with about 4,000 teachers, 55 quit.

DCPS spokeswoman Michelle Lerner acknowledged it is a challenge to lose teachers mid-year. School officials try to fill vacancies as quickly as possible with a full-time teacher, but she said the best time to hire is in the summer.

“Having a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom is a huge priority for us,” she said.

While the number who quit abruptly is small compared with the total workforce, experts say mid-year resignations are particularly disruptive and harmful to student learning because it’s very difficult to fill sudden vacancies.

Most good teachers are employed during the school year. That means if a teacher leaves mid-year, classrooms are left to a rotation of short-term substitutes or a long-term sub who may not be fully qualified to teach at that grade level or in a specific discipline, such as math or biology.

“Every teacher, no matter how successful they are at their job, knows that leaving mid-year is a really unkind thing to do to kids and the school. If they are doing it, it’s out of anger, or an overwhelming sense that you are not doing anybody any good by staying,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The Post obtained two sets of data on DCPS teacher resignations. One covered the systemwide totals for the past four school years. The other, from the FOIA request, showed in detail how many teachers quit at each campus this school year from August through February. Students started classes on Aug. 22, but teachers reported to work earlier that month. Hiring typically occurs by the end of June.

In most DCPS schools, the faculty is stable. Of 115 schools in the system, 59 had two or fewer resignations after teachers reported to work, the data showed.

But a handful were hit hard.

Raymond Education Campus in Northwest lost 13 teachers, which accounts for a quarter of its faculty. Columbia Heights Education Campus in Northwest lost 11 teachers, or 10 percent. H.D. Woodson High in Northeast lost 10 of its 50 teachers, or 20 percent.

No school has suffered more turnover than Ballou High. It lost 21 teachers from August through February — 28 percent of its faculty. Many of the resignations occurred in the math department, current and former teachers say.

Several former Ballou teachers told The Post they did not want to leave mid-year and felt bad about the consequences for students. But they said a number of problems drove them to leave, from student behavior and attendance issues to their own perception of a lack of support from the administration. They also raised questions about evaluations. Some veterans said that in previous years they had received high marks from administrators, but this year they were given what they believe are arbitrarily low evaluation scores.

DCPS officials declined to make the principal of the school, Yetunde Reeves, available for an interview.

Lerner, the spokeswoman, said the school system is looking closely at the Ballou situation.

“We are working with the school to make sure that the staff in the building feel supported and to create a long-term vision so we don’t continue to see high turnover at Ballou and other schools,” she said.

Rowan Langford was the Algebra 2 teacher for Harris when the school year began. The 22-year-old was a teaching fellow at Ballou. It was her first teaching job after graduating from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in math.

Former Ballou High math teacher Rowan Langford. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Langford said she asked administrators for help with behavior problems in her classroom — but didn’t get it.

Her classes were large. One had more than 33 students. She said the students were very far behind and lacked the foundation needed to be successful.

“A lot of them felt really discouraged about math and used other methods to lash out,” Langford said. “I couldn’t address those problems they were having on my own.”

Langford said she threatened to quit two months into the school year but was hopeful she would get support to manage her classroom. She said nothing changed. In January, she decided to quit.

“I felt awful about it,” she said. “Before I started this job, I said I didn’t understand why anyone would quit mid-year. But being in it, you realize how long a year is because every single day feels like three.”

Ballou has about 930 students, and all qualify for free or reduced-price lunch because they live in poverty. Many come from homes where their parents didn’t go to college. The school ranks among the city’s lowest-performing high schools on core measures. Its graduation rate in the last school year, 57 percent, was second-lowest among regular high schools in the DCPS system.

In 2016, 3 percent of Ballou students tested met reading standards on citywide exams. Almost none met math standards.

The school was reconstituted in the 2015-2016 school year, its second shakeup in five years. Reconstitution means the teachers and staff all had to reapply for their jobs.
Yetunde Reeves, Ballou principal (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Principal since 2014, Reeves recently said she and her staff were working to change Ballou’s image by raising expectations for students. In March, the school said all of its seniors had applied to college, a first for Ballou.

Monica Brokenborough, a music teacher and the school’s union representative, sent a letter this month to the D.C. Council, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson raising concerns about the staff vacancies.

“Students simply roam the halls because they know that there is no one present in their assigned classroom to provide them with an education,” Brokenborough said. “Many of them have simply lost hope.”

Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on the nation’s teacher workforce, said there is no national data on what portion of teachers leave in the middle of the school year. But he said a quit rate as high as Ballou’s signals “there are some problems in that building.”

Ingersoll’s research shows that teachers who resign abruptly often do so because they do not feel supported by their administration. Some may leave if they do not feel safe in schools where there are fights and other disruptions. Those issues take a greater toll on inexperienced teachers.

“High turnover, whenever it happens, suggests there are problems in the workplace,” Ingersoll said. “If it’s in the middle of the year, that suggests things are so bad people can’t wait until the end of the year.

Walsh, with the National Council on Teacher Quality, agreed that “leadership is everything.” Walsh said that when a large group of teachers leaves mid-year, many could be “disgruntled” and that students may be better off if ineffective teachers leave. Still, she said the school system needs to examine what is driving teachers out.

“I imagine behind closed doors, they are questioning leadership,” Walsh said. “They ought to be using it as a point of discussion with those school leaders.”

Harris said that since his teacher left, he hasn’t learned much in algebra. Substitutes have told him and his classmate to fill out worksheets, he said, which they answer by Googling the problems.

Many times, Harris said, he stays in the room for 10 minutes, long enough for the sub to mark him present.

“I have no idea what my grade is right now,” he said, “but I think I’ll pass the class.”

Asked about Harris’s class, Lerner said that students in it are still receiving instruction. The school is “on a watch for how students do,” she said, and if there is any loss of learning officials will add extra time to the next year’s schedule for math instruction.

In her message to city officials, Brokenborough included handwritten letters from students who described feeling unprepared for their Advanced Placement exams and fearful that their prospects for college will be hampered by not having a teacher in key classes.

Iyonna Jones, an 18-year-old senior, said in one of the letters that security guards tell the students lingering in hallways to go to class, but she has a substitute teacher in her math class and doesn’t feel she is getting the instruction she needs.

“We should just stay home, because what is the point of coming to school if we are not learning and have no teachers,” she wrote.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Schools' Out

I had read recently an article lauding the community schools in Oklahoma and thought really?  While reading another where their Teacher of the Year is leaving and moving to Texas!  If she thinks teaching in Texas will be a dream, I can't wait to read that book, see the movie and buy the T-shirt!

 And while the article claims community schools may be successful (and they do but they are few and far in between) that wont be for long as the wind came sweeping down the plain and Oklahoma schools are following a much more popular pop culture philosophy - the 4 Day week. Okay not quite the Timothy Ferris idea of a 4 hour day but Amazon and other Tech companies do have a four day plan in place and to cite another book - it is terrible bad no good idea.   And it might be actually hazardous to your health.  Which is not a bad idea death can open up jobs!  Of course the debate over a staggered schedule is another and let's just say that is  tier plan that few like but hey I like tiered cakes!

And who doesn't like playing with blocks?   Already schools experiment with the A/B block plan meaning longer classes split every other day and one day where they attend all 6 in order to meet the credit needs and the idea that having a longer period enables more effective teaching and retention.   They had this at one school in Seattle and they do that here in some Middle and High school and I can tell you it is horrific.  Of course I think any schedule is here as these schools are horrific so perhaps I am not the best source of this and this is an issue of debate across the board in many districts.

But since tests matter.  Why not take two high schools, put one on block one on standard schedule, have the identical composition of students with regards to gender, language level, income, race and disability in one school and put them on block schedule.  Then find a similar no identical school across town and make it identical in composition.  And make sure the Teachers are identical, maybe not Twins but in experience, education and quality of teaching (we could test them to make sure they are equal as that really tells effectiveness) and then at the end of the year test everyone and see which is better!  Viola, problem solved.

But is about money baby and that is what drives education and without you have crappy schools and the exceptions are those with active parents who supplement that via fund raisers, strong PTA and of course advocacy.  Other than that you get what you get a basic room with some crappy texts, crowded classrooms, burned out Teachers and the only thing being taught is being learned by those who care and they are few and far between.  I live for the day I never have to set foot in a classroom again.  At least one in Nashville.

And to give you an idea I was told by someone I should move to Shelby County to teach.  No, but thanks and then I found a comparison was made regarding salary of Shelby to Davidson county teachers. As wages are set by the State but the board can add/change/amend the structure and recently that occurred in Nashville and this study is from 2104 so that data can change.   But one thing of note is that the powers that be (that is the Chamber of Commerce as they truly call the shots here) say it is the cost of living that offsets the low wages here.  They say that for every position here but even our Mayor in Nashville is going that is not happening and approved wage increases. But it is nowhere parallel to the cost of living here.  Even that sad trans Teacher I met last week said his first check goes entirely to rent, the second for his other costs.  And he claimed to have a second job, which I did not believe as he seemed to have issues with truth and that I applied to his many issues that were not just gender related.

Nashville, Shelby County teacher salary comparisons
Salaries not adjusted for cost of living
Nashville:
Years it takes a teacher to reach average annual maximum salary ($75,000): More than 30 years
Average starting salary: $40,448
Average ending salary (after 30 years): $69,570
Average lifetime earnings (over 30 years): $1.8 million
Shelby County:
Years it takes a teacher to reach average annual maximum salary ($75,000): More than 30 years
Average starting salary: $42,343
Average ending salary (after 30 years): $72,870
Average lifetime earnings (over 30 years): $1.9 million
Salaries adjusted for cost of living
Nashville:
Years it takes a teacher to reach average annual maximum salary ($68,000 salary): 14 years
Average starting salary: $45,445
Average ending salary (after 30 years): $78,166
Average lifetime earnings (over 30 years): $2 million
Shelby County
Years it takes a teacher to reach average annual maximum salary ($68,000 salary): 10 years
Average starting salary: $48,540
Average ending salary (after 30 years): $83,534
Average lifetime earnings (over 30 years): $2.2 million
 Anyone willing to enter this profession and in turn get a higher degree has to be stupid. Sorry but that sort of contradicts the whole notion of what defines a Teacher. Stupid is as stupid does.

What I have loved is the constant drum beat that Teachers get summers off.  Yes they do and they don't get paid for it.  Many if not all Teachers use that time to meet the need to get license credits which they do pay for and have to in order to maintain said license.   I love that the same vocal opponents talk about tenure and bad Teachers keeping their jobs.   Well soon there won't be any so that solves that problem.   But as one following the private schools scandals regarding sexual assault it appears that moving the bad apple is not just a public school union problem.  But then again if DeVos gets her way you can use your voucher to send your child there and find out how good it is yourself!

I suspect Oklahoma is just the tip of the iceberg with the coming of DeVos and her ideas of education.  So this will not be the new or odd, Arizona has already tried and more will follow. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.



With state budget in crisis, many Oklahoma schools hold classes four days a week
By Emma Brown  The Washington Post May 27 2017


NEWCASTLE, Okla. — A deepening budget crisis here has forced schools across the Sooner State to make painful decisions. Class sizes have ballooned, art and foreign-language programs have shrunk or disappeared, and with no money for new textbooks, children go without. Perhaps the most significant consequence: Students in scores of districts are now going to school just four days a week.

The shift not only upends what has long been a fundamental rhythm of life for families and communities. It also runs contrary to the push in many parts of the country to provide more time for learning — and daily reinforcement — as a key way to improve achievement, especially among poor children.

But funding for classrooms has been shrinking for years in this deep-red state as lawmakers have cut taxes, slicing away hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue in what some Oklahomans consider a cautionary tale about the real-life consequences of the small-government approach favored by Republican majorities in Washington and statehouses nationwide.

School districts staring down deep budget holes have turned to shorter weeks in desperation as a way to save a little bit of money and persuade increasingly hard-to-find teachers to take some of the nation’s lowest-paying jobs.

Of 513 school districts in Oklahoma, 96 have lopped Fridays or Mondays off their schedules — nearly triple the number in 2015 and four times as many as in 2013. An additional 44 are considering cutting instructional days by moving to a four-day week in the fall or by shortening the school year, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association found in a survey last month.
Sandy Robertson waits to pick up her granddaughter from school in Newcastle. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

“I don’t think it’s right. I think our kids are losing out on education,” said Sandy Robertson, a grandmother of four in Newcastle, a fast-growing rural community set amid wheat and soybean fields south of Oklahoma City. “They’re trying to cram a five-day week into a four-day week.”

Oklahoma is not the only state where more students are getting three-day weekends, a concept that dates to the 1930s. The number is climbing slowly across broad swaths of the rural big-sky West, driven by a combination of austere budgets, fuel-guzzling bus rides and teacher shortages that have turned four-day weeks into an important recruiting tool.

The four-day week is a “contagion,” said Paul Hill, a research professor at the University of Washington Bothell who has studied the phenomenon in Idaho and who worries that the consequences of the shift — particularly for poor kids — are unknown.

But in other states, the Great Recession sparked a spike in the growth of four-day weeks that has since slowed, according to data collected by The Washington Post. Oklahoma stands out for the velocity with which districts have turned to a shorter school week in the past several years, one of the most visible signs of a budget crisis that has also shuttered rural hospitals, led to overcrowded prisons and forced state troopers to abide by a 100-mile daily driving limit.

Democrats helped pass bipartisan income tax cuts from 2004 to 2008. Republicans — who have controlled the legislature since 2009 and governorship since 2011 — have cut income taxes further and also significantly lowered taxes on oil and gas production.

“The problems facing Oklahoma are our own doing. There’s not some outside force that is causing our schools not to be able to stay open,” said state Sen. John Sparks, the chamber’s top Democrat. “These are all the result of a bad public policy and a lack of public-sector investment.”

But Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said a downturn in the energy sector and a decreasing sales tax revenue have led to several “very difficult budget years.”

The governor said in an email to The Post that she thinks “students are better served by five-day weeks” because moving to four days requires a longer school day. That makes it “hard for students, especially in the early grades, to focus on academic content during the late hours of the day,” she said.

Facing a $900 million budget gap, lawmakers approved a budget Friday that will effectively hold school funding flat in the next year. In Washington, President Trump has proposed significant education cuts that would further strain local budgets.

‘We’ve cut so much for so long’

Few states have schools that are worse off.

Oklahoma’s education spending has decreased 14 percent per child since 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the state in 2014 spent just $8,000 per student, according to federal data. Only Arizona, Idaho and Utah spent less.

“We’ve cut so much for so long that the options just are no longer there,” said Deborah Gist, superintendent in Tulsa, a district that still holds classes five days a week but plans to merge schools

This year has been particularly tough, as repeated revenue shortfalls have left districts facing midyear cuts. “I’ve done this job a long time, and this is the hardest I’ve ever had it,” said Tony O’Brien, superintendent of Newcastle schools, which have about 2,300 students.

Elementary class sizes in the town now hover around 26 and 27, far higher than a 20-student limit set in a 1990 state law. In 2016, schools started charging to participate in sports and extracurricular activities and, after considerable community debate, moved to a four-day week, with longer school days.

O’Brien said the schedule change helped Newcastle shave about $110,000 out of its $12 million annual budget, savings that equal more than two teachers. The savings come mostly from shutting off building utilities on Fridays and from using less diesel fuel to run buses. Teacher salaries — the bulk of any district’s cost — didn’t change.

Experts say four-day weeks don’t save much money. In Newcastle and elsewhere, school leaders say the biggest benefit has been attracting and retaining teachers in some of the nation’s lowest-paying jobs.

Oklahoma has not raised teachers’ salaries since 2008, and the average salary in 2013 — $44,128 — put the state at 49th in the nation, according to the latest available federal data. Teachers are leaving in droves for better-paying jobs across state lines, superintendents say. And the number of positions filled by emergency-certified teachers — who have no education training (or, in O’Brien’s words, “are upright and breathing”) — is now 35 times as high as it was in 2011.

Districts figure that if they can’t give teachers a raise, they can at least give them extra time off.
Chris Treu, who teaches business at Newcastle High, has a master’s degree and earns about $48,000. 

Chris Treu, a Newcastle High business teacher in her 20th year, said that with a master’s degree and an extra stipend for working in career and technology education, she earns about $48,000 — barely more than some of her former students earn fresh out of college. “It’s disheartening,” she said. “If I have to go back to a five-day week, I think I’m done, because I know I’m not going to get more money.”

Shannon Chlouber, a third-grade teacher at Newcastle Elementary, said she spends half her Fridays off working on lesson plans and grading papers, leaving her weekends free and making a relentless job more sustainable. She is an 18-year classroom veteran, and she earns $39,350. “If I were single, I’d be on welfare,” she said.

Oklahoma opened the door to shorter weeks in 2009 with a bill meant to help school districts cope with snow-day closures. The change allowed schools to meet instructional requirements by holding class either 1,080 hours or 180 six-hour days a year.

That flexibility opened the way for districts to try four-day weeks — a move that in many cases required lengthening each remaining day by about 45 minutes.

Research on the academic effects of four-day weeks is thin, and the picture is decidedly muddy. A 2015 study of fourth- and fifth-graders in Colorado showed that students on four-day weeks fared better in math than their peers on traditional schedules, and no different in reading.

Tim Tharp, Montana’s deputy state superintendent of education, found the opposite when he studied longer-term effects for his 2014 University of Montana doctoral dissertation. Montana students tended to show academic gains in the first year of four-day weeks, but over four or five years, their achievement declined.

Tharp thinks that districts at first pick up the academic pace to make sure their students don’t lose ground, but then grow complacent and start teaching as though they’re still on five-day weeks. “Old routines are easy to slip back into,” he said.
‘Some people don’t get to eat’

Many parents here said they like the four-day schedule because it gives them more time with their children. Principals were also upbeat, saying grades are up, disciplinary incidents down, and students and staff happier and more motivated. Teachers said students are faring as well or better, academically, than before.

Predictably, plenty of young people are thrilled.

“It rocks,” said Jordan Banfield, 18, who liked having Fridays off during her senior year at Newcastle High. “You honestly don’t dread going to school as much.”

But even kids are not unanimous. Chad Marble said his second-grader, Emerson, comes home complaining that school is too rushed. And some children are sensitive to the fact that the four-day week means extra stress for working families that struggle to find day care and poor children who depend on school for meals.

“It’s good and bad,” one Newcastle fourth-grader said. “The good part is we have more time with our families, and the bad part is some people don’t get to eat.”

Newcastle has arranged for low-cost child care on Fridays — $30 per child per week — and the town has a low poverty rate by Oklahoma standards. Only about one-third of students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch. A food bank sends extra food home with hungry students to tide them over during long weekends, but teachers say few ask for that help.

In most other Oklahoma districts with four-day weeks, the overwhelming majority of students qualify for subsidized meals.









Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorials of the Day

I wrote this blog post Dear Nashville in March and here I am two months later approaching Memorial Day and thought it would be a good time to reflect on my memories here of the last year.  And then I realized entering something akin to clinical depression is not a good idea.

The last week in the public institutions here; I am no longer going to call them schools, they are just that - institutions - and nothing about that word connotes anything positive, truly affirmed that little has changed with regards to my feelings about them.  They are horrific, they are staffed with the largest of a small percentage of the educated professionals that live in Nashville and in Tennessee,  and yet they are the most ignorant, oblivious, self obsessed, bullies I have ever witnessed.  I have been in two or three classrooms where I actually liked what I saw and felt that these Teachers were actually working and giving a damn, the rest were tragic, grim and pathetic.  I am not sure they started out that way or just like me they broke after a few weeks/months/years of working in these institutions.

There is a tragic theme in Country music and it resonates in almost every aspect of life here.  The poor me poor you not so much reveals the character of the red state resident.  Blaming, finger pointing, the idea that your failure is your lack of character and some intrinsic flaw that can be overcome by pulling up boot straps, tighten belts, acceptance of God's world view or whatever bizarre analogy they can find to somehow excuse their behavior while accusing you of failing at living.

I was listening to the bizarre ramblings (as there are always more than one) of Ben Carson saying "poverty is a state of mind."  Or how about Gianforte the Montana Congressman who abused a Guardian reporter, excused his behavior by victim blaming and defending himself that he has God's blessing.  My personal favorite quote of this asshole is "There is nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement.  And yet it's been an accepted concept in our culture today. It's like, nowhere does it say, 'Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach,"  Then he proceeded to use Noah, a fictitious Bible character, as an analogy that he built the ark at age 600.  And this is apparently why we need to eliminate Social Security and Medicare or any safety net  as God says its not necessary or some shit like that.

The Bible and the fantasy story tales dominate the culture here.  It was the reasoning that not once but twice I have Police called to my home and to a public park to "check on me." And instead of thinking that is overkill as I could have been killed, they excuse it by saying "hey at least they cared."   Really an offer of a Tic Tac or nice phone call would be sufficient.  And that was my point last night at my last time volunteering at the Frist.

I tried and went with the best of intention to a Members Preview of the new exhibits and I went to the station at the entrance to the gallery and there was a man about 60 sitting in the desk.  I introduced myself and asked if I could put my purse under the desk. He did not stand up, did not introduce himself and I shoved my bag next to the chair and that was the extent of our exchange.  He was an asshole.  I meet them daily here.  I am told I should meet better people. Okay, where?  In the course of an hour I greeted guests and had fun and then I turned to my colleague and said, "Is it Nashville or all of Tennessee that treats newcomers with such disdain and disregard.  I have tried to volunteer and put myself out there and not one person treats me civilly or with these supposed good manners that I keep hearing about but have never experienced.  I have tried to have coffee, a drink, lunch just go for a walk to understand what it is about me that makes people here so uncomfortable that they cannot speak to me at all."  His response was to laugh and the standard "I don't understand what you are saying."  That is the equivalent to "bless your heart" when someone is embarrassed or caught off guard they put it back on you implying you are incomprehensible or cryptic.  Really you can't get more direct than me and so the minute I hear that accusation I know I hit a nerve and that it hurts so lash back only they want you to - to rant or rave or fall into the baiting trap so they can validate their fucked up belief that you are the problem.  To quote Michelle Obama, "When they go low you go high."  So I did not respond.  I just shrugged.  And later I said, "Well one thing I am good at is forcing people to talk to me."  He just looked at me.. he did not laugh which was his originally response to my comment, another offensive behavior.  And then I said, "well I am out I can handle about an hour of acting so I am out and I will go home and be alone and cry there."  He said nothing.

As I left the Security Guard thanked me for my work? So I stopped and informed him that I just volunteered  here for an unpleasant hour where not one person from the Museum spoke to me other than the coordinator for the event, and that was her extent of her professional obligation and that was it.  That on the few times I have been here I have felt utterly ignored and oblivious.  And that I think it will be the last time as I can't take it.  I don't get this here.  Do you all hate newcomers so much that this is a hazing exercise or is it me?   He then went on about God and that was the Devil trying to get into my head and take over and not see what blessings I bring.  By then I was trying to walk backwards to get out of there and just said the obligatory praise Jesus and then swore to God that I would never set foot in there as a Volunteer again.  

So these are the responses I get.  Ask yourself what you would do if someone said that? Would you laugh?  Would you say, "I don't get what you are saying?" Or ramble on about Jesus?  Or would you offer a shoulder, a thought, a cup of coffee?   I spend most of my days here alone without any positive adult interactions other than the barista's who serve my coffee and to be frank they are not enough nor what I really want or need.

This ended the same day where I had subbed in another classroom where I was put in the adjacent classroom with 5 kitties.  I am not a cat person so I just sat there as people passed through to cuddle the cats.  Not one adult spoke to me, introduced themselves or asked me my name. 

As I updated in the blog post, That Explains It, I have never been so maligned and marginalized in my life and if you treat an adult that way you are treating children that way and what message and lesson is that?  And someone I told about that incident and that I left with about an hour left in the day, he asked why wasn't I called or asked where I was going.  My response, "So say someone came to work here and someone told them to sit over there and wait and after 2 hours none of you spoke to that person, asked them their name and then finally you noticed they were gone, how would you know who to call or why would you?" Then the light bulb went on.  These are my encounters living in Nashville explaining behavior and manners to the residents here as if they are children oblivious to basic etiquette.

So my Memorial Day is done memorializing.  As the saying goes, "If you have nothing good to say say nothing." Fuck that I am going to start recording and writing about it and this may be the foundation when I being Podcasting.  For if I am not to drown here swimming in the deep red sea I need to connect and be heard and maybe then someone will provide the feedback I need. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

That Explains It

Well we can thank Tennessee as being ground zero for Education reform.  I knew most of it and have seen first hand what it has done and it is not a good thing.  I said early on that Nashville you broke me and I have never hated Children, Teachers and Schools as much or ever (which given what I have seen over 20 years says something)  since I set foot in them in August 2016.

Today was the last day of the school year for me.  As I said in my last post yesterday what I witnessed and experienced was not just bizarre it was distressing and tragic for everyone involved.   I was asked why I was so off put by the Transgendered Teacher and it was not that he was now a woman but it was his demeanor, his manner and his sheer neediness that made me wonder if this was a desperate cry for attention, a need to be a martyr to live and work in a State that hates his kind or he was that stupid.  Seriously I went with stupid.  As anyone with a degree or credentials in Special Education, a highly in demand credential, could write their ticket and go to a more liberal playground in which to live and work so it was hard for me to respect or understand any of it.  Then after listening to the other condescending female Teacher (who corrected my pronoun when I kept referring to the other Teacher with the male one - sorry but that is my own passive aggressiveness that I need to check)  explain/defend/justify her six figure debt while simultaneously demanding  respect from a a bunch of 6th graders who could not care less again made me go: Really wtf?  If one cannot see the disconnect there then one only needs to look at the current Presidential administration.  It is as if a brain surgeon thinks that shit I can operate on a brain I sure as hell can run a huge department of public housing, what's the diff?  Oh wait....

**for the record the TN Legislature just passed the new salary increases for the state and they are as follows: The new minimum base pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is $33,74, so the Doctor would make that (dependent upon her years of experience) 3,500 with 3-5 years experience 11K plus change if she was over 11 years.  So in Nashville that would be about 55K tops.  Yes indeed.  I would demand respect from a two year old to validate that bullshit 


Then today I showed up to a classroom that to say disaster zone would be insufficient. Then I heard the announcement that the entire school was going on a field trip and that kids not going were to report to the following rooms.  The Teacher I was subbing for made me presume that I was either Chaperoning or I was covering for the leftovers who did not go (which I had done both in Seattle and either gig is good).   As I sat waiting, the Teacher arrived and looked appalled that I was there. It as I have come to expect  and so it went downhill from there.   After about an hour she asked for the sole shredder in the school and I offered to get it from the library.  Yes a middle school with one shredder, right there red flag.  Then she handed me papers and told me to rip staplers out with my bare hands and then shred anything unless it was signed.  I found a stapler remover and went that direction and kept shredding until it was overheated and blocked with paper.  So after an hour of pulling paper threads from the jammed machine, using a paper clip and scissors,  I offered to go buy her her own shredder to replace this one as it was not working.  More calls and was told not to do that just let it cool.  I had now been there 3 hours and thought I would never make it to 3:15.  So again I offered to work a half day and again buy a second one as a gift. No  she was insistent that I just wait it out.  Yes I will just sit there then start this over again for another 3 hours.  The insanity of this situation has at one point click in.  But no, she then called the Principal and informed him that I told her I was "wasting my time" and  asked if I could work a half day with her or was there other work to be done.  He said fine but half day was 11:30.  She seemed utterly amazed that I an educated professional would not want to sit for hours shredding paper sheet after paper sheet.  All while her teen aged daughter sat at an adjacent desk doing nothing.

I had a moment where I thought the irony of this me on my hands and knees cleaning this old shredder and the woman, her daughter both black getting off on this and of course portraying me as ungrateful and disrespectful (as that is what the connotation of wasting time meant to me) to her while this woman who had been a room with me for three hours never spoke to me - ate in front of me and utterly ignored me for over a hour until the shredder idea came up.  When I finally finished shredding what I could until the machine again over heated I saw it was 11:30 and could not run for the door fast enough.   As I left I said, "Oh by the way you never asked me my name, it is XYZ" and hope she realized now that I had tried to be polite and her constant ranting/apologizing/excusing as if I did something wrong by taking the job was in fact just what it was - a lack of communication, a mistake.  But I might be projecting as there is one thing I have found here, regardless of color, the Staff of these schools are horrific and I have nothing good to say; however, that is not going to stop me from trash talking I can assure you.  It again explains the children and their behavior.

***ETA***   Today I took a gig at a pretentious school that on my few occasions there I found the Principal ludicrous and his gargoyle, whoops I mean Secretary, well just that.  So it was for a half day to make up for the half day lost yesterday and thought another SPED room and let's see what's what.

Well one nice girl introduced herself and asked me my name. An improvement and then as always it went down from there, a low bar frankly.  The rooms were adjacent and they put me in the second room where there was me and one of the SPED assistants 5 cats she was giving away.  My exposure to any children were those going in and out to pet the kitties.   Again no one spoke to me despite the presence of an elderly black woman and another young woman who talked literally over me as I placed myself front and center in a table in the middle of the room and by the adjoining door.  One darling kid did say good morning to me and hugged me and that was the extent of my human contact.  I managed 2.5 hours as an hour or so to go I announced to no one I was going to the bathroom and then walked out the door.  I forgot to mention that I meant the one in my home.  I want to point out that these are the EDUCATED members of Tennessee society, all 33% of them, and they are in charge of EDUCATION here.  Interesting how that works out and again might explain the dismal numbers in pursuit of learning.  

And then I read this essay and went "Well that explains it."  The moron who came up with this bullshit is part of the problem not the solution. Hey dipshit the poverty and level of ignorance here is ingrained in the culture, in the economy and the class system that pervades all aspects of living here.  Again Southerner's have no clue other than worth via numbers as that is there excuse/explanation/justification for their ignorance and in turn their racism/sexism/homophobia/pick a 'ism.  And there are no salary levels that reward "better" Teachers here, the State with the lowest salary levels in the country and a shortage of Teachers so severe that the State is advertising for them across the country.  But hey again, lies here are a dish best served with hot chicken and sweet tea.  And it explains why I am treated like a shit bag in the schools - you have to be stupid to work in them.  It is the same label I gave my M'lady teacher from the day before.  If she (note correct pronoun) really was that good as she kept telling me, why the fuck was she here?

When we all are numbers then we are not people and then when we are not people we don't have to treat people as we wish to be treated we treat them as they treat me here in Nashville - like shit.


This is where I sat on the floor shredding

The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers

Kevin Carey
THE NEW YORK TIMES OPINION
MAY 19, 2017


Students enroll in a teacher’s classroom. Nine months later, they take a test. How much did the first event, the teaching, cause the second event, the test scores? Students have vastly different abilities and backgrounds. A great teacher could see lower test scores after being assigned unusually hard-to-teach kids. A mediocre teacher could see higher scores after getting a class of geniuses.

Thirty-five years ago, a statistician, William S. Sanders, offered an answer to that puzzle. It relied, unexpectedly, on statistical methods that were developed to understand animal breeding patterns.

Mr. Sanders died in March in his home state, Tennessee, at age 74, with his name little known outside education circles. But the teacher-assessment method he developed attracted a host of reformers and powerful lawmakers, leading to some of the most bitter conflicts in American education.

“In 1945, the United States government set off an atomic bomb.”

That’s how Mr. Sanders began telling me the story of his life, when we met several years ago.

He was raised on a small dairy farm and earned a doctorate in statistics and quantitative genetics from the University of Tennessee. At the time, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, near Knoxville, was studying the effects of radiation on living things.

Nuclear weapons tests had released clouds of radiation that had drifted with the weather. Sometime later, farm animals downwind began to die. Did the first event, a mushroom cloud, cause the second event, dead sheep? Or did one merely follow the other coincidentally? Solving this problem required expertise in both statistical probability and livestock biology. Oak Ridge hired Bill Sanders.

Then, in 1982, Mr. Sanders chanced upon a newspaper article about the latest controversy in K-12 education.

Tennessee’s governor, Lamar Alexander, who is now chairman of the Senate education committee, wanted to give more status and money to the best schoolteachers. That raised a thorny question: What, exactly, does “best” mean?

Mr. Sanders and a colleague sent Mr. Alexander a letter offering to help. Mr. Alexander ultimately chose not to use Mr. Sanders’s method, but eight years later, Mr. Sanders was summoned by Gov. Ned McWherter to make his case.

Tennessee, an early adopter in standardized testing, administered annual exams in five subjects. Those scores, Mr. Sanders said, could gauge the quality of the students’ teachers. Yet, he cautioned, a simple comparison of a student’s test scores with her scores a year before wasn’t good enough.

Imagine two students. Both start the year at the same level in math, and both improve by 15 percent. But in previous years, the first student had been improving slowly, by 5 percent annually. For him, 15 percent is a big gain. But the second student had been improving by 30 percent per year. For her, 15 percent is a troublesome slowing down.

To fairly evaluate teachers, Mr. Sanders argued, the state needed to calculate an expected growth trajectory for each student in each subject, based on past test performance, then compare those predictions with their actual growth. Outside-of-school factors like talent, wealth and home life were thus baked into each student’s expected growth. Teachers whose students’ scores consistently grew more than expected were achieving unusually high levels of “value-added.” Those, Mr. Sanders declared, were the best teachers.

Crunching the numbers for millions of scores would require high-powered computers and a small team of statisticians. To his surprise, Mr. Sanders got all that from the state. From that point, Bill Sanders’s professional life was defined by teachers, tests and the increasingly fraught politics between them.

When he began calculating value-added scores en masse, he immediately saw that the ratings fell into a “normal” distribution, or bell curve. A small number of teachers had unusually bad results, a small number had unusually good results, and most were somewhere in the middle.

Then, as now, the vast majority of teacher salary schedules used only two factors: years of service and the number of advanced degrees. Personnel evaluation systems were essentially nonexistent, with nearly all teachers being rated “satisfactory” after a perfunctory review.

The value-added bell curve told a different story. First, it was wide. The effective teachers on one side were achieving much better results than the ineffective teachers on the other. Second, it didn’t support the tenure and credentials system. Other researchers began using methods similar to Mr. Sanders’s to compare different kinds of teachers.

Schools were collectively spending billions to give teachers with master’s degrees extra pay. Yet their value-added bell curve looked little different from the curve for teachers without those degrees. Nor did effectiveness grow in lock step with years of service.

People had always known there were great and not-so-great teachers. But they had never been able to quantify the difference. The Sanders idea opened up new vistas of public policy — and created some of the most hard-fought political battles of the age.

Education reformers looked at the left-hand side of the bell curve, where the ineffective teachers were, and thought, “What if we could take them out of the system?” They pushed to change tenure systems that made teachers hard to fire.

Reformers also looked at the right-hand side of the bell curve, where the effective teachers were, and thought, “What if we could have a lot more of those?” They pushed for merit pay systems that would give raises to teachers with good value-added scores, to aid retention and recruitment.

The release of value-added data, as well as policies based upon them, were fiercely opposed by teachers’ unions. When Michelle Rhee, then superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C., decided to base teacher tenure and salaries in part on value-added scores, the American Federation of Teachers spent over a million dollars to unseat Ms. Rhee’s boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty. In New York, the United Federation of Teachers used the scores as a rallying cry against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Sanders generally stayed out of these arguments — he opposed releasing individual ratings publicly — but he was still scorned as a mysterious guru without proper education credentials. It didn’t help that he made no apologies for the fact that his methods were too complex for most of the teachers whose jobs depended on them to understand.

Controversies also erupted on the national stage. Teacher-centered reforms had tended to revolve around class-size ratios, broad-based salary increases and other policies that, implicitly, saw teachers as interchangeable.

Value-added results suggested that individual teachers could be the primary driver of student improvement — but only the good teachers. The research convinced Bill Gates to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on measuring and improving teacher effectiveness. After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, key advisers used the research to make teacher evaluation a cornerstone of the “Race to the Top” program that gave states economic stimulus funds in exchange for adopting a menu of education reforms.

The policy quickly became a flash point. The Obama administration wanted a substantial portion of each teacher’s rating to be based on “student growth,” which everyone understood to mean some form of value-added results. The unions wanted test scores to matter much less. The Common Core standardized tests, already disliked by opponents of federal power on the right, also gained critics on the left, who objected to their use in evaluating teachers.

The controversies put value-added methods under intense scrutiny. Critics rightly pointed out that the ratings were only as good as the tests themselves, which varied widely in quality. Many educators teach in subjects or grades in which annual testing isn’t required, making value-added scores impossible.

That’s why evaluation systems in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere ultimately leaned more heavily on structured, in-person observations of teacher practice. Unlike value-added ratings, observations can provide diagnosis along with evaluation, showing teachers not just how they’re doing, but how to improve.

The American Statistical Association issued a statement urging caution in using value-added measures for “high-stakes” decisions, in part because scores for individual teachers can change significantly from year to year. But this variance exists in part because teachers are sometimes much more effective with one group of students in one year than another in the next.

Up until his death, Mr. Sanders never tired of pointing out that none of the critiques refuted the central insight of the value-added bell curve: Some teachers are much better than others, for reasons that conventional measures can’t explain. His system is still used in Tennessee today. In the last dozen years or so, the state’s scores on federal N.A.E.P. exams have improved faster than those of the average state.  (Note: This is not quite true and the problems with testing is well documented over the last three years here with the testing protocols but the writer neglects to mention that and that district over district is finally starting to rebel. And that in reality our numbers are well not truthful, a State of Tennessee and mindset here in many ways.)

His data were, he believed, inherently pro-teacher. Kati Haycock, founder of the education civil rights group the Education Trust, says that Mr. Sanders’s work revealed that teacher effectiveness “makes a huge difference in the trajectories and life chances of different kids.”

While the use of value-added ratings to hire, fire and pay teachers may have been limited by political pressure, the importance of the value-added bell curve itself continues to grow — less like a sudden explosion than a chime whose resonance gains in power over time. The questions that occupy lawmakers and administrators today are not whether to identify the most and least effective teachers, but how.  **Again a note this is not true but it is good to know lying is just not a Southern thing

Because a Tennessee farmer turned statistician decided to write a letter to his governor, nobody will ever see the American teaching profession the same way again.