Swearing and Reading Teachers

She: Cussing weakens your content, but if it works for you…One factor to weave into your enthusiasm for the standards is the readiness of the students to understand and learn the content. As my students were nearly 100% alliterate, pleasure in reading that resulted in sustained silent reading would come before analyzing literature.

Me: The curriculum cannot be designed to first serve the alliterate. Standards must be set for what one should be able to do to succeed in the world. Those with needs such as your students need all the help they can get to be able to read those texts important to understanding well the world and all the thought about the world that thinkers (and the not so thoughtful) produce. To read without being able to analyze, produces what Wayne O’Neil rightfully deemed the “illiterate literate.” Stephen Tchudi once said that we need to get rid of those who teach reading and what he meant was that those who teach reading, the reading teachers, are taught to teach the mechanics of reading rather than the purpose or the process by which words are translated into meaning, meaning into significance, and significance into a purpose of some kind, a meaningful response to what is said. He is right in arguing that the reading teachers have had way too much influence in the schools so that all students are looked upon as alliterate unless they can perform as reading teachers specify they should, showing mechanical skill first and then maybe real and deep understanding of what they read and, too, what they see and hear, a real literacy that cannot be taught by teachers versed in the mechanics who are not truly literate in the deep literacy sense, who do not read the difficult texts because, well, they are too hard to read. I have knowing way too many of teachers of this kind, reading teachers who come close to being O’Neil’s illiterate literates.

I swear the CCSS is Good Sense

Me: I taught about Texas and the textbook for over 20 years and no one really gave a fuck. Things add up and sometimes they add up to a shit show because most people find ways to get used to the stench, live comfortably despite it. Eventually, sometimes, they are awoken. Sometimes it is too late.

She: An education professor taught us about this In a post graduate class at UNR. What would anyone do about it? Market driven. Texas and CA buy the most books. Then it got worse. NCLB morphed into Common Core where the IBM exec who wrote the Common Core “standards” in English sells the expendable books to the Districts. The standards are written in academic terms, very long sentences, based on heavy analysis of literature. They have to be written on the board and reviewed with students. To burden alliterate students with intense analyzing of literature in preparation for a high stakes, obscure test that their teacher has never seen which labels them with demeaning labels effectively kills any spark that might ignite if reading were for pleasure rather than analysis. Common Core and its farce tests determines the rating of schools and their hapless students. NCLB came from our Texan president and revolutionized public education just when our students were turning away from books to screens.How come you don’t use your scholar’s vocabulary instead of swearing so much?

Me:I swear because it is a part of my vocabulary and I do not pretend to be a scholar. Rather, I, like I would hope others would be, am a student and a human being who does respond to the world sometimes emotionally and it is the emotional part that has always humanized my scholarship, it dedicated not to succeeding in academic but to intelligent participation in the democratic society in which I live, my goal always to promote sane and humane decision making in society. As for the claims you make about the standards, I find them to be flawed, first of all because the CCSS were written to contradict the effects of NCLB which dumbed down the curriculum for the purpose of reasserting the goal of controlling and indoctrinating students in the goodness of the American way, this without critical analysis for fear that a thinking citizenry might turn on the American way that so well served the already wealthy and powerful at great expense to most of those who had been, were, and would be students in the American school system. As for who wrote the Common Core and how it is written, I can find hundreds of lines of highly sensible text that most decently educated people should be able to read and understand to be about orienting instruction to goals that would allow students to read what too many believe to be difficult text. Actually, the CCSS ELA standards call for students to be able to read, analyze, and make sensible decisions about the language that comes their way, extremely important goals for informed and thoughtful existence in a world where things simplified too often fail to convey the kind of meaning a person needs to understand things properly and make good decisions. As for “heavy analysis of literature,” that is couples with heavy analysis of non-fiction, this in recognition of the fact that the two are very much complementary, literature providing insights into the workings of the human mind that no other form of thoughtfulness–a good author’s–can provide, such insight to understanding such things as point of view, it being critical to understanding the intent of those communicating, their reason for telling one something, a key to getting at the real meaning of what is being said. For example, why would one care to call upon me to use my scholarly voice and criticize me for cussing? Who might that person be and why is she saying it? Understanding that has and should have much to do with how I respond to and act upon what she said.

Concerning Joke about Israel

This joke on SNL led to the conversation that follows:

“I am going to guess it’s the Jewish half, Michael Che called anti-semitic for this joke about Israel already vaccinating half its population.

Cousin:  I find it interesting that the ones who shout the loudest are GOP, the very anti-Semites that don’t allow Jews in their clubs. Fact is Israel has a bit of an apartheid going on with their Arab brothers and sisters. I’m a Jew and I’m not alone in my disgust for this policy. I’ve always felt Israel’s biggest mistake is not recognizing Palestinianpeople as a kindred people, both discriminated against by the rest of the world. The heights they could achieve working together…

Cousin’s FB friend:  I watched and was floored that comment was intended to be a joke. Che (and his writers) deserve to be slammed.

Cousin: If these so-called offended gentiles really cared about Jews you wouldn’t be seeing the masses of anti-Semite White-supremicists

Me: Interesting, though, how many of their political allies are staunch supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel and how, far too often, leaders of powerful Jewish organizations and independent Jews support such people. I have relatives to prove the point. Trumpites because they saw Trump to be a strong supporter of Israel. Throughout the reign, I barked about those who told me they supported at least so of Trumpism because he supported Israel, mad at me because I was a Jew who didn’t support Jews, a “self-loathing Jew.” Yes, to loath loathsome Israeli policy was (still is) equated by too many as being anti-Jew, translated, so as to diminish the horrible meaning of the term, anti-Semitic.

FB Friend of Cousin:  

Ever since living in Israel for a year during my junior year in college I’ve been deeply concerned for its survival. I agree with the two state plan that President Biden will undoubtedly try to get back on track. As a progressive, I realize I hold a minority opinion on the subject but what disturbs me in conversations I’ve had with fellow progressives is their inability to make a distinction both between Israel and the Jewish people and the right wing is really government and the Israeli people. So anti-Semitism often becomes a person’s position on our foreign policy toward Israel…

I know Israelis that have opposing opinions but you have it exactly right about people assuming Israel and world Jewry are united. The government of Israel is repulsive and those in power aim to keep it that way. Lots of money to be made with aggressive policies


 This is a really important concern, not just in regard to issues involving Israel but in understanding biases that lead to thinking that is dangerous to a sane and humane future. Israel is a country. Jewish is a religion and ethnicity. Anti-Israeli sentiment as well as pro-Israeli sentiment is about a political entity and a very problematic entity for the way it was created (re-created if you wish). The blurring of distinctions to get to the point where it is “logical” to call one who has problems with the Israeli state and its actions is dependent upon a flaw in logic that makes people who are the actual haters appear the humane and those who are actually sane and humane, inhumanely crazy, in a word, anti-Semitic.

Some nastiness is worse than other kinds of nastiness because it is a prime cause of it.

Where to watch ‘The Wolf of Walls Street

I did what the headline here said. It took two nights as I tried to digest and understand what was being portrayed. I knew well what the ending would be. I didn’t know well enough how things got to this point. I still do not fully understand so I am reading the book upon which it is based by Michael Lewis who is a favorite explorer. If anyone watches this movie and checks our the validity of depiction of how THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC SYSTEM worked to fuck up the majority of the American people and, because of government complicity–it is a government by and for and of capitalism–continues to do exactly this, then I cannot begin to wonder how we ever save the country and save the planet. When the 2008 collapse was in progress I read the Tiabbi Giant The Great American Bubble Machine and subsequent articles. I have read a lot of articles by economists and economics journalists and have to say without a doubt that there was a real conspiracy against the American people that, in some fucked up hard to accept way is at least partial cause for the conspiracy against the government we are now experiencing. TO IGNORE THAT IS TO TAKE FOCUS OFF THE CENTRAL CAUSE OF OUR PROBLEMS AND THAT MANIPULATED CHANGE IN FOCUS HAS WORKED TIME AND AGAIN SINCE AT LEAST THE beginning of the 19th century to turn those who get beaten by the system against one another and not the system that is the real culprit. TELL ME I AM WRONG AND HELP ME, PLEAS HELP ME, UNDERSTAND WHAT IN WHAT I HAVE JUST SAID IS WRONG.

This does not excuse behavior. But it try’s to explain what might cause it.

A conversation concerning priorities

This is in reference to statements made concerning the nature of education and its goals. Michael is a good friend, once a good colleague at the university where we both taught.


Point 1: I used to work with people with cognitive disabilities of one kind or another. I say, let them be themselves and don’t try to pressure then into attaining something that is not realistic for them. (Now in 100 years, people with all be cyborgs, so the above comment will be irrelevant.) Point 2: Before we can even begin to set goals like reading a newspaper with basic comprehension, the whole society must change dramatically, both in terms of belief systems and the meeting of basic human needs. That is, ALL children must be safe, have adequate nutrition, clean air and water, shelter and access to good health care. We are a long way from that now. The struggle for good schools very important, but it must happen in tandem with the struggle to get beyond capitalism.

Me: Of course I agree.  And, of course, in order for there to be a society that puts such things in proper priority order, if we continue with this democracy thing, there must be a public able and willing to understand and care about the good sense and humanity of such an ordering of things.  I think you can comment on lafered whether signed in or not.  Mind if I post this conversation there?

Competency education

I used to make the argument that a criterion for judging whether students had learned what they should by the time they graduated high school is that they could (and would want to to a relatively high degree, want to) read articles in all sections of the New York Times and attain from their reading an operational understanding of those articles. By operational, I meant that they would understand the content well enough to grasp the meaning of what was said in such a way as to use what they learned to make sensible decisions–if warranted–based on the meanings they had developed. I just watched the movie The Big Short. I think that any student graduating high schools should be able to make sense of that movie and I say this because, in significant ways, the decisions they make about the meaning of life in this American society and how to live in it depends on being able to understand what is discussed in the film and the meaning of what is discussed in regard to the quality of life they will be able to live and how to go about making decisions, personal and political, that will affect their quality of life, the goodness of the society in which they live.


Let’s set the bar higher — I want students to see through the NYT and its agenda which is, in many ways, provincial and shortsighted.

My response

Operational understanding of those articles. In getting the “meaning” they would be detecting bullshit as well as getting information. Editorial would be understood for what it is worth–what it is really worth–as well as reviews, distinguishing opinion from fact, determining how to take fact when provided in terms of meaning related to conceptualization of world and how to act in and on the world. “Grasping meaning” should get at the concerns here.

Teachers have to be smart and assert their smart

Conversation with a teacher on FB


Good lord! This is so tragic. Teachers are beat up ALL the time while being expected to do more and more every single year, with less and less. Horrible nasty vile comments on various FB news posts blaming teachers for our state standing in education. What the hell do people expect teachers to do? Do they not realize that we are fighting desperately for funding? Why should we have to do that? Most if not ALL of the “FB experts” out there have never even been in our classrooms! It’s really hard to discuss this with community members who THINK they know what’s best for our district, our kids and teachers.

Anyone outside of education who says education is a priority in our state is wrong. Kids are simply NOT a priority at all. 

Does that make you angry? Then show up and help us fight for education.🍎 We are in huge trouble and if you have a child in public education, this SHOULD wake you up! 

See the flyer for our Red4Ed rally in Carson City in the comments. Also please write to our legislators and senators! Tell them that education should be our #1 priority!!! 🍎🍎🍎🍎

Stephen Lafer

Once and for all, teachers need to react en mass and in the name of good education for all students, the kind of education that would take place if they had what they needed to teach well and were given latitude to do what they, as professionals, know to be best for students as they grow into full citizenship. Teachers have to show that expertise in public and to the public. They need to explain why being tied to dictated curricula and forced to used commercial textbooks and accompanying programs harms students. They need to do something about colleagues who are habituated to a programed curriculum and teach without consideration for the real needs of individual students. They must demand reasonable pay and it is not unreasonable that a good teacher make $85,000 to $100,000 starting pay. Good teachers spend considerable time planning and they should not have to spend that time figuring out how to get around the edicts that come from those put in charge of controlling them. They need to demand planning time in amounts reflective of the work they do to adjust teaching regularly to meet the needs of students and society. They need to do what they can to push those who do not engage in such work to do it and to push out those who will not. Public schools could be great schools. They are not and not necessarily because of the quality of the people who teach in them but because of the current goals of schooling that are more about regimentation and obedience than about individual human being growing up to be powerful and competent individual thinkers who are able to make well reasoned decisions based upon sound information, the ability to reason well and the ability to distinguish between sound, irrelevant, fallacious information and to use it in the decision making process central to the goals of good education. Adopting such goals and fighting to insure that teachers have what they need to teach to such

 goals should be a part of any meaningful campaign to get good teachers what they need and deserve.


ALL of this! That’s is also why I am so pissed that they want to also cut our GT program. THAT is exactly how we teach. I don’t always reach everyone, but I certainly try. I am lucky because our GATE department treats us like the professionals that we are, so I have flexibility to put my talents to work. Many of our teachers don’t get to the way they’d like to.

Stephen Lafer

Okay, I would say the beginning of the beginning of the push to right wrongs is to get at what is wrong that causes some to believe that how you teach is not how all should b encouraged and allowed to teach. Begging to be treated as professionals seems unprofessional. Demanding, as professionals, that you will be treated as professionals or there will be repercussions, is the professional way to go about it. Help your colleagues to adopt the attitude of the professional, that being that “we are the experts” and you will have to listen to our expertise if you want us to serve your school system. Yes, risk here, but the way to fight against it is to put that expertise on constant display, putting before the public the expert reasoning that guides good practice. So, for instance, if, as teachers should, they reject standardized testing and the memorization curriculum that serves it, explain what it means TO KNOW THINGS WELL ENOUGH AS TO BE ABLE TO APPLY THEM IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS. Then explain what it takes, the kind of teaching necessary to teach for that kind of thinking. This is a starting point that should become a way of life for dedicated teachers, always teaching as they, as experts see fit and always able to provide a sound rationale for what they are doing referencing always powerful goals for education in a democratic society.


That sounds like what we are working on with Empower Nevada Teachers. The only problem is there are frightened teachers. And THAT’S a huge issue.  😉 It also sounds like that’s what happened in Arizona. 

I will say that most of the social studies teachers who I work with do not teach in a way for kids to memorize and regurgitate. I am unsure if you have seen our curriculum, but it’s the best I have seen. Maybe not the scope and sequence part (I am on the fence about that), but the activities we have pulled together and still pull together constantly. It’s ALL about teaching them to analyze, think critically, engage in civil discourse, recognize and practice tolerance, individual thinking, etc. ALL of that ALL the time. 

I do know that there are teachers who do not teach that way though. And to be honest with you I never ever learned that way when I was in public school as a kid. It wasn’t until I started college that I really started to learn in such a different way. We actually had discussions that held me accountable. I know that is why I am the way I am today. And that is the way I teach. 

And when I get to see real life proof that I, along with my other team mates, have been effective, that makes it even more powerful. We had many of our students write letters, email, show up and speak at the Board meeting on Tuesday night. It was so powerful to witness. I was very excited to tell them that that was civic duty in action and they made a difference. 

Anyway yes, I know that something drastic needs to happen.

Stephen Lafer

I agree with all you say here. That YOU were not taught the way you learned you should have been taught should be taken as a warning and the fact that some teachers do not teach for thoughtfulness is another. Only thoughtful teachers should be teaching and that is why the textbook packages, no matter how good the material might be, are dangerous. They allow teachers who are not thoughtful to teach to the prescribed curriculum “effectively” while they may not be truly effective teachers, teachers who are models of thoughtfulness able to respond to the thinking of individual students and adjust curriculum and methods as need arises, for instance when a student asks a question not answered by the text or when something occurs in the world that the text cannot have covered. In addition, importantly, those content with the textbook oriented curriculum too often, even when the curriculum is a good one, do not understand the theoretical bases for such curriculum and are unable to explain to those to whom things need to be explained why they are teaching what they are teaching as they are teaching it. This is a far too prevalent phenomenon, teachers teaching what they are told and doing it well without knowing WHY they are teaching what they teach as they teach it. That makes the best curricula vulnerable to challenge, challenge that too often wins even though what comes of such wins is not good for schools or society. So teachers need to fight to have in their job descriptions the role of CURRICULUM MAKERS, and in that role they need to be able to build curriculum that is theoretically defensible. This makes it so that the only people who teach are people capable of understanding what constitutes good curricular goals and able to explain to all who need it explained why the curriculum is good for achieving goals that can be justified through reference to what people need from education in order to live decent lives as citizens of a sane and humane democracy.

Unity, nasty uglies, and the Game Stop events.

A while back, I posted some thought on the topic of unity, about the possibility that really understanding the grievances of those who on the nasty ugly side of the political spectrum, those who some have labeled “deplorables,” so that the possibility of meaningful “for the people” unity might be explored. Such understanding is not easy to achieve because there really are deplorable aspects to the thinking and actions of those so labeled and those who act to promote a nasty and ugly right-wing agenda. Glen Greenwald, to the consternation of a good number of liberals, has offered over time what I think is a thoughtful and important analysis of the deplorable, finding cause for their ideology and actions that goes beyond nasty and ugly to the practical, to their perception of their own position in American society, their inability to prosper in a prosperous land where prosperity is thought to signify success, lack of it, failure. So, there’s is a culture of the failed, their understanding of things being that they have failed because cultural forces prevent them from succeeding. Greenwald agrees with this, that this American society, this capitalist society, has kept good numbers of people from succeeding so that others can prosper wildly. Thus, in regard to the GameStop phenomenon he says this: “In the video below, I discuss what happened and what the implications are. One note about the video: though I do discuss the amorphous and trans-ideological politics driving both the Reddit uprising and the reaction to it, that topic in particular merits much more consideration. Liberal journalists and pundits love to mock the idea that “economic anxiety” drives anything remotely adjacent to right-wing populism — the primary drivers are racism and other types of bigotry, they insist in unison — yet all one has to do is spend any non-trivial amount of time in that sub-Reddit to see genuine and significant levels of rational economic anger often quite untethered, even hostile, to left-liberal cultural pieties and political niceties. Given their recent noble success, everyone now wants to claim these Redditors as their own, but their politics, like many people’s, defy the clean left-right dichotomy on which the professional media and punditry classes depend, the only prism through which they can understand the world.” This deserves some thought.

More on Unity

Comment by  JF

Unity is a term that people, such as myself, use because of status, and privilege. People that are affected by division typically want equity, equality and more importantly a place at the table. The Q nuts are not the ones we need to unite with. That isn’t the cause of our division if it’s looked at wholeheartedly. The division has always existed and it isn’t white America that has suffered.

Response by me

There is the possibility that some are rotten by nature. If a majority or, even, a too large majority is rotten, abandon democracy now, something I believe is right and necessary IF rotten cannot be overcome to a reasonably high degree. Ortega y Gasset, in Revolt of the Masses, makes a good argument for government by a select few who can govern sanely and humanely as the masses cannot. He might be right. The alternative, I think, the approach I suggest we take before abandoning democracy, is to see if a proper education that grows the reasoning capacity of people, that is predicated on the notion that good reason growing in a properly sane and humane environment will lead to sane and humane adults who will understand the humanity of others well enough to make decisions in their favor. Too, I do understand that there are a great many people who have been screwed and are done with civility because to be civil in a society that does not treat them well is to capitulate to the inevitability of their circumstances. I think it possible for their righteous indignation (not all being displayed is of this variety) to be turned to truly righteous action. If not, and if there are to many for which this is not possible, either separate from them in a meaningful way or prevent them from affecting other’s lives by denying them to right to have and opinion in matters that affect the good of the whole.