Repost: Religious Absurdity

Touching Upon the Untouchable: The Church Thing

Posted on March 4, 2013 | 1 Comment | Edit

Okay, this is just too much to take let alone let slide.  The news channels are treating the current “Conclave” of “princes of the church” with a great deal of respect, even in reporting such as is to be found in the article posted here.  Yes, there is a hint of derision, but at most subtle derision and little in the sense of outrage, outrage that need not be of the editorial kind, but reporting that at least points to the principles violated, the meaning of such violations, and the issue of respect for the authority of the people involved and the fact that they do go about their business treated as “holy” people, people somehow different from the rest who are to be understood to be of real importance for reasons other than what reasonably qualifies one to be treated as an important person.  That importance, the importance of the church hierarchy, has been based on the moral authority of those who are anointed to serve in high places in the church.  Recent history, which, it appears goes back a long way, points to the FACT that these people, and they are people, have what most sensible human beings would consider to be a truly corrupted sense of morality and their importance really resides in the criminal deeds in which they have participated or refused to acknowledge, the latter leading to the continuation of horrific behavior that led to horrific consequences for the victims.

To treat pedophilia in the way it is treated when it takes place in the church is to deny, yes deny, the grotesque nature of the crimes committed and, to hear the criminals ask for forgiveness as though they are more deserving of such that others who have committed similarly terrible criminal acts against children, against children, is beyond any sensible sense of morality I have ever encountered.  Still, the pleas of forgiveness are made in such a way as to try to place the miscreants in a different category of failed being, a category that somehow preserves holiness, that makes the criminality appear to be a tragedy for the perpetrator and, every article read seems to report in such a way as to somehow hint to the reader that such is the case, a holy person fallen from the heights when, in reality, this person, because of his behavior never was in anyway “holy” (in a sensible telling of reality, the notion of holiness would have been dismissed from the get-go), and that this entity we call a church has no authority to confer such status because it, in and of itself, cannot be holy considering the kinds of sinful behavior it, in its “better” moments ignored, and which, in reality it actually condoned.  For those who want to bristle at the charge that the absolutely irredeemable actions of the church are characterized by use of the word “condoned,” I say another term that accurately conveys the true sense of what has occurred would be “instigated,” valid because the whole set of beliefs that the church argues are writ holy allow for those within to think in ways that sensible people would not, in the belief that what they do is a manifestation of the will of a force more powerful than themselves.  And there it is that, as Christopher Hitchens so effectively argues, not only is the god worshipped by these people not good, such a absurd and ridiculous posturing provides further evidence that “religion [at least this particular religion] poisons everything.

Repost: Evaluation of the Meaningful

On teacher evaluation

Posted on March 8, 2013 | Leave a comment | Edit

I think that it is time people interested in the teacher evaluation issue begin proposing new and better ways, such as portfolios of teacher and student work that show what the teacher has done to teach and what students have done to show their achievement. I do not think it difficult to develop a means for examining, at least at some basic level, the work of a teacher in relation to the kind of things students are able to do as a result of instruction. This, of course, means more work for those who are responsible for evaluations, but time well used to achieve truly meaningful understandings is time well spent and terribly economical. Similar kinds of evaluation of students is absolutely essential if we are going to end the horrible practice of eradicating individuality because we cannot find objective ways to evaluate the quality of individual understanding of the things good teachers in good schools should be helping students to learn.

As for the standards? With teacher developed and evaluators’ informed evaluation of instructional practice, what is wrong with a standard such as this from the English language arts Common Core Standards: “Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text”?

I think it would be a truly interesting exercise of mind to brainstorm ways to understand what needs to be taught in light of such a standard and how to assess whether students have attained the right kind of understanding of things pertinent to the standard. Yes?


Repost: With Reference to CCSS

This is the Lafered Blog Site

Posted on February 22, 2013 by lafered

This site is new as of this moment, the need made clear by the long winded posts I have been making to people through Facebook and the chat list my college makes available to faculty.  I am sure I have lost some Facebook friends and know that some of my colleagues would block me if they could find a way.  I have also been posting on Diane Ravitch’s site ( and, earlier, at Fireside Learning ( and have come to think that I probably take up too much of their space.  So Lafered is my new place for putting down what I am compelled by some unnamable force to write and make public.

I have been teaching for about 35 years now, once at a public school and a few times at universities, the most recent post 25 years in duration and still counting, at the University of Nevada, Reno where I teach in the teacher education program.  I am a frustrated educator of teacher in a state that should be frustrated by its inability to develop a truly good educational system.  I have tried to better what I considered not so good by developing the first real middle school program in the area, creating a program for younger kids at the local Boys and Girls Club that worked to get students interested in academic studies through gardening and art projects, and  by starting a charter high school for disenchanted adolescents who, like most, are full of talent and energy and smarts but not ready to give in to what the schools system asks them to give into.

I have been writing of late about the current debates over the efficacy of the new Common Core State Standards, the manner in which they were created, the manner in which they are being implemented, their role as the way away from No Child Left Behind’s tragic effects, and the strings attached that need be cut if the good things in the standards are to be allowed to do well by students and this long suffering nation, built on the best of principles but harmed severely by the undemocratic behavior of the few who seem to want it all for themselves.

I am for schools that teach to the democratic imperative, that are true to the idea that the opinions of people deserve to be respected and care deeply that schools help students develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will help them to make contributions to the cause of building the “more perfect union.”  This is the work of the citizen of a truly humane society, a society that works toward “perfection” by studying the nature of being and finding ways to maximize human potential through the conversation that is the democratic process.

I also know that schools have a long way to go to become the schools they must be if they are to serve a society that maximizes individual freedom by providing a superstructure build on justice within which free individuals can live together in peace and prosperity.  The education that leads to full citizenship in such a society will always be a work in progress, for it is a system that allows for its citizens to have a say in how it operates and what it teaches and is, thus, eminently changeable but permanently just and demanding of good reason and thoughtful disputation.

I will have more to say about my notions of the good system and how it might come into being and what that exists now might help to move things in the right direction.  My writing for the blog sites noted above contain the essence of my thinking to date.  I invite you to take a look at those posts.


Repost Re: NCLB

Recent post to Ravitch Blog

Posted on February 22, 2013 | Leave a comment | Edit


To the Ravitch blog:

I like the conversation I find here on this blog site but I have been

following the conversation for a long time, since before NCLB, and I am

always wanting for a statement of some kind by those with whom I am

conversing as to what it is they understand the purpose of education to

  1. I ask this because I have to think that those who devised NCLB had a

very different notion of goals for the educated than I do. And I find

myself to feel at times, when I read Diane Ravitch’s comments and those of

many who follow this blog, that I differ in important ways with the goals

that seem to influence the perspectives presented here. I feel myself to

be a warrior of sorts, who had to rough it through the bad days of NCLB

and I wonder if those who are currently expressing their concerns with the

current state of education see the problem with NCLB being with the

methodology and not necessarily the goals.

My sense, from reading the documents that lent support to such NCLB

elements as Reading First and the push away from concern with thinking

(some were pretty hard on those who promoted critical thinking as a

central goal of good education) toward content delivered to students by

content experts who, it seems, were thought to hold truths that were to be

taken as truth by students who would be rewarded for repeating as truth

what they were told was truth.

It seemed to me that this emphasis, that resonated in the writing of many

of NCLB’s supporters, represented a notion of education that fit Freire’s

definition of “banking education,” which is an approach used not by those

who wish to liberate minds, but control them.

NCLB, to me, was created by and forced upon us by people who truly

believed in the importance of their authority, believed themselves to know

so well what others should know and become and be that they could impose a

world view (through the dissemination of “the “information” they found to

be important) that they really did not want those they were “educating” to


My sense that this was the notion of “goal” in force during the NCLB

period was to indoctrinate rather than educate was reinforced by the

behavior of the administration that forced NCLB upon us, an administration

that wanted to tell people what to believe even if what they were seeing

with their own eyes contradicted what they were being told (think WMD).

This was an administration that was pretty much responsible for the

economic collapse that we still are suffering, an administration that

pretty much allowed the public to be duped by corporations and big banks,

an administration that was advised in its methods by a man named Carl Rove

who does not care much about helping people to discover the truth of

things for themselves.

So, tying things together in what may be my own paranoid (or possibly

informed and thoughtful way) I came to think that a lot of what was going

on with NCLB was about making sure that people were susceptible rather

than circumspect.

And now I ask that those with whom I converse for the purpose of improving

education come clean with their motives, with their sense of the goals

their comments are intended to help our educational system achieve.

Mine, simply stated, are to create and educational system that works to

promote informed independent thinkers who are able to “deliberate

effectively” so that their ideas are helpful to the democratic decision

making process, a process dependent on respect for the opinion of people

who are able to demonstrate with reason that their opinions, their hard

won opinion derived through effective deliberation, are respectable enough

for consideration by men and women of good will who desire to contribute

to the building of an ever more perfect union



Why Are Walton Billionaires So Interested in Los Angeles Schools?

Directly related, I think, to my last rant.  While I do not always agree with DR, I do think that the news offered here is valuable.  I think the beginning of a sensible campaign for change begins by understanding the motives of our opponents as well as their methods, at least for the purpose of convincing the people who must do so to take the kinds of actions they need to take.

Those responsible

The reforms, according to this article, were precipitated by research published by the Gazette-Journal about a reality I never heard mentioned at any time in the College of Education. That the COE is not mentioned in the article is astonishing as one would think that the special education people would be on the front lines to insure that special education programs were effective and that problems in special education programs, the terrible graduation rates of students in special education programs, for instance, would be a part of the ongoing conversation. Again, while the COE likes to boast about the quality of its research and teaching, it has, for as long as I was associated with the organization, never taken any responsibility for the poor state of education in the state, never even had the kind of discussion that would have allowed for identification of problems and the development of research based solutions. The people who work in the College have regular contact with people in the school district. They have to know something about what is going on there, what is working and what is not, this the sensible basis for at least some of the work they get payed for doing. I attended many a meeting with people from the school district and in those meetings and never was much said about problems or the possibility that it might be district people and district policies what were causing the problems. Instead, those attending from the university were always very careful as not to upset those with whom they were speaking, the College of Education-WCSD relationship so important that not a critical word was to be said, even when it was plainly apparent that district people were badly in need of honest advise from those whose job it is to study education and help to develop means by which all students receive a good education.

I am now, in terms of where I do my work, detached from the College and the University. But I truly care, as I always have, about colleges of education doing what they should be doing, the work that leads to truly good schools. Colleges of education, college of education people know, are hardly ever well respected entities on the campuses where they reside or, for that matter, in the general scheme of things. My entire career at UNR I heard colleagues complaining about this reputation, saying it was unfair, that those in other disciplines did not understand well enough what the people in the COE did. I heard those boasts within about high levels of achievement by faculty, the wonderful teachers faculty were and the great research that was taking place. But out in the world beyond the walls of the COE, COE work to actually bring about necessary change in the schools was, if it was actually taking place, not very visible and the results not very compelling. The CEO was surrounded by schools that at best nominal and, as so many reports by people outside the COE or the district show, really, not very good at all. When such reports did appear in the press, the usual response by COE and district was to deny the credibility of the studies or argue that the reports did not properly reflect the better reality that was the school district’s. Never, no matter how bad things looked, was the bad admitted and, thus, the kind of work that serious problems should trigger never happened because the district was concerned more with appearances than the welfare of students and the College more concerned with getting along with those who were about appearances than shedding light on the problems affecting the lives of students so that quality of instruction could be improved.

I, of course, write out of spite, my comments intended to be malicious without any desire to actually make things better for the human beings who attend public schools. I write to show that I was not the failure and that you were, that is, the college of education was the cause of the problems I had as a faculty member in the college was others and not myself. I write to beat down those who I want to believe beat me down. I write because I am too stupid to understand the realities those who are truly good members of a college of education  and unwilling to understand and sympathize with their plight. I write because I got the cold shoulder, deserved because of a lacking in the quality of work I did and do not want to admit that it was deserved. I write because I don’t want to admit that, it was for the sake of the college and the sake of society, I was pushed out.

But maybe, just maybe, it is possible I am sincere in the hope that someone will begin to take responsibility for the state of education in this state that properly includes Washoe County, that someone will understand that I am not out to get anyone, that I have this manic desire to see schools improved because I am scared shitless about the current state or our collective intellect, about the path we are on to the end of a democratic society and its replacement by popularly elected strongmen who can only thrive if the public is an ignorant one.

From: e-Edition <>
Reply-To: Stephen K Lafer <>
Date: Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 10:20 AM
To: Stephen K Lafer <>
Subject: Reno Gazette-Journal Digital Edition Article sent you this article.

Reno Gazette-Journal
12/11/2016 – Page A01
District plans special ed reforms

Washoe County students with disabilities should see major improvements in system



Washoe County’s 8,700 students with disabilities will soon see major improvements in their education, according to a policy 15 months in the making that will likely receive school board approval within a month.

The proposed policy will require more inclusion of special education students into regular classrooms, stricter standards for teachers working with special education students and better instruction enabling students to graduate college- or career-ready.

All these changes mark a departure from the low expectations long held for these students in the Washoe County School District.

District officials unveiled the p roposed policy to the Washoe County School Board on Tuesday, about six months after the Reno Gazette-Journal published a series detailing how the district fails to educate students with disabilities.

The RGJ’s two-year investigation found that while the district is celebrating a record graduation rate of 77 percent for all students, it has shown little improvement in educating children with disabilities. The average graduation rate for students with disabilities has been 29 percent over the past six years. That’s less than half the national average of 63 percent.

The RGJ also found that the district has 200 classrooms segregating special education students from all other stu-


dents. The district also relies on 100 substitute teachers for students with disabilities, records showed.

The district’s goal is to reach a 90 percent graduation rate for all students by 2020.

“We can’t do that without addressing the needs of our students with IEPs,” said David Frydman, executive director of special education programming and compliance for the district.

About 13 percent of the district’s students have disabilities, ranging from learning disabilities to autism and physical impairments.

Each student must have an IEP, or individualized education program, which is a legally binding document telling a schoo l how it must treat, educate and evaluate a student with a disability.

Over the past few years, the state has cited the district on several occasions for breaking students’ IEPs.

The district has corrected those issues, according to state officials.

The district has set a goal that special education students reach a 60 percent graduation rate by 2020.

Higher expectations is what “parents and the community want,” said Frydman, noting that the policy was written with input from 200 people involved in special education.

“We’re going to have high expectations for ourselves and our children,” said school board member Lisa Ruggerio.

Board President Ang ie Taylor acknowledged that all special education students won’t meet the goal of graduating ready for college or career.

“Will all students get there? No,” she said. “But it should be our focus.”