Reno politics for the humane

I am in the process of creating a Reno area chapter of Our Revolution, a national group spun of from Bernie Sanders’ campaign and dedicated to the goal of inserting sane progressive ideas into American politics for the sake of creating a civic discourse that focuses on the humane treatment of all human beings affected by the politics of the United States of America. I have told the Our Revolution people that the immediate goal of our local group is to bring people together to talk about how we can do what is necessary to make our community a better place to live for all who live here. My hope is that the conversation will lead to a properly balanced discourse that will consider how decisions made concerning the future of our community actually affect people and then establish guidelines for decision making that put humane treatment of all at the center of the decision-making process.

I hope many will think it worth their time to attend an initial meeting of a group that is not yet a group but one that I hope will come into being.

I have applied for affiliation with the national Our Revolution group.

If you are interested in talking about what the group should be about and do, get in touch. My e-mail address is lafer@unr.edu and my phone number is 775-343-6888.

Please!

Repeat, Trump is a symptom an our history is the cause of our present illness

Trump didn’t just suddenly arrive.  The journey that brought him to the White House is our history and, as Ms. Summers so aptly states, we are not going to get better unless we confront what has been bad about us.  The piece was published today in the Reno Gazette-Journal

ONE VIEW

ELSPETH SUMMERS

Trump serves as a figurehead of our country’s subconscious. His image shows us how rotted we remain despite what we tell ourselves to cope. His image has shown us issues where we haven’t made a whole lot of actual healing or progress. He is a man with unlimited privilege doing everything our country has always done, but now only more obvious.

You see, disease cannot be cured if the disease remains unknown. Our traumas cannot be confronted, integrated or transformed if they are repressed. Our world and country cannot change if we live in the comfort of oblivion and apathy. Trump has been a wake call. He has shown us evil still exists as very real entities everywhere. He has called them out of the shadows into the light.

Donate to Red Cross. It is only because we are stupid that we need to do so.

In response to a request for donations to an organization that funds programs for children suffering from cancer.  These children in need suffer enough that they should not have to suffer more if adequate funding is not available.  If we, as a very wealthy nation, cannot through government fund programs that are essential to the people’s health and welfare, then we are a just not a very good society.

The writer of the message to which I am responding said something to the effect that we need to take our minds off of other things so that we can do what is right by kids suffering from cancer.  As with so many other nasty aspects of life in this world, the problem resides in an economy–taxation is a factor of economy–that really does not properly serve the people.  The stupidity factor resides in the fact that we are dependent on charity in matters that a humane society would fund through its government because charity may not, is often not enough, to take care of what needs to be taken care of, if we care enough to be adequately humane.

Actually, many of those other things have direct relevance to this particular cause. People shouldn’t have to go begging for funding for programs that help people. A society of true good will would use the power of the vote to insure that all good and essential causes received the monies they needed to do ESSENTIAL work. Right now, there are so many good causes asking for money that people are forced to choose between clean air and cancer research when deciding how to donate. Now we have the tragedy of Harvey and the Red Cross is asking for donations. Why the hell should emergency needs be dependent on people who are taxed to pay for programs that serve the needs of citizens being asked to donate in order for people affected by the flood to receive what they need and deserve? It should be a no brainer that serving public needs is the primary responsibility of government and if government does not have the financial resources to adequately provide what is needed, then government needs to more adequately funded. We live in a stupid society and keep it stupid by not admitting to how stupid it is and why. We are wealthy enough as a nation to at least fund the basics and the health and welfare of the people is rock bottom basic.

Hurricane Force Hypocrisy

I was going to write something like this but Jennifer Rubin is far more capable than I.  Governor Abbott, will you go for private remedies for the disaster your state is experiencing?  Will you allow free market principles to steer your decision making as you lead your state through the rebuilding process?  I don’t mind, but aren’t you concerned about me, that taxpayer who has to help foot the bills for clean-up in a place where I do not live?  If you see something different about this situation that makes it right to go against so many of the things in which you and your party believe, explain to me the distinctions.

Jennifer Rubin article in Washington Post today

Good sense is radical in our capitalist world

 

Discussion with members of our local government concerning their deliberations regarding how to deal with homeless people in a region where economic good is terribly bad for those who are not members of the right caste.  My note to them says this:

Avoiding the “radical” solutions only causes the cycle to continue-when things are bad, poor hit hardest. When things are good, poor hit again. Deal with this piece of reality and maybe we can get somewhere, to a lasting solution that does not cause the displacement and increased discomfort of those who have little and are being made to live with even less. Radical solutions might be actually be the common sense solutions and they are related to the way we “do business.” There is no law of nature the says that prosperity must bring with it harm to some. Rent control, if fully understand, is anti-American when American is equated with capitalism. But a humane community would think human lives first, before profit. And that humane society would not let people suffer from economic change-change would be adequately controlled so as to do no harm. That innovation in the form of creating labor saving means for production and services necessitates putting some out of work and out of income is not an act of a god. It is an economic model that has a good degree of cruelty built into it. So, do something to bring about income security in the wake of economic change–maybe fewer hours at full pay so as to create jobs for all able to work, innovation allowing for more leisure time for all, the cost being less money in the hands of the investor class. And there is everything sensible about a living wage. If one works full time, no matter what the job, he or she should be able to live decently on the money earned. I think we all know what is and is not a decent life. Radical, in my mind is sensible and because those who make policy do not see sense in humanizing society by making the economy work for ALL, the real solutions never are discussed.

Boycotting to silence is a reaction worthy of consideration

As I think this through and think about the comment that have been made, I am asking myself how it could be that I might be somewhat supportive of the idea that Breitbart should not be put out of business.  My concern is certainly with issues of freedom of speech and I do worry about how boycotting with the hope of shuttering one outlet, detestable as it is, is meant to, ultimately, silence particular voices.  I have, I come to realize, appreciated Breitbart being there because it allows me to know about a way of thinking about which I should know and, if Breitbart ceases to exist, so will my opportunity to gain insight into a movement that affecting the politics of the society.  Without Breitbart, what would I have known about Bannon, for example, and wasn’t it a good thing that I knew early on what he and those like him were up to?  I can say I vehemently disagree with pretty much every idea expressed through Breitbart but I wouldn’t have known that some, too many, of course, subscribed to ideologies such as those that are of the alt-right.

I think too of how when communism was thought by some old-time alt-righters to be an ideology that needed to be outlawed, a good many good people suffered terrible consequences.  McCarthyism was about banning ideas a certain contingent of the American population found to be obnoxious and, yes, hurtful to their values.

Careful what we decide to silence and how we go about silencing them.  Boycotts are an acceptable tool for expressing displeasure but it should be used with real care in cases where the goal is to silence whose ideas cause displeasure.

What to do about hate and speech?

Two quotations from the article linked:

HR and Employees known to be associated with hate groups

The First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech apply only to the government, not to private employers. Private-sector employers do not have to allow employees to voice beliefs other workers may find offensive. But government employers may not be able to fire employees who participated in protests.

 

Offsite protests may be one more step removed, but if pictures of an employee’s participation in white nationalist rallies are circulating the office, for example, that could lead to tensions and problems in the workplace in violation of the policy. And if a white nationalist is a manager and an employee files an equal employment opportunity claim based on the manager’s treatment of him or her, defending the claim may prove difficult.

 

 

Okay, beyond law, per se, is right action in a democratic nation that upholds and should continue to uphold freedom of speech.  That private sector employees are not protected does not mean that employers should have the right to fire people because of their beliefs or what they say in public.  To support the right of employers to do so could apply to Hobby Lobby seeing a video of an employee at a pro-choice rally and firing them because their views go against the beliefs of the employer who finds pro- choice supporters to be ungodly and vile human beings.  Judgement of who is vile enough in their beliefs and in speech used to express those beliefs should be left up to whom?  Good law is based in principle and application of the law, to be principled, needs to be applied consistently, disputes about to whom or what a law applies settled through reference to the principles in which a law is based.

 

As I said, I have been reading a lot of material regarding how to deal with those who participated in the Charlottesville ugliness and I have thought a lot about the consequences of the various remedies being discussed for dealing with the problem of hatred and hate groups.  This is not the first time in recent history that this nation has had to face the question of how to deal with speech that is hateful.  We wouldn’t have had to have this conversation again if we were able to understand that what people say is only as harmful as the response they provoke.  We do not believe that some others are capable of understanding what wrong with such ideas and fear that they will be swayed by the speech.  We also worry about the emotional harm that comes with being a target of hate speech.  I think that we need a robust conversation about how to deal with such and I do know that at the university where I worked the response to a student being offended by a statement by another led to requests from administrators for curtailment of speech.  The better way to have dealt with things would have been to trust faculty to be able to do with the bad what needs to be done, deal with it in such a way that the problem is rectified and not just buried.

Educational Research: Old Piece Misplaced

Sitting in meetings sometimes gives me time to think, sometimes about the topic at hand, sometimes about why we are discussing the topic at hand, and sometimes about whether the topic is really a topic worthy of discussion.  Today we were discussing how our organization can make our research output more abundant and, being an educator in an organization that prepares educators for the work they will do in the field of education, I have had to think on many occasions about the value of research and the benefits it may have for students in the schools and the level of education students attain in the schools our research is meant to affect.  While I have been told that there is benefit and that the research builds on past research and that the process of building new research on the foundations created by the old, I find it difficult to find where the benefit is reflected in affect on the realities it pretends to be about.  Schools should be better than something if the research, built on the old research, is useful in bringing about meaningful adjustments and change to the way students in the schools are being educated.  That better something and what it is better than is an illusive quality and just as illusive a quantity and, the most distressing aspect of the research game is that there is good reason to believe that the stress placed on the quantifiers has had a worse than null effect on the quality of education students receive and yet, the best research according to too many who do research and demand research is of the qualitative type.

 

How this could be is a curious thing, no, not just a curious thing, but an truly ugly and malignant thing because the affect is affecting the minds of human beings, doing damage to human beings, and undermining the goodness of democratic society via the damage done to human being by the methods that are born of the findings of the research that is done.  I do know many a researcher who plays the research game without considering, or, at least, not giving much consideration to the consequences of both their work and the implicit support for the research game afforded by their willingness to play the game.  They play the game, a good many, because they feel they have to, and they have to, not out of dedication to the well being of the human beings their research affects, but because they feel them must do research in order to hold a position and advance in their positions in institutions that tell them they must do research and publish it.  While I have nothing against procedures and policy that prod people to do good work, in the case of educational research, the prodding does not necessarily or even often lead to the production of work that can, by any good standard I can think of, lead to work that is good and the abundance of work that is something less than good causes considerable confusion and frustration for those who are dedicated to discovering the best ways to educate citizens of this democratic nation.

 

With the push by institutions for all who wish advancement to public and publish research, the quality of the research, particularly in regard to its relevance for bringing about sound instructional practice, effective institutional organization, and meaningful ways to assess the quality of the work being done in these institutions, it is an almost impossible task to find the truly good research.  Yes, we have an overabundance of the stuff and the time one must spend wading through the crap to get at the essential is both time wasting and a rather terrible experience for those who must do so in order to determine the nature of the research base upon which they are required to build their projects.  Time, in our society is often treated as if it were money.  Personally, I consider time to be valuable in and of it self and I do not like to waste what time I have involved in tasks that bring about nothing of worth and deep me from doing other things that make me feel as thought I am spending my time working toward meaningful ends.

 

Not all research is a waste of time and there are ever so many researchers who make critically important contributions to the information pool from which we take in order to grow our minds and advance critical societal agendas.  And some of that research comes from the field of education.  And I am all for aspiring researchers given the incentives they need to develop into researchers who produce meaningful work.

 

And it is with the word meaningful that a sensible discussion of research needs to consider once and again and again and again and, sadly, the goals of such discussion are not really well served by the process of peer review.  While peer review may be helpful in reducing the number of pieces that get published, it does not insure that the best work is the work that gets published.  Nor doe it necessarily inspire those with the best ideas to work toward publication because of those foundational requirements that force people to pay homage to those who have been allowed to publish in the past, allowance afforded by those peers.

 

I do think that the best way to sift out is through peer review, but I think there are at least two modifications to the process that need to take place before there can be an effective means for keeping down the amount of rubbish that gets published so that space is available to those with truly wonderful ideas with the potential to being about necessary change.

 

First, what constitutes legitimacy of a peer, then how is the goodness of good defined, and third, what happens of good is determined to be not so good (research based methods of NCLB).

 

With this, ways for “researchers” to become good researchers whose submissions are for the purpose of advancing knowledge rather than keeping jobs and advancing in career.  Taking the last first, the solution is, I think, simple, push people to publish but not only in the competitive peer reviewed journals but in public places where other educators go such as the AERA blog sites.  Let peers then monitor and evaluate by offering their comments on the blog site elsewhere.  Certainly this means of critique will provide the writer with considerably more constructive criticism than the rejection notices that come from peer reviewers.

 

As for the issue of peers reviewing for publication in the illustrious publications, to reduce the amount of stuff published and to allow for stuff to be published that may be based on foundations other than the tried and often untrue, there needs to be a way to take a serious look at the underlying theory and philosophy against which particular contributions are to be judged.  And those theories and philosophies need to get their justification for legitimate through a kind of scrutiny that is based in the true basics of the field, which should be, if they aren’t already, the benefits students receive through their exposure to the methodologies the research suggests.  All throughout the dark days of NCLB, students suffered as a result of the research, the research rarely scrutinized to discern the notion of proper achievement upon which the value of research findings was being determined.  Good research was good if the ideas were thought to be useful in raising test scores and the methods that were good for raising test scores were not necessarily for teaching what needs be taught for effective participation in a society such as ours.

 

Each journal should be required to head each edition with a statement that explains the view of effective education it espouses through its selection of papers worthy of publication.  For example, are papers that prove effectiveness against a bogus notion of effectiveness accepted?  This might help in eliminating from many publications papers that prove what good only because of a bad definition of what is good.  The statement would be and should be published with each and every edition and that way, readers would know what the writers are up against in regard to the tests applied to their work during the review process.

 

A long screed, I know, but inspired by the hope that we can find a way to school improvement that is based upon research that, itself, is based in notions of improvement that truly have potential to improve the lives of students and improve the quality of the democratic discourse that is of at the heart of a successful democratic process.  If we believe that democracy is, as Dewey thought it to be, the best and most humane form of government yet devised by human beings, and that education is critical to the success of a democratic system, we need to really think through whether the way we now go about our business is working to good ends or if we need to restructure the way we go about doing business.

 

 

Silencing does not make it go away

This is about one of the most important rights guaranteed citizens of the United States of America.  It cannot be negotiated.  If it is to stand, it must stand for all and those who find others’ speech obnoxious can choose not to listen or, even better, in the spirit of the discourse that is at the core of democratic process, engage them with speech.  The urge to censor what is obnoxious is a strong one but not hearing something doesn’t mean that someone is not thinking it or considering how to act upon it.  Citizens of democracies must tolerate the obnoxious, not love them, not even like them.  They must, however respect the fact that rights afforded apply to all and all includes those who are wrong minded, ridiculous, obnoxious, foolish, stupid, idiotic, absurd, even noxious.  Responding to them sensibly is the proper antidote.

From article in USA Today 

“Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, broke with major tech companies late Thursday, saying that blocking white supremacist, neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer from staying online sets a dangerous precedent for free speech.

“Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected,” a post on its website reads. “We do it because we believe that no one — not the government and not private commercial enterprises — should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.”

Pruitt’s God is a fool

How does a sensible person deal with thinking of the kind represented in these citations from an article in Rolling Stone about Trump’s head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt?  One, if he or she wished to argue points with Pruitt (and Inhofe and others like them who are god first science never), would have to convince him that his God really doesn’t exist.  It may be that a genuinely sensible aspect of arguments against Trump world views needs to contain a strong dose of stop the god shit and get sensible or you will be forced to leave the conversation.

 

Citations from “Scott Pruitt’s Crimes Against Nature, “ By Jeff Goodell

July 27, 2017 Rolling  Stone

Trump’s EPA chief is gutting the agency, defunding science and serving the fossil-fuel industry

  • Not surprisingly, Pruitt has begun removing climate data and scientific information from the EPA’s website. In May, the contracts of most members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the agency on internal research, were canceled.
  • But Pruitt’s disregard for the risks of climate change runs deeper. Like many (but not all) evangelical Christians, he sees fossil fuels not as the remains of dead plants and animals, but as God’s gift to mankind. “God has blessed us with natural resources,” he told Politico recently. “Let’s use them to feed the world. Let’s use them to power the world. Let’s use them to protect the world.” As for climate change, that’s not something humans are responsible for. “God’s still up there,” Pruitt’s mentor, Sen. Inhofe, has said. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”Do