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While Trump Defends the National Anthem, He Threatens our National Symbol

A Bald Eagle
A bald eagle, our national symbol

A few days ago, while walking around Shelley Lake in Raleigh, I saw a bald eagle flying high over the water. I pointed up, trying to get the attention of a group of teens who were walking toward me. Finally I yelled to them, “There’s a bald eagle!” They turned, looked up then turned back around and continued walking and talking.

This puzzled me, until I realized that they are not aware that several decades ago, the majestic birds were almost extinct. Some of you may remember when you’d never seen a bluebird? So many people simply do not know how badly these birds and other occupants of our planet were driven to the brink in the first half of the 20th century.

What brought eagles, bluebirds and so much else back from the precipice was a government that started to regulate the industries that were polluting the environment of all living inhabitants of the Earth. This is why I want to share that..

while Trump has been focusing the attention of his base on immigration and respect for the national anthem, he and his administration has been dismantling those environmental regulations at the behest of billionaire industrialists who are tired of environmental protection cutting into their profits.

Here is an article from Bloomberg Environment on the Trump’s activities behind the smoke and mirrors – 26 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back in the Trump Era

Another Giant Step Backward

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0
If you think that America’s future energy should be burning coal and other fossil fuels, then you should be happy with Trump. According to a Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to use two Federal laws “to order (electrical) grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life…”

Further reversing our country’s progress, Reuters has learned that Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels is forcing renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of $2.5+ billion in large installation projects. According to developers, it also cancels thousands of jobs.

All of this while Britain regularly announces increasing numbers of hours and days that their entire grid is powered without coal. The BBC reported on April 24 that the nation had gone three days without coal – the first time since the 1880s.

Sources:
Bloomberg Article – https://goo.gl/noeSrN
The memo – https://goo.gl/1SqfZx
Reuters Report – https://goo.gl/FveFPd
BBC – https://bbc.in/2HrRyn0

Trust, Media & Democracy Survey

Critical Media Consumers
Graph 1

I recently ran across a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey entitled American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy.  The poll of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older attempts to measure how our changing information landscape has affected media trust in the U.S. and made it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities.  It is important to note that Trust, Media and Democracy was a nationally representative mail survey.  So a back-of-your-mind question should be, “Who took the trouble to share their views by mail?”

That said, a couple of things especially caught my attention.  First, it seems that younger respondents were more likely to consider the intentional spread of inaccurate information over the Internet and bias in the media to be a “Major Problem.”  See graph 1.

It leads me to wonder if we (educators) did a better job than we thought, over the past 10 to 15 years, of teaching our students to be critical media consumers.  Or perhaps it’s a result of a generation who is, unquestionably, more net-savvy than their elder.  Regardless, we have more work to do.

Fake News
Graph 2
What disturbs me is how many people do not really know what “Fake News” is.  Wikipedia defines it as

..a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines.. (Wikipedia)

That pretty much aligns with my own understanding of “Fake News.” Yet 20% of Democrats believe that an accurate news story that casts a politician or political group in a negative light is “Fake News.” The percent is higher for Independents and Republicans. See graph 2

Fake News
Graph 3

This one surprised me, that the more conservative a person is, the more likely they are to consider “Fake News” to be a serious threat to democracy. See graph 3 and please explain this to me.

There is much more available through the PDF report, which you can download at: https://goo.gl/emk1EM

I created the graphs from the survey data using Create a Graph from the Department of Education web site.

Are blue states financing red states?

I heard something on a podcast the other day that surprised me.  So I found the data and crunched the numbers myself, so that I would know (I love playing with spreadsheets).

It works like this.  Our southern neighbor, South Carolina, pays $24 billion in federal taxes.  However, the state receives in federal spending (benefits, grants, contracts, and salaries and wages) $48.8 billion.  That comes to $4,978.26 per South Carolinian that comes in from the federal government.  It becomes spending money.

In the other direction a northern neighbor, Delaware, payed about $22.6 billion in taxes but received only a little more than $9 billion in federal spending.  That comes to a deficit of $14,278.28, that’s not being spent in that state.

What’s interesting is that of the 30 states that benefit from federal spending, 21 voted to elect Trump as President, 14 of them by more than 10 percentage points.  Of the remaining states that are paying more in federal taxes than they are receiving, 9 voted to elect Hillary Clinton by more than 10 percentage points – that’s 9 of only 13.

When you put it all together, citizens of red states gain $915.70 from the federal government, and deep red states get $1,874.60 to spend.  Blue staters pay $176.84 and people living in deep blue states give up $2,101,84.

So where’s the logic in voting for a candidate who promises to reform federal taxes?

Sources:

The PEW Charitable Trusts: https://goo.gl/iFxBAp

The New York Times: https://goo.gl/6OkmXX

 

Only Four Countries do not Provide for Paid Parental Leave.

While researching for this article, I ran across a 2013 NYT piece on Pew’s finding that in 40% of U.S. families the sole or primary earner is the Mom. In a quarter of married households, the woman is the sole or primary wage earner.

I was surprised recently when I learned that almost every country has federal laws that require paid parental leave.  Apparently, there are only four that do not.  They are Suriname, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and The United States.  I’m including here the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each country and their Gini coefficient, both of which seem relevant for considering the U.S. position on this issue.

Suriname

Per Capita GDP: $16,623

Gini: 52.9

Lesotho

Per Capita GDP: $1,091

Gini: 54.2

Papua New Guinea

Per Capita GDP: $2,517

Gini: 50.9

United States

Per capita GDP: $57,220

Gini: 40.8

The Gini coefficient is a mathematical measure of a nation’s wealth distribution. The lower the value, the more equitable their economy. Higher values indicate an economy that favors people who are already wealthy at the expense of the poor.  

Here is a list of the eleven top ten developed countries with their Gini indexes. Canada and the U.S. are tied for #10. The graph compares the wealth distribution of these eleven countries by their standard deviations from the mean.

 

    Gini Index
1. Norway 23.5
2. Australia 33.6
3. Switzerland 29.5
4. Germany 30.7
5. Denmark 27.5
6. Singapore 46.4
7. Netherlands 26.2
8. Ireland 30.0
9. Iceland 24.0
10. Canada 33.7
10. United States 40.8
Gini Coefficient for Top Developed Nations
TopCountriesGINI 2.jpg
 
Sources:

https://statisticalfuture.org/?p=24
http://wikipedia.org/
http://pewrsr.ch/10ycfVX

“The Best Deal that We could Get”

NC Protester
NC Protester
I don’t blame our Governor for signing H.B. 242, which repealed our “Bathroom Law.” But it should concern us that the repeal continues to support a major move by our ultraconservative-leaning General Assembly, starting with the Republican takeover in 2010 – that of stealing or attempting to steal political power from the Executive Branch, the state’s regulatory bureaucracy and especially from local governments. Specifically, the repeal prevents the state’s municipalities from establishing their own nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020.

One example of this preemption of local power was provisions to S.B. 279, slipped into the bill on the last day of 2015’s 76-day extended legislative session. Those provisions prevented city governments from passing higher minimum-wage laws, establishing affordable-housing mandates, or instituting rules about landlord-tenant relations. Other examples were wrestling from cities their control of local airports, waste and water systems, local redistricting, utilities and fracking. Fortunately, many of these legislative take-overs have been blocked by the Judicial Branch. But it all points to a political ideology that seems intent on stretching or breaking the founding principals of our government in order to further the interests of the campaign contributing class – the moneyed-elite.

Sources: https://goo.gl/DckpkD, https://goo.gl/UiVDx3, https://goo.gl/Uw79QG, https://goo.gl/v6Lv4m

What Does AI Mean to Education

Autonomous TruckIt seems to me that the biggest part of our conversations among educators about how AI may affect us regards our own job security. I’m not worried about that. It won’t make teaching obsolete, in my opinion, in spite of the list below. We’ll just spend less time teaching stuff to our students and more time teaching how to use stuff – essentially, how to use information to solve problems and accomplish goals.

This was all brought back to mind when I ran across this FastCompany article today about brick laying machines and other jobs that AI/Automation may replace. Thinking more about the implications, especially to education, I sought out similar articles. Here’s a list of jobs that some have suggested can be done by machines.

Chefs Factory Workers Surgeons
Retail Sales People Security Guards Farmers
Cattle Raisers Pharmacists Delivery Drivers
Journalists Soldiers Receptionists
Telephone Sales People Construction Workers Accountants
Tour Guides Mixologists & Bar Operators Librarians
Hospital Administrators Teachers Truck Drivers
Taxi Drivers Insurance Adjusters Construction Workers
Customer Service Representatives

I doubt that all chefs will be replaced nor that all factory work with be done by robots. The FastCompany article suggested that a brick laying machine would do what three humans can do in a day, but one person would be needed for the more nuanced work. But autonomous vehicles alone will likely mean the jobs of 5 million Americans, who currently make a living driving taxis, buses, vans, trucks and e-hailing vehicles. According to Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, most of these drivers are not dissimilar to the millions of factory workers who have lost their jobs since 2000 – men without college degrees. Like drivers, manufacturing jobs did not go to China, but to Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB and Kawasaki, the top producers of industrial robots. While factories were laying off millions of American workers, U.S. manufacturing output has actually grown by almost 18% since 2006.

What will be the consequences of this much unemployment, not to mention this much uncertainty. Nearly every article suggested that the effect on society will be HUGE and that the direction of policy makers will determine whether those consequences were bad or good.

Are we assuring ourselves of leadership that is creative enough to turn what seems horrible to most of us today into something that could actually be quite wonderful.

The sources: MSN, Quartz Media, Forbes, Futurism, The Guardian, LA Times, Fortune

Links to some of the articles

A Couple of Observations about the Election

“Playing with data is as fun as playing with Legos”

Even though I suspect that most Americans, Republican and Democrat, believe in mostly the same things.  The political gap seems to have much to do with your neighborhood – that is to say, how far you live from your neighbors.

I did a little figuring with the population density of each state and the percent of votes cast by its residents for Donald Trump.  The correlation coefficient (yes, I’m college educated) was -.46, which apparently is a moderate downhill or negative relationship (see chart #1). In other words, the higher the population density (urban) the less likely you and your neighbors were to vote for Trump. The lower the density (rural), the more likelihood of Trump votes in your neighborhood.

Chart #1

Chart #1

But this gap seems to have been magnified by the U.S. Constitution, as the document describes the Electoral College. North Dakota, 47th in density ranking, cast 216,133 votes for Trump. That amounted to only 72,044 votes for each of the state’s 3 electoral votes for the Republican candidate. In Massachusetts, the 3rd most densely populated state, it took over 100,000 more votes for Clinton (178,615) to earn one of the state’s 7 electoral votes for the Democrat (see chart #2).

Chart #2

Chart #2

What surprises and disturbs me is the education gap. The graph below, from Pew Research Center, indicates that among all voters, those with college degrees or more voted for Hillary Clinton by 9 points, while voters with some college or less chose Donald Trump by 8 points. The education gap widens when looking at white voters only, a gap of 35 points.1

There are many ways to read meaning into this, and I’m going to be thinking pretty hard about it. But we might assume that free college education, as provided in many European countries, is pretty much off the table here at home.

Education Gap

Education Gap

1  Tyson, A., & Maniam, S. (2016). Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/

Where’s the Money?

I woke up early again this morning, all worried about this upcoming election. I started mucking around my old 2009 Macbook Pro and found the Federal Elections Commission web site and their downloadable files with details on campaign contributors by state. Data makes my skin tingle.

So I downloaded all 27 megabytes of North Carolina data (4/15/15-10/31/15), loaded the csv file into Open Office Calc and started tinkering. My seven year old MacBook was huffin’ and puffin’.

One of the questions that got my mind going this morning was the money that is so essential to political campaigns today. To date, the 2016 presidential campaigns have generated $1,000,058,201 from individual donations alone. More to the point of my sleeplessness was, “Who’s paying for these campaigns?” or “Who’s buying our government?”

So I used Calc to parse the 133,100 contributions by range categories: less than $100, $100 to $999 and more than $1000 and more. It shouldn’t be a surprise that more North Carolinians were donating less than $100 than the other two combined.

What struck me as especially critical to my worries was the total amounts of campaign money generated from each category. Look at the data and graph.

Donations Number of Contributors Total Amount Contributed
Less than $100  101,388  $2,737,190.87
Between $100 & $1000 28,427  $5,454,833.10
More than $1000  3,285  $6,226,996.52
contributionsGraph(sm)

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, let’s say you are an incumbent, or even a challenger. With so much money out there, constituting a elections industry, the only way that you can keep your seat, or oust the incumbant is with a lot of money.

Where do you go for the money?

Look at the diagram again. Where’s the money? To get elected, you have to convince rich people and corporations to contribute. What will they want from you for that money?

It’s their government.  Not ours.

 

2016 presidential campaign finance. (2016). Retrieved from Federal Elections Commission website: https://goo.gl/vfQqE

Who Would Teach for Cuckoos?

In the graphs below, I label the X-axis as “Years of Republican Led General Assembly,” referring to the years that North Carolina’s legislative branch has been dominated by the Republican Party, the first time since 1870.  I regret using this distinction because I actually respect much of what I think the Republican Party represents.  I am referring, instead, to the Cuckoo legislators, arrogantly conservative politicians who appear to be Republicans, holding just enough resemblance to push many fine and thoughtful statesmen out of the nest of North Carolina’s State Government.

The Exceptions

Spreadsheet ods  OpenOffice Calc
Students in Music & Art Ed Programs

Why? click

That said, I want to report on one of the many effects of their arrogance, and not the millions of dollars lost to the state as a result of their hastily written and passed HB2.

I am no longer a teacher.  I left the classroom for leadership roles in a time when teachers practiced autonomy in their classrooms and were rewarded for advancing their own educations.  Today, I can barely imagine how demoralizing the last five years have been for North Carolina teachers, and for school administrators who are desperately struggling to fill their classrooms with qualified teachers.

The solution to an alarming teaching shortage is simple, at least to the amateurs in Raleigh.

Appear to grant a raise to teachers in North Carolina.  

Factoring in the nominal inflation of the past decade and a half, teacher pay in North Carolina has dropped 13%.1  Real and significant raises would certainly help and are certainly warranted.  But there’s nothing new here.  While teachers have always been grossly underpaid, we have continued to have talented and committed men and women wanting to become teachers.

In my opinion, the teacher shortage has more to do with the declining conditions of the job and the increasing barriers that stand in the way of real learning in the classroom.  A teacher’s passion comes from celebrating the meaningful learning and growth of her students.  But today, the creative art of teaching has been spoiled by requirements to comply with government mandated standards that are measured by tests that choke real learning.

..And why would a high school student want to do, what they’ve spent 13 years watched their teachers dispair in not being allowed to do?

The result?

Enrollment at the 15 UNC schools of education has plummeted 30 percent since 2010, a worry for a state where those programs are the biggest source of classroom teachers.2


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article58311793.html#storylin1

I recently received a document from one of the state’s 15 schools of education that lists the numbers of students joining their various education programs since 2012, and the numbers SHOULD worry us.

For instance, this graph illustrates the university students who are planning to become elementary school teachers.

Elementary Ed
Students in Elementary Ed Programs

The decline, since 2012, represents a net loss of 213 potential elementary school teachers.

Equally disturbing are the numbers entering Math and Science programs, illustrated here.

Science/Math Ed
Students in Science or Math Ed Programs

That’s 34% few Math and Science teachers than would have been likely in a more stable environment.  And, as I’ve written many times before, the real problems of this state, nation and world have less to do with Math and Science, and more to do with our social condition – and we’ve lost 65% of the Social Studies teachers we might have had.  In 2016, no college student in that university sought to pursue a career as a Social Studies teacher.

Socialstudies
Students in Social Sciencs Ed Programs

Considering how teachers have been treated in this state, it is easy to fathom what these Cuckoo legislators fear the most.  It is highly educated and organized teachers.  In many of the state’s communities, the most educated citizens are teachers.  It’s why the General Assembly and Pat McRory (Governor) stopped paying higher salaries to teachers with advanced education (part of the Appropriations Act of 2013).  We are the only state that does not pay more to teachers with graduate degrees.  The result?

MastersDegreePrograms
Students in Advanced Degree Programs

A loss of 27%, though many teachers continue to advance their own education, even without compensation.

If you are a North Carolina voter, and you believe that the future of our state depends on the talent and intelligence of its citizens, then learn how your representatives voted on the final adoption of the Appropriations Act of 2013. If you do not know who your representatives are, go here.  Then go here and click the name of your House member (here for your senator) to see their voting history in 2013-14 session.  If he or she voted “No” to the final adoption of SB 402, the Appropriations Act of 2013, then they voted FOR teachers and stronger public schools in North Carolina.


1 Hinchcliffe, K., & Johnson, C. (2016, April 26). After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years. WRAL.com [Raleigh].

2 Bonner, L. (2016, February 3). Enrollment plunges at UNC teacher prep programs. The Charlotte Observer[Charlotte].

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