So You Want to Re-Open Schools?

For all those people out there pushing for schools to re-open-

Since you support education so much, I expect:

1) nothing less than your full, vocal support for public education (increased funding, smaller class sizes, better pay for staff, collective bargaining rights, no standardized tests, etc.);

2) an increased effort on your part to support your child’s learning and be involved with their school (volunteer in the classroom or field trips, fundraisers, family nights, etc.);

3) more people to get their teaching licenses (we have sub shortages, and with smaller class sizes we need more teachers);

4) letters, emails, and phone calls to elected officials at levels supporting an increase in public spending on services such as public transportation, childcare, and family and medical leave; legislation to end child poverty (around 20% in the US); and legislation to end food insecurity (over 11 million children in the US struggle with hunger).


A public high school teacher


You’ll Be Back: The Trump Version

Like many people, I saw the musical, Hamilton, for the first time on July 3, and like many people, I was blown away by how amazing it is.

Since then, President Trump, Betsy DeVos, and other administration officials have commented that schools need to re-open in the fall.  Trump went so far as to say he would take away funding from schools if they don’t re-open.  Having taught high school social studies for eighteen years, I don’t take too kindly to people threatening educators and/or leaving educators out of the conversation, especially when it comes to something as serious as re-opening schools during a pandemic.

With that in mind, I re-wrote “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton, but instead of King George III singing to his colonists, it’s now Trump singing to teachers.  Maybe if I get up the courage I’ll record myself singing it, although it won’t nearly be as awesome as Jonathan Groff.

Thanks for reading.

You’ll Be Back

You say
That teaching and dying’s not a price that you’re willing to pay
You teach
Which isn’t so hard anybody can do it even me
Why so mad?
You say you love kids so you should want to see them today
Now you’re making me mad
Quit being so selfish and listen to me I’m the best

You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
No more teaching classes virtually
You’ll be back, with your books
So don’t give me any dirty looks
I will tweet in all caps
That the teachers are the ones who have snapped
If your cause gets too large
I will cut off all your funding just to prove that I’m the man in charge

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da

Other countries have opened and they’re doing just fine
It seems like all you do now is complain and whine
So get back in your classroom
With no supplies in the classroom
A snotty, sneezy classroom
A loud and crowded classroom
Get in there, stay in there, stay in there, stay in there, stay in there

You’ll be back like before
I will bring us all law and order
Take your temps, wash your hands
And just follow all of my commands
I am right, you are wrong
This is something that you can’t prolong
If your cause gets too large
I will send the National Guard in just to prove that I’m in charge

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat-

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da da da da
Dat dat da ya da!


Top 10 Eurovision Songs from the 2010’s

Hello, Europe! This is Wisconsin calling!

Every year since the 2009-2010 school year, I’ve shown my students Eurovision.  It occurs about 3-4 weeks before we get out for the year, so it’s a nice break before the last, crazy month.  I begin by explaining the basic rules and format and then tell them we’re going to watch all the year’s entries and vote on a collective top ten.  Some of the students really get into it and try to watch the finals (or at least find out the results), coming in on Monday asking what I thought, sometimes with a “can you believe country x won?”  My own children enjoy Eurovision, and we even have a playlist of our favorites, some of which are before 2010.

Now that I’m in the 11th year doing this, I thought I would try to come up with a top 10 from the 2010’s (2010-2019).  That, and we need a little fun and light hearted debate due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent isolation.

1 Point: “Lights and Shadows” by OG3NE (The Netherlands, 2017)

This one takes me back to 9th grade because it reminds me of Wilson Phillips.  Plus, it has little bit of edge to it towards the end.

2 Points: “Playing with Fire” by Ovi and Paula Seling  (Romania, 2010)

Dueling pianos? Yes, please.  If that’s not enough, Paula Seling also hits some seriously high notes.

3 Points: “Tomorrow” by Gianluca Bezzina (Malta, 2013)

This is just a nice, feel-good, love song.  It’s that simple.

4 Points: “What’s the Pressure” by Laura Tesoro (Belgium, 2016)

Love the funk aspect.  If you’re looking for a song that makes you want to dance, this is it.

5 Points: “Eastern European Funk” by InCulto (Lithuania, 2010)

Come for the kazoos, stay for the message about Eastern Europeans in the EU.  Another one that gets you moving to the music.

6 Points: “In a Moment Like This” by Chanée and N’Evergreen (Denmark, 2010)

There’s something about the chorus that feels triumphant.  Spoiler alert: It also has an epic key change.

7 Points: “Alcohol is Free” by Koza Mostra and Agathon Iakovidis (Greece, 2013)

Combines two of my favorite genres- rock and ska.

8 Points: “We Could be the Same” by maNga (Turkey, 2010)

Reminds me a little bit of Linkin Park.  Always nice to have a good rock song in the contest.

10 Points: “Coming Home” by Sjonni’s Friends (Iceland, 2011)

The story behind the band coming together is heartbreaking, but this is one those songs with great lyrics, where you want to sing along.

12 Points: “Never Forget” by Greta Salóme and Jónsi (Iceland, 2012)

This is just an epic-sounding song.  My daughter and I love to sing along to this in the car.  You can also watch it in the original Icelandic.

So, what do you think?  Do you have any favorites that didn’t make the cut?

Thanks for reading.

Strengthening Transatlantic Relations Under a New Democratic President

Since he has taken office, President Trump has consistently alienated our NATO allies and the EU.  As such, the next President will have a lot of work to do to repair transatlantic relations.  To that end, here are some possible ideas for rapprochement.

Speech in Berlin or Brussels
Once the Democratic nominee is official after the July 2020 convention, they should begin preparing to make a speech in Europe, preferably in Berlin or Brussels.  The speech should not just reiterate the history and importance of transatlantic relations; it should also promote new opportunities for cooperation.

Berlin is an obvious choice because of Germany’s influence in European affairs.  Barack Obama spoke there in July 2008 before he was elected, and in regards to transatlantic relations, said “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” Additionally, Germany takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1, 2020, and will hold it until Dec 31, 2020, and so a speech in Berlin might be a way to talk about the importance of the EU.

Brussels also makes sense since it is home to NATO and the capital of the EU.  Given the prominent role the US plays in NATO, it would be a good place to reassure our allies we stand with them.  As for the EU, the US has a long history of supporting European integration, and it is a crucial partner for the US in terms of trade and investment.

Climate Change
Ursula von der Leyen has made it quite clear that climate change is at the top of the Commission’s agenda.  The goal of the newly established European Green Deal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.  Additionally, Europe is home to some of the most sustainable cities and communities, e.g. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsingborg, and Stockholm.  Denmark has even appointed a climate ambassador.  Since both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have pledged to have the US rejoin the Paris Agreement, taking action to protect the climate is an area where the US and Europe can collaborate.

Gender Equality
In addition to the European Green Deal, the Commission has also established a Gender Equality Strategy.  According to the Commission’s website, “The goal is a Union where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive, and can equally participate in and lead our European society” (bold in original).  Sweden also has the world’s first feminist foreign policy.  Finally, the Nordic countries “continually rank high among the best countries to be a woman.”  This is an area where the US could not just collaborate, but also learn from its European partners.

Sustainable Development Goals
According to the Commission’s website for the SDG’s, “The EU has committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals both in its internal and external policies.”  This was especially evident when I was in Brussels June 2019.  Every meeting we had at an EU body mentioned or discussed at length what they were doing for the SDG’s.  It was almost a matter of pride.  Here in the US, on the other hand, we rarely, if ever, hear about the SDG’s in political discourse.  If the US is going to rejoin the Paris Agreement, then it it makes sense to also work towards the 2030 Agenda.

The EU is a global leader in development aid to countries around the world.  Looking at Official Development Assistance (ODA) alone, the five countries in 2018 that met the target of .7% of GNI towards ODA were all European.  The US, on the other hand, fell quite short of the target.  Foreign aid is important for a number of reasons: it’s the morally right thing to do; helping others helps us; and aid plays a crucial role in lifting people out of poverty and improving healthcare, among other aspects of quality of life.  Additionally, helping other countries become more stable economically helps with their political stability, which can help address issues like conflict, migration, and terrorism.

Trade is one of the pillars upon which transatlantic relations have been built.  According to the US Trade Representative, “The EU countries, together, would rank 1st as an export market for the United States in 2018.”  Under President Obama, the US and EU were in talks regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); however, under President Trump, the US has imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on the EU, while the EU has imposed over $2 billion in tariffs on the US.  Given that the EU has trade agreements with countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico, it is time to work on one for the US.  Besides the obvious economic benefits for both sides, an agreement will help in dealing with China.

These are but some of the many areas in which the US can cooperate with our European partners.  In addition to these issues, both sides should work together to address the problems posed by countries such as China and Russia.  Finally, while continuing to work on the two historic pillars of transatlantic relations, trade and security, collaborating on the above issues can usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, and progress.


History of US-EU Relations: 5

Document: Memorandum of a Conversation (between Sec. of State Dulles, Italian Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino, Italian Ambassador Manlio Brosio, and C. Burke Elbrick
Date: March 1, 1956

Towards the end of the conversation, Secretary of State Dulles voiced his support for European integration, saying “Such a development would create a great center of political and economic power which would stir the imagination of all peoples and create a great new force in the world. A real supranational authority can accomplish great things.” (emphasis added)

Document: Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union
Date: January 10, 1957

During his speech, President Eisenhower had this to say about European integration- “We welcome the efforts of a number of our European friends to achieve an integrated community to develop a common market.  We likewise welcome their cooperative effort in the field of atomic energy.”

Document: Joint Statement with Prime Minister Macmillan Following the Bermuda Conference
Date: March 24, 1957

The Annex of the Statement lists the following concerning European unity-
“2. Reaffirmation of common interest in the development of European unity within the Atlantic Community…
4. Agreement on the benefits likely to accrue for European and world trade from the plans for the common market and the Free Trade Area, provided they do not lead to a high tariff bloc…”

European Context: Since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), two major events in Eastern Europe influenced European integration in Western Europe- the formation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 and the Soviet crushing of protests in Budapest.

On March 25, 1957, the six ECSC countries expanded their cooperation into other sectors and signed the Treaties of Rome, thereby establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).  In addition to the EEC, the Treaties also created the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

Rome Treaties Poster
Poster publicising the signing of the Rome Treaties (1957)