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).

Sincerely,

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-
Everybody!

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.

Ideas for a Study Trip to London and Brussels

I love the idea of study trips for students.  They are great opportunities to make the curriculum more real, and they can make lifetime memories.  Our school offers a number of trips through the foreign languages department (I actually get to chaperone the German trip), but I’ve always wanted to offer a study trip for one of my courses.  As such, I’m thinking of offering a trip to London and Brussels to study British politics and the EU.

Why those topics?
One of the courses I teach is AP Comparative Government & Politics.  It’s probably my favorite course to teach because we focus on six countries (China, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the UK), and the EU is part of the curriculum.

On top of that, I’ve been to Brussels before (once as part of a trip sponsored by the Delegation of the EU to the US, and another time for a seminar hosted by the German Marshall Fund).  Plus, in the past five years I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve been fortunate to have made a number of connections with people who work in EU institutions or write extensively about the EU.

London
Here are my learning objectives for London, followed by ideas to accomplish them:

  1. Learn about the parliamentary system and the functions of the House of Commons and the House of Lords- Tour Parliament (talk w/ MP’s?)
  2. Learn about the major political parties (Conservatives, Labour, LibDems, UKIP, SNP, etc.)- Meet with members of political parties (tour HQ?)
  3. Learn about the election process- Meet with somebody from the Electoral Commission
  4. Learn about the role of the media- Tour BBC and The Guardian, and maybe talk with journalists
  5. Learn about unions- Meet with representatives of the Trade Unions Congress
  6. Learn about the NHS- Meet with representatives
  7. Learn about UK foreign policy- Tour the Foreign Office and talk about US-UK relations and Brexit

Brussels
Here are my learning objectives for Brussels, followed by ideas to accomplish them:

  1. Learn about the EU institutions- Tour and talk with representatives of the European Parliament, European Council, Council of the EU, European Commission
  2. Learn about the role of the media- Tour PoliticoEurope and viEUws and talk with journalists
  3. Learn about transatlantic relations- Meet with representatives from the US Mission to the EU and the US Mission to NATO

Funding
As it stands, the students will pay for the entire trip, but I wonder if there are any grants for such opportunities, especially ones that promote transatlantic relations.

What I Would Like from Readers
If you have ideas about how to make those objectives happen- people to talk to, places to see, funding, etc.- please leave a comment below.  Also, if you happen to work in one of the places I mentioned, or you know somebody who does, please leave me a comment with the best way to contact you.  Finally, one of the factors I have to consider is that some places want a certain of ratio of students to chaperones, so if you’re aware of anything like that, please let me know as well.

Ideally, I would love for this trip to occur every other summer; so, if I can make this first one a success, I should be able to continue offering it.

**UPDATE: As I’ve been doing research and talking with all of the people who have made suggestions/offers on Twitter, I’m thinking it might be easier for me to make the first trip a Brussels-only trip.  It will be easier for me to plan and get my feet wet in the world of study trips.  I will, however, still definitely welcome suggestions for London for future trips.

Thanks for reading.

 

A Case for Proportional Representation in the US

For a few years now, I’ve thought that the US needs to move to proportional representation (PR) for our electoral system.  Now that we’re done with the conventions for both major parties here, it is more apparent than ever that we need to move to it.

What is Proportional Representation?
Basically, PR is an electoral system in which parties on a ballot are given the same percentage (or as close to it as possible) of seats in the legislature as they received in the election.  Usually, parties have to receive a certain percentage of votes (a threshold) in order to receive seats.  For example, if your party of choice received 25% of the votes in the election, it would have 25% of the seats in the legislature.  It should be noted, however, that PR is used in parliamentary systems, which means the US would have to move to one as well.

Why Is Now a Good Time for the US to Adopt a PR System?
PR is much more democratic than our current First Past the Post system.  As it stands, all a candidate needs to receive to win is a majority of the vote.  So, if they receive 51%, they win and go on into office.  That also means that 49% of the population now feel they are not being represented.

A PR system would also make voting more pleasant in situations like we now find ourselves.  We’ve got two candidates for president that are quite disliked.  Take a look at this article, for example, over at fivethrityeight, “Americans’ Distaste for both Trump and Clinton is Record-Breaking.”  In it, Harry Enten, points out that “Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.”

In addition to the unpopularity of the candidates, the two major parties are split over their nominees.  As we saw at the recent Democratic convention, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are unhappy with the process and the results.  On the Republican side, Ted Cruz spoke at the convention about voting one’s conscience (i.e. don’t vote for Trump if you don’t like him).

So, if you don’t like either candidate, for whom do you vote?  Progressives are being told to suck it up and vote for Clinton because if they don’t, Trump will win, and that could lead to a dictatorship.  Conservatives are being told to suck it up and vote for Trump because if they don’t, Clinton will win, and that will mean at least four more years of Obama-esque policies.  They’re also being told a vote for the Greens and Jill Stein, or the Libertarians and Gary Johnson, is just a wasted vote and could lead to Clinton/Trump winning.  What do you do then if you truly believe in the platforms of Stein or Johnson?

What Might a PR System Look Like in the US?
Based on the current situation, I think we would have at least six big parties.  These are just generic names, so you can name them whatever you please- Greens, Social Democrats (Bernie Sanders’ supporters), Moderate Democrats (Hillary Clinton supporters), Moderate Republicans (non-Trump supporters), Nationalists (Trump supporters), and Libertarians.

This system would truly allow people to vote their conscience and feel represented in government.  It might also help avoid the gridlock and government shutdowns we currently experience.

For more information on the PR system I recommend the two following websites: FairVote and the Electoral Reform Society.

What do you think- is it time for the US to change our electoral system?

Thanks for reading.