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Monday, November 11, 2013

Two Art worlds, one rich in music and the arts, and a traveling one for the other 99%

For a look at how America treats music education in urban school, you need go no further than LAUSD's Linda Mouradian, a traveling music teacher, budget cuts, and waiting lists.  Her music room is a fits has to fit in the trunk of her car:
"Linda Mouradian's morning often goes like this: she fishes through a packed supply closet to grab some extra reeds for woodwinds, refills a candy bag, and pulls a load of laundry out of the dryer - not of clothes, but cleaning rags to wipe off white boards. 
Then Mouradian piles it all into the trunk of her car, where she keeps a cart filled with sheet music and other supplies.
Mouradian is a traveling instrumental music teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District. She juggles her work schedule between four different elementary schools.
"You need to have every single thing," she said. "You can't rely on anything being there for you."
Music is not an NCLB, or RTTT priority. It does not fit neatly into their god of all measures those little bubble sheet tests.  Today's modern education reformers have money for new standards, new testing, and now money for expensive data tracking systems to follow our children from kindergarten to college. In 2009 The United States Department of Education allocated 53.6 billion for education reform. Their reforms led to more testing, the Common Core, larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and less art and music for poor and working class children.
Perhaps the workforce of the twenty-first century does not need art and music? Perhaps all they'll need do is learn to fill in bubble sheets, press the right buttons, and do what they are told. Perhaps like Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Light Brigade" the workforce of the twenty-first century is: "Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die." “Someone had blundered.”..“not to make reply...not to reason why,” they followed orders and rode into the “valley of death.”
What if the twenty first century becomes the century without music and the arts for the children of the poor and working class?
Did not Tennyson warn us about the valley of death?
"Into the valley of Death 
   Rode the six hundred. 
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’ 
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew 
   Someone had blunder’d: 
Their’s not to make reply, 
Their’s not to reason why, 
Their’s but to do and die: 
Into the valley of Death 
53.6 billion, and no plan for music and the arts, only more standards and more testing.
Surely these Education Deformers had blunder'd. They love music and the arts. They must be advocates for the them. Or perhaps music and the arts are for their children, and for our children....well we get the Common Core.
I wonder if the school where Bill and Melinda Gates sent their children to had traveling music teachers? I wonder if their school ever faced cuts in music or art education?
Silly me, they are the connected, the powerful, the wealthy, and their children get it all. Our children get the Common Core.
What does art and music look like in Bill Gates old Lakeshore High School? 
At Lakeside has an art department, (image from Lakeside webpage). 
At Lakeside every student gets the arts. They have a whole curriculum for the arts and music and a philosophy. Their curriculum offerings are too numerous to fit my blog, but I can share their art's philosophy.

"Course Offerings by Department

"Our educational philosophy:
Arts experience is an essential part of any education, and the creation of art and the joy
of personal expression are vital to the development of important life skills. Experience producing art extends each individual’s creative capacities, and supports greater success across the traditional academic program. Through the artistic process students in all areas of artistic study develop an understanding of aesthetics, visual thinking, and imaginative problem-solving, as well as how to communicate ideas and emotions. Art production and the collaborations our program provides are empowering, and we encourage students to engage in the creative process throughout their academic career at Lakeside."

"Our program: We seek to help students of varied backgrounds, with varied previous experiences, learn and further develop artistic techniques through directed, sustained effort and personal reflection. We encourage realistic self-assessment leading to technical growth by asking students to create and perform. We encourage students to take risks within a safe, supportive, and structured classroom environment. We teach collaboration while helping students to gain personal mastery."

"The process enables students to assess and appreciate the quality of their work and connect their individual vision with arts of other cultures. Lakeside arts courses are generally structured and scheduled as yearlong courses. We have found the yearlong
experience much more effective and efficient than semester equivalents in promoting and achieving depth of learning, skill development, and proficiency of self-expression, as well as in providing the scope to ensure all students experience personal success."

They have year round courses in DRAMA, VOCAL MUSIC, INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC, VISUAL ARTS, and MULTIMEDIA COURSES. Of course Lakeside is a private school whose children come are chosen from the connected, the politically powerful, and the wealthy. These courses come with fees. How much does Lakeside charge these millionaires for these year long music and arts courses? Around 90 bucks a course. A drop in the bucket for a school that charges 28,500 dollars without food, books, bus, laptop, and field trips. Their music and arts courses are a steal for millionaires and billionaires. ART MATTERS to the wealthy, the powerful, and the politically connected. 

When our second president John Q. Adams said: “I must study politics and war, that my sons may study mathematics and philosophy…in order to give their children the right to study painting, poetry, music and architecture.”  I doubt he meant some children get some painting, poetry and music, and others get it all. My thinking is President Adams could not fathom 53.6 Billion for schools without music and art at the center of learning.  
The government missed the boat, but what of our nation's philanthropists? Well, most missed that boat as well. Of course Bill and Melissa Gates could have used their billions to fund music and arts education in our nation's public schools, but the Common Core, Cameras in classrooms, online teacher evaluation systems called Bill not music or the arts. 

Our nation's poor will be prepared to become little worker bees for the twenty-first century. The bosses will get their sweat, blood, and pain. Music and arts well a few drive-bys won't stop them from their ride into the valley of death.
God bless you Linda Mouradian, and all of America's traveling music and art teachers. You are our saints, our working class heroes that keep the music alive, and put the color into our souls.
Love, love, love you all, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you want to know what song the the Walking Man was listening to on his walk today it was don Mclean's Vincent, (starry, starry night)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Poverty Still Matters Mr. President

Poverty matters
Walking on this early November frost morning my mind drifted back to the winter without heat, the Thanksgiving without a turkey, and a eviction notice on our door. I feel for those teachers who taught me in schools during those days. I was nothing, but trouble, and hated the world.  Although I was locked in a hatred of life, they still reached out to me. They still taught me, and they never once gave up. Somehow education reformers and policy makers think think they can measure a teacher's determination to reach poor children via test scores and rubrics. Rather then ask teachers:
  1. Have your children eaten today?
  2. Have your children slept in warm houses?
  3. Do your children felt safe walking to and from school?
  4. Do your children feel safe in their own home?
  5. Are both parents in their lives?
  6. Are any of their parents incarcerated?
  7. Is anyone in your home addicted to drugs?
  8. Has anyone in your family been murdered, committed suicide, or died from an overdose? Does anyone in your family have HIV?
  9. Do you feel trapped?
  10. Do you feel loved?
There are a million questions we should be asking about the children attending our public schools. The above are my top ten. As far as I know no Race To The Top reformer is asking any of them. Of course these reformers have spent little, or no time teaching children in poverty.  They do walked through schools, hold press conferences, play golf, and take photo opts. They never stay longer than an hour. It's sort of Ed Reform drive by visits.   At a meeting yesterday a colleague said there are over one million homeless children going to our nation's public schools. What are we doing to help them? What are we doing to help their teachers? NOTHING! These are the kind of words that cut me as sharp as any knife would. It's on cold mornings my heart breaks. It's on cold mornings I walk a little harder, and turned to whispered prayer.  
Doctor Martin Luther King said: "We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists."
Poverty breaks a heart, but my Momma had a secret weapon, she had a hero, and she had prayer. Dr. King was Momma's hero, and prayer her weapon. She would not let her son's heart remain broken, she would not only fight to feed him, but to mend him. There is not a single day that goes by in my life without a round of thank you Momma prayers.  

There is something wrong with the richest nation in the world standing by as it's poverty rate keeps rising. Something is wrong with a nation whose leaders focus more on increasing the earnings of it's most connected, most powerful, and wealthiest citizens rather than helping it's most needy. There is something wrong with our nation's leaders cheering as Wall Street profits rise, and not noticing the growing lines at our nation's soup kitchens. There is something right with mothers who fight against the poverty that robs the dignity from their families. There is something wrong with a nation that cuts 5 billion dollars from it's food stamps program. There is not a day that goes by without me praying for change in America. Doctor King said: 
"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
We shall overcome because Carlyle is right—"No lie can live forever."
We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right—"Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again."
We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right—as we were singing earlier today,
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future.
And behind the dim unknown stands God,
Within the shadow keeping watch above his own.
With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
My Momma loved Martin Luther King, and made him the role model for her only son whose father abandoned him on his tenth birthday. Momma said God sees all, God judges all, and no one escapes his justice. Momma and Dr. King's legacy to me is hope. I am a man of hope who can't be broken, can't be defeated, and can't be turned around. 

It's time for justice people. Imagine if we just started voting these sinners out of office? We are the people, we are the many, and we can change it on any given election day. 
There is no clearer example of the failure to address poverty than the federal education policies of Race To The Top.  Poverty Matters, and what did our President do to help the poorest and most needy children attending our public schools?

In March 2009, the President of the United States gave governors $53.6 billion from the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” contained in the federal stimulus package. The money was used in exchange for the adoption of four federal K-12 education reforms. What did 53.6 billion dollars get America’s poorest children?
The US Department of Education’s website details the four federal education reforms that 46 states are almost done implementing:
1. Adopt College-and-Career Ready standards and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students.
2. Develop and use pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems.
3. Increase teacher effectiveness and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers.
4. Turn around the lowest-performing schools.

The reality became Common Core State Standards, new Testing, expensive online data systems, and ridiculous new teacher evaluation systems, and all of it untested.

4 things 53.6 billion dollars did not do!
  1. The nearly 54 billion did not go to bringing equity into our poorest schools?
  2. The nearly 54 billion did not go to reducing class sizes in our poorest schools?
  3. The nearly 54 billion did not go to hiring tutors for our poorest children?
  4. The nearly 54 billion did not go to helping feed and shelter our over 1 million homeless children attending our public schools?
Imagine if our politicians understood- that poverty mattered?
Imagine if our politicians did something to fight poverty?
Imagine rather than a growing poverty rate we had a growing middle class?
I have grown tired of let them eat new standards and testing.
I imagine new leadership?
Isn’t it time we voted every single supporter of the Common Core, Race To The Top, High Stakes Testing, and expensive online data tracking systems out of office?
No more wasted votes on leaders who just don't get it-poverty matters.
I will be voting for new leadership, a leadership that focuses on main street, and not on Wall Street, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you are wondering what the Walking Man listened to this first frost morning on his walk. 
It's Bruce Springsteen singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is your land"  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Boys don't need your Common Core?

I woke up in the middle of the night. I was dreaming about trick or treating with my sister Maryellen on Halloween. She was still alive, and we were having so much fun, talking, laughing, and saying Boo to everyone we met. It was as clear as the back of my hand. I could feel my hand in hers. I could not go back to sleep. While the dream was beautiful waking to her not being here hurts deeply. I went online looking for news, but found none. I ended up on the CNN News webpage, and came across this "Readers sound off: Books that changed your lives."> <
I started thinking about the books that make me who I am. I remember reading John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany" with some trouble eight graders. It was the only all boys group I ever worked with. They were the greatest group of boys. I can't remember who cried more when Owen Meany died, them or me.

Death had come to almost every boy in that class that year, and me as well. We teachers know bad things happen to good people, but there is nothing in our training to help lessen that pain. Teachers live the pain of every child they teach. It is a rewarding job, but those rewards carry both joy and pain. It was a long year of funerals. No one stops the world. You pay your respects, you hug, and somehow you go on teaching. You question it all. You hold on for them. Sometimes, however one beautiful moment can melt all your hurt away.
Some say working with socially emotionally disturbed boys is a challenge, but to me they're just boys. What do you say to a young boy whose mother dies from an overdose? I'm sorry only carries you so far. You crumble inside everyday knowing his pain. You do everything possible to make school better. You go on with the show. You wrap all that hurt inside. You bury it deeply, and you go on teaching.

I remember the lines that taught us books can heal that year.   
“When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time - the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades away from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes - when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever - there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”  
I read it a hundred times before, but my sister died earlier that year after a life time of substance abuse.  Then seeing his tears roll down those cheeks, knowing he just lost his mother less than a month ago. Well nothing on earth was going to stop my tears while reading those lines. It's all silent, it's like church, and we're all crying. Then every boy walks over and hugs me. He comes over saying, "Please Sir, don't gets better, they never leave our heart".... Sometimes a room full of tears is a room of healing.

Who will read Owen Meany to our boys in this education reform rush to lessen narrative readings under the Common Core? Tell me again what the heck do Student Learning Objectives have to do with reading?
The power of narrative makes us human, and the more narratives we read the more human we become. Our students need narratives more than they need non-fiction.
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" taught me it's not the books, but the people that change our life. My life was changed by an older sister who took her baby brother trick or treating, and an eight grader who said "Please Sir don't cry.. it gets better...they never leave your heart".  
Boys don't need your Common Core, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you want to know what song this walking man is listening to through his's Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" > <