Betsy DeVos’ confirmation was a defeat, but the greater battle for America’s future continues

Fighting Donald Trump’s agenda is a war, and there will be both victories and defeats

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos (image credit: Slate)

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos (image credit: Slate)

Today the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. She’s one of the least qualified people who has ever been nominated to the position, and she demonstrated such during her confirmation hearing. And for those of us who reject vouchers for private religious schools, who support children with special needs, who want to keep guns out of schools, and who support teaching our children critical thinking skills, this was undoubtedly a loss. And a painful loss at that.

But as with any conflict, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

As painful as the DeVos confirmation is, it’s only a skirmish in the greater war. The greater battle is stopping DeVos from implementing Donald’s education agenda. Continue reading

Prayer in schools: What god? Whose god? Who decides?

By Carole McNall

Once upon a time, a little girl was going to a public school. Her school began each day with all the students reciting The Lord’s Prayer. (This was a very long time ago.)

3561505_f260But the little girl was confused. She knew The Lord’s Prayer, but she had learned a very different ending. Is this the same prayer? she wondered. Was she remembering it wrong? All her classmates and her teacher were saying this other ending.

So she asked her mother. And her mother, who knew about these things and many others, told the little girl there were actually two versions of The Lord’s Prayer. One was the version she was hearing in school. The other, which was also right, was the version she had carefully learned.

Her mother even had a solution to what to do about this different ending. “Just say ‘Amen’ where you always have,” she told the little girl, “and let everyone else finish it the way they’ve learned.”
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Private lives, public surveillance

An example of a Tracker Device

Whether people think about this election’s hot button issues in this framework or not, many of our country’s so-called “social issues” are issues of privacy. While lawmakers fought over the economic and religious implications of hot topics like gay marriage, abortion, health care and cybersecurity, they were essentially deciding what level of privacy Americans should be entitled to under the law, and how strictly the Constitution should be interpreted to provide or deny that privacy.

I thought about this struggle between the private lives of citizens and the public decisions of legislators and administrations when I saw a story from Texas about high school sophomore Natalie Hernandez suing her school following her expulsion. Hernandez was expelled from her high school because she refused to wear her school’s name badge, which contains an RFID tracking device. Hernandez says the badge violates her religion – the badge is considered a “mark of the beast” – and by forcing her to wear it, the school district is violating her 1st Amendment rights. After the school offered her a name badge without the tracking device, which she refused, the school expelled her.

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Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

How US News is hurting our high school students

by JS O’Brien

Three-year-olds can be very trying, and not least because, once they find something that works for them, say, some action that made adults laugh, they’ll do it over and over and over and over expecting belly-bustin’ guffaws each time.

You’d think the venerable US News (formerly US News & World Report) would be too old for that sort of behavior, but it’s not. If the editors there can come up with some new ranking issue to “leverage the brand” they’ve built with their popular undergraduate college rankings, they’ll do it, and if they give a tinker’s dam if there is insufficient data to rank, or if their methodology is specious, they haven’t demonstrated it so far. Selling magazines is all, and the hell with those who get hurt.

Even children.

US News’ most recent foray into the ranking business, their new raison d’etre, is the November 29, 2007 issue that is their first-ever ranking of US high schools. Their website asks themselves the question: “Why rank?” They answer their own question, saying “For accountability.” Great. Let’s have our high schools be accountable for doing their jobs well. I’m all for that. But I’m absolutely against measuring things that tell us almost nothing about whether high schools are doing their jobs well and pretending those measurements tell us something useful. And that is what US News has done. Continue reading