April 2011: Featured Post
On a monthly basis, lifeseek.org will be featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to stimulate healthy dialogue and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age. Your participation and feedback is very important to us and we encourage you to leave your comments, facebook or tweet this post after reading.
When people hear the name Tea Party, whether they like or dislike it, they often credit the wrong people for the origins of the movement. It wasn’t Sarah Palin, Alex Jones, the pork spending Republican Party, or even Ron Paul that founded the movement. Of course, people like Ron Paul helped mold and develop the Tea Party into what it is today; but I’m sure even Ron Paul would be the first to say, that he’s not responsible for the birth of the biggest grass root political movement this nation has ever seen.
Now, if you want to get real specific, the Tea Party movement was actually started by those great patriots who lived in Boston, Massachusetts all the way back on the day of December 16 1773. However the modernization of the movement can be credited to a young improvisational actress, Keli Carender, who is also a teacher of adults math and resume writing. As a Seattle, Washington-based blogger, and everyday American girl, like most people, Ms. Carender grew into adulthood and began working a 9 to 5. She tries to maintain some sanity as she keeps her personal freedoms afloat. She wasn’t one that concerned herself with politics, but like many Tea Party members, she began to have serious questions about what the government was doing with her taxes.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA (Pub.L. 111-5) and commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, is an economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009. The Recovery Act, a Keynesian economic bill, motivated Keli Carender to take a stand. She took to the internet as a blogger known by the name “Liberty Belle”. She began to spread the word and motivated others to join a grass-roots political movement which is known by many today as the Tea Party. On Febuary 16th 2009, Keli Carender spent several hundred dollars of her own money on pulled pork, to feed the 100 or so protesters that rallied together against excessive government spending in Seattle. They called the Recovery Act a "porkulus" signing. The young, conservative mom blogger had a message that spread through the internet like a California wildfire, and within days people came together in cities throughout the United States, to take part in the protest against big government spending.
Tea Party Values:
The Tea Party is a movement that likes to keep it simple and stick to three core values:
1) A fiscally responsible government that honors and respects the freedom of the individual, to spend their monetary earnings in a way the individual sees fit. The Tea Party believes that the individual should be free to reap the rewards from the fruit of their labor.
2) A constitutionally limited government. People within the Tea Party believe that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. They believe that the founders of the country shared an original intent that was set forth with the Constitution. As the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, in all other matters we support the personal liberty of the individual, within the rule of law.
3) The endorsement of free markets, which is the economic consequence of personal liberty. The Tea Party like the founding fathers believed that people cannot have personal freedom without economic freedom. A Tea Party activist sees the government’s interaction within the economy as interference; a distortion of the free market system that inhibits the pursuit of individual and economic liberty. The Tea Party supports private industry and giving back to the community, so that even the smallest mom and pop store can compete against big industry, without the laden burdens of government intervention.
Keli Carender is truly an American inspiration whose story is lost within mass media biases. Liberty Belle founded and co-chaired The Seattle Sons & Daughters of Liberty, where she continues to fight the good fight that every person is equal and deserving the right to individual freedom.
Tea Party OR Racist party:
Many people call the Tea Party a racist, right wing, white, Christian fundamentalist group, which just isn’t true. The Tea Parties are a very diverse community of people coming from all ethnic backgrounds, orientations, and religious beliefs. Most do share the common biblical belief that “God helps those that help themselves”, thus making a government welfare state an ineffective means to ever leading a sustainable life. One can never be free if they are subjected to the government for provisionary needs.
Tea Party protesters quickly became the subject of left wing media epithets: with people such as Rachel Meadows calling hardworking Americans; who are tired of needless spending and taxation, that only love their country, and want to insure a better future for their children as “Tea-baggers”. The white Tea Party protesters are called male chauvinist and white supremacist. The black Tea Party members are referred to as Uncle Toms. It would seem that no matter what the Tea Parties say or do, they are under ruthless attacks to eliminate their movement for limited government and maximum freedom.
Fortunately people like Liberty Belle, who despite the attacks to label her and the movement as a bunch of extremist, continues to blog and speak with honesty, perseverance, and integrity against big government and the corrupt politicians that are involved in it.
Even President Obama went as far to say that the Tea Party is motivated more so by the color of his skin, than the content of his agenda. This quite frankly is an absurd statement considering there are many black leaders within the Tea Party. I personally saw a white war veteran weep and thank a black couple for being at a rally in Philadelphia. The man expressed the great pain he felt being labeled a racist for believing in personal liberty. Although there will always going be some bad in every group, in my own experiences, I have not seen any racism while attending any Tea Party Rally by people who support the cause. I have seen on numerous occasions prejudice actions perpetrated against Tea Party members by union, leftist and people who just bought into the misinformation of left-wing media. It seems that groups like Project 21, an all-black conservative group, doesn’t see the so called racism that the media projects about the Tea Party. Project 21's common philosophy is that government interventions such as reverse discrimination and affirmative action are poisons that divide us. Dependence on the government keeps minorities subjected to the government, rather than being personally accountable for the well-being of themselves and their families.
In closing I leave you with a quote from the American Dream by James Truslow Adams. "Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement". Regardless of social class or the circumstances that gave birth to the Tea Party, they believe that people should have the opportunity to do for themselves, and reap the rewards from what they have sown.
1. Should Christainity and Politics be intertwined?
2. Do you believe that the Tea Party is Christain?
3. Should Black people support the Tea Party and/or Moderate republicans?
August 2010: Featured Post
The Schoolhouse Rock
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was the government's efforts to wage a "war on poverty". It proposed equalized opportunities for all students, particularly those students coming from impoverished backgrounds, while also setting standards and accountability for students achievement. The original ESEA was passed and renewed every 5 years until the election of President Bush. Under his tenure the act was renamed, "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB), and since then has sparked a whirlwind of controversy, turmoil, attacks, misunderstood language, and therefore, great conflict in the education arena. Everyone needs to be educated on what's happening in, Education.
"I can't believe you won't fail my kid because of this stupid, No Child Left Behind madness", I comment made by a parent who thought the statute literally meant, kids could not be left behind. NCLB is in reality a LAW that was passed in 2001 that called for some educational reforms; probably some of the most aggressive reforms we've seen in years in America. One over-arching way to describe NCLB is "standards-based education reform" , meaning that we will set high standards and establish measurable goals to improve students achievement in schools. It does NOT state that students cannot be left behind . . . in fact, NCLB requires that schools keep track of those statistics because it is of growing importance that students be progressing so that they are NOT left behind.
Each state, as a result of the NCLB statute was required to develop their own assessments to measure basic skills in order to receive federal funds. Who can argue with this?? High expectations will lead to high achievement, right? And any goal that is not measureable, ultimately, should not be a goal at all . . . . right? Well, according to the National Education Association (NEA), NCLB outlines what they describe as "lofty goals . . . closing the achievement gaps and educating all students . . . which NEA fully supports. But NCLB's test-and-punish approach does not move us towards those goals." 
A Little Different . . . Starting with the Cons
The downside to NCLB can be discussed for decades to come, so I will only highlight a few examples. First, the thought of using both incentives and sanctions to motivate schools to improve is a bit over-rated. In their book, NCLB Meets School Realities, Sunderman, Kim, and Orfield state that many teachers, "believe that the NCLB sanctions were unfair" adding in a study conducted in Fresno, California and Richmond, Virgina, that teachers overwhelmingly agreed that the sanctions would unfairly punish teachers. In Fresno and Richmond schools where schools were not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP - yearly growth and progress on standardized achievement tests), teachers agreed that sanctions were unfair with a percentage of 73.9% and 60.7% respectively. In schools where students WERE making AYP, teachers agreed that sanctions were unfair with a percentage of 80% and 64.1%. This raises the issue of (and a popular buzz word) accountability for teachers and schools. I don't think there are many teachers around who don't want to be "accountable" for their work; that is if the "average" teacher is serious about educating children. However, accountability, as it were, does NOT measure factors that are out of the control of teachers. In the same study mentioned above, teachers in both Fresno and Richmond felt that teacher's needed more time to collaborate with other teachers, curricular and instructional materials that were aligned with state standards, and more money for those materials. Additional issues that are not measured by AYP statistics are the amount of students who are disenfranchised when they go home, the number of students whose parents cannot help them with homework, the amount of students whose home situations are not a suitable learning environment, or the number of students whose only safe haven IS the school that they attend.
Finally, another key "con" of NCLB is the fact that a good portion of a districts AYP status hinges on their performance on "high stakes" testing. They are referred to as "high stakes" because they are given ONE time per year and there is a lot riding on whether or not students pass these assessments. Nichols, Glass, & Berliner state in an article that, "there is no convincing evidence that the pressure associated with high-stakes testing leads to any important benefits for students' achievement."  Nichols et. al, also declare that, "any problems associated with high-stakes testing will disproportionately affect America's minority students."  These high-stakes assessments are typically given in March or April to determine if students have made adequate academic gains over the course of a school-year. How odd though, that the assessments are given before students FINISH their instruction for that year! This causes many districts to "cheat-up" by teaching concepts that will be on the test, but do not show up in the curriculum until after the test. This is called, "teaching to the test"! The downside? If a concept on an April assessment is not taught until April or May, the teacher has to then find time in their normal daily schedule (usually social studies or science time) to fit those concepts into their instruction. This creates what the Center on Education Policy (CEP) calls "narrowing the curriculum". In a study conducted in 2007 the CEP discovered that over 44% of districts reported "cutting time from one or more subjects or activities at the elementary level (social studies, science, art & music, physical education, lunch and/or recess) to devote more time to reading and math. And they say school isn't fun!?!?!?!?
Pros in different Area Codes . . .
It's easy to sit back and dissect NCLB and the reforms in started because we hear about the "bad" stuff more regularly than the good. What are some of the positive points of the program (that's an alliteration by the way). The National Education Association, along with their efforts to reform the NCLB reform, themselves to not totally discount the act in and of itself. They state in reference to NCLB that, "it's stated goals - to improve student achievement and help close the achievement and skills gap that exist in our country - are important to NEA and our society."  One of the major benefits of NCLB is that it required districts to show disaggregated data; that is, data that broke students into "subgroups" or "student groups" based on various categories such as, "African-American", "Asian", Economically Disadvantaged, "IEP (learning Support), and Latino (to name a few). Sunderman et. al, assert that, "each subgroup must reach the state-defined proficiency level in reading and mathematics." The basic message to districts was simple, though the "holistic" district data may say we're making appropriate academic progress, NCLB forced districts to look at specific groups and to become accountable to those groups. It would be very easy for a district (pre-NCLB) to show 80% of their students scoring at proficiency, however, if 12% of their population is made of up minority students who are failing, you would be none-the-wiser without looking at disaggregated data. This is a MAJOR step in "closing" the achievement gap, for one must truly face the "brutal facts" represented in the data, thus identifying the problem so that it can be addressed. Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers states of NCLB, "Overall, we are supportive of it . . . we like the professional development component, the emphasis on reading, Title I . . . we think it will have a positive affect."  NCLB has caused many Americans to focus on education in an unprecedented manner . . . teachers are no longer just people in the classroom; instead they are professionals who have mastered a craft, a craft that should be fostered and developed like any other profession. Additionally, the emphasis on basic skill attainment and supporting students who come from "disadvantaged" socio-economic backgrounds are also important factors that weigh-in on NCLB's intent. Another positive point of the act is that teachers be "highly qualified", that is to say that they have attended a certified teacher preparation program and received state certification by passing a series of assessments as set forth by their respective states. This makes sense, right? I mean, would you let a doctor perform open heart surgery if he/she failed Anatomy and Physiology? Of course not! So why would we let a teacher instruct students having not passed the same level of rigorous assessments to show that they too, are qualified to do so?
Back to Basics:
No one can prescribe a CURE-ALL for education; it's virtually impossible to say that NCLB will work for all students, because it won't. Nor is it fair to say that it's completely bad and won't work for any of our kids. One of the things we've learned over the course of time is that EVERYONE learns differently. Children process information in various ways, and therefore, a one-size fits all approach cannot work for the millions of children being educated in America's schools. Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, in her book, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner gives characteristics for two types of learners, visual-spatial and auditory-sequential.  The latter is described as, "the model student, they listen well. They understand what they hear. They follow directions. They learn to read [on schedule], they turn in homework on-time and you can read their handwriting. They learn in a step-by-step fashion- does this sound like you or your child? Niece? Nephew? Or Student? Contrariwise, she describes visual-spatial as, "creativity, facility with computers, visualization skills, and the ability to "see" and solve problems from many different perspectives." These students are often poorly organized, seen as "different", with sloppy handwriting, poor spelling, and an inability to do things in a step-by-step fashion. Sound familiar? Silverman asserts of our current education system, "Education as we know it is about the development of these auditory-sequential skills and it is well-suited for auditory-sequential learners . . . we do [this] job well." The very etymology of the word "education" comes from the Latin word "educare" which literally means to draw out or to lead out. Therefore, education, in its purest sense means to draw out that which is already in someone or to lead someone into the discovery of learning. No amount of testing, money, or reforms can make us realize that we've left the basic understanding of what education was meant to be.
Home, Sweet Home
So how do we move forward? No matter what reforms are instituted, no matter how many politicians give speeches regarding education reforms; it always starts in the home. Parents start the process of drawing out with their children and it's a beautiful process. Babies begin to discover, as their sight develops they see and process new things; they begin to grab, feel, hear, taste, and explore their senses. It is during this time where they begin to make sounds which eventually turn into speech; they begin to walk and explore their surroundings and environment. It all starts in the home! Have you ever seen a parent yelling at their child to "sit down", or "don't put that in your mouth", or hear a parent say, "this child is too busy"! But these natural developments are what mold and shape the minds of our children, through playing and exploration. Home is where schooling begins, it is where the process of education is rooted and it should grow from there. President Obama said of parenting, "Parents if you don't parent, we can't improve our schools . . . you've got to turn off the television set in your house once in a while, you've got to put the video game away once in a while."  Though these comments upset many people who can argue with their validity? I hope that as we attempt to move forward with the improvement of our education system that we truly take a look at ALL of the factors that affect our kids. We will only see opportunities for real change when we look at the whole picture and as Jim Collins said in his book, From Good to Great, truly "face the brutal facts." Only then, when reality is faced can we make REAL changes.
We want to hear your thoughts and experiences:
1) What are some of the strengths and weaknesses that you see with our education system?
2) Who should take responsibility of children are failing? Parents? Schools? Both? And why?
3) Since NCLB is the reauthorization of the ESEA of 1965, do you think it is out-dated? If so, what new and innovative ideas should school systems implement to better serve our children?
V.J. Delos was born in Philadelphia, PA to J. Johnson and H. Johnson. After years of being raised in a Christian household V.J., soon realized the importance of a personal relationship with Christ. God soon moved individuals into his life who were able to teach him how to study the word and the importance of the fellowship of believers. After attending Temple University and graduating with a degree in education he quickly became and advocate for children. V.J. quickly discovered his talent and passion for teaching, music, & spoken work and seeks to use these gifts to glorify GOD. After some life-changing events V.J. has an unwavering desire to serve GOD, fellowship with His people, and to provide young people with the oppportunities to maximize their potential. Recently receiving his Masters Degree in Education Administration, V.J. Delos currently works as an elementary school administrator. His love for youth, desire to serve his school community, and passionate pursuit of a lifestyle rooted in integrity is what drives him on a daily basis. His life's mantra, as was that of his late mother is that, "This too shall pass". No matter how hard life gets, GOD sees the provision that he's already given by his Grace to see you through it . . . With this in mind, V.J. Delos is sincerely desires to serve GOD and the people of GOD with joy, humility, and love.