The Daily Commute

https://soundcloud.com/eric-nentrup/the-daily-commute

The Joy of saying Mariska Hargitay

A Quixplanation.

fnlnews

Me at the FNL News Desk, 1995

I came to education by way of a career as a writer-producer. That career began at 19 when in college I became a staffer for a Saturday Night Live-styled variety show we produced every month or so in between term papers.

It was there that I learned to write; that I learned to write comedy; that I learned to value the arts and humanities, and to set the trajectory moving forward for a career path that evolves to this day.

Having a returning (and growing) audience to serve, there was drive, motivation, purpose, in working extremely hard to generate the best content that we could. None of it would’ve ever landed me a gig at Studio 8H, but it taught me an immense amount about collaboration and leadership. What was a team of three people would swell to a crew of over 100 as a show date approached. What was a meager budget became the grounds necessitating learning how to sell, cast vision, and negotiate. What was a desire to produce scripts we’d written for both stage and screen became the impetus for learning technical craft of video production and editing along with the stagecraft of lighting, sound, and set design.

In addition to the business of show, the project management skills we had to figure out were well in play for years after I left college and was building a list of clients to tend to as a multimedia producer. The budgets were real, the companies were serious, and the CEOs, VPs, and other company leaders I worked with were trusting of our abilities to come through with a message that served their objectives.

There were so many moments during the production of a national sales meeting or the shooting of a video where I was coaxing and coaching these corporate talents when I’d think back to a moment with a professor who’d agreed to indulge a group of undergrads with a camera and a storyboard. Or, when a client chose “SNL” as their annual theme and my eyebrows raised as I thought about what it would take to pull off the scale and scope of that for a Fortune 500 company. I’d think about our paltry shoestring budget in college and now all the commas and zeroes that were attached to this one.

Years later, when it was time to move on, both a 12-month non-compete I’d signed with my employer, and a restlessness to do work that was more significant, turned my head back to education. I had a chance occurrence with the field a few years prior, raising money for an education coalition through a video I produced, and the notion stuck. It just took some time to come to pass.

The moment I thought about becoming an English teacher, things fell into place with alarming speed. Struggles I had professionally were now doors swinging wide open. I had facility with the students and the day to day. And then I realized I could start applying my technical skill and showmanship to teaching. I built a Film Literature class and occasionally paired it with Creative Writing. I spoke publicly everyday, leading lessons, and trying to reach a reluctant group of disenchanted urban teenagers. I started showing our school leaders ways to make administration more efficient. And above all else, I had a renewed sense of purpose in a profession that sort of chose me.

Since then, in short time I’ve earned and broken in a teaching license. I’ve continued to a master’s of education from Indiana University. I’ve been asked to sit in on education policy and non-profit boards and advisory panels. I’ve consulted for a slew of ed tech CEOs and product designers. I’ve presented at conferences and written blog posts, letters to editors, and countless lessons, professional development sessions, policy documents, and hopefully sooner than later, books on teaching and technology.

The entire time I’ve leaned on the rudiments of skills and thinking processes that came about with that repeated exercise.
It made me a writer, a leader, and eventually, a humanist, and an educator. Our satire was some pretty weak tea, but it’s what I cut my teeth upon and what motivates me to this day.

Steve Martin smartly recounted his story of his first performance on Carson, when following his set, Johnny waved Steve over to have a seat. “You’ll use everything you ever knew,” he leaned in and told Steve as the camera pulled out for a commercial break. It’s proven true for me as well.

Social Media Inventory 2015

Occasionally I like to do a social media inventory of sorts to see what holds up, what needs to be let go, and what I need to try to pay attention to in order to stay fresh and connected.

MAINSTAYS:

Facebook—warts and all—stays in rotation for me. Though, I imagine, my leftish tendencies have provoked some if not a lot of “unfollows” and a few unfriends as well. All the better. I return the favor, I’m certain, but worry sometimes I might not be offering my own perspective a chance to be challenged every time I do. I want to hear from others who see things differently than me, and not just along the theoretical bent of party lines from issue to issue; I want those perspectives APPLIED to scenarios happening in the world. I want my person and practice baptized in the fire of discourse. That’s a bit much, but still, if the Internet doesn’t mature past our flame-wars and inane comment-brawling to the place where we actually do engage in exchanges that are sharp, deliberate, and simultaneously respectful, then we might as well get back to the Amazon deal of the day or the latest Kardashian photo shoot.

Twitter continues to be a delight for the social scientist in me. It’s an intellectual-communicatory vacuum tube that lights me up and broadens my thinking. It also happens to have ENTIRELY displaced my need for ever buying a newspaper again (I miss you Sunday NYT but you did this to yourself). Every morning of the week starts with coffee, a single lamp, a comfortable chair, and scroll through the stories posted in my tweet stream. I want to know not only what happened but how individuals are responding to these stories online. Whether it’s helpful to the public conversation or not, I still think it’s fascinating that people are tweeting, retweeting, commenting, replying, etc.

I also find myself called to action by the daily #BFC530 “Breakfast Club” chat for teachers. These human beings are some of the best in the profession. They’re up. They’re positive, and they’re championing each other. What a wonderful thing to participate in from time to time before heading into school to face Period 1. It is making a profound difference in kids lives, one confident and positive teacher at a time.

HANGING BY A THREAD:

Beyond that, I obligatorily snap to Instagram but find it a total drag; mostly for user interface/user experience than anything. I’m enamored with the allure of SnapChat (not that it’s shed it’s *sexting* reputation). I love the idea of Pinterest, but it doesn’t feel “sticky” to me. I forget about it for months then BINGE for a couple hours. Tumblr’s connected to my WordPress blog which even I don’t find compelling to read though I post essays there from time to time, mostly because I have for over a decade now. Can you believe that? A decade of blogging. Yet I NEVER go to Tumblr. Not sure who does. I want to like Medium but, blerg.

In my practice, I get more out of my Twitter #PLN than most any professional development offered at the school or district level. Eric Sheninger’s school and the company he keeps in the New Jersey education community have turned a number of rock star teachers into Twitter sages and published authors. Their blogs extend the conversation beyond 140 characters.

ON THE RISE:

Soundcloud, YouTube,

Here’s the thing: both of these apps weren’t setting out to be social networking platforms. But they’re attracting audiences and exchanges around produced content. I’ll be interested to see if YouTube squashes or acquires SoundCloud, but I sort of hope they don’t. I love the SoundCloud concept of allowing embedded text comments in a track that’s uploaded. And I’m sort of fond of their celebrating the audio waveform in their design ethic. YouTube is 10 years old now and just keeps getting better. They’re finally accomplishing video production capabilities in the browser I dreamed about a long time ago. I expect to see things mushroom here and more of the other video sites to shutter in the next five years.

The way these two bring people together for seeing and hearing creative content across genres is a really compelling phenomenon. The production quality of amateur to low-budget material is stunning, and their mobile device companion apps guarantee you’ll never be bored waiting at the doctor’s office or BMV.

As an educator, both of these are becoming indispensable. Publishing quick, single-cut videos and/or screencasts is a boon for teachers trying to reach students who are struggling. Adding a RøDE smartLav+ to your smartphone of choice, and tethering it to your SoundCloud account guarantees any lectures get added to a playlist for further review or absent students. Teacher who get in the habit of REGULARLY creating and publishing content will find people hungry for their lessons worldwide. It’s happening every day.

OUT:

What’s out for me? Google+, Voxer, Flickr, LinkedIn, FourSquare,

These apps have suffered from developer starvation (a common Google Abandonment Syndrome), or are currently in the growing pains of users trying to figure out the etiquette for the platform. For example, I get entangled in Google+ communities, conversations, and hangouts. The lines are really blurry, and people just default back to emailing each other. This is a tragedy because email is in hospice as a communication channel. Or should be. It can’t be the junk drawer for all of our communication. Yet, Google is flailing about in providing alternatives that would reduce the strain on email, thus making it the de facto channel for one to one or one to few conversations.

Voxer is a brilliant idea that is going to get its aorta punctured before even jumping into the fray. Facebook Messenger and Apple’s Messages have copied their push-to-talk walkie-talkie-on demand mashup, bringing the feature to where the people already are. If I could, I’d do ALL my SMS conversations through FB Messenger because of it’s full feature set and ubiquity across my devices. I love the idea of Voxer groups that have focused conversations just like Twitter hashtag chats, but the format of real time audio makes it tedious while driving home after school. (and yes I know it can be sped up). What needs to happen is for the best practices to become a bit standardized. And not codified in some written commandments; just inside baseball. We need to limit groups to a few voices and instill a no jargon sort of ethos.

Flickr has been obsolesced by unlimited storage from Google and Amazon’s photo storage apps but also reduced in its sharing by the allure of Instagram. Foursquare gave a master’s class on how to do the exact same thing that Netflix did but not care at all what people thought. Perhaps they’ll rebound. In the meanwhile, I’ll tolerate Yelp for reviews of restaurants and trying to beat out friends for dominion over Egg Roll #1.

What about you? What works, what doesn’t? Why?

Alan Turing is the War Hero We Were Looking For.

This weekend I saw AMERICAN SNIPER (AS) and THE IMITATION GAME (TIG). Here are my conclusions:

• TIG is a superior film about a superior story. The filmmakers told the struggle of Alan Turing with greater fidelity than Eastwood did for Chris Kyle

• Whether or not someone is a war hero is entirely contextual. For Kyle, he sure as hell was for his brothers; the bigger question is should he have HAD to be a war hero? The Iraq war is decidedly not connected to the WTC towers and Pentagon attacks on 9/11, unlike how Eastwood framed it.

• Alan Turing was not only a brilliant mathematician and the father of the digital computer, he was an astonishingly heroic contributor to the defeat of Nazi Germany and her allies in WWII by cracking the Enigma code; his contributions weren’t known for a full fifty years following his triumph and only after the state criminalized and chemically castrated him for being homosexual. Turing lost his life, possibly to suicide, following this insult. In hindsight, this is universally agreed upon to be an atrocious way to have treated him.

• Chris Kyle’s story, just like Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s direction of the UNBROKEN adaptation, could’ve been better spent focusing upon the soldier’s rehabilitation and struggles upon returning from war. As a character study on the hell of war and it’s effect upon an individual soldier is a bit worn out. What isn’t, however, is the need to ACTUALLY support our troops and for us to see the struggle outside of combat as well as the supports (or lack thereof) for bringing back into the homeland those that serve and nearly gave their full measure.

To that end, TIG could’ve spent more time on Turing’s tragedy, and perhaps the grace I should extend the filmmakers of both TIG and AS (as well as Unbroken) is that there isn’t the necessary narrative components in that scenario when following the biopic formula for films that just so happen to cover war time subjects.

However, in hearing what Matthew Taibbi says in his searing review of AS (http://goo.gl/DrcqhN) that audiences were cheering during the scene when Kyle ultimately takes out his nemesis, the Al-Quaeda sniper, Mustafa. It’s the brazen cheering of a fabricated moment (not a confirmed kill) in a manufactured war (not a confirmed connection to the attacks here) that concern me. It makes me worried about future conflicts at the hands of a corrupt White House, and our capacity to keep shows of deployed force from happening in the first place at the expense of thousands of US soldiers and foreign civilians. Supporters of American Sniper (the person as informed by the film) make me think it could happen again in Iran, North Korea, or even Syria.

At least according to the TIG filmmakers, I think Turing himself summed it up and gives us all an explanation of the success of American Sniper:

“Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.”

And on that note, I have a feeling that when I get off my duff and see SELMA, I’ll have an even more decisive idea of what film SHOULD have received the rightful nod for Best Picture.

Black & White…or Gray.

This essay is an attempt to make sense of the conflicting perspectives I’ve encountered regarding the events surrounding law enforcement and people of color. The names have been changed where necessary to protect the perspectives of my current and former students who have entered into this conversation with me.


“Mr. Nentrup, did you see the Ferguson story last night?”

“Yes. It was horrible.”

“Man. That mob.”

This is when I knew this conversation with one of my students wasn’t going to be small talk. “That mob,” is when I knew it wasn’t going to be two people agreeing. Curtis is a good kid. A good, white, rural, Christian kid. And that’s what was now the lens through which I was seeing him. Yes, I was aware of my emerging mild prejudice towards a kid that was very similar to me at his age. Good, white, (semi)rural, Christian. So, of course, I feel a sense of mission to clearly establish our differences at this point. This seemed necessary because he didn’t see we had polar opposite reactions to the story. He innocently presumed we’d both be shaking our heads at those crazy black people in Ferguson. Or nodding in agreement that Darren Wilson was acting proportionally to Michael Brown’s assault by killing him in the street, and that the entire systemic meltdown that followed was the fault of no one but a dead, teenage, Michael Brown. Then this:

“Is that the name of the guy who punched the cop?” Curtis asks me.

In a heartbeat, I think of when I taught in the city and how every former student — every last one — would’ve used a different question to clarify a name they hadn’t caught yet, like:

“Wait…Is that the kid from Ferguson?”

“Is that the kid the cop shot?”

“Is that the kid they left in the street for four hours?”

“Is that the kid the cop killed?”

“IS THAT THE KID?”

The guy who punched the cop. Even though Michael Brown did resist arrest, did struggle with and punch Darren Wilson, I don’t think there’s anyone who should use that descriptor of Michael Brown. He wasn’t faultless. But he was a kid. A black male kid living in a construct where he was at the most severe risk for confrontation with police; the most at risk to incarceration or to being shot in public by a law enforcement officer. Michael Brown was the worst kind of statistic. And now for millions of Americans, Darren Wilson’s bruised or birthmarked face represents a corrupt power that can do whatever the hell it wants.

Curtis continues saying, “The way I see it, the cop was just doing his job.”

Now, I appreciate the courtesy of a disclaimer, but it is also a very damning prelude. “This is the way I see it” is precisely the entire issue here. The “I” becomes a “we” who don’t comprehend the difficulties and challenges with which young black males are fraught. The hard thing to own up to (for White America) is just how unfair a unspoken notion can be when you write it down:

“The way we see it, young black men are a threat to the way we want the world to be and a militarized police force becomes essential for keeping it in check if not contained.”

So when a big kid like Mike Brown furrows his brow and starts swinging, his fists are deadly weapons and his entire demeanor is reduced to being a “thug”. Being a monster. Or as Darren Wilson described Brown’s face, “it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

As many who are focused upon the bigger picture are discussing, such talk is dehumanizing. It’s an attempt to make the grand jury’s verdict more palatable. But it’s an insult to our intelligence, and a tell of a much bigger problem in our still as of yet unsolved race relations around the fringes of any urban cop’s beat. White cops with kevlar and guns vs. black kids tired of being approached by such officers. Please don’t hear me saying I want police officers taking unnecessary risks with their own lives in the line of duty. It’s no different than supporting our troops abroad but condemning the choices of those in Washington sending those troops into unnecessary battle. Many officers of the law deserve respect and the support of the community to not put undue burden on their keeping of the peace. But law enforcement academy graduates are entering a broken system where the gap between the peace and keeping it is just too broad. Fixing that institution will take at least a generation. That’s unfortunate.

It’s universally understood that the rioting and vandalism isn’t what inspires that sort of cultural shift between institutions or people groups. Likewise, there have been plenty of memes pointing out the hypocrisy of other riotous outbreaks involving pro sports victories, and something with a pumpkin fest not getting the sort of attention from the right wing media as the destruction in Ferguson. We get it. Both sides are amped up. This too, is unfortunate and something I don’t see changing soon.

Especially when other cases go through their preliminary hearings, grand juries, and trials and result in more situations where the institutions are favored over the individuals. Just today, it was Eric Garner, who’s officer wasn’t indicted, even though a bystander recorded the Garner who resisted arrest, and then subdued by a choke-hold, and died on the sidewalk. Though pleading for relief because Eric was an asthma sufferer, and couldn’t breathe, the officers kept the applying lethal pressure. Speaking of Eric’s another former student of mine posted on Facebook as I was editing this essay that he’d been pulled over tonight. He’s black. That’s all. I don’t know what to do about that.

But what’s more unfortunate to me and is something I CAN start to influence is default perspective for so many that an officer or soldier must be doing their job, like what Curtis shared with me this morning. Again, he’s a great student. He’ll likely never be in a confrontation with the law beyond a speeding ticket. And I have plenty of friends who are fantastic officers, able to discern the best way to handle a dangerous situation.

The problem is how this repeated incident is further reinforcing stereotypes that both parties are contributing to upholding in mutual and escalating distrust. It’s just that one of these stereotypes — the white police officer working in a black neighborhood — is an organized and institutionalized force. It escalates to the point the National Guard is deployed, like in Ferguson, with the only operational difference between the two forces being the color of their uniform. Color. How ironic is that? To be clear, that’s a police force and National Guard with their rifles and riot shields pointed inward, not outward.

So people have taken to the streets. They’ve shut down major roads with their protesting, interrupted ball games and Christmas tree lightings. Some get belligerent and take advantage of the situation, no doubt. But a growing number are saying enough is enough and following a path of civil disobedience to get their message across. Why, in 2014 should we make them work so hard to convince the rest of us that things aren’t the way they should be? It’s really confusing because it seems so obvious.

I can tell you this. My boys at the urban charter school were also tough to convince. It’s really hard for them to believe that today that their lives amount to much in the world. Yeah, A few have the innate optimism to keep on going in school and life no matter what, but many would see the grand jury’s verdicts for the officers that confronted Michael Brown and Eric Garner that black lives don’t matter. That Kajieme Powell, Tamir Rice, John Crawford were expendables in the line of duty. Or that such mistakes are the collateral for the world we’ve all created. So, couple that message with the looming forecast from a portion of White America that the cops are always right and just doing their job and where do they turn for help?

So, yes. I’m saying the grand jury decisions to not indict officers who’ve done wrong is making the world a more difficult place in a number of ways. But what I feel is how a teacher’s job gets even harder for those who work with black boys. These incidents kill hopes. They instigate rebellion against the system. Because the suburban public responds by watching the fires and angry protests and aren’t actually listening to the message, the pessimism spreads on both sides. I’m telling you. One side can’t afford to give up any more ground than it already has.

I’m worried for the parents and teachers of today’s black teens. If we can’t get this chasm to start closing up, if we can’t fulfill the agreement we made so many years ago to be a better society committed to civil rights for all, then what are we doing?  Too many of my former students won’t think they have a chance when they get older, they’ll think they have a death sentence.

Oye Como Va

Reading @RabeckaKrill’s recent post for @SchoolKeep, I got to thinking about the need for  all involved in today’s education system to be able to speak with fluency, both online and face-to-face modalities of teaching and learning.

For today’s online instructors and program managers, what’s most important now, but will eventually dissipate, is the challenge of straddling two paradigms: face-to-face and virtual. Synchronous and asynchronous.

Both are still functional and each has their strong suits. We’re in the “Spanglish” era of education, which is a fitting metaphor, really. At 38, I can remember hearing my parents counseled that if I were to focus on learning a foreign language during high school and college, I’d be more competitive in the job search than a candidate who only knew English. And yet, I have only rarely used my Spanish while on the job. It’s never gotten me a gig. Others can tell a much different story, however.

Similarly, both teachers and students accommodating the shift from wholly face-to-face instruction to having some if not a lot of experience in online learning might find the experiences valuable upon occasion. For others, it’s the difference between being able to squeeze in the time to earn an entire degree or accommodating a learning style that’s better suited in one environment or the other.

If you listen to a child of a household with both Spanish and English being spoken, they can switch from one to the other without any cognitive dissonance or fatigue. The same is becoming true for today’s learners switching from classes that meet IRL and those that meet only online. We can teach and learn in either. We need both. At least for now!

On A Positive Note.

Considering the devolution of Facebook commentary into polarizing topics that never yield meaningful debate, I’m curious about what we can do to use that space for interaction as an incubator of good things. Is it possible we can stay connected with each other in the present and NOT talk about such topics, yet do so without shying away from the issues that need to be discussed? How do you grapple with the tough issues without sliding down the slope toward offense?

Certainly we’re capable of it. Certainly we can be courteous and still discuss things like religion and politics’s impact on our society without it being an empty showing of rhetoric.

I’m not sure how to do it though.

What I am sure about is the changes I’ve made in my ideologies over the past decade. I feel as though they have been significant—on par with razing the structure to the ground and starting over on an entirely different foundation. This impacts my sense of identity along with my priorities for shaping my decisions. I’m in by no way interested in evangelizing others to see things my way; just offering my perspective to further conversation as we do this entire thing together.

If there’s anything I’d like to convey specifically, it’s that as forever growing and learning creatures, I believe we can allow evidence to change us fundamentally and when that occurs, to share those experiences in a way that provokes a conversation for testing those conclusions, comparing to other conclusions, and ultimately enjoying the process of evolving our perspectives over our relatively short lives.

I’m certain this is threatening to some, and that there’s something to be said for staying the course on certain issues, in spite of the changing tide of public opinion. However, there are at least as many coin flips that indicate the need to continue to look for a better way than the current or traditional one, if we’re ever going to make the progress necessary.

And so I’m eager to put that forward as a bit of a credo for governing my own sharing with others, particularly in the vacuum of posting things online. Thoughts?

Airguns Don’t Kill, Confused People Do.

refurbished-crosman-m4-tactical-pump-177-cal-air-rifle-shoots-bb-s-or-pellets-3

I know these posts from me aren’t appealing, but I mentioned some weeks back that nearby at the Southport, IN Meijer, Kim and I found a Crosman air rifle VERY similar to the MK-177 model, “open box” at knee high height. If you recall, I brought up to nearby sales clerk that this wasn’t safe for kids (not that I imagine many are carrying .177 pellets or BBs in their pockets these days) or anyone in the vicinity. The clerk would NOT engage me no matter how gently I raised the concern. Not sure if he thought I was just an anti-gun zealot or what. Wouldn’t respond to me saying a tool that tosses a projectile of lead at 600+ feet per second could be a bit silly without being packaged.

I mean, I had a Daisy pellet gun that was much less convincing facsimile of my favorite rifle as a kid, the Ruger Mini 14. Please get that I “get this” fascination with a pellet gun looking real. The thing is, the 2014 Crosman models are MUCH closer in profile and size to their .223 and .308 centerfire assault rifles.

A story breaks Thursday about a young man in a Walmart less than 2 hours from that Meijer near my home, who had an ever so slightly different version of the exact same air rifle in the aisle.

Not two damn hours away, this guy is shot and killed by the police who saw this guy as a threat to public safety. Was he? Not sure. I wasn’t there. He could’ve been acting a fool and completely unaware at 22 years old that his skin color could just MAYBE clouding judgment and thus inadvertently justifying lethal force. But 4 weeks back, and 2 hours away in Indianapolis, nobody thought THIS white guy, ME, picking up a Crosman M4-177 in the Meijer was about to wreak havoc.

We have a hell of a problem with gun culture in this country.

Just. Tell. Me. I’m. Wrong.

Otherwise, put down YOUR guns and demand these vendors QUIT mimicking the military tools that keep our country and its interests safe in order to sell plastic plinkers to boys.

Here’s Crosman on Twitter: @crosmancorp

Tell ‘em I sent you.

Sample Tweets:

  • BB guns are a rite of passage, but they don’t have to cause these sorts of problems.
  • Profiting off of warmongering isn’t very becoming of @crosmancorp
  • Military tools keep the nation safe. BB guns teach boys responsibility. Don’t blur lines.
  • Please quit making airguns that glorify war.
  • Crosman should have a better reputation than @Halliburton
  • We have a gun culture problem and we need @crosmancorp to solve it, not make it worse.

 

This Uncharted Desert Isle.

Islands often conjure images of blissful vacation. The sand. The water. The coconuts. An envious isolation from the toils of the mainland. However, islands just as often lack any semblance to a quintessential tropical paradise. Instead, they are the rocky prisons of the wayward and shipwrecked.

Over the past two years, the Indiana Department of Education has taken great strides to break free from the collective momentum found elsewhere in the United States. We are a state adrift in some sort of reverse Pangea, where with increasing isolation, the infrastructure of our education system is gravely suspect. Our current governor has, across his platform, touted the strength of the state over the nation—an odd move for a politician with such obvious aspirations beyond the gubernatorial. Though elected the same November evening as the Superintendent for Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, they have been nothing but adversarial. Their efforts have not been collaborative, but divisive and separatist. During State Board of Education meetings, Pence appointees have broken form of the typically benign gatherings and been so accusatory to Ritz that the arguments made headlines. Both sides have moved to now have lawyers present for conferring during the SBOE meetings. Some of these moves haven’t been efforts in keeping form with Pence’s emphasis on statehood prominence, but some moves have, such as exiting the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. This was a very heavy domino and its falling has created some concerns that are every bit as political, but more so, have some very real dollars attached to them.

The latest terrible island to emerge in this chain has to do with the state’s compliance with federal law. Indiana is a week away from losing $200M federal dollars for failing to meet a deadline in maintaining a waiver from complying with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act of 2001. How this severely flawed legislation hasn’t been repealed is beyond the scope of this post. NCLB still holds court, and if Indiana doesn’t correct the nine of 18 measures cited by the federal DOE as unacceptable, it will cost the state direly. This is on top of the millions we’ve wasted in implementing the Common Core (admittedly, not well spent) only to repeal it, the looming unknown cost of extending our $95M contract with CTB-McGraw Hill for updating standardized testing to reflect the new but shoddy and CCSS-plagiarized Indiana Academic Standards, let alone the cost of inserting yet another standardized test during the 9th grade year of an Indiana student’s career.

Prior to this, the governor joined in the education-island-development business and developed an alternative SBOE, the "Center for Education and Career Innovation" or "CECI". CECI along with the island known as the Education Roundtable have seemingly created such a distraction for Ritz that her administration can’t afford transparency to even friendly SBOE board members. Among them, Dr. Brad Oliver of Indiana Wesleyan University has responsibly requested for details about how Ritz intends to meet compliance. She said no in a meeting just a week-and-a-half out from the deadline, desiring that Oliver simply trust her competence. Stay off her island.

Why are we so willing to risk the $200M affordances of the waiver by going it alone in so many areas of our education system? There’s an emerging trend in our breaking free and going it alone: that it only limits our options. It’s like a reverse pyramid scheme where we see how many stakeholders we can obviate. Teachers, parents, the various boards and committees. I suppose it all started by voting Tony Bennett off the island in November, 2012. Then, Ritz tipped her hand a week later at the 2012 CELL Conference that Indiana’s PARCC commitment was on the chopping block. With that, came our eventual exit from the Common Core State Standards—likely the most over-politicized education policy issue in state history. The departure was purely political. It was a Guinness World Record-size red herring.

Ritz’s detractors can just as easily criticize her for moving too slowly and for fragmenting the system as her predecessors’ blamed Bennett for moving too quickly and congealing too much momentum. And it’s entirely ironic that these political personalities are the polar opposites of the parties each represents—at least on other issues.

Since both sides can argue in favor of doing what’s right by students, I’ll posit another approach. Who is going to suffer such from this recklessness? Teachers. 62,000+ teachers in Indiana are going to lose critical time waiting for the resources necessary to plan standards-aligned lessons. These teachers are going to lose precious days with doing things they know to work with their students because they’re in a "pilot phase" yet again preparing for new standardized tests. And these teachers are getting their morale stomped on by the bickering, the politicking, and the usurping of their professional capacity as pedagogical experts by people unable to fulfill the demands of their office. Lastly, 62,000 teachers are going to have to dig even deeper into their pockets to buy materials for their now overcrowded classrooms that can’t be covered by their administrators (who also just let go some teachers their slice of the $200M would have afforded).

As a result, teachers will enter into the first day of school less prepared for their new students. Teachers will teach to the test yet again. And competent teachers will leave the profession to go make a living in another field because their vocation was stolen from them by bureaucratic incompetence.

For those who do, I hope they take time to squeeze in a vacation somewhere tropical. Maybe at an all-inclusive resort with beachside service. They’d certainly deserve it after getting tossed by the waves of the brewing tempest at the Indiana Department of Education. By all appearances, the Ritz administration looks like it’s headed for the rocks, but don’t be misdirected. It’s teachers who are being marooned on a desert island.