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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Election Day--Yay?

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Election Day--Yay?

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Today was Election Day. That meant a day off of school (yay!) but meant ... it is the midterm election, and a rather dismal one at that. This was the most torn I've felt over voting for a major office (governor) in my voting life. In the primary, I voted for the uber-progressive Heather Mizeur. Yeah. She didn't win. Instead, we got the dull-as-dishwater lieutenant* governor Anthony Brown as the candidate for the Dems. He has a beautiful book-length plan on his website about all the wonderful things he is going to do as governor. The pity is that, after eight years of him as lieutenant governor, he has no record to back up his promises. He failed miserably in the Obamacare rollout for our state, and his administration has done no favors for the middle class in the economic recovery.

* "Lieutenant" is one of those words I can never spell. I can spell "lieu." I can spell "tenant." Why can't I remember just to glue together these two familiar, easy words into "lieutenant"??

I was so underwhelmed with Brown that--clutch your pearls, folks!--I gave a hard, honest look at the Republican candidate, Larry Hogan. (Whom I always want to call Hulk Hogan.) I had been told that he was very moderate and did not plan to pursue an agenda with social issues. (Because I refuse on principle to vote for anyone who is unwilling to grant me bodily autonomy or who works to actively undermine my family.) I researched him with an open heart, ready to be persuaded and cross the aisle. Alas, you can relax your grip on your pearls because I was not so persuaded. I found his message to be the usual Republican claptrap about deregulation and tax cuts sans specifics on how either would be accomplished, with much complaining about the current administration and all they've done wrong but very little in the way of constructive commentary on what he'd do differently (aside from the usual taxes! job creators! regulation! blah blah blah).

So I was in a deep state of angst over who to vote for governor. It was actually distressing me. I take voting seriously! And I didn't want to give my support to either candidate. I ended up doing a write-in, which I've never done before, for Heather Mizeur. Part of me was discontent with that too because I felt like I was throwing my vote away. But another part of me said it was my way of stating that I was dissatisfied with the non-progressive, corporatist candidates the Democratic party has been floating in Maryland. We are one of the bluest states in the country; we should be able to have a decent progressive candidate from our party and not this constant march of tools for big moneyed interests.

I feel far more excitement for the local elections. There was one candidate for the House of Delegates who I liked so much that I wish I'd had the time to volunteer for her campaign. If she runs again in two years, I will. She wrote a brilliant take-down of the conservative anti-Common Core message that has been bleated around Carroll County by idiots who, by virtue of deciding to run for public office, should know better. Of course she probably won't win because she is running as a Democrat (although identifying as a "conservative Democrat," despite having the most cutting commentary against the other side's platforms of any candidate I encountered in my research) and Carroll County hasn't sent a Democrat to the Statehouse for something like 20 years. We are one of the reddest counties in Maryland. (Only Garrett County--our westernmost county out in Appalachia--showed less support for Obama in the last election. They're also Steelers fans in Garrett County, so we should probably just annex them to West Virginia and have done with it.)

Common Core is the federal, Obama-supported program of nationwide educational standards. It is up to individual states whether they adopt Common Core; Maryland, of course, did. Notice I said standards, not curriculum. Standards, in eduspeak, are broad goals of what a student should be able to do. Curriculum describes how those standards will be taught or achieved. For some standards, there would be almost infinite ways to craft curriculum to reach them, and that is part of the point: Different districts have different needs and curriculum should respond to that. In Maryland, each county makes its own curriculum.

The conservative line has been that Common Core amounts to a federal takeover of the rights of local districts to make curriculum decisions. Only standards have nothing to do with curriculum aside from providing a very broad goal to reach. Here are some examples of the Common Core standards for English grades 9-10 (ages 14-15):

Reading Literature 1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Reading Informational Text 6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance the point of view or purpose.

Language 2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Ohmygod the federal infusion of liberal ideology into the curriculum through these standards is appalling!!1! Expecting kids to spell correctly is only a small step away from convincing them to institute Sharia law!!11! *eyeroll*

Bearing witness to this blatant ignorance or blatant lies (which is worse??) during this election has been infuriating. It is hard to believe candidates can be so outright wrong about a major program and manage to convince so many people and go virtually unchallenged over it. Mind, the Common Core standards are available to anyone with the skill and will to use Google.

Now what does suck about Common Core is the attendant PARCC assessments. (Note what it spells backward ...) These are shaping up to be a huge waste of money, resources, and instructional time for little in the way of foreseeable benefit. But very little has been said about those (probably because Pearson, the company that makes them, wrote a nice check to the right people).

I have lots of catching up to do. My current class (Society, Class, and Wealth) looks to be lighter on the reading and research than the cosmology class I just finished, and the calligraphy commission is currently chugging north in the capable (eep) hands of the U.S. Postal Service, so maybe I'll get to write those updates? Otherwise, this stretch of life, in retrospect, will join the others in looking blank in my journal while in fact it was anything but.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • You get the day off?????

    I voted for an Independent because the Democratic candidate always does Republican crap. He should not be a Democrat.
    • All the Democratic politicians in this state try to pretend they are actually Republicans. I voted for the one running for governor just the same as I can't stand the incumbent.
    • Schools are used as polling places in Maryland, so yep, schools are always closed on Election Day here! :)
  • Election Day is rather fraught in my household. Namely, my parents are Republican. I am not. (Neither does my political philosophy align with either major party.) So I try to do the best research I can-- which given that it took me a week to find the freaking sample ballot for my district, sometimes isn't always all that much. But I look at the "wasted" vote of a third-party or write-in candidate as a protest against what's offered. Don't know if it's true or not, but it makes me feel better.

    The conservative line has been that Common Core amounts to a federal takeover of the rights of local districts to make curriculum decisions.

    That sounds very, very familiar. The irony: the Language 2 standard you listed is something Dad complains about students not knowing on a regular basis. Thank you for more information! (If you have a link to the take-down, I'd love to read it.)
    • I am a registered Democrat only to vote in the primaries; I'm actually way left of where the Democrats are, and so straight party ticket never works for me either. Bring on the research. :)

      On Common Core ... the ironic thing to me is that conservatives tend to be the ones who bitch the most about how school curriculums have been "dumbed down" (always with the implication that this has happened so that minorities can graduate ... and also not true, of course) and complain about kids not knowing "basic facts" that often receive less attention because technology makes them less pressing to know. Then they turn around and bitch about Common Core, one of the main goals of which is raising rigor.

      The sad thing is that I don't think Common Core is perfect, but I feel like most of my energy related to it is explaining it and correcting misconceptions about it rather than addressing where it could be improved.

      I looked for Dorothy Scanlan's takedown of Common Core opponents, but it appears that the Carroll Media Center has removed everything except about the winning candidates. And, of course, she didn't win.
      • I'm registered Republican for the same reason. (My thinking is that I can try to keep the really, really conservative people out of office. But also *points to living at home* Mom kept telling me to vote against Grimes.) But I'm a libertarian of some sort.

        With my parents, it's not the minority angle (I've never heard that from them), but the "can't make kids feel bad about themselves for failing so let's make everything easier" angle. I just don't know that much about Common Core, so I can't even refute anything. Not that they're willing to listen even if I did it.

        Ah, well. Thanks for looking!
        • the "can't make kids feel bad about themselves for failing so let's make everything easier" angle

          Wow, that's a new one to me! I'm wondering the rationale behind that? Data points to the fact that, likely due to increasing exposure to information, IQs are constantly going up (the Flynn effect), so there should be no reason that kids can't keep up with a more rigorous curriculum. The argument could also be made that standards of college and career readiness will not lower because public school standards are lower. That is one of the major reasons behind Common Core: that colleges and employers were finding that high school graduates did not have the skills needed to go immediately into college or the workforce after graduation.

          Now I can see the argument--and in fact have made it myself--that holding students to the Common Core standards who have not been taught by those standards for all or most of the school careers is not fair. For example, my ninth graders are the first class to be required to pass the PARCC assessment for graduation, the test aligned with Common Core. Yet this is the first year that we are required to use the Common Core standards in our school. These kids have spent the past nine years of their lives learning based on the lower standards, yet they will be obligated to catch up and pass the PARCC in order to graduate. That is not fair, imo, not because they are going to feel bad when they fail but because failing high school is too high a stake to place on 14-year-olds because they happen to be in an unlucky cohort. However, teaching them based on the more rigorous standards is not something I have a problem with.

          The basics of Common Core: They are standards, not curriculum, and districts continue to set their own curriculum based on the laws in each state. They raise rigor with the purpose of preparing students better for college and/or the workforce and, ultimately, to make the U.S. more competitive economically. There is a strong literacy focus, especially in teaching kids to read texts other than literary texts; literacy should now be taught in all content areas. There is a strong STEM focus aimed at preparing kids to enter STEM careers and compete with kids from other countries who have received a more rigorous STEM training.

          It has been rolled out quickly, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it is and how it is being applied, and kids are falling in the cracks by being held to more rigorous standards that they were never taught. And there is always the problem of the standardized tests that go with it, imo of course. :)
          • I think a bit of it is experience. Quite a while back, Dad was teaching sixth grade, and one of the administrators dinged him in an observation for using a word that was too hard for the kids-- a word that was in the textbook. It probably also has to do with the "trophies for everyone" and such philosophy. I mostly tune out their rants and political discussions, so I really can't be anymore specific. Sorry! (Which means, in theory, they'd be happy with Common Core. In practise, not so much.)

            Now I can see the argument--and in fact have made it myself--that holding students to the Common Core standards who have not been taught by those standards for all or most of the school careers is not fair.

            That is not fair at all. How are they supposed to pass something they haven't learned?

            But I honestly don't know how much Dad knows about the Common Core; if he knows they're standards rather than a curriculum or anything else. He's not in a subject covered by it. The minute Mom and he heard that the Bill Gates Foundation supplied some of the funding, they immediately went "liberal/Obama agenda." So there's really no talking to them.
  • I found voting very depressing. I know darn well none of my votes will count for anything. But at least I won't feel guilty when I gripe.

    This state is SO red, even the Democrats try to pretend they are Republican. There was one Independent running for the House I would like to have voted for--but he's not in my district.

    I satisfied myself by not voting for a single Republican and by voting "no" for the sitting male State Supreme Court judges and "yes" for the two females.

    And we had three propositions I voted for that helps military and their families. I am sure those will pass.

    I told my husband we could watch anything he wanted tonight except the news. I can wait until morning for the bad news.

    ETA: By the way, Common Core was a big deal here as well. All the candidates were bragging that they were against it and their opponents were for it (whether it was true or not). You'd think they were opposing a law saying we had to teach children how to make bombs or something.

    Edited at 2014-11-05 04:17 am (UTC)
    • We have pretend Democrats in Carroll County too. Actually, most of the time, the Democratic candidates don't even campaign. I found exactly zero about one of the Democratic candidates for House of Delegates for my district. I ended up voting for him anyway only because I couldn't stomach giving a vote to either of the two Republicans who were my other choices, both of whom are vocal against same-sex marriage. I refuse to vote against my family's interests, even symbolically.

      Dorothy Scanlan, the Democratic candidate I really liked for HoD, identified as a "conservative Democrat." Reading her platform, it seemed that the "conservative" part was mostly because she countered the myths Repubs have about Dems, i.e., she opposed waste but not spending. She was a Democrat and a sharp-tongued one at that. I liked her. She didn't win, of course.

      The opposition to Common Core is so ridiculous to me because it is based on completely false information; I think conservatives have this vision of Obama sitting in the White House and striking Tom Sawyer from the imagined national curriculum and replacing it with a book about atheist gay black people practicing witchcraft. But once again, like with Obamacare, I have to put some fault for that on the Dems, who rolled Common Core out so quickly that they didn't really have a chance to explain what it was. That gap in knowledge has been ripe territory for myths and misconceptions to grow.
  • I voted, but as another "this is a futile gesture". My state just voted in two people who I would love to drop dead. I'd throw a party.
    • Whenever I read about the shenanigans in your state (which is unfortunately a lot), I weep a little for you.
  • I actually didn't vote, due to the continued problems of trying to figure out where/how I'm supposed to.

    Not that it would have mattered, really, other than being another futile gesture - I'm far, far left in a county and state that does not go left (and the county still has regular meetings of the KKK at the fair grounds, along with rants about how everything would just be better if we got all the *insert racial slurs* out. It's rather uncomfortable and I occasionally am the topic of gossip.)
    • I would love to be the topic of gossip by people like that. Would probably do things to provoke it, honestly.
      • Sometimes I love it (and am quite gleeful) and at other times I'm legitimately scared of the people, so I try not to bring up what they're gossiping about. *shrug* Then again, I'm a topic of gossip wherever I am (either that, or an object of stalking/harassment/whatever. At least my best friend intends to raise hell with the university administration for the fact that they'll take sexual harassment seriously, but not nonsexual harassment/stalking.)
  • Opinion drom the Far South (of the continenet, that is): a vote is never wasted. Even if you know your choice will lose, you're still making a point. For our last presidential elections (2011), I voted a candidate who got less than half a million votes countrywide after she had been the runner up in 2007. I didn't care, actually I felt good. It should be interesting to find out why worldwide there's been such a polarization in the political parties while most people just want a moderate candidate who can help them live a little better.
    • I don't regret my vote for Mizeur in retrospect. She requested her supporters not write her in so that the Statehouse would remain in Democratic control. But I find the specter of a Republican in the Statehouse (which still has two houses of the General Assembly that are strongly Democratic) far less frightening than the notion that we'll keep getting these lukewarm pseudo-Democrats as candidates rather than anyone truly progressive. That was the point I found I wanted to make more than anything. :)

      And Anthony Brown (the Democratic candidate) lost by a large margin in a heavily Democratic state after polling ahead of the Republican challenger. So I hope that that will make the Maryland Democratic party think twice before putting forward human dishwater like him again! :D
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