Saturday, October 3, 2015

Oregon School Shooting – The President and the Media Get It Wrong Again

First appeared on Blogcritics.

ore2-nydaily The most recent shooting causing mass casualties (nine innocent people dead and others wounded) at Umpqua Community College in Oregon is another example of the media getting it wrong. By publicizing the name, image, and life story of the shooter, it continues to be complicit in these horrific crimes that plague our nation.

There are people who understand – they realize that these killers are crazed lunatics seeking gratification and fame through violence. Witness Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, who, when speaking to reporters about the incident said, “I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought.” How refreshing to see this man take a stand and not fall into the trap that this calculating fiend prepared before embarking on his murderous rampage.

If you need convincing, please consider the words of the gunman himself, posted online to let the whole world know how he felt about another gunman, the one who took the lives of two reporters in Virginia:
I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight. And I have to say, anyone who knew him could have seen this coming. People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them.
These chilling words present a salient argument for the media to stop this kind of coverage. Every person responsible for broadcasting or reporting news should be compelled to read this message over and over again until it sinks in. The killer couldn’t make it any clearer if he put these words on a billboard and posted them in Times Square.

ore1-pressheraldUnfortunately, besides the seemingly witless media, President Barack Obama played right into the hands of the killer. By speaking out about the shootings almost immediately afterwards, Mr. Obama justified every word of the killer’s blog post – he had the President of the United States talking about him and his despicable deed. It is frightening to think about how many other wackos were out there watching this and thinking, “Hey, he’s got the POTUS talking about what he did!” How much more dubious glory could an unhinged mind hope to achieve?

Mr. Obama’s visible anger about these mass killings aside, the fact that he used the moment to promote gun control seems in poor taste and offensive. If I were one of those victim’s family members, the last thing I would want to hear is someone with a political agenda going on with no comforting words. Someone should tell Mr. Obama that thoughts and prayers are exactly what grieving people need to hear at such a painful time.

ore4-10tv.comThe stories after an incident such as this should focus on the victims and their families. It is absolutely essential that victims’ friends and loved ones speak about those lost, express their anger, and talk about the lives these people lived. The holding of candlelight vigils and any other associated activity that highlights these tragic losses are necessary and compelling events to broadcast and report.

The problem with publicizing what a killer has done comes down to a responsibility and sacred trust that both the media and the president have forgotten. By highlighting the exploits of this mass murderer you only beget more of them – just read the Oregon shooter’s words again to make it clear. Some people will say it is about guns and others will say it is about mental health, and those issues should be dealt with by experts in both those areas; however, it is abundantly clear that most psychopathic killers seek one thing more than anything else – they want notoriety, a legacy – and the media is handing that to them again and again on a silver platter.

ore3-libertarianrepublicBesides highlighting the lives of the victims, why not focus on a great story of heroism to come out of such a horrific occurrence? Chris Mintz, an Army veteran and student, who got shot seven times while attempting to stop the killer (probably saving many other lives), should have his picture on the front page of the newspapers, not the killer. Mintz’s heroism should be celebrated as much as possible, because this is the kind of person whom we can look up to as a role model for kids who have understandable fears after such an event. The lunatics can also see his story and worry a little bit that their plans may be thwarted if more people get the idea to fight back like Mintz. Fortunately, Mintz is recovering in a local hospital and lives to tell his story – hopefully again and again.

At this point there seems to be no hope that the media will ever get it right. The vast coverage of the killer’s story on broadcast TV, in print, and online is completely discouraging. Everyone who works in these arenas should be ashamed that they are complicit in forging the next assault. By making each killer famous after an incident like the one in Oregon, they are making certain that these mass shootings will happen again and again.

People need to speak out about this despicable celebration of killers in order to facilitate change. Complain to editors, to station managers, and to the reporters themselves who keep regurgitating the same kind of coverage each time that a tragedy like this happens. Let them hear your outrage and let them know that this has to stop. If it does not, there will always be another killer ready to emerge and get his moment in the spotlight that the media is only all too willing to provide.

  Photo credits: nydailynews, pressherald,,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis in the U.S.A. – His Mission Was Pastoral and Not Political

First appeared on Blogcritics.

pope2-reuters In a famous scene from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus settles a question about paying taxes to Rome by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In doing so Jesus makes clear the intent of his mission and reveals how well he understood the political landscape of his time. This doesn’t mean Jesus was political but does indicate that he was savvy in regards to dealing with harsh realities.

During Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, many have argued that his mission is a political one. His message regarding many topics seems political to many who listen but do not hear. Those on either side of the aisle know where they stand on things the pope has addressed – poverty, immigration, war, and the environment for instance, but the pope elucidates his stance with clarity and then most people miss the point of it all.

pope3-abcnewsJesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey may have been seen as one of the most stunningly shrewd political choices ever made, but people lose sight that Jesus only had the pastoral in mind. Pope Francis has moved in the shadow of Christ as he went about business in the U.S.A.
By making certain that he got to meet the poor, addressing victims of sexual abuse by priests, and literally touching the masses who came to see him (and even posing for selfies with some of them), Francis has shown that he understands as Jesus did what matters most – the people whom he serves.

Whether Francis is talking about the environment (which he claims has “rights” just as people do) or immigration, his goal is ostensibly pastoral – meaning that he is concerned for the spiritual and physical health of his flock and all the rest of the human race who may not consider themselves believers. In doing so he makes the most important steps the leader of the Catholic Church can make – Christ-like ones.

There is a terrific web site devoted to the pope’s visit that allows the faithful or the just plain interested to follow and track events the pope has attended. Anyone will be impressed by the ground the pontiff has covered, especially considering that he is 78 years old and suffering from various ailments.

As the pope bids adieu to America in Philadelphia, he leaves us with much to think about and the memory of his kindness, decency, and powerful presence. In places such as the Capitol in Washington D.C., where he spoke to a joint session of Congress, and the United Nations in New York, where he addressed the General Assembly, the pope was unrelenting in his call for the sanctity of human life and the need for changes in behavior in order to fulfill a mandate of loving one another to make the world a better place.

pope4-washpostPerhaps his most important message was when he echoed the words of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These words are saliently appropriate for the Congress, the UN, the President of the United States, and every person living on earth. If people operated in this way on a daily basis, much of the suffering and most of the problems in the world would be negligible – and this includes treating the earth itself with the respect it deserves.

Pope Francis is so enlightening because he does not take the standard route, does not proclaim his faith as unyielding so that it makes or breaks people; furthermore, this thoroughly modern pope is open to change more than any of his predecessors. In reality this is just bringing the faith back to the Gospel message and to the essence of Jesus, who warned us not to judge others lest we be judged. 

Looking at the entirety of Francis’s time in America, he made many friends, earned many new fans, and brightened people’s lives with his smile and earnest message of good news. Pope Francis is not your grandfather or father’s pope – he is your grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s pope! He proclaims the future of the church (and in essence the world) is based on family – a notion that needs to be seriously embraced by all since the human race is basically one big family.

Francis is a man who understands the world as well as Jesus understood his time, but his vision is for the future and how well we can live our lives both spiritually and physically. Much of what he said while here will not be forgotten by those with open hearts and minds, while others will sadly go back to business as usual after he is gone – especially the politicians who time and time again appear to listen but not truly hear what someone has said.

The pope’s mission, despite all its seemingly political trappings, was a stunning success and meant to drive home a pastoral message of love and hope. As he leaves it is now up to Americans to heed his call for change and more compassion, and we must be up to that challenge if we ever expect the world to be a better place.

  Photo credits: 

Washington post, facebook, reuters,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yogi Berra Dies – A Tribute From a NY Mets Fan

  yogi2 -nytimes

Everyone has his or her favorite “Yogi-ism” culled from Yogi Berra's observations and comments over the years about baseball, life in general, and even finance (“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore”). My favorite is the one that I have quoted above because it encapsulates what not only the NY Mets meant to Yogi but more importantly what Yogi meant to the team – his glowing optimism lighted a fire under those players who improbably stormed back and almost took it all.

yogi3-nypostTo think of that quotation in context, when it looked like all was lost in 1973 (the Mets being way out of the pennant race at the end of August), reporters were asking Yogi if the season was over. As a young Mets fan, I loved that his response was pure Yogi-ism and as true as it could be – “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” On that team iconic relief pitcher Tug McGraw coined another catch phrase – “You gotta believe!” And Mets fans have been using both ever since.
When I heard that Lawrence Peter Berra had died, I felt deep sadness and there were tears welling in my eyes. My grandfather and father loved him (they were old Yankees fans who turned Mets fans later in life when Yogi came to the Mets), and I loved him because I am a lifelong Mets fan and recalled the magic year of 1973 when Yogi captured my imagination as the team’s leader who obviously loved his players. That taught me something about leadership and teamwork that I never forgot.

yogi4-MLB.tvNow my father loved Yogi for all the good will and humor that he brought to baseball as well as the gritty and amazing way he played the game. Dad was a NYC cop and working at Yankee Stadium the day Don Larsen pitched a perfect game and Yogi jumped into Larsen’s arms after the last out. This image from game 6 of the 1956 World Series is burned into the collective national memory – like the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima or the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square at the end of World War II. Even though this moment happened before I was born, the image was the first thing I thought about when I heard Yogi had passed away and remembered my father’s story about that sacred game in 1956.
A Hall of Fame catcher, Yogi’s career statistics place him on the top rung of the ladder among the best of the best of whoever squatted behind a MLB home plate. While I never saw him play, my father said he was the best defense catcher ever (basing this on others like Thurman Munson, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, and Carlton Fisk whom he saw play). He also was a great hitter, probably right up there with former Met Mike Piazza, who stands out as the best hitting catcher ever. 
While the Yankees and their fans are mourning Yogi’s loss, the Mets and their fans are as well and we can claim him as ours too. He played for the Mets in 1965 (only 4 games and then retired as a Met not as a Yankee) and then went on to be part of the coaching staff under Casey Stengel and other Mets managers until 1972 (which means he has the 1969 World Series ring from serving as first base coach that year). When Gil Hodges passed away in 1972, Yogi became the Mets manager. He guided them to the National League pennant in 1973 and almost stole the World Series from the Oakland A’s. Not too shabby at all. 
So while the world remembers Yogi Berra and his Yankees pedigree, I like to think of him during his time with the Mets. Never a harsh word about Yogi was ever spoken by anyone during his time in Flushing, and of all the many years that I have followed the team, 1973 stands out as one of the most improbable and exciting ones of all. Yogi didn’t just have something to do that – he had everything to do with it!
yogi1-nydaily newsSo let the Yankees fans have their memories and their images of Yogi in pinstripes. That is okay with me, but I see him in my mind forever in Mets orange and blue, leading the team after the terrible loss of Hodges and bringing them almost to a championship. That’s the Yogi I want to remember, and in baseball it’s never over even after it is. Yogi is eternal now as the baseball seasons will go on and on, but his smile and his turn of a phrase will always be with us as we recall the great player, coach, and manager. Rest in peace, Lawrence Peter Berra! 

  Photo credits: ny times, nydaily news, nypost, AP

First appeared on Blogcritics.

“It ain’t over ‘til it's over!" -Yogi Berra (as Manager of the New York Mets)

Friday, September 11, 2015

14th Anniversary of 9-11: We Will Never Forget – Though Some Don’t Care To Remember

Firsy appeared on Blogcritics.

9111 Every time the calendar has turned to September in the years since September 11, 2001, it has been impossible to avoid something turning inside me like my intestines being twisted in a knot. There is also a feeling of wanting to keep August forever, not like a kid hoping never to go back to school, but more as an adult who knows the heft of 9-11 is never ending.

Today my sister goes back to Ground Zero to mark the 14th anniversary of 9-11 along with thousands of other family members and friends who lost someone on 9-11. Over the years she has been brave beyond imagination even though 9-11 shattered her but did not break her. Steve left that morning to go to the firehouse and never came back again, and hers is the story that can be retold countless times by all those who went through the same thing.

9112The odd thing for those of us who lived through that day is the clarity of it in memory – I can recall almost every second of it. I cannot say that about any other day in my life except my wedding day, and even that has moments that went by so quickly as in a blur. Each minute of the first 9-11 seemed to go in slow motion, even as I recall watching the footage again and again of the planes hitting the buildings and subsequently seeing them collapse. Seeing that happen even once is devastating, but the surreal repetition embedded those images inside me and has rendered me never the same.
For New Yorkers this was more than a gut punch – it crushed our skyline and damaged our hearts, but we are resilient and struggled through some of the darkest days that turned into weeks and months and years. Our valiant NYPD, FDNY, EMS, and all the other workers gave us strength as they pushed on as teams tried to find survivors and then grimly recover bodies.

America suffered collectively that day, and one can say that 9-11 dragged us down to the nadir of humanity. Many of us lost our way, wanting to fight back and hurt without thinking. Some of us didn’t want to go on because life seemed not worth living. A veritable shroud dropped upon us, and we mourned and grieved and struggled. Inevitably politicians from all sides would seek to use the attacks for partisan purposes instead of wanting to help our nation recover properly, and the move toward war was inevitable as the hearts beating faster in our chests.

All these years later there is still heartache and grief, and ceremonies are properly held to honor those who died and those who served. No one who lived through that time can forget the images of first responders going up while everyone else was coming down out of the towers. These brave people are reason enough for us to always mark this day with ceremonies to commemorate their dedication and sacrifice.

9113Still, on the streets of New York City today there were those who do not like the ceremony being held at Ground Zero. They complained that it’s bad for business, that it is time to get over it, time to move on. These are not evil people – they just feel that time should heal and that now we should get on with it and stop all the fuss. I would assume that those people did not lose a friend or loved one that fateful day.

Sadly, Pearl Harbor Day – December 7, 1941, has become lost for the most part. What used to be a “day that will live in infamy,” as noted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, now is a day remembered for a few moments for some, and not at all by many. A day that changed the course of history has been relegated to the dustbin of memory. Perhaps that should be expected as friends and family of those lost pass away, and no one is left to tell what it was like to live through it. One day that could happen to 9-11, but there have to be those who come after us who make certain that never occurs.

91149-11 is not about any political party or warmongers or anti-war posturing. 9-11 is a day of national mourning, and it should be respected and marked for generations to come. It is not just about saying “We Will Never Forget” but more that “We Will Always Remember,” and will always honor and will always pass the torch.

It is up to all Americans to make this happen – to honor those lost on that first 9-11. The day must be marked significantly with ceremonies that include reading the names of those lost. This is the dignity every one of them deserves, and we must do this now and forevermore.

  Photo credits: reuters,,,    

Monday, September 7, 2015

This Labor Day Give Three Cheers for Volunteers

First appeared on Blogcritics.

Once a year on Labor Day we recognize workers and the importance of what they do. As my Dad always told me, “All work is important.” I was raised to respect everyone from the janitor to the corporate executive. Believing as my father did, I have tried to transfer this appreciation to my children. Work is what makes our towns, cities, and country run, and many times all these things are done unseen and we must value that when we turn on the faucet, someone is behind that water pouring into our glasses.

downloadThere are also those who work for free – the precious volunteers who serve in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, churches, museums, and businesses. Sometimes these people too are unseen; however, their efforts are essential to the organizations fortunate enough to have their services.

The importance of volunteering has been well documented and those individuals who work for free are indispensable. Many non-profits such as churches, soup kitchens, libraries, and museums could not function without their services.

There is something of a quid pro quo in volunteer service – it also provides intangible benefits to the volunteer. Among them, studies show that there is a direct correlation between volunteering and good health.
Over the past two decades we have seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer (
Anyone who has volunteered at the church barbecue or spent the day at the local nursing home helping seniors knows that feeling that overcomes you on the way home. You are thrilled to have been of service, to have done a good deed, and this overwhelming sense of accomplishing for others is definitely a satisfyingly intangible compensation compared to a paycheck.

My first experience with volunteering was when my mother volunteered in my school’s library, which was staffed by one overloaded librarian who definitely needed help. My Mom and other mothers spent a day or two a week there doing everything that the librarian could not do – I know Mom enjoyed the experience because she would be smiling ear-to-ear on those days when she took me home.

Over the years I have seen the hard work of volunteers. As a school administrator, I was often impressed by their professionalism, dedication, and level of excellence that matched or many times exceeded that of my paid employees. To say that our school needed them would be an understatement – we could not have functioned without them.

work3-gettyI have witnessed volunteers in other places too – in hospitals, nursing homes, and museums. In all cases they rise to the occasion again and again. I have also recognized those same kinds of big smiles that my Mom had as they went about their routines – absolute proof that volunteering is good for them too!

This Labor Day think about volunteering. There are web sites such as Volunteer Match that will help connect you with an organization that is right for you. It is never too late to get started – there are octogenarians working in my church that would run circles around most of us. So what better day is there than today to get started on the road to helping others and feeling better as well?

work1-linkedinLet us give three cheers to the volunteers we see and those who are unseen. They are everywhere and keep the gears turning all over the country. Their efforts should be recognized and valued as much as paid workers; if you have the opportunity, thank a volunteer today!

Photo credits: Wikipedia, mountvernonpublic library, linkedin    

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Flash Fiction: Space Dreams – Living Without Love

First appeared on Blogcritics.

space2 Captain Adam Boulanger watches the pilot maneuver the U.S.S. Pequod into orbit around Pluto. Satisfied with her efforts, Boulanger turns, exits the cockpit, and takes the high-speed elevator to deck 10.

Walking down the long corridor, he enters an office where Dr. Wilma Rush is looking out the porthole. Though much younger than he, Adam values her expertise.

“You don’t have an appointment, Adam.”

He sits down. “I need one?”

Rush chuckles, sits at her desk, and swipes her hand over its glistening surface to check his medical readings. “You’re in fine shape considering your age.”

“40 isn’t over the hill.” Rush grins.

“Records indicate you were 42 last month.”

“I lose track out here.”

“Convenient. And you are here because….”


“Ah,” Rush says, “getting a good deal of that lately.”


“At least 25 people in the last two weeks all complaining about their dreams.”

 “Why wasn’t I notified in your weekly report?”

“Psych visits are confidential – unless something threatens the safety of the ship.” 

“Yeah, okay.”

“But don’t be alarmed – space dreams are a common thing, especially the deeper in space we go.” 

“Well, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I never heard that before.”

“Never heard or never experienced before?”

“Both. This is new for me.”

Rush takes a small carafe and pours yellow-green liquid into two snifters. “Here,” she says, “this is….” 

“Martian cognac,” he says, sniffing it. “Had it as an ensign stationed at Bradbury Dome.”

 “Wow! You were one of the first then.”“Oh, yes, long before hyper-compression engines and Jovianite power cells made us travel faster than light.” He sips the cognac. “Nice batch.”

“So what is disturbing you, Adam?”

He puts the glass on her desk and folds his hands. “I keep seeing a baby in my dreams.”

“Well, could be wishing that you had children….”

“No, the baby is me.”

“Oh, really?”

“I know from old images I have. I am floating in darkness.”

“Well, that’s interesting.”

Adam looks down at his hands. “The baby is unloved and cries every time. Something sinister encircles me.”

They are silent for a few moments. He looks up at Rush and she blinks her eyes. “Well, this could be something you want to forget.”

“Like how my mother died suddenly and then my star hopping father whisked me off to space.” 

“Sorry, didn’t know that, but we’d have to dig deeper.”

“No, forget it.” Adam stands and adjusts his uniform shirt. “I’ll deal with it myself for now.”

“For your information, most of the crew is having vivid sexual dreams. The rules against familiarity seem most troublesome for them.” 

As he turns to leave he says, “We’re all in the same boat, Doc.”

“Yes, Adam, indeed we are.”


In his quarters Adam looks at old baby images. He seems happy being held in his mother’s arms. 

First officer Oquendo beeps his intercom. Adam asks, “What is it, Felix?” “The mining crew is in position and waiting for orders to drill.”

“Yes, proceed.” Adam glances out the porthole at Pluto whispering, “Vast potential riches – a whale for the taking.”

Adam leans back in his chair. He thinks about Kyra, the woman he fancied back on Mars. They were both ensigns with bright futures. Being in love wasn’t allowed back then either; when he thinks about it, love has never been part of his life. Maybe that is the reason for the dreams.


Later that evening the crew sends back data regarding their work. Oquendo and Adam sit in the conference room with veteran crew chief Lech, who can’t stop grinning because of his team’s success. “We hit the motherlode, Adam.”

Oquendo makes a circle with his fingers and graphics fill the clear wall before them. “Appears as if there are more Jovianite deposits here than on Callisto.”

“Such cruelty – we name the ore after Jupiter instead of its moon where the stuff was found,” Adam says.

“Well, now maybe they’ll call it Pluto-ite or something,” Lech snickers.

Adam stares out the porthole at the planet. “Cold little world, here comes the human race.”

“Yeah,” Oquendo laughs, “those Callisto prospectors will be hopping the next flight over when they hear.”

Adam stands. “Let command know, Felix. They’ll no doubt want us to set up a claim tracking system the way we did on Callisto.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good work, Lech.”

Lech rises and says, “Gotta get me a cold one and a piece of….”

Adam waves a finger. “Don’t go breaking the rules again, old friend.”


He lies awake staring at the ceiling in his quarters. Adam imagines Wilma coming to him with her bottle of Martian cognac, forgetting regulations. He hasn’t held a woman in years, almost forgetting what it is to feel anything like affection.

space3 - today.omThe dream starts differently – baby Adam is floating like a spacewalking astronaut. There is peace in his heart as the baby doesn’t cry, and nothing sinister lurks. He’s lowered away from the stars as a woman kisses him like a lover. She’s statuesque with long red hair and smells like love should. Adam is a man now, holding her close and she says, “I love you so, Adam.” He whispers the same to her as they embrace and glance up at the stars. 


The next morning Oquendo brings a visitor to see him – Erin Mackrey, head engineer on Callisto – there to seek permits for her people to drill on Pluto.

It is the woman from his dream. While shaking hands, they exchange a long look almost of recognition, staring into each other’s eyes before letting go. “Pequod is an odd name for a spaceship,” Mackrey says.

imagesAdam says, “The ship’s owner has a sense of humor, but he believes the biggest whales to conquer are in space just like that planet down there.” 

“Well, I hope that doesn’t make you Ahab.”

“I’m not as damaged.”

She laughs. “Good, but wasn’t Pequod doomed in the end?” 

“Yes,” Adam smirks, “but aren’t we all?”  

  Photo credits: Wikipedia,,,,

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Common Core Wars: The Empire State Strikes Back Against the Common Core – Will Other States Follow?

First appeared on Blogcritics.

images (1) In case you live somewhere other than New York State, one of the biggest stories this week involved NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing his plans to review Common Core standards as well as the standardized testing associated with it. If this sounds like the death knell for CCSS, don’t get the party started just yet.

This very surprising turn of events indicates that Cuomo is yielding to the pressure of angry parents and exasperated teachers who have been crying foul regarding the standards since their implementation in 2010 – as well as the ludicrous linkage of state assessments to the standards and using the scores from those exams to “evaluate” teachers.

images  Of course, livid parents and teachers are a big part of this equation, and as an educator and parent I can tell you that we all realize that Cuomo has made this big announcement a little late. We recognize that he and ally – former NYC Mayor Michael (No Big Drinks) Bloomberg had seen CCSS linked to exams and teacher evaluations as an ideal way of getting rid of long time teachers (with their salaries and benefits) and paving the way for cheaper and more controllable charter schools.

Cuomo’s sudden revelation is still good news even if we are left to question his ulterior motives, since we know he has had them in the past. His comments do make clear what parents and teachers have been saying all along.
The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed. To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance, and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.
That last sentence can be taken two ways – one is that the end of Common Core in New York is nigh; however, we can also wonder if Cuomo’s “review” will lead to continued use of CCSS in some tangible way that may just eliminate the connection to exams and evaluations. That would be a victory, but a hollow one at best for frustrated parents, teachers, and students. If the CCSS do go down after this review and New York establishes its own standards (as it had in the past), this could be a tipping of the dominoes – with these faulty standards dropping like flies in the other 47 states that have adopted them. Parents everywhere are feeling the same frustration with the standards that take what used to be a simple addition problem and turn it into a dissertation.

commoncore-new-rally-protestors-2Last spring Cuomo saw the writing on the wall like some befuddled King Belshazzar who could not believe what was happening. Over 225,000 students statewide opted out of the standardized testing linked to the Common Core. As Port Jefferson Long Island teacher Beth Dimono put it, she was a “conscientious objector” to the testing and refused to proctor the exams. Obviously, many others agreed with her.   

Make no mistake – standardized testing is big business in this state and all across the country. The opting out is part of parents finally realizing that they are in the driver’s seat, not testing companies or state education departments. Many local superintendents and principals agreed with the sentiments of their constituents and made their feelings known, so it was essentially a matter of time until Cuomo had no choice to become enlightened.

The problem with CCSS from the start was that they were shoved down our throats as “good for you” and necessary for the future success of students. The literal dumping of these new, confusing, and laborious standards on local districts’ doorsteps initiated a rush to train teachers – which meant inadequately – and then Cuomo and Bloomberg had the audacity to link the standards to testing and teacher evaluations. This incongruously forced students to take tests that they had been poorly prepared to take because their teachers had little or no training; furthermore, those teachers would then be evaluated on how well or poorly their students did on those exams.

21TEACHERS1-articleLargeAnyone with an ounce of intelligence would see through Cuomo and Bloomberg’s nefarious plot to get rid of teachers – and promote their goal for more charter schools that are easily controlled without those pesty teachers’ unions standing in the way. Also, anyone with an ounce of integrity would have stood up and shouted that this was bad for teachers, bad for students, and did nothing to advance the learning environment. How could teachers – now obviously concerned about their future employment – be expected to teach anything but to the test, which is hardly teaching at all?

For now we must take Cuomo’s announcement as a sign of minimal progress until we see where this “review” will take us. Hopefully, CCSS will be eliminated in New York and that housecleaning will then extend to other states across the nation. The goal should be to set up reasonable standards for each subject area – with a focus on reality rather than on the fantasy of state education lackeys and their testing company enablers.

Using a boots on the ground approach, parents and teachers should be involved in the manifestation of a new era in education – one that meets the needs of students ideally on an individual basis. The bottom line is that standardized tests are only good for one entity – the company that churns them out.

The elimination of standardized testing should be the goal moving forward. Any educator worth his or her weight will tell you that testing is not teaching and teaching is not testing. In fact, the whole matter of evaluation of teachers and students needs to undergo a radical change as soon as possible in order to make every minute of class time more meaningful and productive for all involved.

At this time it is fair to say the Empire State has struck back against the pernicious Common Core that has hovered over our schools like a hideous monster for years. We have to see where this will go, but parents and teachers must continue to rise up in their glorious union against the tyranny of testing linked to CCSS. We have won this small battle, but it is a long way until we have won the war.

  Photo credits: Long Island Press,,,