CAT Tracks for January 16, 2011
COMING BY IT HONESTLY in reputation.

CAT Tracks Editor's Note:

Okay...this is one of those "Point of Personal Privilege" posts. For most of you, this post may well be a case of TMI...Too Much Information.

Hey...what did you expect?! No CAT Tracks yesterday...nothing else today!! No opportunities to vent...bursting at the seams with pent-up emotions!!! After all, I am not SuperCAT!!!!


I started to remove my "digressions" below to my other and simply leave a link for those inclined to follow.

But... ...what the hell!

The article that prompted this trip down memory lane was actually quite innocuous...about whether or not the Republican Party will join hands with Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, and "Democrats" to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka ESEA, No Child Left Behind, NCLB) during the next two years.

If that topic holds no interest for you and, more importantly, you're not interested in "The Life and Times of Ron Newell", it is time for you to go!

If you might be interested in the article, click on the Link to Original Story...and don't come back.

Just in case you forgot the title to this post...


The Republican Party and I have something in common...


Okay, maybe for this comparison, we should focus on the past two years...going on three now:

Actually, for me, it began back in the fall of 1969 when I returned to Cairo High School as a young, naive teacher. When I graduated from CHS in the spring of 1963, it was a different place different, as, different as day and night, white and black.

The yearbooks from those years capture "the times"...

When I graduated, you could count the number of blacks in Cairo High School (Grades 9-12), well...without removing your shoes. My Class of '63 (albeit the smallest of that era) had a grand total of one, who, as the yearbook says was "Not Shown". (I don't know the background of this omission, but I will not attribute it to any nefarious motives, as other blacks are shown with their respective classes. The student in question may have missed "picture day". It happens...) To complete the picture, in 1963 there was nary a black BOE member, superintendent, principal, or faculty member. The office staff, including the student office workers, were all white. Of course, this can all be readily "explained" by the existence across town of Sumner High School, the long-established high school for blacks...still going strong, even 9 years after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, striking down segregation in public schools.

(Let me pause for a second with a "disclaimer". I am knowingly using the "popular" term of the day - "blacks" - rather than the more modern "African Americans" or the broader "minorities".)

Actually, that's not really true. As my fellow senior citizens will recall...the label "blacks" became popular a few years later, when the civil rights movement gained impetus and adopted "Black is Beautiful" as a rallying cry. However, you will just have to "Excuuuse, Me" if I don't go back any "When We (They) Were Colored".

Fast forward to 1970, the yearbook memorializing my first year of teaching...

Even a quick flipping of the pages of the yearbook reveals that, well, the times they were a-changin'...had changed. Sumner High School had been closed at the end of the 1966-67 school year, resulting in the tumultuous "integration year" of 1967-1968. A private school opened in Cairo the next year, with most white students attending it or other area schools. Many teachers moved on also. Into one of those vacated faculty positions stepped I.


Of the 57 Seniors in the Class of '70, 31 were black, 24 were white (along with two of Asian descent.) Rounding out the picture...there were two black Board members, a black Superintendent, a black female Dean of Students, and 7 black faculty members. The office was integrated as well, with 4 of 11 office workers being black. (Did I mention there was a really HOT black the name of Julie Jones?!)

Since I am digressing...

This is one of those moments where I should issue a disclaimer! You when people take the stage to accept an award, they might apologize in advance...just in case they might leave someone out..."PLEASE don't take offense!"

When I was "taking head-count" of the Senior Class of 1970, my eyes did light on a few familiar faces...


Current Cairo Elementary Dean of Students Larry Baldwin was a Senior during my first year of teaching! Superintendent's Secretary Brenda (Robinson) Jones! Brother-in-Law Fred Jones! And, with THAT, I'm going to quit while I am (hopefully) ahead. No way am I going to do more than peruse the members of the lower classes...females who change their names, males and females who change their appearances.

Ooh, ooh, ooh...

I did just spot our current President of the Cairo Board of Education, Arnold Burris...along with Vice President Vernon Stubblefield and Treasurer Mary (Taylor) Coleman. All proud Sophomores! And, last, but definitely not least...CJSHS Teacher Ron ("Ronnie" or "Coach") Woods was a Freshman! (I had the pleasure of teaching "Mr. Woods" in five classes during his four years at Cairo High School. (Hey, Ronnie...that's better than teaching you four classes in five years!!!)

What the hell???

What was it I was talking about...before I "digressed"???

Oh, the Republican Party and I have something in common.

It may come as a surprise to some readers of CAT Tracks...who "honestly" deduce that I am an ultra-liberal, union-breathing Democrat...that I have not always been so.

As is true with so many, I shall admit to being a product of my times. To paraphrase Steve Martin (from "The Jerk"), I was raised a middle-class white boy in an extremely bigoted city during the "Beaver Cleaver" years. Yep, my neck used to be somewhat red; my views toward "African Americans" not so enlightened.

Ha! Guess you would thank/blame that aforementioned HOT black secretary for that!

Actually, that would not be true.

Well, at least the beginning.

Being a "redneck", I suppose I would have been forgiven, hell, maybe even expected to use Julie Jones in some dark alley somewhere (or would it have been "the levee"? Never had that youthful experience with a female of any persuasion, so how the hell would I know???) However...I certainly would NOT have been love-struck, courted, and MARRIED a young lady of the "wrong race"...HOT or otherwise.

Ahhh...the irony!

Them there segregationists were right...

"You put 'em together in school...soon they will be a-mixin'!"

Who knew?


Unbeknownst to her, Julie Jones had help...

The reddish color began to drain from my neck when I returned to my high school alma mater...the newly integrated Cairo High School. I guess as a new teacher...trying to relearn my math skills, making lesson plans, assigned to supervise every other sporting event, grading papers, teaching class, well...I was too busy to notice what color the students were. Before the color of my students even occurred to me (which happened sometime during that year when the U.S. Office of Civil Rights made the District do a head-count of each class by race), I had come to know my see my students - white, but especially black - as individuals rather than as members of a the case of blacks, a group designated to be feared and hated.

My first 24 years of life in a segregated Cairo did not allow for "getting to know you" if you happened to be a different color than I. Having students and colleagues of both races and seeing with my own eyes that the color of a person's skin did not determine who was good or bad, smart or not-so-smart, was, well...a revelation. Getting to know students and colleagues of both races during my first year of teaching removed walls that had been carefully built around me by the local culture for a quarter of a century.

And, I'm sorry...NOT! I've just gotta say it... Julie Jones became a person rather than a stereotype, well, the walls did come tumblin' down! Lust, that might have consisted of a one-night-stand in a some dark Cairo alley, became a love that blessed my life for 37 years.

That's why my Cairo High School years will always hold a special place in my heart. From 1959-1963, yes, they reinforced my "indoctrination", but, beginning in 1969, they proved to be my salvation, my liberation...showing me the error of my ways.

As I look back on my career in education, I can only hope that I was able to impact lives (in a positive way) as much as mine was by the students and adults whom I was given the privilege to have known...

I know, I and the Republican Party!

Me...accused of being an ultra-liberal, union-breathing Democrat. I "gets" that reputation honest...guilty as charged!

The Republican Party...the "party of 'NO'"...opposed to anything President Barack Obama might say...hell, even think! The Party whose leaders raise questions concerning Obama's commitment to capitalism...his Christianity...even his United States citizenship! Barack Obama...the Socialist...the sleeper Muslim terrorist...the man who isn't even an American...the man from the "Dark Continent".

To the Republican Party...YOUR reputation? You "gets it honest" too!!!


...during the coming year...PLEASE!

"Just Say 'NO'" Arne Duncan's plans to rewrite ESEA/NCLB.

Remember your "Roots". Let's get the federal government out of education reform. Remember your icon, former President Ronald Wilson Reagan...his pledge to ELIMINATE the Department of Education as a Cabinet position. It's never too late to honor his memory!!!


Just say "GO AWAY" to Arne Duncan when goofy comes bearing gifts...proposals.

Then, in 2012 (ass-u-me-ing that you do not pick Sarah Palin)...I'll vote for whomever you nominate for President!


Ya know, a thought just crossed my mind...

(Oh Happy Day! Doesn't happen nearly often enough lately!)

...and without further digression.

Barack Obama and I have something in common:

I used to be a redneck...

...Barack Obama used to be a Democrat!

From the Washington Post...

Link to Original Story

Obama's education focus faces big hurdles

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Signs of trouble are arising for President Barack Obama's plan to put education overhaul at the forefront of his agenda as he adjusts to the new reality of a divided government.

Giving students and teachers more flexibility is an idea with bipartisan support. Yet the debate about the overdue renewal of the nation's chief education law, known as No Child Left Behind, is complicated by political pressures from the coming 2012 presidential campaign and disputes over timing, money and scope of the update.

While education might offer the best chance for the White House to work with newly empowered Republicans, any consensus could fade in the pitiless political crosscurrents, leaving the debate for another day, perhaps even another presidency.

If so, parents, teachers and students would labor under a burdensome set of testing guidelines and other rules that many say are lowering standards.

It's that scenario that the president and his administration intend to invoke as a way to rally public support and spur lawmakers and interest groups into action against long odds.

"No one I'm talking to is defending the status quo," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview. "Everyone I talk to really shares my sense of urgency that we have to do better for our children. We're fighting for our country here."

Duncan said Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 25 will reflect his commitment to education.

Obama has spoken about the effect on the U.S. economy and competitiveness from lagging student test scores. Lawmakers and advocates will watch to see whether he keeps the issue in the spotlight in the months ahead.

"I don't think there's any substitute but for him to be out front," said Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Some Republicans, wary of another giant bill like health care, would prefer a series of small measures to the broad rewrite of No Child Left Behind favored by the administration.

Democrats and many outside advocates say Congress must enact an overhaul this year, before the 2012 campaign. For some in the GOP, getting it right is more important than getting it fast, and they refuse to spend any new money to do it.

"There's room to make cuts, and I think pretty substantial cuts, that would enable us to use some of those savings on things we think work," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California conservative who's the new chairman of a House Education and Workforce subcommittee. "I like the piecemeal approach. ... If you do it in bite-size pieces, you can tell what needs to be tweaked as you go."

No Child Left Behind would not have passed without President George W. Bush's strong advocacy in the first year of his administration. Since then, many lawmakers have concluded that the law failed to meet its overall objectives of raising student achievement. Instead, they say, it has meant relying too much on test results and arbitrary measurements that don't help students learn.

The Obama administration produced a framework for a new law last year. It would ease many testing requirements, put a new focus on teacher performance and the lowest-performing schools, and replace proficiency requirements with loftier goals of boosting college graduation rates.

Duncan has worked with lawmakers of both parties over the past two years to lay the groundwork for a rewrite. Republican and Democratic leaders of the education committees in the House and Senate say they want to move forward. "Everyone agrees this law needs reform," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House committee.

Obama focused on health care at the start of his presidency, when Democrats controlled Congress. Now Republicans control the House and are more powerful in the Senate. It's not clear that an education overhaul ranks high on their list of priorities, even if committee leaders support it.

The "Pledge to America," which the House GOP released before taking power in the November elections, never mentions education. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Boehner's focus is on "addressing the top priorities of the American people - creating jobs and cutting spending."

Administration officials will try to make the case that education is crucial for the economy and jobs - an argument Obama tried to use with health care, with limited success. "This isn't a distraction from the economy. This is important for the economy," said White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes.

CAT Tracks Editor's Postscript:

I would have published the pictures of the aforementioned school district personnel, but I am currently in intense negotiations with same to determined how much they are willing to pay me...

...NOT to do so!

After all...

A retired CAT, living on a fixed income...


For the right price, I'm willing to change my "graduation year" to a more age-friendly 1973...1983.

You know...

In my (not-quite-as-old) age, I could have been mistaken...