Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary. This year is, pardon the pun, no exception. You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it. But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics. It’s about the kids. It’s about families. It’s about what is covered up and hidden. In ALL facets of education, people want quiet. They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet. But they are there. Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education. Continue reading
Before a secret is told, one can often feel the weight of it in the atmosphere.
On January 26th, 1948, a full moon shone brightly in the Winter sky. The next time the full moon will be that close to the earth will be on Monday morning at 6:22am. The next time you can see a Supermoon that close to Terra Firma will be 2034. Tonight, it is just Waxing Gibbous. It is at 97.4% of a full moon. And it is cold out. There is a frost in the air and the stars are shining bright. Winter is coming.
They are saying it is going to be a mild winter this year. Another La Niña. So this means I could probably lay on the beach for New Years.
It’s the middle of the night. Sleep comes and goes tonight. I’m feeling restless, more than I have in a long time. Afraid to close my eyes and afraid to stay awake. Work comes in three and a half hours. It will be a long day.
My arm is doing better. I had a case of hairspray fall on my left elbow a month ago. It hurt like hell when it happened, but only for a few minutes. But then a week later this… thing… started sticking out of my elbow. Like a Dr. Scholl’s pad golf ball. I’ve been to doctors a few times for this. I even had my first MRI. Not an experience I care to repeat. Last week I learned I had a slight tear in a tendon. So I’ve been on light duty at work for a month and will be for another few weeks. I work a tough job, but for scheduling purposes, there are reasons why I work that job. It isn’t for the weak, that’s for sure. But I feel the weight of age creeping up on me sometimes. An odd ache here, a desire to take a nap in the middle of a day off. And I’m not even fifty.
I haven’t been writing here as much as I could. I have plenty to say, and plenty or articles ready to pop. I’ve never had more research in my life. But right now, America and Delaware seem to be dealing with President Trump in one of two ways: it is the end of democracy as we know it or it is the best post-coital bliss ever. I don’t want to throw stuff out there that will get bypassed for yet another article about Trump. I’m also at that point in education where I have to start calling people and organizations out. Ones that, when I began this journey, I thought were on the side of kids. But they aren’t. The picture starts to get blurry and the colors start to merge. I wish I could say there are those that I thought were the “bad guys” but then I discovered they aren’t. But I can’t say that. Yes, Jack Markell will sail off into the sunset. Secretary Godowsky will go with him. But what Jack made for Delaware is still in play.
I have this sense of foreboding tonight. I don’t know why. Maybe I do. Things are going to change. I know this but I want to wish it away. Taking things for granted is never a good idea. I want things to be simple again. But they won’t be. The last time things were simple for me was in 1975.
The summer after Kindergarten, my mom had to have an operation of some sort. I couldn’t tell you what it was for, but it was enough for my parents to send me and my brothers to a family friend’s house for a couple of days. We went to see Peter Pan, the classic cartoon version. Afterwards, we went to our friend’s church. I don’t remember how it got to that point, but I remember the minister asking me if I had anything to say. So I told the whole church about Peter Pan. I went on and on and on. Everyone in the church was laughing and smiling. I didn’t understand at the time that they weren’t laughing at how great Peter Pan was, but the fact that a five year-old boy was talking about this in God’s House of Worship. Of course, I felt like the king of the world and the audience loved me. I was the star of the show.
That was the last time things were truly simple for me. Genuine, unadulterated bliss. When you are that young, the world revolves around you. You are the center of the universe.
I won’t be falling back to sleep tonight. I would be getting up in an hour and a half anyways, so what’s the point. I’ve already started my first cup of coffee. To me, there isn’t anything better than that first sip. Hopefully that, and a couple more, will do the trick for the day ahead of me.
Now I’m thinking of an earlier time, before Peter Pan. My family and I were in church. My Dad, Mom, my three brothers, and myself. All I remember was that I was crying because my Mom went up to get Communion. My Dad was holding me in his arms. But I felt lost and scared. I couldn’t have been older than two or three. My father pulled out a little toy giraffe, no bigger than my hand. For some reason, that giraffe gave me comfort. It eased my troubled toddler little mind. But I see it differently now. I see a father holding a crying baby who wanted his mommy. And in that moment, he found a connection. Instead of getting upset, he gave me something he hoped would give me comfort and a feeling of safety. It worked. I remember holding that giraffe in my tiny hand and looking up at my dad. In his eyes I saw a feeling of calm, of peace.
I haven’t thought, or written, about that moment in a long time. The last time I wrote about it was in 1988. I was in a creative writing class for the first half of my Senior year of high school. Our final project was to write an autobiography based on something important in our life. I wrote about my walk with God. And I couldn’t very well talk about God without writing about all the people in my life. This project became bigger and bigger the more I wrote. It was about my life, from birth until that very snowy January over seventeen years later. I believe it was about 24 pages, typed. I got an A on it. We had to read it in class. I remember a few of my classmates crying when I read it. I remember asking them later why they cried. They said they had no idea or close I was with God. I wasn’t a Bible-thumping evangelist running around my high school reading scripture every chance I got. But in my thoughts, I pondered and wrestled with questions of faith back then.
It’s always darkest before the dawn. At least that’s what they say. It is now 3:15am. My alarm will be going off at 4:30am. I’m leaving it on in case weariness overcomes me and I succumb to somnus.
I was a wreck last Christmas. I never got the tree fully set up. My son was transitioning to his fifth school since Kindergarten. In six years. It took its toll on me. On my family. I wonder sometimes if I will ever find a reason or answers to why my son had to go through so much at such an early age. I watch him sometimes, struggling with his disability. Those times when he asks God why he has to suffer through painful and repetitive tics. Why his mind sometimes feels muddled. Other times he refuses to believe in God because how could any God do that to a human being. I see the host of people who have come in and out of his life. Too much “goodbye” and not enough “hello”. I struggle with my own thoughts on this. When do I let go a little? When does my fighting interfere with his ability to self-advocate? He is fast becoming a teenager. That transition period between boy and man. When do I see the disability? When do I see the boy-turning-into-a-man chrysalis? Tourette Syndrome is not all he is. He has it. It affects him. But it isn’t his whole being. It is not his whole life. It is just baggage he has to carry with him on his own walk through life. One day, he will have to find peace with it. I pray that day comes soon, but all things come in time.
What madness has struck upon me during this waxing gibbous that I am poring all these memories and feelings onto the screen? I don’t know. But it feels right. Sometimes writing is my way of purging things. Or coming to terms. Reconnecting with the world. I can throw numbers and statistics and secrets on the screen all day long. But none of it means anything if I don’t have that reconnection. I can’t be tethered to education all the time. How I see education is not how most see it. I dive into the cesspools most don’t even know exist. Waters that don’t look that deep, but they will suck you in and drown you for all its worth. But it is worth plenty. I have no regrets. This is my way of walking away from it. At least for this moment. To see life beyond the lies. Because there is so much that human beings never learn in the classroom. The painful and hard lessons they learn in real life.
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. He has this uncanny knack for dealing with the most abstract of thoughts in the simplest of ways. So that anyone can understand it. The above picture comes from his Sandman comic-book series. It ran 75 issues, from 1988 until 1996. I didn’t catch on to this series until 1991. By then it was well-known. Each issue became a gold-mine when it came out. By the time the 74th issue came out, I was preparing to move to another country. Young love and a huge sense of wanderlust brought me to Sweden in 1996. I was there for two months when I walked into a newsstand one evening. I was killing time before going over to a friend’s house. I sold about 90% of my comic-book collection before moving and I didn’t really have much intention of picking up the habit again. But there it was, staring at me. Sandman #75. The last issue.
William Shakespeare appeared in an earlier issue of Sandman. Gaiman crafted a reimagining of the Bard’s inspiration for A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream in the story. Morpheus, also known as the Sandman or Dream, granted William Shakespeare the inspiration for all his plays in exchange for a boon. Shakespeare wrote two plays for Morpheus. The play highlighted in the earlier issue was A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. But the last issue was based on The Tempest. Ironically, this took place prior to the pivotal moment in the series six issues earlier, but it served as the perfect moment for Dream to sleep.
I’m halfway done with my second cup of coffee. For the first time in well over eight years, I read the last issue of Sandman again. I am left wondering: do I inspire or am I inspired? Do I write for you or do you read for me? Do I amuse or am I your muse? Weighty thoughts, heavier on my shoulders by little sleep and not having the ability to dream.
I leave for work in an hour. This has been a distraction. Away from my fears, my worries. A distraction from a truth wrapped up in a secret. We all do this. We refuse to face a reality so we hide from it. We try to cover it up. But it’s always there, staring down at us like a Supermoon.
“That is the force of resistance. It has a moral power, it has a truth. And that truth exposes any totaliterian forces, including our corporate masters for who they are. And it is our job, each of us, in whatever circumstance we are in, to find the courage to stand up and speak that truth, and damn the consequences. When you speak that truth, that good, it draws to it the good. And it is the good that will bring them down.” -Chris Hedges
A lot of people ask me why I do what I do. Why I write about education so much. Why I attack instead of cooperate. Why I question instead of answer. Why I fight instead of surrender. Why I resist every single word that comes out of my Governor’s mouth. Why I believe everything coming out of the Rodel Foundation serves no child, but rather a hedge fund or a company’s bottom line. Why I can look any member of the State Board of Education in the eye and tell them in no uncertain words, “This is wrong.” Why I disdain those who have the power to stop all of this but enable it instead. Why I fight for parents to opt out instead of opting in. Why I sound like a crazed madman coming out of the wilderness when I tell people, “Don’t just opt out of the state assessment, opt out of the personalized learning too.” Why I connect the dots on all the pieces of the puzzles and say, “Don’t believe this is a good thing. Not for one second.”
The people who are doing all of this, they can’t relate. They don’t know what it is to be on the bottom. They don’t know the struggles most of us go through. They are relentless in their methods. I will speak until I can’t. I know the difference between genuine and fake. I know when the same words are being said over and over and over again, it is a script. A script designed to be force-fed to all of us until we numb our brains into believing it. This is why. Everything Chris Hedges says in this video is why.
I would rather be shunned and ridiculed than cower to any of these pieces of trash that want to take something good from children and replace it with corporate dividends. I would rather be laughed at than to believe the lies. I would rather be given a look of pity than a handshake of compliance. I will not give up the fight. I won’t stop until these people are exposed for the frauds they are. I will stand up for parents and children even if I am the only one standing. I believe the rights of parents and students are more important than the rights of the test-makers and the corporate shakers. I will fight for the rights of all children at risk even when their supposed advocates are leading them down a path of destruction designed to swallow their lives whole.
I will resist.
Delaware Liberal wrote about this half an hour ago. I woke up and wasn’t sure what to write about today (yes, there are days like that). And then I read their article. Senator David McBride has colorectal cancer. This is a man who has faithfully served in the Delaware legislature since 1978. Ever since he defeated former State Rep. Robert Byrd, McBride has represented Delaware. To give some perspective here, I was eight years old when he was elected. That was 37 years ago.
Senator McBride wrote a letter to his friends and constituents on his Facebook page about his diagnosis. It was very intimate and personal, but he wants to get the word out. I admire this long-standing Delaware State Senator for his conviction and courage in what will be a difficult time. No matter what your politics are, we will all be praying and rooting for Senator McBride in the year ahead.
Friends and Colleagues,
“How are you doing?”
“I’m great, thanks.”
It’s a simple greeting and reply – so automatic it’s almost rhetorical.
And, if you’d asked me that two months ago, it’s exactly the reply you would have gotten. I was exercising, eating well and never felt better.
Then last month, came the words no one ever wants to hear: “Dave, you have cancer.”
Fortunately because my colorectal cancer was detected during a regular screening, I was able to receive prompt treatment. And there’s a road to recovery that my wonderful doctors have put in place. I just have to follow it.
And in some ways, that’s the biggest challenge – dealing with the mental and physical toll of cancer treatment. In part, that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask for your encouragement and your prayers.
Most of you know that I tend keep my private life just that – private – so getting to the point where I could tell you this has been tough. At the same time, I’ve spent my career being honest and forthright. It’s who I am as a Senator and as a man, and it quickly became apparent to me that I must be true to those values, even in the face of this new challenge.
You deserve the truth, but even more than that, you deserve to hear the truth from me.
The truth is, I can’t help but smile at what I see as some real irony in all of this. During my Senate career, I’ve been proud to count myself as a leader in Delaware’s war against cancer. I sponsored the indoor smoking ban and supported efforts to use money from our share of the national settlement with Big Tobacco to fund the state’s Health Fund. Among other things, that fund helps provide money to support cancer screenings for people who couldn’t afford them otherwise. I also sponsored the legislation setting up the Delaware Cancer Consortium, which helps coordinate and guide our state’s ongoing battle with cancer. I really believe those efforts have saved some lives here in Delaware.
And it’s my hope that sharing my story with you today might save some more.
Early on, the Cancer Consortium decided to make colorectal cancer a priority not only because it’s so prevalent, but also because if it’s caught soon enough, it’s treatable and beatable.
Like most of you who are old enough to start the screening process, it’s not something I look forward to. Anyone who has had to take those two doses of the laxative from hell before screenings can easily think of a thousand other things we’d rather do.
In my case, three years ago, it was determined I would undergo annual screenings.
That decision saved my life.
As many of you know all too well, cancer begins as a stealthy disease. Until I heard those words from my doctor, I had no clue I was ill. I thought I was in incredibly good health and was doing all the things I usually did.
Thank God I followed my doctor’s advice and had my screening. And in turn, I hope you’ll take my advice and do the same.
As I write this, I’ve had surgery to remove the cancer and am about to embark on a regimen of chemotherapy to ensure that the disease has been fully defeated. I know that means I’ve got a fight on my hands. It’s a fight I’m ready for now.
I wasn’t so sure just a few weeks ago. As many of you know from first-hand experience or by being at the side of a family member or friend who’s had cancer, the pain has been beyond description. And as upbeat as you all know me to be, the discomfort, coupled with the mental anguish of coming to terms with my experience had plunged me into some real despair.
But I’ve really turned the corner over the last several days, and it’s because of the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from so many.
My wife, Margaret, and my family have helped bolster my spirits, as have the amazing staff at Christiana Care. Words cannot begin to describe the care and support that everyone – from the doctors and nurses to the technicians (who always seem to be checking your vital statistics) and even the friendly cleaning staff – has offered.
Then, there’s all of you.
Serving you as your senator has been one of the great privileges and passions of my life. I care deeply for all of you and my desire to continue serving you and doing the important work that lies ahead has, more than anything, picked me up and pushed me forward.
To be sure, I have a journey ahead of me. There’s six months of chemotherapy to come. But, come Jan. 12, I’ll be on the Senate floor, ready to go to work. There are big challenges ahead of us and I want to be a part of the solution. I look forward to:
• Continue my work with Chief Justice Leo Strine to revise and modernize our criminal sentencing laws as we’ve done over the past couple of years with a wide range of environmental crimes;
• Continue my work as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee to preserve and protect Delaware’s fragile and scarred environment;
• Lend my experience and leadership to our state’s efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while overcoming some tough financial challenges;
• Continue my tireless and passionate advocacy for you, my friends and neighbors in the 13th Senatorial District.
While I intend to continue my record of perfect attendance at regular Senate sessions and to keep up my community involvement, there may be times when my treatment will necessitate sending a member of our amazing Senate staff out to community meetings in my stead. They’ll give me full reports and will be able to reach out to me electronically on the spot if there’s something they think demands my immediate attention. Be assured that my resolve to serve you and my energy are undiminished.
In closing, I want to thank my friends for their well wishes and prayers of support.
More than anything, your support will be the thing that helps me beat this. And down the road, we’ll all get together for one heck of a victory party when I beat this disease.
I may be an old Air Force guy, but I’ve always loved the Navy SEALS creed: “I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength…to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
I received a comment tonight from someone under the pseudonym “education only”. When I receive a comment from a new poster, it goes into moderation. That way this blog isn’t a free-for-all. The information I received tonight was very specific in nature. It was definitely, if true, very big information. One that could change the landscape of education in Delaware. But I need more than your say-so and an email address that isn’t real. Cause I did email you, but it said email returned. This usually makes me suspicious. I can think of three reasons why you did this.
1) The information is very real and you are scared out of your mind. I can’t say I blame you given the nature of what you said. If this is the case, it should be very easy to reach out to me and you have my strictest confidence. Information like that should not be reserved for a comment and I will investigate it. And the truth will come out.
2) Part of the story is true, and you are seeing how I react to it. This is the reaction. And I would still like you to contact me with a REAL email address. There is such a thing as blogger honor. Ask any of my sources if I’ve ever revealed them. Well, you can’t, cause I never revealed them. Which is my point. But this is for anyone giving me information, especially on an ongoing basis. Let me know ahead of time if it is “off the record” or “okay to publish”.
3) You deliberately gave me the information thinking I would run an article on it and make a big stink about it, all the while you would have known it was false information. If that’s the case, then you definitely have an axe to grind with me. I get that. I’ve made more enemies than friends lately on this blog. I haven’t shied away from naming names and calling people out for their actions. But if this is the case, do the courageous thing and actually contact me. Sneak attacks trying to discredit me through anonymous blog comments may be your stock in trade, but I’m not that stupid. You won’t be the first, and I’m sure you won’t be the last. You are operating under the assumption that I will do anything to get buzz on this blog. If that’s the case, then you’ve missed the whole point of why I do this.
A few months back, there was a commenter on here and Kilroy’s Delaware who was using multiple names on both our blogs. Kilroy and I both knew it was the same person. I’ve even reached out to a few people about the danger of doing that. Anonymity has it’s purpose, but be consistent with it. A good source is just that, and the wealth of information they can provide is always more important than outing them. I always recommend sending emails from non-work addresses. This is for your protection. I have many ways of protecting information, and I will always do that as long as it is a two-way street. But getting into the deeper side of things, if you play games with your anonymity, I will call you out on it, publicly or privately. That’s just how I roll.
Given the nature of what I often write about, I’m sure you can understand my reasons for this. Just as I understand the reasons behind being anonymous. But if I can’t verify information, I won’t put it on here. There are certain folks who give me information and they get a pass. They’ve earned it, time and time again. There are those who I wonder about, and where they are getting their information from. You will rarely see stories based on this kind of information. And then there is the completely outlandish and bizarre info I get. But today’s commenter struck a chord with me, for many reasons. Some you may one day find out, or it will disappear into the abyss never to be seen by anyone. Your move “education only”.
As I sift through countless documents, contracts, board minutes, financial statements, school profiles, reports, board minutes, audio recordings, FOIAs and whatnot one thing remains certain. The truth must come out. Nothing stays hidden forever, and bloggers know this. Which is why we do our best to get the truth out, always.
It is no coincidence that education bloggers are those who either were or are involved in education. It is a free endeavor, and we make no money from our writings. The material we work with is endless, and one trail always leads to another. This is what education has become in our country. If we value one thing above all else, that is transparency. If the subjects of our articles can’t be transparent, we will do it for them.
We start from scratch, with nothing but what our computer links us to. Over time, we gain an audience and begin to get information. Sometimes this information is reliable, sometimes it’s not. We’ve all had to kill an article here or there for various reasons: to protect a source, the information wasn’t quite what we thought it was, or it just plain wasn’t newsworthy. I’ve had months of research and theories go out the window because of one simple fact involved.
These are the times that we live in, and if we don’t wake the people up, our children will be lost in the quagmire that is public education. The stakes have never been higher, but we are winning the war. The light is shining on those who would destroy what is, and they can’t stand the sight.
Bloggers can have it rough. We see tons of information when we really dig in, and what we see makes us angry. We see the abuses in our education system on a daily basis, and we get upset. It should. We should all be angry enough to do something about it. We love when new bloggers enter the fray because that means the odds of the truth coming out increase. We are lovers of the light.
I had a recent conversation with a teacher, and she thought certain things about me based on this blog and what we were talking about. She assumed I was a teacher. I am not a teacher. At least not in the classroom sense. I am not beholden to any administration, educators association, or state department. I am beholden to my son, and his educational well-being.
This gives me latitude and the ability to operate without fear of certain kinds of retribution. It’s very easy for me to sit here and type these words. It’s easy for me to tell people to rise and speak with one voice. But I understand it is not that easy for you. Besides being a teacher, you are also wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, you have parents, grandparents and nieces and nephews. Some of these people depend on you to feed them, or clothe them.
There is a movement going on in Delaware. It’s been a slow thing, waiting for this to happen. But it is happening, right here, right now. For far too long, the darkness has blocked us from seeing the truth. Fear has left the operations and machinations of the nefarious to be shrouded in darkness. But one by one, the light is beginning to shine through the cracks they have unwittingly exposed. Perhaps it is their own guilty conscience that has allowed this to happen.
I see a time when all is exposed. When all the cards are put on the table. When we can sift through the rubble and rebuild, and make something new. But we can’t get there until more people speak. Until they use the very gifts bestowed upon them to educate our children. We need you to teach us out of the darkness. The greatest accomplishments in history were when great men and women went beyond the call of duty. When they would not remain stifled in the dark and shone their light on the world.
As parents, we want you to say no. We want you to do what is best for our children. We want you to teach. We are tired of the iron fist that is hanging above you, every second of the day. We are exhausted from you being forced to do things you do not want to do. We need you to rise. But more than that, we need you to speak. We need you to tell your stories, from the past and the present. Fear is a powerful thing. It allows us to become paralyzed and unable to move. But the truth will set you free. Untangle yourself from the web created by those who believe fear is more important than truth. Become your destiny.