Post posts about what is happening in the State of Connecticut.

Why I’m Voting for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary Tomorrow in Connecticut

A lot of my friends are supporting Hillary Clinton for President. A lot of my friends are supporting Bernie Sanders for President. Many have been presenting good reasons to support their candidate. I like both candidates and would be glad to vote for both of them.

Some of my friends have been pointing out flaws with the person they are not supporting. I see plenty of flaws with both candidates. There is only one candidate I’ve ever voted for whose political beliefs seemed to perfectly align with my own, and some might even question that. I am, of course, talking about when I voted for myself when I’ve run for various offices.

I believe that Hillary is likely to win tomorrow, and my vote and my blog post are unlikely to change that. Even if she doesn’t win Connecticut tomorrow, I expect she’ll go on to receive the nomination.

So, by voting for Bernie in the primary, and Hillary in the general, I will end up getting to vote for both of them.

Another aspect of the election is that as a progressive, I would like to see an idealist elected. I believe Bernie is close to my views both as a progressive and as an idealist. As an idealist, I will vote for Bernie in the primary. Some have suggested that Clinton would be more effective as President. She knows how to play the game, get things done. She’s the practical choice. I’m not sure that the first woman president will have much better luck in dealing with obstructionists than the first black president has, so this argument doesn’t carry as much weight with me as it might with others. However, I will admit that Hillary is probably the stronger practical choice. I expect to make a practical choice in the general election.

So, how do we get the most progressive candidate elected president? We vote for the idealistic progressive candidate in the primary so that when the practical choice runs in November and hopefully becomes president in January, she will know that she needs to answer to both the left and the right.

The Retreat

It had been thirty years
since I last came
to this wooded camp.

I was living in the city then
going to church
with hundreds
of young men and women
artists and businessmen
trying to find themselves
in their crazy twenties
in a crazy city.

I was trying to find something then too,
God, friendship, myself, meaning.

I was awkward.
I was other.
I only fit in,
around the edges.

What would the camp be like
for me
thirty years later?

I came,
a blessing.

At this retreat
we came
to practice
pronouncing blessings.

Blessed are you
o road,
that has carried
so many school buses
and church vans,
so many hopes
and fears
to these
hallowed woods.

You’ve been repaved
so many times
over the past
three decades,
May you continue to be
a path
to those who seek.

Blessed are you,
o acorns.
Your ancestors
were buried
by forgetful squirrels
when I was here last.

May your descendants
continue to fall
the reflections
of other

Blessed are you
o squirrels
running from tree to tree
following ever bending
leaps of faith
we wouldn’t dare.

Your great great grandparents
leapt from tree to tree
the same way
years ago.

May your faith
and playfulness
live in your grandchildren
and continue to inspire
those yet to dome.

Blessed are you,
o buildings,
so many the same,
though renovated,
and some new.
May you continue
to shelter the seeker
and provide memories.

On the deck,
in quiet meditation,
we looked at the trees
the way
I’ve sat
and looked
at paintings
in art museums.

By the lake
I’d often swum
a piece of bark
on the outdoor altar,
it’s probably now been moved
during a Eucharist.
What does this alter
have in store
for me?

I’m finding,
what I was
truly looking for
three decades ago,
not some great insight,
or goal,
but the beauty
of always
and always
being found,
the beauty
of always
and always
being blessed.

Life is Messy – Rethinking Educational Reform – Part 2, Triggers

This was written a few days ago, but I never got a chance to really go over it. I've been pretty busy, so I'll put this up now, as is. More soon...

This weekend, I came across three distinct and interesting articles that, perhaps, should be considered in light of one another. The Hartford Courant ran the article, Top Nominees Announced For Ct High School Musical Theater Awards. I was very interested in the production of two of these shows. Amity Regional High School, in my hometown, produced “In The Heights” (See Lamentations and The Heights). It was a great production, as productions at Amity usually are. It received several nominations, as did “Rent”, produced by Trumbull High School. The Trumbull production of Rent, almost didn’t happen and I wrote about it a couple times: Trumbull for Rent and World AIDS Day and Learning About Bullying - Trumbull RENT. I was glad to see both production receive nominations.

Also this weekend, the New York Times ran an article, Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm. Should students be forewarned about content in works they are assigned to read that might make them uncomfortable, or might trigger PTSD? To me, these two stories are related. How should have Trumbull High School dealt with the difficult issues that Rent brings up? Cancelling the show? Using some sort of Trigger Warnings? Some other approach?

I recognize the need for trigger warnings in certain cases, just as I recognize the need for warnings about peanuts for those with peanut allergies. For some people, these warning can be a matter of life and death. For others, they can be just an annoyance. I had the good fortunate to go to a small liberal arts college where the professors knew each of the students in their classes. In such a situation, I would expect the professor to be able to deal individually with students as necessary and to make wise decisions about warning students that needed to be warned. However, in large universities where there might be hundreds of students in a class, I can see where some sort of trigger warning might be needed.

Yet even in situations like this, it would seem that the trigger warning could be an educational tool. Prior to reading a text, a discussion about the difficult topics would seem beneficial. “This week, we will be reading The Great Gatsby, a masterpiece of American literature. The story depicts misogynistic violence, a problem that society still faces today…” and from their get into a discussion about misogyny in the twentieth and twenty first century.

Life is Messy – Rethinking Educational Reform - Part 1, SBAC

This weekend, I’ve been thinking a bit about educational reform and have stumbled across several different interesting discussion. It started off when a discussion about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, tests which have recently been administered at our schools.

A board of education member was fiercely defending the SBAC tests. She believed that the concerns with the tests were overblown and that the tests were properly administered. I opted my daughter out of the SBAC tests for many reasons and the feedback I’ve received about the tests do not square with the board members assessment.

The board member did admit that there were some difficulties, but there are always difficulties with any changes, and we eventually need to test changes in the real world. Setting aside the issue of whether or not there is real benefit to the changes that SBAC brings, I question whether there was sufficient testing prior to using the SBAC tests, and, perhaps more importantly, whether using the tests on students was wise, or perhaps even, ethical.

Having worked with computers for years, I recognize the importance of different aspects of testing, moving from unit testing to systems testing and integration testing. To put it into more contemporary terms, when do you move a system out of beta? Were the SBAC tests really ready to be moved out of beta? Where they properly tested? It does not seem so, from my perspective.

Yet there is a bigger question, about the efficacy and ethics of the testing. Thinking in terms of the scientific method, what was the hypothesis being tested? How will this test of the SBACs help prove or disprove the hypothesis? I have not heard this properly addressed. Working in health care, I constantly hear people talking about the importance of double blind tests. The SBAC tests were very far from this standard of testing. In fact, students were told that the tests wouldn’t make a difference, it was just a test to see how well the test works. As a result, I’ve heard many stories of students making up silly answers on the tests, something that wouldn’t happen if it were a real test that mattered.

I don’t know how much this really happened, and how much these are the sort of stories middle school students like to tell, but it does raise serious questions about the validity of SBAC experiment.

Yet this takes me to a bigger issue. In 1961, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram ran a series of experiments measuring people’s willingness to follow orders, even if it could cause harm or death to others. In the experiments, the subjects were told to give shocks to students who failed to properly answer certain questions.

Many have questioned the ethics of these experiments and the Milgram experiments are regularly brought up in discussions about institutional review boards, or IRBs.

As I thought about the discussion with the board of education member, I had to wonder, are SBAC tests being administered in a way that would be approved by an IRB? Are risks to the subjects, or children in schools, minimized? Do the benefits of moving towards SBAC tests outweigh the risks to students? Are students, and their parents, adequately informed and asked to consent in ways that are free from coercion or undue influences? What measures are being taken to protect vulnerable populations?

There is a role for testing students in our educational system. Yet these tests need to be well thought out and administered in a fair way that benefits our students. In my mind, the SBAC tests fails this.

At the #CTDemConvention

It is a rainy Friday evening as I sit in the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The Pledge of Allegiance and the prayers have been made, the convention has been called to order, but mostly delegates just spend time talking with one another. There isn't much suspence at this convention, instead, a chance for friends to reconnect and to talk about various coming elections.

I've been wearing my Google Glass which has been a good topic of discussion. Congressman Jim Himes tried them on, and the folks at the Kevin Lembo nerd table found the glass to be particularly nerdy. Unforunately, for some reason, low batteries, heavy network traffic, or the latest upgrade has caused Glass to be very slow.

After the nominating speeches for Gov. Malloy, they started playing a video. Almost no one seems to be paying attention.

It has been a while since I live blogged a convention, but I hope to have additional updates through out the day.

UPDATE 6:10 - I streamed some of Gov. Malloy's acceptance speech via Google Glass, after recharging it and then rebooting it. They are now nominating Nancy Wyman for Lt. Gov. and I'm recharging Glass a little bit more.

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