Tuesday, May 27, 2014

One Nation

One Nation, What We Can All To Save America's Future
By Dr. Ben Carson

Date Review Posted:  March 27, 2014
Authors:  Dr. Ben Carson
Release Date:  2014
Related Blog:  http://realbencarson.com/ (not necessarily a blog but interesting nonetheless)

  CCCCC  (A case could be made that I would only review the best of the best because if while reading a book it does not hold my interest, I would not finish it and therefore would not review it.)

Format:  Part Biography, Part Historical, Part Identifying Problems, Part Providing Solutions

Reason For Reading THIS book:  I have read some of Dr. Carson's speeches and when I saw he published this book, I felt compelled to read it.

Number Of Times I Have Read This Book:  Only once but the content is extremely clear and Dr. Carson's proposed solutions also seem very clear and responsive.

Brief Summary of Content:   The Table of Contents provides a great deal of information just in the chapter titles that follow (my comments in parenthesis):

PREFACE:  Dr. Carson's speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast  (Outstanding!)

Chapter 1:  Saving Our Future
Chapter 2:  Political Correctness (Great chapter)
Chapter 3:  Elitism
Chapter 4:  Ignorance and forgetfulness
Chapter 5:  Bigotry
Chapter 6:  No Winners In Political Fighting (Common Sense!)
Chapter 7:  Enslaving Our Children-Don't Sell The Future (Also Common Sense!)

Chapter 8:  Pushing Back
Chapter 9:  Respectful Disagreement
Chapter 10:  The Art of Compromise (But not on your core principals)
Chapter 11:  Becoming Informed (I especially like this one)
Chapter 12:  Wisdom and Knowledge (Another of my personal favorites)
Chapter 13:  My Brother's Keeper

Chapter 14:  Without A Vision (All I could say about this one is "AMEN!"
Chapter 15:  Role Models (Another winner!)
Chapter 16:  The Origin of Morality
Chapter 17:  TAKE COURAGE!

Part Biography:  The book traces Dr. Carson's childhood which to say the least was fraught with problems like one might expect growing up in a not-so-good section of Detroit with a brother and a single Mom.  It is really an amazing story now that you know how it developed but growing up I don't think many would have give you very good odds on Dr. Carson even surviving his childhood.  He describes at one point where only Divine Intervention kept him from actually stabbing a fellow student.  He describes that moment as a turning point in his life.  I particularly liked reading about how his mother would require he and his brother to read two books each week and then write a book report and give it to her.  Neither he or his brother ever wanted to miss the deadline for submitting the reports to his mother who they later discovered could not read the reports.  He also describes how at first he was picked on/bullied because he did not fit in with the "cool" people in his schools but as he continued to grow intellectually and started to pull good grades the same people who picked on him began to respect him especially due to his growth within the school's ROTC program.

Part Historical:  You can easily understand how the social climate at the time of his youth affected his development in at first a negative way but later in a positive way when he made the decision that he did not have to grow up like so many of his peers did and not to also die as so many of his peers.  He describes how it was that you either grew up in the gang lifestyle and probably die in the gang lifestyle or you can step outside that lifestyle and grow intellectually and therefore take yourself from that lifestyle to one you would prefer.  He read biographies of the great people in history and the successful people and learned from what they did and then emulated their success in spite of his environment that would seem to dictate a different outcome.  Dr. Carson also developed historical facts about where the country was going during his youth and adolescent time in his life.

Part Identifying Problems.  Dr. Carson covers just about all that has happened in America to bring it down.  He covers the education system, unions, healthcare, taxes among other things and how in his opinion the country got to where it is today; not a good place to be.  More importantly he not only clearly identifies the problems he also provides solutions.

Part Providing Solution.  This is the best part of the book.  His solution to providing everyone with proper Healthcare and doing away with Obamacare is brilliant.  He also addresses solutions in regard to the country's educational system, partisan politics, the tax structure and the most important aspect of all - he develops a very clear VISION for the country, something we have not seen (no pun intended) since the days of Ronald Reagan.

General comment.  As I read the book I almost felt like I was reading something that President Ronald Reagan would have said or wrote about.  I liked that very much.  So much that if the 2016 Presidential Election were held today, there would be no doubt in my mind who I would vote for IF Dr. Carson were to run.  No doubt whatsoever.  More importantly, I did not start reading the book with that outlook.  I liked Dr. Carson but was unsure of him being President of the United States.  Now I am sure.

Who Should Read the Book?    Everyone, no exceptions but especially Democrats and Independents; it will be an eye-opener!

Final Test:  Would I read the book again?   I may not read it again but I will certainly keep it around as a future reference manual.  Would I give it as a gift?  ABSOLUTELY!

Friday, May 16, 2014


By Glenn Beck, Kevin Balfe , and Kyle Olson

Date Review Posted:  May 15, 2014
Author:          Glenn Beck, Kevin Balfe, and Kyle Olson
Release Date:  2014
Web Site:  www.TheBlaze.com

  CCCCC  (A case could be made that I would only review the best of the best because if while reading a book it does not hold my interest, I would not finish it and therefore would not review it.)

DISCLAIMER:  This review was NOT written by me, it was written by Kathleen Jasper, a former Assistant Principle in the Florida school system and that is what makes her review extra special.  When I read her review I felt I could not do my review the justice that she gave the book especially since it was written by someone who you would have to consider on the other side of where most people would put Glenn Beck.  Please review Ms. Jasper's web site at www.ConversationsED.com; it is a wonderful sight with great content.  If you want to see the online interview between Glenn Beck and Kathleen Jasper, go to:  http://tinyurl.com/lf9ruuu, it is an outstanding interview!  Ms. Jasper's review is reprinted with her permission and appears exactly as she posted  it on www.ConversationsED.com

Ms. Jasper's review:

In Glenn Beck’s new book, Conform, I realize the one thing that would unite a liberal like me and a conservative like him is the fact that we both believe to conform to what a system deems appropriate, proficient, or standard is detrimental to creativity, autonomy and most important, independent thinking.
The fight against standardization, high-stakes testing, big data and shady education policy is not exclusive to any party or ideology. After reading Conform, I realized Glenn Beck and I agree on many things. Here are just a few:

Common Core is not the answer.

In Conform, Mr. Beck meticulously outlines Common Core and reveals that this new government initiative is about money and control. Those who are the major players in the Common Core push are those who stand to profit either politically or financially off of our students.
I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Beck goes after the right people in his critique of the Common Core: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, The Gates Foundation, Achieve Inc., President Obama and US Secretary of Education, Arne Dunken – a hodgepodge of democrats and republicans pushing our students into, what I call, the machine.
The idea that a standard curriculum like the Common Core would solve problems like high mobility rates and achievement gaps is simplifying the multifaceted and complicated problems in our current system – problems exacerbated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT).

The push towards College and Career Ready limits our students to a grim future.

According to Mr. Beck, Common Core is designed to create workers not thinkers, and I agree. I use the word drones when referring to ideal students under standardization.
Drones are what I saw when I visited a first grade classroom in a Florida public school recently. All the students were sitting in front of computers. I asked the teacher, “And what are they doing?” thinking they must be on the Internet creating something or looking up information. She told me, “They are getting ready for FCAT (the current standardized test for Florida students). We are teaching them how to take online tests.” It was something out of a Brave New World or 1984 and literally sent chills down my spine.
The underlying premise and discussion regarding the Common Core is, “students must be college and/or career ready.” So basically the Common Core is running on only two choices, which are grim at best. The first grade class I visited was a prime example of that preparation.
I argue, and so does Mr. Beck, students should be given freedom in how their future unfolds. Students should be able to choose whether they want a traditional education or whether they want to pursue a tech school, trade school, online school, internship, apprenticeship and more.
There are an infinite amount of possibilities for students. Why are the Common Core crusaders only pushing 2: College and Career? We should be preparing them to make choices not preparing them for a life designed by a testing company. 

Standardization and high-stakes testing is about MONEY.

There is money to be made in books, curriculum and tests. And when they are all aligned, a word used often in education, they are easy to package and sell to districts and states.
Private companies can then control our students while they give kickbacks to Common Core crusaders on Capital Hill. In Conform, Mr. Beck exposes the tangled web of interconnection among the Gates Foundation, testing companies, and data collection/storage services.
High-Stakes testing, like those left over from NCLB and those being administered for Common Core and RTTT, bring in big profits. Companies like Pearson print the books, build the curriculum, make and score the tests, and store the data. Testing companies lobby hard so high-stakes tests are the only measure we use to assess our students and hold teachers accountable.
And here’s the shocker, the same people who are pushing Common Core, accountability, and standardization, all have their hands in the companies tasked with providing the services needed for test construction, test administration, and data collection, storage and analysis.

We don’t need any more data.

Mr. Beck and I are in complete agreement that currently districts, schools, teachers, administrators, students, and parents are required to bow down to the almighty data. Every decision has to be data driven. We collect it, store it, use it, and worse, waste it. In classrooms all over the country there are data walls, data folders, data software, data chats, data groups, data, data, data. We are over saturated with data and it has become impossible to use it effectively.
This push towards collecting, storing, using, distributing and analyzing the infinite amount of data we accumulate in schools and beyond is big money for those who stand to gain. In fact, Mr. Beck explains $787 billion dollars were spent in stimulus money to build systems capable of tracking and storing longitudinal data of student progress. Eventually we will be tracking people from conception until death.

The Common Core is State Led? Really?

The audacity of the federal government to say this is state led is preposterous. Many state governors were asked to adopt the Common Core before the standards were even written. And as states stand up and say, “No, we are not going to proceed with the Common Core,” the federal government is threatening them with heavy fines and loss of school funding. How does this type of intimidation and fear tactics occur if this initiative is state led?


Glenn Beck has a valid point when he says, “Americans may not be able to go from the glut of standardized testing we have now to nothing – but maybe there is some middle ground.”
I believe there is middle ground to explore. Here are just a few suggestions.
1.      Scale back high-stakes testing. We do not need the amount of tests we currently have in circulation. Under the Race to the Top Grant, districts have been forced to implement content area tests separate from those already in place. Students are testing 1/3 of the school year. Media centers, computer labs and other resources have been stolen by testing companies.
2.      Create a global perspective on school design. For example maybe take a few notes from Finland. Yes their demographics are different but if that’s the only reason we are refusing to explore the tactics Finland uses to be as successful as they are, we are missing the mark. A few things to take from Finland right off the bat: they don’t standardize, they revere teachers, and they allow students to make choices in their learning.
3.      Allow districts and communities to develop curriculum in tandem with parents, students, teachers and administrators. Relinquish some control and have faith in people to decide their own destiny. Educators are smart; give them back their autonomy.
4.      Eradicate isolation in education. We isolate students based on test scores, abilities, poverty levels, and exceptionalities. Stop categorizing unique students into finite classifications. When we do this, we determine their future before they have a chance to know who they are.
5.      Use your voice. Stand up and stop conforming. Talk to teachers in your area; talk to parents. Students can learn the laws and their loopholes and refuse standardized tests.
Mr. Beck and I both agree this country was built on the backs of men and women who stood up, said no and refused to get into the machine. Every evolution and revolution in this country has occurred because people refused to allow the machine to determine their existence and the existence of their children.
And in the words of my conservative friend Mr. Glenn Beck, “We have the right solutions and the will to implement them. We are ready. Are you?”
Number Of Times I Have Read This Book:  Only once.  Will I read it again?  Absolutely!

Who Should Read the Book?    Everyone interested in the future of America.  Education IS the future of America and it is currently on the wrong track with more money being spent on education than in any other country in the world with results that fall far behind other countries.  If you are happy with this result, don't read the book.  If you are unhappy, read the book.  Give the book to teachers you know.  The book is so important and there are so many people who that when they hear the name Glenn Beck are turned off and therefore will not read the book and that will definitely not only be their loss, it will be the country's loss as well.  This is a very important book.