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July 2016

Philosophy During PD Week

So, next week I have to face another judgment, another appraisal of my worth----Granted, it may be that I am worth a little, but my mind is not captivated by the electronic line squiggling across the screen, or the perverse notion that others are less. But, instead, I am captivated by their worthiness, and the extension of our combined humanity into that other world of tomorrow and beyond. The plagiarist, the tacky peddler loaded down with bags, and the broken, departed pig is meaningless to the lips of hegemony. 

I am tough enough to suffer.

Please, don't apply to read it, or write it, or construct it into any digital, childlike, playfulness; instead, leave it alone, and let it swing by the juggler's ears.

Thoreau on Writing

    In this second part of my journal analysis, I would like to examine how Thoreau might have been trying to inspire future writers. Because he was a prolific writer, and because his art was so well-developed, I believe that in certain journal entries he was writing metacognitively in order to instruct others. He almost sounds like a writing teacher in his entry of 4 September 1851:

“Be greedy of occasions to express your thought. Improve the opportunity to draw analogies. There are innumerable avenues to a perception of the truth. Improve the suggestion of each object however humble, however slight and transient the provocation” (95).

When we take each sentence to itself, and then we apply the advice to our own time and place, we realize he is talking about the importance of not just figurative language, but raw detail…even details that pertain to what we assume is a triviality. It’s excellent advice for writers of all levels, and it makes me wonder what kind of positive comments and suggestions he would take the time to put on a student paper.

He talks about developing theme in his journal entry of 18 October 1856:

“My work is writing, and I do not hesitate, though I know that no subject is too trivial for me, tried by ordinary standards; for, ye fools, the theme is nothing, the life is everything. All that interests the reader is the depth and intensity of the life excited. We touch our subject but by experience, or our interest in it, rests on us by a broader or narrower base. That is, man is all in all, Nature nothing, but as she draws him out and reflects him. Give me simple, cheap, and homely themes” (288).

I believe he is trying to advise the writer about character development when he says, “All that interests the reader is the depth and intensity of the life excited.” He could be referring to his own sense of self, and how he wants his own characterization understood, he could be referring to any writer, on any characterization…it is the “depth” and the “intensity” of a character that makes us fall in love with it for whatever its faults or virtues. “Give me simple, cheap, and homely themes” could refer to anything we experience in contemporary entertainment, from reality shows, to metal music. The themes are in essence, cheap, simple, and in some cases shockingly homely.

Finally, as an educator, I value the power of reflection, and the lack of false drama and overdone hyperbole. In his entry of 28 March 1857, Thoreau discusses reflection in his own stylish way:

“Often I can give the truest and most interesting account of any adventure I have had after years have elapsed, for then I am not confused, only the most significant facts surviving in my memory. Indeed, all that continues to interest me after such a lapse of time is sure to be pertinent, and I may safely record all that I remember” (311).

The best stories are told over and over again, orally. I am sure Thoreau was able to flesh out much of his thematic genius by visiting and recounting details with his various friends and family members. His thoughts and stories grew in value over time, and he wants future writers to have an awareness of how much of writing takes place away from the desk.

If we aren’t sharing these insights with our students, then we should be. Thoreau’s thoughts on his art are certainly worth learning.

Thoreau, Henry D. I to Myself. Ed. Jeffrey S. Cramer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 207.



Another Edition of Charter School Hysteria

This stuff is really getting old, but this woman will not stop spreading misinformation. 

in response to dianeravitch:

Jersey Jazzman has pulled together many of the questions that have been raised about the Gulen network of charter schools. We know that there are many of them, at least 160. That makes it the second largest chain in the nation, behind KIPP. We know that Gulen charter schools typically deny that they are part […]

Here is a goldmine of data assembled by a team of lawyers working on behalf of the Government of Turkey to bring Harmony Schools of Texas into the public eye for over-the top use of visas, issues of self dealing and the like.

Foreign nationals are permitted to own and operate US schools and receive taxpayer dollars for that. I believe that should be illegal. Private schools are a different matter, but these are really the hybrid, privately managed publically funded.

I understand that this legal team is working on behalf of the government of Turkey to discredit the whole enterprise of Harmony schools in Texas. I would love for this work to have been carried out by a legal team representing the US, not Turkey.


Followed by my response and a rhetorical question: Why would any Texan want the leader of a foreign country, under any circumstances real or imagined, meddling in their local schools?

    • Turkish government document:

      At the Harmony Science Academy – West Houston, a male Turkish teacher with a
      Bachelor’s degree and no experience, who teaches English Language Arts and “other”, is
      paid $56,875 annually. At the same school, a female non-Turkish teacher, who has one
      year of experience and teaches English Language Arts, “other”, and Social Studies is paid
      $47,000 annually, a disparity of $9,875.

      The paragraph above is just one example of the lies in that document. I can personally guarantee you that there is no man teaching ELA at the HSAWH. We had a male teaching tenth grade English at that school the year before last; I know him personally, but he was an American citizen (born and raised) and moved to a different state. You should make sure that the facts in your document are not fabricated by the Turkish government before you go running it in a blog because you could embarrass yourself. Furthermore, we do not have any teachers overlapping with social studies and ELA. They are completely different departments, and they are all staffed with Americans.

      I have never known any Turkish person to teach English Language Arts at any Harmony school. I would know because I attend the cluster trainings with my colleagues. The TEA is going to throw the Turkish government’s documents in the trash because they already know everything there is to know about the educators, the visas, and the management.

      I can’t understand why Xenophobes, like yourself, can’t find better things to do than try to hurt schools and children. We are not busting any unions here, this is Texas. And just like any school, you are going to find complaining parents. You are going to find complaining teachers, especially in the cruel world of edreform. But if you want to really find teachers and students that have been mistreated, I have a couple of leads for you. I have some really good stories, but they didn’t happen at Harmony.

      The people of Texas do not want some foreign country meddling in the business of our local schools…you can quit panting and slobbering all over this issue because it amounts to absolutely nothing. Furthermore, it would be a terrible mistake to allow a theocrat like Erdogan to reach across the Atlantic to punish people that he imagines are not supportive of his fundamentalist Islamic plan. Today, he purged 15,000 educators in his own country because of his delusional obsession with Gulen. Do you not recognize insanity when you are faced with it?

      The HB1 visas are legal. The US government is allowing these teachers to come here and contribute to our students, so why would you care? We are facing a shortage of qualified math and science teachers…there is no surplus, and no US citizen is denied a position based on what you are suggesting.

      The students are introduced to teachers from around the world, not just Turkey. It’s true, some of them have a heavy accent from their native land. But the students adapt, and they become better listeners and more tolerant of people of other nationalities. That is what we want for our children…we want tolerance, understanding, and community.

      Think about what you are doing and who you are supporting. Erdogan will murder the people that defy him. Be logical and read everything that you can find on Erdogan because he is becoming a dangerous and unstable president. Your hysteria, based on your hatred for charter schools, could lead to devastating consequences, not just for the students and teachers you are hurting at this moment, but for yourself because you are unwittingly providing support to a man bent on making Turkey a theocracy. In that theocracy little girls and boys will not be allowed to attend school together, Christians and Muslims will be separated, and human rights for all people will be further violated.

Leave a Reply

Xenophobic, Misinformed, and "Please, Don't Give Me Your Racist Crap!" My Comments in response to the Peanut Gallery

  1. First of all, I would just like to say that there is absolutely no evidence to support these allegations against Harmony Science Academies in Texas. The people I know that work for Harmony are a blend of nationalities, and not just Turkish. They are also from various faiths, and therein lies the problem because Erdogan (the Turkish President) does not support secularism, and he can’t stand to see children of all faiths working and studying under the same roof. Basically, I want to say that I have been treated with respect and dignity at Harmony, something I never experienced at a Texas ISD.
    Finally, it is important to establish a couple of facts about living and working in the US. If I want to belong to a movement, any movement, then I am allowed. To come out and keep criticizing the Gulen Movement like it is some terrorist organization is ridiculous…I don’t belong to any movements, but I don’t care who does. I might join tomorrow, and that would be my business only. Furthermore, Erdogan has no right to interfere with schools in our country. How does he even have time to keep obsessing over his old partnership with Fethullah Gulen that has long been dissolved? Why does he care so much about what school children do in Texas? He has violated the rights of his own citizens, and his coup attempt is probably nothing more than cruel theatrics orchestrated in an attempt to garner public hatred against the academies, and his old rival Gulen. Erdogan’s actions in his own country should raise numerous red flags. I agree that charter schools should have strict accountability, but the schools you speak of are staffed with caring adults from all over the world, including our own country. Erdogan has transformed over time into a fundamentalist that would have children separated by race, religion, ethnicity, and sex. It is a privilege to see children from all walks of life study and play together…it is Erdogan’s motive to erase secular schools.
    Just one more point to consider: If you had a powerful enemy like Erdogan, wouldn’t you stay out of the public?

    • Jack 


      It’s fascinating to see someone with as little self-awareness as you display here.

      You vociferously disclaim any connections of your schools to Gulen or to events in Turkey, insisting that the allegedly Gulen-controlled schools are just as normal and as American as apple pie. 

      However, you then you proceed to go on blathering on and on about Turkey and its current and past political situation, parroting all the Gulen talking points, citing all this minutiae about internal politics and granular detail about Erdogan that the Imam Gulen himself just spewed forth in a rare interview yesterday.

      Boy, great minds REALLY DO think alike.

      Your first name gives you away as (possibly) African-American, so I wonder: how many U.S. African-Americans or African-American teachers who are so well-versed in the specifics of the politics of Turkey? How did you end up knowing so much about an arcane topic that no one else — African-American or otherwise — in this country really knows or cares all that much about? 

      Gee, I’ve been teaching 17 years, and I can honestly say that the subject of Turkish politics — let alone details about specific Turkish political figures — has never been broached in the teachers’ lounge, or in conversations with other teachers. Doesn’t it seem odd that you yourself are so absorbed with, and can so readily and easily spit back so much on this topic? 

      Do you think this might have anything to do with the school at which you work, and the people ultimately controlling that school?


      Just so you know, I am a white woman with 1/8 Native American blood. I happen to know a lot about Turkish politics because I subscribe to the New York Times. And I suggest you do the same so that you may be better educated. Furthermore, it is true, I do have some friends from Turkey because I actually work with some of them. I also work with people from other countries…European countries, and Asian countries. This gives me an outlook that is more broad than average, and it also provides my students with multiple perspectives. Obviously, you are suffering from something akin to narrow-mindedness…and for that, I do have a cure. READ…it will do you good. Until then, spread your hateful bigotry elsewhere…Harmony Schools are doing just fine.

  2. Laura H. Chapman 

    LaWanda Eckert
    Just curious, How many people do you know who are working or who have worked for the Harmony schools in Texas and which schools do they work in? Have you visited any Harmony schools? I think readers of this blog would like more detail.

    (In this list the last entry refers to the name of the administrative “cluster” for each school).

    Harmony Science Academy – Austin-K-8-Austin;


        I teach in a Harmony School, and I am going on my third year. My coworkers are, of course, Harmony teachers. Some of them have been with Harmony for a decade. Most of them are US citizens, Texans, in fact. I go to Harmony sponsored trainings, and I attend other professional development workshops with the state. I am a certified professional, and this nonsense about Harmony is absolutely laughable. 

        And I would like to note that the only teacher at Harmony that I thought should not be in front of students was born and raised in the US. The only high level administrator that I believed to be unethical and lack subject knowledge was born and raised in the US. 

        Why would anyone suggest that people from other countries have nothing to offer our educational system? That is xenophobic and offensive. What Harmony is doing, while not yet perfect, is blending students and teachers from all nationalities together. It’s wonderful to go to work and see the different faces, and hear the different voices, and experience the beautiful languages and cultures from not just Turkey, but internationally. Harmony is not sponsoring Islam, the schools are totally secular. No one from my school, or from Harmony administration, cares what religion I am or even if I am religious. 

        And just for the record, all of the teachers in the social studies department are AMERICANS! Born and raised…in the US.

        Meanwhile, back at the Texas ISD, you can be sure that you had better be cookie cutter perfect, or at least their definition of cookie cutter perfect. And the last thing you would do at a Texas ISD is point out a problem because if you do, then you will get fired. 

        I would also like to point out for the benefit of Ms. Ravitch’s blog, that financial irregularities are commonplace at Texas ISD’s. I respectfully wish she would investigate that.


Warming Up My Writing with the Transcendentalists

This week I have been busy fighting with an aging air conditioner; attempting to keep the house under 85 degrees has meant darkness in all rooms, living in a fan-induced wind tunnel. IMG_0631

By Midafternoon, I Feel as if I am One with Nature

Yes, I have been busy reading Thoreau, and like Thoreau, sweat does little to enrich my moral or ethical compass. In fact, sweating has been making me feel rather tired and angry, especially when I log into my Reliant Energy account and glance warily, with eyes squeezed into tight little slits and face turned awkwardly away, at the escalating costs of electricity at my new residence. This does nothing to make me feel transcendental, or individual, in my worship of any deity; but it does make me feel like I should take some kind of legal action against my old landlord whose abuse and greed is unmatched anywhere. 

Renting does have its positive attributes. For example, Thoreau was able to rent from Emerson just by doing a few chores and tutoring a small child. The rest of his days were given to long transcendental type walks where he collected natural trinkets, made beautiful notes, and then spent long hours penning (or in his case penciling) the pleasures of nature.

Reading Thoreau this Week has been a Rather Cruel and Unusual Assignment

I've been following Thoreau's essays through the cool New England coastal areas, and up to Ktaadn Mountain, while he reveals, in stunning detail, the chilly temps, his pleasant frame of mind, and the lovable furry and feathered creatures he meets along the way. He also describes beer in a manner which any craft brewer would be proud, and his descriptions of the camp food, the fishing, and the downstream surfing across the tops of well-rounded rocks in frigid water sounds like a vacation in paradise---a vacation I will never be able to afford as long as I am churning out money to Reliant Energy for an outdated piece of air conditioning equipment.

What does Transcendental Mean to an Eckert?

First of all, not all Eckerts are made the same. For example, I wouldn't include my sister or my nephew in the transcendental category. But I do rely on my intuition, and I am a believer in the teachings of Immanuel Kant, of which I wrote extensively in my last course. Thoreau, Emerson, and other transcendental types that met together and published in The Dial, believed in living as one with nature, and that humans were divine within. This means that everything can be learned via the senses, but one can transcend beyond those limitations, and I honestly believe this happens while we engage with nature. 

When I am sweating in my living room at four o'clock in the afternoon, it is almost impossible for me to work, much less transcendentalize. 

Goodman, Russell, "Transcendentalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

Kant, Immanuel. "The Good Will and the Moral Law." John Martin Creed, and J.S. Boys Smith. Religious Thought in the Eighteenth Century: Illustrated from Writers of the Period. Cambridge. pp. 187-190

Thoreau, Henry David. "Ktaadn." Lewis Hyde. The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau. New York: North Point. 2002. pp. 63-121


Moving and Unethical Landlords: the Trials

If I said I wasn't happy to write under my old banner again, well, I'd be lying! So much has happened this year that needs to get recorded, but I have been too busy to write for fun. What with teaching, taking grad classes, and looking after two dogs and a teenager, my calendar is full and I am overbooked. 

I had to move this June, and it was a real burden on my friends, my work, and my family. All I know is that if someone wants to become a landlord, then they should have to pass some kind of a mental health check, and also take a quiz on basic ethics. I was able to live in my old house for two years, but I knew when the lease expired that they were going to start acting weird; predicting that the greed meter would reach a new record, I choked back the tears and started packing.

My new office is much bigger, but I am not buying more resource materials. My bedroom is bigger, but I'm not adding any new boyfriends. The kitchen is bigger, but it has a gas stove, and I am very intimidated by gas. Besides, the air conditioner is at least 25 years old, and that's too old to do the job, plus the oven makes the house hotter than Hades. 

Logistically, this house is too far from my kid's school. This means I have to let him drive, and he did not inherit my gift of spatial reasoning. Having the ability to measure speed and distance is crucial to good driving, but my son is a dreamer behind the wheel. Guns and machetes concern me because, for the Houston road rage idiot, they are the weapon of choice. Not only that, I am just not comfortable letting my kid run around unsupervised in a car. It just seems like a crazy thing to do!

Anyway, I am about to start blogging a lot more. I am taking a class featuring Henry David Thoreau, and his diary is awe-inspiring. Not that my prose will ever compare to Thoreau's, but it would be fun to try. And I have missed my much! My old issue used to drive a lot of traffic, and I even had some commercial sponsors. I guess now that I have settled down into a more domesticated life people find me boring. 

Well, that's it for today...the blog about nothing has blogged itself out. Now I have to deal with the lost chihuahua in my back yard, then go wash my face and brush my teeth. I think I'll fix the chihuahua up with a kennel and a blanket. Yeah, that's a good idea!

Night world!