When I wrote my earlier post about simply attending the Rising Tide new media conference in New Orleans this past weekend I was really just planning to check it out and meet up with some folks. When I wrote that post I was not intending on speaking, just mingling . . . and then I was notified I would be receiving a reward, the Ashley (Morris) Award – a blogger of the year for the New Orleans area.

Ashely Morris is best known for this FYYFF post after Katrina that crassly but directly gave voice to the anger and spirt of many displaced New Orleanians in the wake of the storm, the bungled response, the finger pointing and is the (un)official motto of the Rising Tide Conference. (It’s a great example of what blogs and bloggers can do that traditional media outlets often shy away from doing by trying to appear balanced and impartial.)

Incidentally I was one of only two non-New Orleans based bloggers to ever receive it. (The other one was Lamar White from CenLamar, another excellent choice.)


As you can see. . . I had just the right tie for this esteemed event at Xavier University.

Get a close look. This is a one of a kind award created by an New Orleans folk artist and Rising Tide organizer named Lance Vargas that specializes in wood sculptures and designs, not some tired plastic plaque or trophy from a generic Awards Depot R Us joint.

If you are looking for some great and unique ideas for some early Christmas shopping Lance’s work can be found here: http://leveeland.com and his blog can be found here: http://thechicory.com/blog/

I love my award. . . my favorite part is the fist – of course, and it will fit in great with most of my other artwork, antiques, old-school wood paneling and décor. My award is signed so I think that makes it art too. J

Other previous Ashley winners were noticeably jealous and even asked (only half-jokingly) if I would consider swapping with them. Sorry Lamar, you’ll just have to try and win another one.

I did get to meet some great folks at this conference. I discussed a number of issues pertaining to education in Lafayette and New Orleans charters and I hope to stay in touch with those folks that reached out to me. If you want to see the various tweets that transpired during the Rising Tide Conference number 9, please refer to #RT9.

The education speaker at the Conference was Dr. Andre Perry. He has some interesting perspectives and some quotable nuggets on education issues that I and others chose to tweet during his speech. One of the interesting points he made was that the thousands of displaced teachers in New Orleans were as much victims of the tragic and corrupt school system as the students and that they lost their jobs as a result of apathy towards their plight as anything else. These teachers were often anchors and pillars of their communities, communities that these children of New Orleans live in, By eliminating so many breadwinners, teachers and role models from poorer communities of color the plight of many of these children was worsened. The younger, more affluent, whiter teachers did not live in the communities with these children. Dr. Perry made a statement I agree with that flies in the face of common Reformer messaging. He stated that communities and societies transform schools, schools do not transform societies. The Reformer belief is that if you simply “educate” kids (as measured by improving a standardized math or English score) you will raise up the entire society. I think that’s an interesting idea, but is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what education “is” and how kids are most successfully educated and positioned for success.

Education Reformers love to claim they are “data driven” and conscious. The problem Is they often oversimplify data and draw conclusions that are not supported by evidence but by wishes and their philosophies about how they think the world should word, not how it actually does. In Reformer World, everything is black and white and reducible. For instance: The US has the highest poverty rate of almost every industrialized nation. Educated people tend to make more money statistically. The more education (up to master’s degrees – PhDs are more dependent upon subject studied) the more money people generally make. Poor people tend to have less education. If we “educate” all poor people they will make more money and all of society’s ills will be cured.

The Poverty and Education Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

For starters, Reformers have made a classic logic flaw – assuming that correlation equals causation. Just because you have identified a correlation, does not mean you can use that single piece of “data” to impact an outcome. For example, most people would agree that birds that fly have feathers. There is a strong correlation between flying things and feathers. That does not mean you can add more feathers to ostriches and make them fly. That does not mean all flying things (like bats and airplanes) must have feathers to fly. No matter how many feathers you add to a whale, I can guarantee you will never make a whale fly simply by improving its feather to fat ratio.

Sorry, Willy

Education Does Not Equal a Math or ELA Score on a Standardized Test

Reformers have made the mistake of defining education as a test score. This was done to make analysis and benchmarking easier. True “Education” is hard to quantify but test scores are quantified by their very nature. Tests scores are great for producing reports, but not necessarily the best way of determining how well prepared a student is for life.

Reformers Have Arbitrarily Decided That the Lives of Children and Teachers Are Not Intertwined Because It’s Just More Cost Effective That Way

Because paying teachers living wages costs money, Reformers have decided for fiscal reasons that the fates of teachers are not intertwined with children outside of school. Because it would be impractical to pay teachers professional wages consummate to their education when compared to other professions, Reformers have tried to find alternative ways to squeeze blood from teacher turnips. To trim costs while trying to improve outcomes Reformers co-opted temporary teaching programs like TFA, that was initially formed to provide access to highly accomplished and motivated young adults to communities of color and poverty. These teachers were supposed to fill needs that were not being met, not create needs where there were none. However the idea here is to provide a constant influx of new “talent” that could be driven to exhaustion and driven off before having to pay salaries that would factor in years of experience.

Reformers Misunderstand Why Some Children From Poor Backgrounds Do Better Than Their Peers

Reformers assume some children “succeed”, while others in their demographic “fail” because of a teacher at school. They have failed to consider that teachers are paid so poorly, that if they are the sole bread winner in their family, their family might meet the “definition” of poverty. Taking teachers out of the local communities can have a devastating effect on those same communities. They claim these are “adult issues” but adult issues are always going to be their children’s issues. All children that do better than their peers are not the children of teachers, but they almost certainly have environmental factors that are not captured in a data system. (Note: This is not a recommendation to try and determine every factor by meticulously and invasively cataloguing every facet of family’s lives.)

The Definition of Poverty Is Crude and Not Longitudinal, While Education Is Lifelong

The definition of poverty is crude. Most people don’t realize it is simply whether a family qualifies for food stamps or makes less than a few times the poverty level for their family size. Many of these families may have educated parents, books in the home, grandparents that are better off, safer home environments, or parents that stay at home voluntarily, or parents with less reportable ( or reported because they earn tips or provide other private services) income. Additionally poverty is defined by a single event (which can be triggered by a temporary income situation) while education takes place over a lifetime.

I could go on for quite a while but I would probably have to write a book or two to even scratch the surface of the absurdity of the Education Reform movement’s logic fallacies. Instead I will leave you with some choice passages from my acceptance speech. I broke it up by noting including the steps from a Wiki-How on how to give an acceptance speech in case you are wondering about the “Steps.”



Step three

Share your thoughts about being awarded

When I first started my Crazy Crawfish Blog I had this somewhat warped idea about being a liberal version and answer to Rush Limbaugh – in my head. When I typed it was more like. . . . “Bwlaaa! Bad guys suck!”

That turned out to be as horrible an idea as it sounds. What I realized is, we, the world, have more than enough news-utainers, creating unnecessary divisiveness for the sakes of their own egos and wallets, and not nearly enough people willing or able to tell it like it is.

I thought I wanted to be a “crazy” crazy crawfish, and I thought doing that would help get me noticed.

Of course we live in a State where the frontrunner in our next Governor’s race is perhaps known best for his firms stands on Family Values, and his secret love for adult diapers and prostitutes, and then, there’s Edwards.. . . I vastly underestimated my state and the competition!

So rather than spending all my time trying to out-crazy crazy I’ve tried to make my name ironic.

I am not without opinions though. I want to cover real news in real depth and provide real guidance on issues I’m familiar with. I feel my work is representative of the work Rising Tide seeks to promote and endorse. I like to think of myself as both trusted news source and activist.

We blog. We thrive. We exist, because the world needs us to exist. The world needs leaders like all of you to speak out for what it right and to highlight what is wrong.

Step four

Say something Inspirational

Unlike all of you, I started off phenomenally popular. . .

or so I thought.

I had dozens of commenters off right off the bat telling me how great I was.

They would leave comments like:

“You posts are so the very good. Learned much, have I. Using the SEO make good posts more even the better. Look forward to reading the future. Keeps up good works! I come back much time.”

Eventually I realized this was what spam for blogs looks like, and that I didn’t have a lot of followers that were a cross between on a Chinese man (portrayed on Bonanza) and Yoda.

Of course, not before I tried to have meaningful conversations with these folks. I think I finally caught on when I when my cursor hovered over their names and some very unYodalike pictures popped up.

Of course I deleted the comments at that point, but then as I looked at my now mostly comment-free blog reality slipped in. I realized most of the comments on my blog were from me talking to spammers trying to trick people into clicking on adult websites. I was kinda bummed. Fortunately it was around that time that Mark, Oyster, one of the founders of Rising Tide, dropped in for a visit.

I’d been blogging for months and only had about 9 followers, and I was wondering if it was worth pursuing any longer. Mark encouraged me and posted an article about one of my stories on the Lens. I checked out the Lens quite thoroughly to see if it was legit, but I didn’t find any naked pictures so I figured I had hit the jackpot! Someone in the media (other than the guy with the picture of a cat wearing oversized sunglasses as an avatar) had noticed me!

To me, that was my first big award and perhaps one of the primary reasons I kept at it and am here today. I learned from that experience to nurture newcomers and have encouraged other folks to write blogs and provided feedback. It is just as important to our community, if not moreso, to recognize and acknowledge newbies as it is the more established folks.

(FYI, I still consider myself a newcomer, and I’m just trying play it cool, but this award really rocks!)

Steps 5 – 8

There are too many great bloggers and activists in this room that are at least as deserving, if not moreso, than me.

Collectively we create a space for each other where all of us can thrive and do our small part to make the world a more informed, navigable and understandable place.

My readers are as much to blame and credit for my success as anyone.

We are like Santa and the Easter Bunny. . . because the mainstream media probably sees us as Pagans, but also because we only have power as long as people continue to trust us, believe in us and welcome us into their homes.

Thank you for letting me into your Conference, your homes, and for honoring me with this award.

4 thoughts on “I was honored this past weekend (and I accidentally lied)

  1. Congratulations, Jason. I am glad you decided to inform us of some of the crazy goings-on in the department of education and the BESE. I don’t always agree with your conclusions but you do a great job of getting information out there, and so much of this stuff is just nuts! Keep it up!

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