Sunday, December 4, 2016

Norm in the Wave: School Scope: Vouchers are Coming, Vouchers are Coming!!! and Writing WS in Rockaway

Published Dec. 2, 2016 in The Wave

School Scope: Vouchers are Coming, Vouchers are Coming!!!

By Norm Scott

“The first American schools in the thirteen original colonies opened in the 17th century. Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States. The first tax-supported public school was opened in Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1644.”…. Wikipedia

With the coming Trump administration threatening to create a voucher system, we face an upcoming elimination of almost 400 years of public education. It won’t happen immediately but over time we will see a withering away of the entire fabric of free public education in this nation, and along with it I believe a similar withering away of 225 years of democracy. A viable public school system is part of the foundation of American democracy where a national identity can be forged. Break public ed and you break the ties that can bind Americans together.

Is it even worth talking about public education in the Trump Era, which the president elect has termed a “monopoly”, after appointing billionaire Betsy DeVos, the queen of vouchers, as education secretary? And thus we face the possible demise of an institution that has been the backbone of democracy in this nation since almost its founding.

The Jewish Forward posted a story titled, “Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? That’s a Tragedy for All American Jews.”  It is worth quoting a section from the article, which can be read in full at

“For generations of American Jews, public education has been the gateway to American life. It was certainly true for my parents, the children of immigrants; public school taught them not just facts and figures, but alao how to be American — and how to be proud of being American. Which is why the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education, while not surprising, is so deeply sad. DeVos is not merely a conservative and a Republican Party activist; she is one of the country’s most powerful advocates for ending public education entirely and replacing it with religious schools, for-profit charter schools and home schooling. Her foundation is widely credited as the primary engine behind the so-called “school choice” movement, which has led to the establishment of voucher programs in 13 states since 2000. Moreover, DeVos’s billionaire family, the members of which made their money in the Amway pyramid scheme, is one of the top five funders of the Christian right, having given hundreds of millions of dollars to the likes of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and dozens of Christian schools across the country. DeVos isn’t just the fox in charge of the henhouse — she’s the shochet, the slaughterer.”

Word is that many Jews in the orthodox community voted for Trump in higher numbers than secular Jews. So for them this may not a tragedy, since orthodox Jews who don’t send their kids to public schools can use public money for religious schools, as of course can Catholics and Muslims. With the attacks on Muslims can you see some religions being “unflavored”?

Every religious organization and every wood-be religious group, even bogus ones, will try to get in on the gravy train. Charters are in heaven over the chance to take over public school functions and property. Every school can will its own curriculum, thus fragmenting the American experience into smithereens.

Rockaway writing workshops
Switching gears, I’ve been in a writing group for about 10 years. Writing groups offer a very supportive environment to have your work critiqued and due to my colleagues I’ve begun doing something I never thought I would do – writing a novel, one of the hardest things I’ve tried to do.

Now Rockaway has its own writing workshop. If you’ve been hankering to write the great American novel or your memoir, or some poetry, Claire Van Winkle, one of our local hot yoga instructors at Hot Yoga Rockaway Beach on 116th St., also teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at CUNY and SUNY colleges and she has been offering 6-week writing workshops in Rockaway.  The next session will be offered on Wednesdays, beginning January 4. Email Claire at info@rockawaywritersworkshop for details.

Claire created a 10% discount code for WAVE readers who would like to try the 6-Class Card (listed under “Packages”). Enter code EDNOTES10 on the checkout page at

Coming soon from Claire, writing therapy workshops
Turning the Page: Making Sense of the Stories We Tell Ourselves, a community group designed to help individuals use writing to work through problems like depression, loss, trauma, and major life changes based on a program she developed  that applies writing workshop pedagogy and clinical psychology approaches (such as cognitive-behavioral theory) to group therapy. She’s run weekly sessions at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. While the program was created for a clinical setting, Claire hopes to bring her experience to the Rockaway/Broad Channel/Howard Beach area, helping those whose  silent struggles might be alleviated through guided expression.

Claire’s bio and CV are available at

Norm blogs at


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