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Category Archives: Journalism

Teaching Children how to Navigate today’s Confusing Media Circus

I was teaching English during the 1st Bush War against Iraq. It was called the Gulf War, and it was 1991. By then, I’d been teaching 16 years. I retired and left teaching in 2005 after 30 years. In 1991, a few of my students had brothers in the military over there, and I asked my students to write letters and send gifts to him and others in his unit. That became our link to a war.

At the time, the country was very supportive of that war, and it didn’t occur to any teachers I knew to discuss and question what was happening because it wasn’t an unpopular controversial issue. There were those that spoke out but there’s always someone that’s against all wars even if the U.S. were attacked without warning like Pearl Harbor during World War II.

The New York Times reported on January 22, 1991, “The American public’s initial soaring optimism about the war against Iraq has flattened a little, but support for the war remains broad and President Bush’s approval rating continues to stand at a record level, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows.”

It also helped that the Gulf War was over before it had time to lose support. It only lasted 1 month, 1 week and 4 days. That New York Times story mentioned in the previous paragraph came out a little over month before the war ended on February 28.

Compare that to the War in Afghanistan that started in 2001 and is still raging, or the Vietnam War that started in 1955 and went to April 1975, almost 20 years that saw millions killed and maimed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos before the United States finally left.  By 1970 only a third of American’s believed that the U.S. had not made a mistake by sending troops to fight in Vietnam.

Back then we didn’t have the Alt Right lying, conspiracy theory generating media machine that exists today. The worst we had back then was Rush Limbaugh and a few other rising stars in conservative talk radio. Let’s not forget that Fox Broadcast Television Network didn’t have its primetime launch until April 5, 1987. It was almost as if Rupert Murdock knew that the Fairness Doctrine was already doomed, and that a few months later in June of 1987, President Reagan would veto the Fairness Doctrine legislation that would have guaranteed more balance and honesty in the media, and this paved the way for the endless lies and conspiracy theories we have to live with today from the Alt-Right.


What is wrong with honest, equitable, and balanced coverage of controversial public issues?

The Washington Post reported in 2014, “About half (16) of the 32 outlets have an audience that pretty clearly leans to the left, while seven have audiences that lean conservative. The rest (including all the broadcast networks) are somewhere near the middle.”

Back in 1991 during the 1st Gulf War, we didn’t have Vote Smart (launched 1992), or Snopes (launched 1995), or FactCheck.org (launched in December 2003), or PolitiFact.com (launched 2007). These sites have become America’s antibodies fighting the Alt-Right media machine virus that’s infecting any chance at balance and truth in the news. There is a big difference between bias and lies.

Bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

But a lie is an untruth. It is deceit. It is deception. It is dishonesty. It is trickery. It is worse than bias. Lies can be revealed by facts, but bias is harder to dig out and varies from a simple bias that cherry picks facts to an extreme bias that ignores facts that does not support that bias. Most traditional media bias is not extreme and is not easy to measure. Lies are easier to discover by a little digging using the Fact Check sites listed above.

With news supported by facts based on actual events, it’s not easy to generate conspiracy theory propaganda that is worse than vomit and diarrhea in your mouth at the same time.

The need for fact checking started soon after the 1st Bush War (ended February 1991) and then grew after the 2nd Bush War that was justified by lies of WMDs (2003 – 2010, a war that lasted 8 years, 8 months, and 28 days).

As the Alt-Right conspiracy-theory generating media machine grew and the GOP continued to move further to the right into unchartered extremist territory, the need to question everything has become necessary.

So, today, before an event or movement can become an issue, teachers must teach their students to question everything they hear and read in the traditional media and especially from the Alt-Right media machine, and teach them how to use all those fact and fact check sites listed above with links. That includes government sites that gather data and information: U.S. Census, the CDC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NASA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The CIA’s World Factbook, etc.

Of course, if Fake President Trump, who obviously only learns from Fox, and the Alt-Right Media machine, has his way, those fact-gathering government agencies that employs both registered Democrats and Republicans might not exist in a few months or years since Trump has made it clear he doesn’t trust any information that isn’t what he wants to hear or can’t control.

Contrary to the false opinions of the extreme, deplorable followers of Trump and the Alt-Right, every teacher and every government worker isn’t a liberal or a progressive, but most of them are probably not racists either. In fact, I’ve read that almost 30-percent of public school teachers are registered Republicans while the rest are independent voters and registered Democrats.

There are other terms children should learn about. For instance, confirmation bias, a perfect term to describe Fake President Donald Trump’s choices for where he tunes in to hear the news that is often wrong in so many ways.

To discover more about bias, read The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational.

And then there’s lies. Yes, there are different levels of lying too from bad to horrible. For instance Politifact.com divides its fact checking into: true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false, and pants on fire, and on that note, here’s a list of all the Pants on Fire lies from Donald Trump.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The New York Times sent me a long e-mail asking me to subscribe

The NYT’s email follows my reply

If the New York Times is such a great newspaper, why does it support Corporate Charter Schools as better than community-based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools in its pages?

Test scores do NOT make a good or great school.

Honest studies based on all the facts that go beyond the hype and lies pumped out repeatedly by the billionaire supported autocratic, opaque and secretive, for-profit, often fraudulent and child abusing corporate charter school industry repeatedly prove that these for-profit (not public) schools that take public money are no better, are often worse and are riddled with fraud and corruption.

While traditional public schools are ridiculed and often closed for allegedly failing to educate ALL the students according to flawed laws and legislation, the corporate charter schools are often ignored when they fail worse than any public school has ever been accused of.

Until the New York Times reports accurately and honestly without bias about what is really happening in the United States about the county’s arguably great community-based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools, I will not subscribe to your newspaper even to support you financially.

I earned my BA in journalism from Fresno State Universty in California in 1973, and the New York Times inadequate and often biased coverage of the greed based autocratic war against the highly successful community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools. I taught both English and journalism in California public schools for thirty years so I know what I am talking about. If you have the time; if you have an open mind, read my memoir “Crazy is Normal”. This memoir was not written with best-seller status in mind. It was written to reveal what goes on in an American classroom and it was based on a daily journal that I kept for one full school year.

I know what I am talking about when I allege that America’s traditional public schools are a great success. Test scores do not measure success. The college graduation rate does (The U.S. of ranked annually as one of the most educated countries on the planet). The high school graduation rate by age 25 does. The fact that America’s publishing industry is the largest and most profitable in the world does, because, without readers, that publishing industry would be insignificant.

And without the life-long learners, critical thinkers and problem solvers who are educated in America’s traditional, community base, democratic, transparent, non-profit (REAL) public schools, there would be no democracy.  High test scores from flawed and secretive tests that profit corporations like Pearson do not educate life-long learners, critical thinkers and problem solvers that this country needs to survive as a Constitutional Republic.

Let America’s highly educated teachers that belong to labor unions teach and get corporations, state capitals, and Washington DC out of the nation’s classrooms. Those teachers’ unions are necessary to protect teachers from frauds and bullies like Donald Trump.

Leave the teaching to the teachers and remember, the teachers do not learn for the students. Children must come to school ready and willing to learn.


It’s All About the Money!

 

A note from Cliff Levy, Deputy Managing Editor
Greetings,

I’m writing from the newsroom of The New York Times, where I’m a deputy managing editor, helping to oversee more than 1,200 journalists across the globe. I’m reaching out because you’ve shown an interest in Times journalism, and I thought that you’d like to hear how we view our mission.

Our journalists pursue stories around the clock because we believe in the power of information, ideas and debate to shape the world and inspire change. Just a few examples from our coverage in recent days:

When Syria insisted that it did not carry out a horrific chemical attack on civilians, Times reporters did groundbreaking work with forensic mapping to dispute the government’s claims.
Our Washington investigative team produced a special report on the F.B.I. director’s role in shaping the 2016 presidential election. After the director was dismissed by President Trump, the investigative team then came up with a series of scoops that revealed what had really happened behind the scenes.
With deep experience in Silicon Valley, our technology reporter exposed how Uber’s founder engaged in reckless corporate practices, touching off a federal investigation.

Real reporting is vital in a media landscape full of deceptive or outright false news. And we can do it because we have the support of our subscribers.

Of course, you can also look to The Times for compelling coverage on how to live a more fulfilling life. Our Cooking section offers thousands of recipes and how-to guides. Our experts offer advice on everything from how to avoid addiction to technology to how to exercise more effectively.

We also believe in elevating our readers’ voices in order to highlight a diversity of views. In a landmark partnership with Google, we’re going to open up most of our articles to comments, creating an engaging and respectful forum for you to discuss the issues of the day.

A little about me: I’ve spent 27 years at The Times, winning two Pulitzer Prizes, one for my work in Russia and one for exposing the abuse of mentally ill people.

Like so many in our newsroom, I’ve devoted my career to The Times because I believe in the role that independent and original journalism can play in society.

I hope that you’ll consider subscribing to The Times. Here’s how.

Regards,

Cliff Levy
This email was sent to lflwriter@sbcglobal.net
©2017 The New York Times Company | 620 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10018

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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The broken tooth, the coming crown, the 2014 Florida Book Festival and Writers Digest

I broke a tooth over the weekend and visited the dentist this afternoon spending a few hours in THE chair. I hate those shots that numb your jaw making it feel swollen like a puffy blimp. In a few days I will return for the fitting of the crown.

But when I returned home with that numb jaw, there was a surprise—a double dose of what I think was good news.

“”2014 Florida Book Festial and Comment by Writers Digest Judge“Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose” didn’t earn any awards from Writer’s Digest, but the judge’s comments were appreciated. :o)

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The power of academic competitions for students who want to learn

During a Facebook conversation, an internet friend mentioned how nice it would be if there were academic competitions as popular as sports.

I replied that there are popular academic competitions for those students who are interested and who usually have supportive parents that value an academic education.

The public schools may not hold academic competitions with cheerleaders and bleachers full of shouting, screaming fans but there are competitions and they’re recognized and the winners are honored by the school districts and schools the students attend.

In fact, the media often reports the results.

Most if not all students in many public schools probably hear about the chance to compete in these competitions in home room where teachers read announcements or from science and math teachers. Most kids will soon forget what they heard but those kids who are called “school boys” or “school girls” often stop at the teacher’s desk to pick up the information. These kids are dedicated and hungry to cooperate and learn what the teacher teaches.

Here’s what I know. There’s the Science Olympiad; Academic Decathlon and The journalism Education Association (JEA) that conducts journalism competitions that includes competing in news, sports, feature, opinion, editorial cartoons, photography and page layout. The JEA calls them write-offs because they are timed competitions just like most sports and the judges are editors and reporters who work in the traditional media.

In fact, these academic competitions—although quieter and not as celebrated as a league title in one of the three major sports or even golf or tennis—are recognized and honored. The winners of these academic competitions are recognized at school board meetings where the children who win are called on stage to shake hands with the school board president and the superintendent of the school district. For families that value an education, entire families usually turn out and some dress as if they are attending the Academy Awards. Those school board meetings are usually packed with standing room only.

The United States Academic Decathlon was founded in 1968 in Orange County, California.

The Science Olympiad is an American elementary, middle, and high school team competition in which students compete in ‘events’ pertaining to various scientific disciplines, including earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Over 6,700 teams from 50 U.S. states compete each year.

The Journalism Education Association was founded in 1924. When I was advisor/journalism teacher for a high school newspaper, I took a team every year to this competition.

When our daughter was in high school, we encourage her to make friends with students who competed in one or more of these academic competitions. We also encouraged her to go out for a sport. She joined Academic Decathlon where she picked up a gold medal in debate and Pole Vault where at 16 she was ranked in the top five in California for her sex and age.  She graduates from Stanford this year and already has a lucrative job offer.

What’s distrubing is that in every class our daughter took in high school, there were kids who did little or nothing and some who caused problems. No matter what her teachers did, they couldn’t get those kids to work or gain support from the parents of those children.

And when standardized tests are given, the same teachers could be judged as failures and face losing their jobs because the scores of the students who didn’t cooperate dragged the average down—the same teachers who taught our daughter who earned that gold medal in Academic Decathlon could lose their jobs and the public high school our daughter attended before she was accepted to Stanford could be closed and replaced by a private sector Charter school owned by a corporation that would profit off tax payers.

And if you think only kids from the best schools in wealthy communities compete in these academic competitions, you’d be wrong. The high school where I taught had more than 70% of its students on free and/or reduced lunch/breakfast. That means they lived in poverty, but there were still kids who competed in these academic competitions and won medals making the school proud. There were kids at that school who had supportive parents.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Focusing too much on the gods of football, baseball and basketball

I agree with a post I read at the quiet voice that there is too much of an emphasis in America’s public schools on sports and not enough focus on academics. But is that the fault of the public schools or the fault of the parents and the English speaking culture?

There is a vast difference between the US public education system and other countries such as Finland, China and Singapore. Because of those differences, to be fair, we cannot compare the results of US students with those countries unless we separate the genetically modified chaff from the organic grain and also compare apples to apples.

As a public high school teacher in California for thirty years (1975 – 2005), I taught four periods of English and one period of journalism for several years in addition to being the advisor of the student run high-school newspaper. One year, my journalism students were invited to write a series of pieces for a European magazine called “Easy Speakeasy“, headquartered in France.  “Easy Speakeasy” expressed interested in the sports programs in US schools because we were told that these programs did not exist in France and other European countries. Sports in Europe were mostly outside of the public schools sort of like Pop Warner Football in the US.

Pop Warner was founded in 1929, continues to grow and serves as the only youth football, cheerleading & dance organization that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate. Pop Warner’s commitment to academics is what separates the program from other youth sports around the world. In fact, studies show that kids involved in sports that require them to maintain their academic grades above a 2.0 GPA graduate in higher numbers than students that do not participate in sports.  Europe has programs similar to Pop Warner and I understand this is the only place students in Europe may participate in organized sports because these programs do not exist in European schools. In Europe and most countries, the focus in the public schools is academic and vocational—no sports, drama or music programs as in the US.

I can only guess that “Easy Speakeasy’s” editors invited my journalism students to write for their European publication because the high-school newspaper I was adviser for had won international recognition several years in a row from Quill and Scroll out of the University of Iowa.

In the English classes I taught there was a lot of chaff and only a little grain but in that journalism class, I taught the organic cream of our high school—students willing to be at school as early as six in the morning and stay as late as eleven at night to produce the high school newspaper—while many of my English students did not bring textbooks to class, do class work or even consider doing homework. Instead, there were students in my English classes that waged an endless war against academics disrupting the educational environment as often as possible.

Who do we blame for this educational environment in the United States?

Quill and Scroll offers academic scholarships. There is another organization called JEA (the Journalism Education Association) that also awards academic scholarships related to writing/academics. I know this because one of my journalism students earned a JEA scholarship. I required my journalism students to compete at the regional, state and national level in JEA academic writing competitions.

In addition, in most of the world there are two tracks in high school:  academic and vocational and students in those countries may graduate from high school either with a degree earned in the academic or vocational. For that reason, comparing graduation rates in the US with other countries does not count because in the US we only graduate through academic programs but still graduate a higher ratio of students through the academic track than any other country on earth.

Then there are children in the United States that cannot read and are functionally illiterate. When we compare the US to all other English speaking countries, the rate of functionally illiterate children is about the same telling us that this is more a product of a culture that does not value learning and reading as much as countries such as Finland where the majority of parents start teaching his or her children how to read at home by age three so those children can already read when they start school at age seven.

But in the US, many parents leave it up to the schools to start teaching children to read at age five or six and only those children that were taught by his or her parents start out on track and move ahead.

Then there is the fact that the US may be the only country on the planet that mandates children stay in school, no matter what, until age sixteen to eighteen.  In China, for example, there are about 150 million children in the grade schools but only about 10 million that remain in high school at age 15.

When the International PISA test is given in countries around the world, that test is given to a random sample of fifteen year old students. That means in the US, because almost every fifteen-year old is still in school, America’s students are being compared to the very best in countries such as China where students that are not the best academically have left the system by the time the PISA people show up.

However, when we filter out the chaff and leave only our most proficient students—for example: the journalism students that I taught—and compare them to the most proficient students of other countries, this being apples to apples, the US students beat every country in the world in every academic area tested. You will never hear these facts from the critics of public education in the US.

Discover The Legacy of the British Empire on Literacy

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The High School Environmental Club – one example of the rewarding side of teaching

When I write about the thirty years I taught in the public schools, I often focus on the problem students, the lack of parental support, and political pressures that seem to come from all sides, but there was a positive note to teaching that made up for the long hours and challenges that walked in the classroom each school day.

In the 1990s and into the 21st century, I was co-advisor of the Campus Chess Club and Environmental Club. Chess was easy. Students interested in playing chess came to my classroom at lunch. There were no field trips or fund raisers, and playing chess helped take my mind off my job.

During those years, my last class of the day was journalism so every day ended on a positive note. There is very little that is comparable to a classroom full of motivated, often incredible students.

The Environmental Club was another positive note. Neil, the co-advisor, was the primary organizer although most of the work and organizing was done by students. There were monthly weekend hikes where me, Neil, Marshal (now gone due to complications during his battle to beat leukemia),and sometimes a few other teachers/parents chaperoned students on hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Eventually, district administration stopped giving permission for the hikes due to increased insurance/liability issues.

However, one of the hikes went up Ice House Canyon (starts at 5,500 foot elevation) to the Saddle (7,500 feet) where several trails branched out to Cucamonga Peak (8,858 feet) and the three T’s: Timber Mountain (8,303 feet), Telegraph Peak (8,986 feet) and Thunder Mountain (8,587 feet).  I understand it is possible to hike all three peaks in one day.

The single-track to Icehouse Saddle climbs over 3.6 miles and is an exceptional hike.

I was the advisor/teacher for journalism and many of the students that were in the chess club and the environmental club were also in my journalism class, and we spent a lot of time together sometimes as late as 11:00 PM and as early as 6:00 AM.

The hikes through Ice House Canyon to the Saddle are fondly remembered because my journalism students started a tradition of water gun fights near the end of that day-long hike, and I was often the target: journalism students versus Lloyd. My small squirt gun was not up to the task of dealing with several students ganging up on me each with a squirt gun.

To level the playing field, I bought a squirt-pump machinegun with a gallon water tank, and it had a range of maybe 20 yards and it fit in my backpack so no one knew about my secret weapon.

The hike I think of most was the one where we went up to the saddle a few days after a weeklong blizzard that blanketed the San Gabriel Mountains in snow. We arrived early on a Saturday morning with several teachers and cars loaded with students to discover the trail was covered in virgin snow—no one had been up the trail since the blizzard and in some spots where the trail had snow melt running over it, the water had frozen into black ice.

Fortunate for us there was a Forest Ranger ready to hike up to a campground beyond the Ice House Canyon Saddle because several campers had weathered the storm there.  The only way to reach that campground was on the trails you will see in the embedded video I found on YouTube. That means the campers carried all their gear and food up that trail to the campground higher than the Saddle.

Discover What is the Matter with Parents these Days?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 5/5

I’m impressed when a reporter does his or her job properly and balances the news instead of feeding the mob that bellies up to the slop-trough of Yellow Journalism, which is based on sensationalism and crude exaggeration.

Don Thompson’s misleading AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny did not impress me.

However, Kevin G. Hall did.  Hall writes for the The McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper publisher in the United States with 31 daily newspapers in 15 states. Hall provided a more realistic, honest balance of Why employee pensions aren’t bankrupting states.

In his piece, Hall wrote, “From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers. However, that widespread perception doesn’t match reality.”

According the Hall, “Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t blowing up budgets.” They amount to just 2.9 – 3.8 percent of state spending, on average.

In addition, Hall says, “Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They’re underfunded…”

With those facts, we should ask what is the real reason to turn on public-worker sector pension plans.

The answer may be Wall Street and US bank private-sector greed, the same greed that caused the 2008 global economic crises.

According The Council on State Governments, in 2006 before the crash, the total amount of money held by these federal, state and local public-pension plans was almost $6 trillion dollars, and greed, it seems, has no limits.

If you do not believe me, ask people such as Bernard Madoff [$50 billion], Scott Rothstein [$1.2 billion], Tom Petters [$3.7 billion], Allen Stanford [$8 billion], March Dreier [$400 million], Lou Pearlman [$500 million], Michael Kelly [$428 million], the Greater Ministries International church [$500 million], Scientology minister Reed Slatkin [more than $600 million], and Nicholas Cosmo [$370 million].

Return to The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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