Category Archives: pollution

Poverty with Pollution—Its impact on the education of children

Before I get started, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website, formal assessment is expected to take place in the 2014–2015 school year, and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.

There’s also a Common Core Timeline you might find interesting. If you click the previous link, also visit the Analysis page; then scroll down to #3: How is the federal government involved in the Common Core? The rest of that page is worth reading too. Look close to discover the short timeline to achieve goals that no country on the planet has ever achieved with 100 percent of 17/18 year olds no matter how much time they were given.

Anyway, the impact of poverty on educational outcomes for children is well documented. The US National Library of Medicine reports, “School readiness reflects a child’s ability to succeed both academically and socially in a school environment. It requires physical well-being and appropriate motor development, emotional health and a positive approach to new experiences, age-appropriate social knowledge and competence, age-appropriate language skills, and age-appropriate general knowledge and cognitive skills. It is well documented that poverty decreases a child’s readiness for school through aspects of health, home life, schooling and neighborhoods.”

Poverty Timeline: In 2000, the poverty rate was at its lowest in U.S. history at 11.3 percent. Under Presidents G. W. Bush and Obama, by 2012, the poverty rate had soared to more than 15 percent, the highest rate in decades.

In addition, “The Department of Agriculture’s measure of poverty, every red state (Republican) from Arizona to South Carolina has the highest poverty rates in America; between 17.9% and 22.8%.”

By 2012, the share of Hispanics living in poverty had risen to 25.6 percent and for blacks 27 percent lived in poverty—compared to 9.7 percent who were non-Hispanic white. In addition, in 2012, 73.7 million American children represented 23.7 percent of the total U.S. population, but made up a disquieting 34.6% of Americans in poverty and a full 35% of Americans living in deep poverty. National Center for Law and Economic Justice

From this point on, I’m going to focus on what air pollution does to children, and the challenges that their teachers face to achieve the goals set by the rank and yank assessments of the Common Core Standards.

The findings of the Yale University research add to evidence of a widening racial and economic gap when it comes to air pollution. Communities of color and those with low education and high poverty and unemployment face greater health risks even if their air quality meets federal health standards. … Also, children and teenagers were more likely than adults to breathe most of the substances.

A study of Air Pollution and Academic Performance from the University of Southern California in conjunction with the University of Maryland says, “In this study, we examine the effects of four common and nationally-regulated outdoor air pollutants (PM10, PM 2.5, NO2 and O3) on math and reading test scores.

“The results suggest a sizable effect of pollution on academic performance, which provides evidence of another avenue by which pollution is harmful. Not only is it bad for children’s health, but it also impacts negatively on students’ performance in school and their ability in general, which we would expect to reduce future labor earnings. Since lower socioeconomic households tend to reside in more highly polluted areas, our results suggest that a decrease in pollution will result in a decrease in inequality, everything else held equal.”

Conclusion: Thanks to President Obama and his partner Bill Gates, children who live in poverty can’t win in the fake corporate-reform movement that is at war with public education and classroom teachers. The war on public education seriously started with President G. W. Bush’s NCLB and became more Machiavellian—think of Darth Vader and the dark side of the force in the Star Wars films—with President Obama’s Race to the Top and the rank and yank assessments of the Common Core standards.

The Obama-Gates driven rank and yank method of judging teachers and children—then firing and/or failing the losers besides closing schools and turning those children over to corporations to teach—will hit the poorest schools with Thor’s Hammer.

If you have trouble accepting this conclusion, then I suggest reading Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing by Meredith Broussard published in The Atlantic Magazine on July 15, 2014, to discover the real agenda behind the reform movement in education—a reform movement that is focused on profit and to hell with children, teachers and parents.

Anyone who really wants to help the public schools improve would start with two programs: First, a national early childhood education program.

Second, teacher training resulting in a paid, full-time, year-long residency program with a master teacher and follow up support from the teacher-training program for the following two years. There would be no rank and yank assessment agenda linked to the Common Core Standards, and no public schools would be closed. Instead, they would be fully funded.

Discover who is responsible for blocking legislation in Congress that would reduce air pollution @ Is Global Warming a hoax and why should we care?


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

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 Impact of Aging Public Schools on Teachers and Students

My last sixteen years of teaching took place at Nogales High School in La Puente, California.

Nogales was built in 1961. By the time I left teaching, Nogales was forty-four years old.

During the last few years when I entered my classroom in the mornings, I started to wheeze and sinus infections were an annual school year occurrence.

Years earlier, in the 1990s, the flat roof above my classroom had sagged resulting in a pool of water when it rained, which leaked into the room.

The year the roof first leaked, I taught four sections of ninth grade English and my fifth and last section of the day was journalism. There were tables along the back wall that held journalism’s Mac computers, a printer and scanner.  Because the worse leaks occurred above the computers, I bought a sheet of plastic to cover them and placed trashcans around the room to catch water from the worst leaks.

By then, the brown, industrial grade carpeting was worn and spotted with dark blotches where gum had been ground into the fabric by unruly students. After the rain, a large portion of the carpet at the back of the room became a spongy mass as it absorbed water from the leaks.

One summer early in the 21st century, the school district removed the old leaky roofs, rafters and all, until the classrooms were open to the sky.  Then new roofs that were not flat were built on the old walls.  However, that brown carpet remained.

According to BEST (Building Educational Success Together), school districts in the US have an estimated $271 billion of deferred (which means they don’t have the money and have to put it off) building maintenance in their schools, excluding administrative facilities…

Many of America’s public schools are aging and causing health problems adding another challenge to teaching.

Near the end of my teaching career (1975 – 2005), I often came down with sinus and respiratory infections but not during the summers when I was not teaching.

The last few years, the indoor air quality in my classroom was so bad that minutes after entering the class, I started to wheeze and then get a low-grade headache that stayed with me all day.  Nogales had more than a 100 people working there.  When I asked if anyone from the staff was having health problems similar to mine, about 20 to 25% said yes and the symptoms were similar.

BEST says, “A national survey of school nurses found over 40% knew children and staff adversely impacted by avoidable indoor pollutants.”

I didn’t plan to retire at sixty.  My goals were to teach until I was sixty-five and leave teaching in 2010.  However, I left five years early due to the wheezing, sinus infections and headaches that all happened or started in my classroom.

I left teaching in 2005, I haven’t wheezed or had a sinus infection since.

One study found that unsatisfactory buildings in need of improvements/repairs influenced test scores, attendance and suspension rates. Another study revealed a 4 to 9% difference in achievement between students in schools in worst/best condition and a 5-9% difference between students in oldest/newest schools in addition to a 4% difference in graduation rates between students in schools in worst/best condition. Source: 21st Century School Fund

The quality of school buildings affects the ability of teachers to teach, teacher morale, and the very health and safety of teachers.

Despite the importance of the condition of school buildings, serious deficiencies have been well documented, particularly in large, urban school districts (see for example, GAO 1995). Moreover, since school buildings in the United States are, on average, over forty years old—just the time when rapid deterioration often begins—we should expect problems with school facilities to worsen.

For example, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is widespread and many schools suffer from “sick building syndrome” (see, for example, EPA 2000), which in turn increases student absenteeism and reduces student performance (see EPA 2000; Kennedy 2001; Leach 1997; Smedje and Norback 1999; Rosen and Richardson 1999).

Since current student-focused asthma studies show that students lose considerable school time because of the poor conditions of schools, it is not surprising to find that poor IAQ also affects teachers’ health. In one study, fully two-thirds of Washington teachers surveyed reported poor indoor air quality in their school. Source:

In my school district, teachers were given 10 sick days a year.  By the time I had taught 25 years, I had about 180 sick days saved.  I used up about half  the last three years I taught.

Discover how Sewer Teaching is a Smelly Art or learn from HEPA Filters Do Not Work Miracles


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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Graffiti Nation – Part 2/2

When it comes to combating tagging and graffiti, Michael Howard is an individual who had an idea to counter the blight with art. He said, “I figured if you address the root cause — that kids need to be creative, have their self-esteem nurtured and a safe place to express themselves and channel their energies into something positive that benefits the community — then you could reduce graffiti.”

At the time Howard had this idea, he was a teacher at the Juvenile Hall school in Orange County. While there, he launched Operation Clean Slate (OCS).

I may have read of this before but was reminded of OCS in the April 2011, Costco Connection.

The inspiration for creating Operation Clean Slate came to Howard while driving to Los Angeles. He’d seen graffiti many times, but this time he saw a way to deal with it.

I salute Howard for his dedication and effort. However, I disagree with the often misused term of self-esteem.  The self-esteem movement, which started in the US in the 1960s was misguided from the start.  Children do not need help nurturing a false sense of self-esteem.

Youth need positive choices to help guide them in other directions and this is what Howard offered. I doubt if he reached many gang bangers (children and teens that belong to gangs) that spend their nights marking territory with gang signs, but I’m sure he did appeal to the creative energy of taggers.

Street gangs are primitive and often dangerous tribes that exist in the barrios and ghettos of America. Most of these street gangs deal in drugs and violence.  Some have been known to initiate young recruits by having them shoot and possibly kill someone (often strangers to the gang bangers) during a drive by.

Most youth that join gangs have no choice due to the pressure in the barrio or ghetto. Only determined loving parents involved in a child’s life stand a chance to keep their children out of these gangs.

I taught in a gang-infested area of La Puente and West Covina from most of 1975 to 2005.

Parents that live in the barrios and ghettos where these street gangs exist may consider contacting individuals such as Howard to see if he can help keep their children off the streets and away from gangs.  Positive activities such as Operation Clean Slate are one way to do this—not wasting time building a false sense of self-esteem in a child that often leads to narcissism as an adult.

Return to Graffiti Nation – Part 1 or learn of Presidents Bush and Obama’s
Ignorant Gaff


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine
& Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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Graffiti Nation – Part 1/2

Graffiti is a blight on America and may be found in Europe and other nations too. Driving down urban freeways and highways in the US, drivers often see graffiti on billboards and freeway signs.

The cost to paint out graffiti at the high school where I taught until 2005 was about $10,000 a year. I often arrived soon after the gates were unlocked about 6:00 AM.  My first class was usually 8:00.

The national cost is much higher than that ten grand one school district spent to keep one of its campuses graffiti free.

As one example demonstrates, the city of Los Angeles spent $3.7 million dollars to paint over, “Just one of the MTA’s tags — its initials painted 57 feet high and a quarter-mile-long on the Los Angeles River concrete embankment.… The maneuver underscores authorities’ exasperation with a subculture that prizes prolific defacement of public property, including buses, street signs and freeway overpasses, and costs taxpayers millions to remove.” Source:

At Nogales High School in La Puente, California where I taught for sixteen of the thirty years I was a public school teacher in the US, after the daytime-custodians arrived to set up the campus before students arrived (putting out trash cans and inspecting the buildings for damage), one custodian climbed into an electric-powered flat-bed cart and spent an hour or so driving along the covered walkways around campus with paint the color of the school sitting on the flat bed ready for use.  Every morning, he would discover gang signs and graffiti on the lockers, doors and walls and cover them with fresh paint.

Metro Tagger Assassins (MTA)

After our daughter started high school, we joined her each morning on the one-mile walk to school and part of the walk was behind a super market, which was often covered with tagging.

Tagging is different from gang signs. Tagging is the signature of a graffiti artist or a crew of taggers attempting to become immortal and/or infamous by marking up as many buildings and walls as possible.

Some of this tagging is creative and artistic in nature but most is an eyesore.

A few of these misguided youths have fallen from freeway overpasses where they cling to chain link fences like cockroaches climbing a wall.  These urban cockroaches hang above the traffic spraying their unique tag and some fall to be hit by traffic sometimes killing drivers and passengers in cars and trucks.

Continued on April 12, 2011 in Graffiti Nation – Part 2 or discover A Ten Year Old Named Oscar


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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The Guilty Dead

Building services eventually discovered a family of dead possums inside the wall between my room and the math class next door. It seems that a possum mother found her way into the building’s attic.

When built, the classrooms could be opened so all the rooms on one side of the building (about six) became one long noisy hall. The first dividers were double thick plastic curtains. 

Years earlier, there was a theory about open classrooms where teachers could work together cooperatively. That failed like most educational theories that work great in controlled labs or selected schools.

The noise from more than two hundred students was too much for the teachers’ sanity, so partition walls (wood and drywall) were built between the classrooms and the top of the walls were left open—no top plate to seal them.

The possum mother with a pouch full of babies fell into one of the cells at the beginning of the Winter Break and died a horrible death without food or water. Possums are marsupials and carry their young in a pouch like kangaroos do.
The first post for this tale of woe was Teaching is a Smelly Art.


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HEPA Filters Do Not Work Miracles

I brought in the first HEPA air filter on the third day.  That lonely machine chugged away keeping the air somewhat breathable while custodians and building services struggled to discover where the stench was coming from.  One man thought maybe a sewer line ran under the building and had broken.

By the end of the week, the stink was outpacing the HEPA filter. I started buying more until there was four humming away losing the battle. Now, I had a noise problem too. With the HEPA filters humming away, most of the kids couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t hear them—maybe a blessing in disguise.

We abandoned the classroom and fled to the school library (see school libraries quietly rock) leaving the workers behind to solve the problem.

This tale of a tail will conclude with The Guilty Dead—the last post for this smelly story.
The first post for this tale of woe was Teaching is a Smelly Art.


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Innocent Math

On the second day, I started to suspect that the smell might be coming from the math class next door.  Since math was a “pure” subject, I didn’t think it could smell but …

Then the math teacher fled with her students.  She had immigrated from Vietnam and didn’t weigh a hundred pounds, but her students were terrified of her—accent and all, which might explain why the Vietnamese defeated the Japanese, the French and America while fighting wars with China before and after all the others. I’ll tell you some of the creative things she did to maintain classroom control another time.

When she left her room, she stuck her head in my room and stared at me with an accusing, killer look that all teachers who survive must develop. The white strip down my back grew longer.

This tale of a tail will continue in HEPA Filters Do Not Work Miracles—the next post.
The first post for this tale of woe was Teaching is a Smelly Art.


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Sewer Teaching is a Smelly Art

Teaching in a sewer is sort of like being in a volcano—impossible to escape the heat. Who said teaching wasn’t like a real job?

One year, I returned to Nogales High School from the Winter Break (what used to be called Christmas—this change came about due to a court case linked to political correctness) and the classroom smelled of death. In no time, it felt as if I had grown a white stripe down my back.

Industrial Pollution

When my first period arrived, the first kid in the door asked, “Mr. Lofthouse, what did you do?”

“It’s not me.”  I protested, but no one listened—nothing new there. Rumors spread and kids went out of the way to avoid me in the hallways.

In another period, a girl said, “Take a bath, Mr. Lofthouse.” She pinched her nose and went outside refusing to return. I picked up a referral and told her I would give her a tardy and send her to the office. By then, most of the students were in the room–some complaining.  A fortunate few could not smell anything—the benefit of a stuffy nose.

Any one tired of reading my tale of woe may want to visit Australia at Teacher Challenges.

This tale of a tail will continue in “Innocent Math”—the next post.


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Teaching or Writing with Pain, Pollution and People – Part 4/4

What the workers left behind caused my sinuses to run a hundred mile marathons accompanied by a bombarment of sneezing.

I went to the VA doctor and he prescribed medications that didn’t work.

As the days passed, the sneezing went volcanic—like Mt. Saint Helena blowing its top.

One time, I sneezed so hard, I blew the 3M mask off my face—so much for a mask that’s supposed to protect you from every gas and WMD plague Islamic terrorists can brew.

Upstairs or outside, I was fine. However in my home office, I was a goner.

“Blam, blam, balm,” my nose exploded like rapid shots from a fifty-caliber submachine gun.

I could have opened windows, but it’s been raining for weeks. The sky has been overcast. The air breezy and cold.

Then the sun came out and I let the outside in and the sneezing stopped—I’m crossed my fingers and knocked on wood. I’m afraid to close the windows, but night will come and with it lower temperatures. I feared that whatever industrial poisons haunting my once tranquil office space might return.

As I update this post months later, I’m happy to report that the sneezing ended that day.

Return to  Teaching or Writing with Pain, Pollution and People – Part 3 or start with Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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Teaching or Writing with Pain, Pollution and People – Part 3/4

I could have moved, but I didn’t want to disconnect all the cables and cart the computer equipment to another room for a few days—something (I soon discovered) would have been impossible without checking into a hotel.

If the school district where I worked for three decades would have let me, I would have rented a space in a nearby strip mall and taught my students away from the  sick buildings.

But back in my home office, even with a noise suppresser over my ears, muted sounds intruded and the last place I wanted to be was in that chair writing about China, the Vietnam War or writing about being a teacher in the tortured American public schools.

I stuck with it for several days as my suppressed anger fueled by PTSD started to simmer and fume.

It was a relief when the workers finished. I thought I was going to have the tranquility back where the only noise would be the click of the keys as my warmed hands flew across the keyboard meeting my Blogging goals.

But the workers left something behind.

Continued in Teaching or Writing with Pain, Pollution and People – Part 4 or return to Teaching or Writing with Pain, Pollution and People – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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