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Tag Archives: California

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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Not a Pedophile by a Long Shot

James Hooker’s poor judgment (he could have waited a few months until after Jordan Powers graduated) cost him his job and now he has been accused of having a sexual affair fourteen years ago with a 17 year old (this is an alleged accusation and may not be true although the details are compelling).

However, Jordan Powers is 18 and in California 18 is the age of consent (the average age of consent in most states in the US is 16). Regardless of opinions that she is still a child, she hasn’t been a child since probably the age of 13, and her mother doesn’t have to like her daughter’s choices of who to love, but she should drop the pedophile accusations. A 41 year old man having an affair with an 18 year old is not being a pedophile. The definition for pedophile is: The act of fantasy on the part of an adult of engaging in sexual activity with a child or children. Powers stopped being a biological child four to six year ago and I’m sure she has a mind of her own regardless of her judgement falling in love with a man more than twice her age.

I taught middle and high school for most of thirty years, and believe me, once a young girl becomes an adolescent capable of being pregnant, most are not the so-called innocent child we want to believe in.

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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 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

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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).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Bazaar Daily News

MODESTO, CALIF: According to Yahoo News,  18 year old Jordan Powers is stupid enough to have actually taken James Hooker back as her boyfriend even though he was arrested for oral copulation of a minor from back in the 90’s.,

Yahoo notes that the two have moved back in together despite the wishes of her mother Tammie Powers, whom I might add is knowingly soaking up the attention she’s received on Facebook.

I don’t condone this kinds of relationships, but this mum just irks me. She’s loving every bit of attention she’s getting.

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What the Numbers say about Creating Jobs in America – Part 3/4

My goal in Part Two was to show what caused the national debt, why it keeps growing larger and who bears the most responsibility of that debt.

Now I will return to the CalSTRS “Retired Educator Winter 2012” newsletter, which said, “Statewide, CalSTRS benefit recipients (I’m one of them, and there are more than 200,000) received $6.03 billion in payments in 2006.  The economic ripple effect in the form of job creation as those benefits were spent totaled $9.22 billion, according to a 2007 study by the Applied Research Center at California State University, Sacramento.”

None of this was borrowed money. Educators paid a percentage of their gross earnings into CalSTRS during their working years as I did. This money was invested and earned interest, which was more than $30 billion for 2011. This money does not contribute to the national debt.

In fact, California’s economy gained $6.71 for every single dollar committed to pensions by employees, employers and taxpayers and each dollar also generated 44 cents in government revenues.

Furthermore, according to the Pensionomics: Measuring the Economic Impact of State and Local Pension Plans, these pensions support 2.5 million jobs and $358.6 billion in economic activity.


Does this sound as if the wealthy are funding the start up of small businesses?

For example, in 2006 in California, 976,233 state residents received a total of $23.52 billion in pension benefits from state and local pension plans… The average pension benefit received was $2,008 per month or $24,097 per year… Retiree expenditures stemming from state and local pension plan benefits supported 205,221 jobs in the state. The total income to state residents supported by pension expenditures was $15.1 billion.”  Source: Pensionomics – National Institute on Retirement Security (and this was just public sector pensions)

Then, according to Retirement USA, one in five private-sector workers is covered by a traditional pension while 55% of people 65 or older rely on Social Security for half or more of their income—the median income for older households with Social Security and pension and annuity income was $32,105 in 2008, not including earnings from work.

In addition, CalSTRS ended 2011 with net assets of $155.34 billion and that money isn’t sitting around gathering dust. Those billions are invested and earning money. To earn money off those investments, means someone else made money too and this generated jobs.

The CalSTRS newsletter says 53% of those billions were invested in Global Equities, which is a category of mutual funds in which investments may be made in stocks of corporations throughout the world. A portion of the fund’s assets are usually committed to American markets, although the major portions are held in equities of developing countries

In addition, 17.6% of CalSTRS funds were in Fixed Income accounts, 14.8% in Private Equities, 12.1% in Real Estate, etc.  When CalSTRS earns money from those investments, that means those investments also earned money for businesses and created jobs for Americans and for the citizens of other countries depending on where the money was invested.

However, where do the wealthy that benefited from the Bush tax cut keep most of their money?

Continued on March 2, 2012 in What the Numbers say about Creating Jobs in America – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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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.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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What the Numbers say about Creating Jobs in America – Part 1/4

Since I’m a member of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), I receive the “Retired Educator,” a quarterly newsletter.  The topic of this series of posts was motivated by the 2012 Winter edition.

To earn my monthly CalSTRS check, I first had to work thirty years as a classroom teacher in California’s public schools while 8% of my monthly paychecks went into CalSTRS to help fund that retirement system, which proves that it is not an unearned entitlement as some might want the nation to believe.

In fact, according to the 2011 Summary Report in the newsletter, contributions from members, the State of California and the federal government, which is why we cannot collect Social Security, was almost $6 billion in 2011. About half came from working members.

In addition, I do not earn an annual six-figure income through CalSTRS. In fact, when I left teaching in 2005, I took a 40% pay cut, as most teachers do, and lost my medical plan, because I could not afford the cost of COBRA, which was more than $1,000 a month.  Add another 14 years working outside education, and the total number of years I worked for a pay check was forty-five.

I discovered from that “Retired Educator” newsletter that CalSTRS lost $53.95 billion between 2007 – 2009 while President G. W. Bush still lived in the White House, but earned back $36.92 billion (2009 – 2011) with President Obama.  Note: CalSTRS did not receive bail out money from the federal government. That money mostly went to big private sector banks—not retirement programs such as CalSTRS.  If you want to know where the money went and how much, CNN.com shows you.

I’ve read that total losses globally were in the trillions. One financial Website set the total at more than $60 trillion US dollars. In China, alone, about 20 million people lost manufacturing jobs leading to labor unrest in 2008 and 2009. In the US, that number of job losses was about nine million.

Even though the CalSTRS newsletter didn’t say so, I learned that the wealthy do not create most jobs as Republicans claim—the working class creates most jobs by spending what little they earn, while the wealthy hoard most of their money in safer investments than those needed to create jobs as you shall learn from this series of posts.

However, I have an old friend that keeps telling me we cannot raise taxes on the wealthy one percent and/or the top twenty percent (those earning $55,000 or more annually—6.24% earn more than $100,000), because it will stop job growth.  He also happens to be a neoconservative-libertarian, evangelical Christian.  He despises liberal and progressive politics and policies.  He has said more than once that he believes G. W. Bush may have been America’s greatest president, and if anything bad happens in America, it is the fault of those evil liberal-progressive Democrats.

It doesn’t matter what the facts reveal. Anything that does not match his opinions/beliefs are liberal lies. He also listens faithfully to the conservative  Dennis Prager radio talk show and belongs to and attends Dennis Prager Fan Club meetings.

Conservative talk radio in the United States is a phenomenon that got its start in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine was allowed to expire under President Reagan (he vetoed it after both Houses of Congress voted it into law). This veto then allowed broadcasters to present a political opinion or point of view or pundit (mostly lies, exaggerations and misinformation) without being required to allow equal time for alternative views or rebuttals. The ideology that benefited the most from the loss of the Fairness Doctrine was conservative talk radio shows such as Dennis Prager’s.  See Prager’s Parrots to learn more.

My old friend and Prager fan has also said that he wouldn’t mind if Social Security were repealed as long as the government refunded him the money he paid into the system—and this comes from a guy that lost a half million dollars in the stock market after saving that money in tax sheltered retirement accounts. Later, he had to do battle with the IRS for years because they came for their share of that tax-sheltered money that he borrowed from his tax shelter and gambled away.

No matter what this old friend believes and preaches as if it were one of the Gospels, I’ve learned that what put America on the road to ruin causing the 2007-2011 global financial crises has more to do with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (this was the final nail in the coffin), which deregulated banking, insurance, securities, and the financial services industry, allowing financial institutions to “grow very big”.

The repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 effectively removed the separation that previously existed between investment banking, which issued securities, and commercial banks, which made money through deposits.

The deregulation also removed conflict-of-interest rules that had prevented investment bankers from serving as officers of commercial banks.

It was the repeal of these prohibitions that was later claimed by many to have contributed to the 2007 global financial crises by allowing depositors’ money to flow into risky investments, and according to the Huffington Post, in the first 15 months after the start of the 2007 global financial crises, American Retirement Accounts Lost $2 Trillion and the federal government did nothing to slow the tide of those losses as they bailed out banks and the auto industry.  By the middle of 2009, those losses may have climbed as high as $4 trillion, which is much more than the $54 billion CalSTRS lost.

Continued on February 29, 2012 in What the Numbers say about Creating Jobs in America – Part 2

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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.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4/5

It is a fact that misery loves company and when the accountants, carpenters, clerks, plumbers, reporters, salesmen, and secretaries and many other professions in the private sector read the Yellow Journalism in Don Thompson’s Associated Press [AP] piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, many of these people in the private sector will say, “It isn’t fair. If we have to work longer and suffer, so do they.”

In fact, that is already happening. Due to pressure from the private sector, this has led to: “Earlier in New Jersey, part of a legislative deal struck between Democrats and Republicans raised the normal retirement age from 62 to 65,” AP’s Thompson wrote.

In addition, “An initiative circulating for California’s 2012 state ballot seeks to increase the minimum retirement age to 65 for public employees and teachers and to 58 for sworn public safety officers.” [California’s teachers may retire at 55 now but those that retire early also will earn about 30% of gross pay and most will have to go without medical coverage.].

I know where the money comes from that funds CalSTRS. Part of it was from the monthly contribution from my paycheck for thirty years and when I retired, the taxpayer money that was used to pay me as a teacher stopped.

Moreover, I was a public school teacher in California for thirty years but I do not qualify for Social Security.  I also retired without medical benefits because I was unwilling to pay $1,400 a month for COBRA insurance until I qualified for Medicare.


The Teacher Pension Blues” tells the story AP’s Don Thompson did not!

On the other hand, when given a choice, many private sector employees do not save toward retirement other than Social Security. Many do not put money into 401k plans or pay into tax deductable IRAs.  Many that own homes take out equity loans to finance vacations, purchase new cars, pay off credit card debts, or to have money to go on spending sprees.

The result is that the average family in America cannot afford to retire as early as many public employees that paid into employer-based defined benefit pensions.

For example, total U.S. consumer debt was $2.43 trillion as of May 2011. Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,799. Average total debt in 2009 (including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans and more) for U.S. households with credit card debt: $54,000. Source: Credit Card.com

As for me, instead of paying into Social Security while I taught, I paid 8% of my gross monthly pay for thirty years into CalSTRS, and the school district where I taught contributed a matching amount of about 8%.

To force public educators in California to work more years may cost more than it will save.

When I retired, the school district stopped paying me and saved the tax payers money since most teachers that retire after teaching 30 years or more are replaced by younger teachers that are paid much less.

Keeping older, higher paid teachers longer will only cost the taxpayer more in the long run since those same teachers that are working longer will end up with a larger monthly pension check since the longer a teacher spends in the classroom, the larger the pension.  [Note: Part 1 explains how this works.]

In fact, I know three teachers that worked more than 42 years in the classroom and all three retired with a raise, while my annual retirement is about half of what it was the last year I taught.

Continued on December 19, 2011 in Part 5 or return to The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 3.

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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.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 3/5

Another example of how misleading Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, was: “With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations.”

What Thompson doesn’t mention is that some states managed their pension funds better than others did.

A March 2011 report on the Best and Worst State Funded Pensions by Adam Corey Ross of The Fiscal Times offers a more balanced picture.

Ross writes, “State pension programs across the country have undergone a major transformation, as more and more of them are cutting back the amount of money they set aside for retired workers, gambling that they can meet their obligations through investments instead of savings…”

In fact, Ross lists the best fully-funded state pensions, which are: New York, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, Florida and Georgia. He also lists the worst state pensions where the gamble did not pay off.

California falls between the two lists and is struggling to fill the funding gap. The following video explains why.

In addition, nowhere does Ross or Thompson mention that California has two state pension plans.  There is CalPERS and then there is CalSTRS.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System [CalSTRS], with a portfolio valued at $148.2 billion as of October 31, 2011, is the largest teacher pension fund and second largest public pension fund in the United States. CalSTRS administers a hybrid retirement system, consisting of a traditional defined benefit, cash balance and defined contribution plan, as well as disability and survivor benefits. CalSTRS serves California’s 852,000 public school educators and their families from the state’s 1,600 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts.

How well funded is CalSTRS to meet its future obligations?

CalSTRS makes it clear that “It’s important to understand that the risk of facing depleted assets exists approximately 30 years from now versus actually facing insolvency today.”

Note: Due to losses from investments during the 2008 global financial crises, the CalSTRS retirement “fund took an enormous hit to its stock portfolio when the market plunged during the heart of the recession, losing nearly $43 billion — roughly 25 percent of its value — from June 2008 to June 2009.”

Continued on December 18, 2011 in The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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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.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 1/5

During my full-time university days on the GI Bill [1968 – 1973] before I graduated with a BA in journalism, I learned how easy it was for the media to make mistakes while practicing what is known as Yellow Journalism to boost profits.

And Yellow journalism [based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration] is what Associated Press [AP] did when it ran Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson on December 14, 2011.

For example, how would you feel if you read, “Patrick Godwin spends his retirement days running a horse farm east of Sacramento, Calif., with his daughter? His departure from the workaday world [he worked thirty-six years in public education and was the superintendent of one of California’s 1,600 school districts] is likely to be long and relatively free of financial concerns, after he retired last July at age 59 with a pension paying $174,308 a year for the rest of his life.”

That previous quote was in the second paragraph of Thompson’s AP news piece and it is extremely misleading because of what it doesn’t say.

How many in public education do you think will earn that kind of money in retirement?

What AP doesn’t tell us is that in 2010 the average member-only benefit for retired public school educators in California was $4,256 a month before taxes [less than a third of what Godwin earns in retirement] and that only 16% of educators that retired in 2010 worked as long as Patrick Godwin did.  The median years of service was 26.6.

For example, if you were one of the educators that retired after 26.6 years of public service [the median] and was only 55 years old [the earliest you may retire and collect], using the CalSTRS retirement calculator, that person would earn about $2,130 a month before taxes—much less than the $14,525.66 that Godwin earns each month.

I calculated once that if a public school teacher in California taught for 42 years or more, his annual retirement income would equal what he earned the last year he worked.  In public education, less than 4% retire in the 100% category.

In fact, 9% retired in 2010 with 10-15 years of service in public education, 11% with 14-20 years, 15% with 20-25 years, 12% with 25-30 years, 23% with 30-35 years, and 16% with 35-40 years. Source: CalSTRS

The reason that AP’s Don Thompson ran with Patrick Godwin’s retirement income as his example is called sensationalism designed to cause an emotional response so people will talk about it. Word of mouth attracts readers and an audience.

In addition, Godwin was a school district superintendent at the top of the public education pay scale, which represents about 0.2% of the total.  That means 99.8% of public educators in California do not earn as much as Godwin did while working as a school district superintendent.

The result is that many readers may believe that most public educators in California will retire with Patrick Godwin’s annual retirement income.  However, this is far from the truth since most will not come close, but Thompson’s piece doesn’t say that.

The reason AP’s Thompson distorted the facts so much is because of audience share, which determines how much a media source [TV, newspaper, talk show, magazine, Blog, etc] may charge to advertisers, and balancing the news and telling the truth often does not achieve this goal because profits are the foundation of the private sector media.

It’s a simple formula: if you don’t make a profit you go out of business and everyone working for you loses his or her job so almost everyone plays the same Yellow Journalism game, and then there is the politics of money.

To understand why Thompson wrote such a misleading news piece, it helps to understand the trend away from private-sector pensions that were once similar to current public sector-pensions and the answers are in the numbers.

Continued on December 16, 2011 in The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 2

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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.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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