Sunday, December 29, 2019


The end of another year is at hand, but not another decade. They end with zero and begin with one.

Yes, I am one of those kinds of people.

In 2020 I will try to contribute more positive solutions to the issues of the day, which means that I will be writing less and doing more.

I will, of course, be involved in the campaign on a local and national basis, and I will do all that I can to counteract those who are propagating lies, propaganda, hatred, discrimination, and blame.

I will try to provide reasonable arguments at a time when too many people in this country and around the world seem to believe that reason is suspect.

I will try my best to me more loving, more kind, more caring, more supportive, more practical, more pragmatic, and more funny. These are values I have tried to live by. Sometimes I've been successful and sometimes not, but I will be especially mindful of how my actions affect others.

I will do my best on the job, with my family and friends, and will be more helpful to those in need.

If I can accomplish all of that, I think I can make my own corner of the world a bit brighter, a bit more informed, a bit more civilized, a bit more hopeful, and a place where those who come in contact with me can be more secure, more comfortable challenging themselves, more daring in their actions to promote love and peace, and happier, on balance, than they were before.

And if I can lose weight along the way, then victory will be mine.

These I resolve.


Happy New Year.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Nation? No Thank You.

With all due respect, and honestly, I don't believe I will ever have any respect for the president or his family, I would like to be left out of any schemes to force people to respect Jews or Israel. I have been a victim of antisemitism and all of its hateful, noxious ignorance, but the last thing I ever want to be is part of any law that identifies Judaism as a nationality. It will open the door to even worse, as this article illustrates.

I have spent the better part of my educational career teaching students that Judaism is a religion with beliefs and rituals that are tied to the monotheistic God of the Torah, and not an "other" or separate nation or culture that is different from the countries in which Jews live. The historical record is full of rulers and nations who took great care in isolating and targeting Jews as a means of propping up their rule and blaming Jews for every misfortune suffered by the ruling or cultural majority.

Naturally, this designation would appeal to an ignorant nationalist who wants to score political points and make antisemitic remarks while hiding behind the fact that his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. The president has made it clear that he believes that the right wing hate groups who are notoriously antisemitic are equal to other groups who are fighting for civil rights and equal treatment. And of course this is the man who said that Jews who vote Democratic are being disloyal.

I don't want to be a separate nation. I don't want to be associated with either the right wing nationalists here or in Netanyahu's Likud Party. I don't want to be a protected minority in Donald Trump's America. I've seen how that works out.

They way to defeat antisemitism and BDS and anti-Israel sentiment is to actually have a foreign policy that respects Palestinian demands for its own state. Otherwise, there will be no peace, only  suppression and denial of rights, such as the right to speak out against issues in the press, on college campuses, and in capital cities around the world. Like everyone else, I would like to live in a world where people respect each others views and can speak to others intelligently, but I know that this is not reality. The best way to fight speech is with speech, not denigration and denial of justice.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Common Core, Common Sense

I like the Common Core Curriculum Standards. And you should too. Because they make sense. After all, how can you argue with teaching students how to:

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.

Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract rational numbers.

These are all standards that students should meet, and should be able to meet given a classroom with a qualified, committed teacher and learning resources supplied by a school district. Teachers should be able to incorporate the standards into their lesson plans and evaluate the extent that students have learned them using authentic assessments.

What's the problem? According to this article, plenty. The more you delve into the details, though, the more these problems become solvable. They require change and a shift in thinking, but they are solvable.

I've been using a curriculum that relies on the Common Core Standards for about five years. It's a sensible combination of content and academic skills, and it requires that students analyze texts, account for variations in interpretation, tone, use of sources, point-of-view, and emphasis, and asks students to write cogent, articulate responses and essays in response to sophisticated prompts. That's exactly what the United States education system should want from its students.

What happened? The Common Core got caught up in the debate over local vs. federal control of education standards. The conservatives don't like the standards because they say that they trample on the right of states and local communities to set standards, since education is not a federal constitutional responsibility. The liberals didn't like it because it created standardized tests that forced school districts to cast aside instruction in all but language arts and math. Parents couldn't help their children with their homework because it relied on new strategies. Publishers and school districts didn't release new materials or train teachers in how to adapt to the new standards.


The good news is that the Common Core Standards are slowly making their way into the classroom, and are taking hold. Most states have renamed the standards and now have access to classroom materials that explain to students and parents how they work. The standards are also part of the Advanced Placement courses. More students are being exposed to the standards from the beginning of their education rather than having to shift to them in the middle of their schooling.

It will take time, but if states and districts continue to commit resources and energy to the standards, then we should see more improvement in student assessments in the coming years. We know we can do this because when teachers are given the right training and support, then students will achieve. Even in Mississippi.  Yes, Mississippi.

Of course, the bigger issue in education is that achievement is tied to the relative wealth of the community in which a family lives. And while Mississippi has made great strides, there is simply no reason why wealth and money should determine the quality of a child's education. This is why the Common Core is so valuable; it virtually eliminates local standards that might be less rigorous than what students need to meet in order to become educated citizens. 

The next step is to ensure that all schools across the country have the resources they need and teachers who are trained and supported, both economically and technically. 

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest