Literacy Is So Overated

Sunday, March 12, AD 2017



Further evidence, if any were needed, that public education in the country has often devolved into a jobs program for incompetents and has nothing to do with education:



Efforts to introduce standardized testing and the monitoring of performance metrics for teachers in New York have been opposed by the teachers unions ever since they were first introduced decades ago. It’s an ongoing battle which has been mirrored across the nation. Still, some measures have been put in place which were intended to at least ascertain basic levels of proficiency for people seeking teaching positions. One of these is known as the Academic Skills Literacy Test (ASLT). It’s basically a reading comprehension test administered to those who would eventually be giving similar tests to students.

Sounds almost like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You might think so, but this month it looks like the Empire State will be scrapping the examination because not enough people were passing it and the failure rates were deemed to be too heavily skewed along racial lines. (Associated Press)

New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it.

The state Board of Regents on Monday is expected Monday to adopt a task force’s recommendation of eliminating the literacy exam, known as the Academic Literacy Skills Test.

Backers of the test say eliminating it could put weak teachers in classrooms. Critics of the examination said it is redundant and a poor predictor of who will succeed as a teacher.

This is not something which just cropped up. A group representing many of these aspiring teachers brought lawsuits in 2015 claiming that both the ASLT and a second exam focusing on liberal arts and sciences were somehow racist in nature. The group was seeking more than $300 million in damages but a federal court eventually dismissed the case. Despite the fact that the courts gave the testing program a thumbs up, it seems that the testing regimen will be scrapped anyway.

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4 Responses to Literacy Is So Overated

  • A hundred years ago, a person could teach in high school without a collage degree. Elementary teachers often did not have a high school diploma. The schools have only grudgingly allowed higher qualifications because of cost. But it is teachers who have fought there application of rigorous standards, because only the academically less gifted who are drawn to the field because of the limited opportunity of advancement. Higher salaries are given for higher degrees, but because of the lack of rigor, these have been small.

  • I love her explanation of working the full 52 weeks v. 39 weeks as to her pay differences than her contemporaries. Those extra 13 weeks, about $52 k at almost $4,000 per week, is interesting.

    The highest paid teacher in her district earns $150,000 a school year. (?)

    How can a teacher get by with those wages? Union up Chicago! $150 k….. Isn’t that way below poverty level.
    After all, it’s the Chicago way baby.

  • That woman is not representative of teachers.

    it may be true that some weak students become teachers, but there are an amazing number of gifted people of become teachers for very admirable reasons.

  • …and then spend the next several years fighting to be allowed to TEACH, not do paperwork and not indoctrinate.

A Stumbling Block to School Administrators

Tuesday, December 15, AD 2009

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  As someone who received an undergraduate degree in the teaching of social studies, I am never very surprised when a school administration decides to engage in an act of public stupidity, however, this incident is in a class all by itself.

A second grade student at the Maxham Elementary School in Taunton, People’s Republic of Massachusetts, was sent home from school after drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross.  The student made the drawing in response to a class assignment that the students draw something that reminded them of Christmas.  Apparently the student’s dullard teacher decided that the drawing of the cross was too violent.  The school administration, in a move which hearkens back to the old Soviet Union placing dissidents in psych wards, decreed that not only would the child be sent home, but that he would have to undergo a psych evaluation.

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17 Responses to A Stumbling Block to School Administrators

  • That’s “The Peoples Republic of Taxachusetts.” Otherwise known as “the Pay State.”

  • Well it’s kind of a happy ending.

    He still had to get a psychiatric evaluation and be approved that he was “sane”.

    He did just that and “passed”.

    He then was so traumatized by the entire incident he didn’t want to return to the same school so the father is petitioning (I think he got approval) for his son to transfer.

    This is very scary. For a school administrator to cater to hate-mongering of an innocent depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion makes my blood boil.

  • I would NEVER take my child to a psychologist over this, but I learned my lesson the hard way. When my son (who was then seven) was having trouble in class, the school wouldn’t do anything until we had a complete evaluation to make sure he didn’t have psychological or emotional problems. My husband and I went for OUR evaluation with the school psychologist (“case history” stuff before he was scheduled for a trip) and were so unimpressed with her that we cancelled his eval and went to our pediatrician instead. Our son didn’t even know anything was going on. Then, when things got really ridiculous (I was observing in the classroom and the teacher was incompetent) I threatened to take him out of school and he was moved immediately. His problems were solved. I learned then not to do ANYTHING the school said (not the lesson they intended to teach) but instead to insist on my child’s rights under the law. And they wonder why parents are antagonistic! Could an 8-year-old be traumatized over this incident? You bet, depending on the kid and on how it was handled. The parents should have had a nice, calm, conversation with the principal and the teacher. And then if that didn’t work, they should simply have said that he would be back in class the next day or the school would hear from their lawyer the next day.

    All schools freak out over violence. When my son was eight he used to draw soldiers, bloody knives, spaceships shooting each other, etc. on his papers. The teachers told us that was “unacceptable” and so just told him that the school was silly about things like that, so he would have to draw those things at home. Don’t ALL little boys draw that stuff? Likewise, same year, he got a discipline point for reading an “inappropriate” book in class. When I asked the teacher what it was, she said it was a book about the Battle of Gettysburg and it had photographs of dead soldiers in it. I told her that he got it from the SCHOOL LIBRARY, so she took the discipline point away — but he still couldn’t read the book in class.

    They are all terrified of boys becoming violent. My kids are now in Catholic school, but they can’t bring in toy guns — even neon-colored plastic squirt guns — for skits and things.

  • It seems like there are plenty of news stories everyday of the public schools doing something not terribly intelligent….

    This has especially been on my mind with kids right around the corner. What a faddish wastebasket of wishful thinking many schools are… about the Kansas City case (and New Jersey, for that matter, following the court cases of the 80s) for example.

    What folly!

    What is needed is not more money but better moral foundations.

  • This is the logical result of all those “zero tolerance” anti-violence, anti-sexual harassment, and drug abuse policies that became so popular after Columbine.

    Zero tolerance policies forbidding absolutely ANY word, image, object or action that even hints at violence allow school administrators to APPEAR to be doing something about youth violence, without the bother of actually having to get to know students personally, judge each case individually, or risk being accused of racism or discrimination if the child/youth involved happens to be of a protected minority group.

    The result is that little kids get busted for drawing crucifixes, kissing girl classmates on Valentine’s Day, etc. while outside (or even inside), gang violence, suicide, drug abuse, etc. continue unabated.

    The main reason schools are “terrified of boys becoming violent” is because so many of them HAVE NO FATHERS and therefore no idea how to be real men, except by being the kind of macho jerks they see on TV or in movies.

  • Zero tolerance usually means zero brains. It allows administrators to mindlessly follow policy rather than to make real decisions, which of course is what they are supposed to be doing. True profiles in uselessness.

    I agree that public schools usually have no clue as to how to handle boys who act, well, like boys. A perfect example is a timeout. Most of the time a timeout will simply make an energetic boy bored and hostile. Much better to give him a task to accomplish, especially if it is something physical. Of course this is just common sense knowledge of the differences between girls and boys, something that seems to be verboten in public schools, but which is obvious to most parents who have spent time rearing both boys and girls.

  • I’m not a “rogue parent” at my daughters’ virtual school (where my wife is also a teacher). My emails to their former teacher (who was not accommodating my eldest’s disability) are now being quoted regularly at meetings as signs of a parent to watch out for. The latest suggestion was that parents who challenge “school policy” (which is defined as the whim the principal, a Charlestonian elitist who goes way back with Mark Sanford) could be charged with educational neglect.

  • Well … if you believe every dad trying to horn in on America’s reality tv culture …

  • Having dealt with public schools Todd both as an attorney and as a parent, I readily confess that I am more inclined to believe parents over administrators until the opposite is proven.

  • Well … if you believe every dad trying to horn in on America’s reality tv culture …

    Heard that before.

  • What Mr. McClarey said on Paul Zummo’s Cranky Conservative bears repeating: “The forces of open minded tolerance so often are represented by narrow minded bigots.”

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised “Christmas” was even mentioned, much less had an assignment attached to it.

  • “I readily confess that I am more inclined to believe parents over administrators …”

    It would seem there’s a good bit more to the story than was posted here. What’s still standing today is a he-said/they-said tussle that’s more than two weeks old. The news reports I’ve seen is that the drawing was not the one that got the young lad noticed, that there’s a history with the boy and his family, and that nobody was expelled from school. It would seem enough doubt has been thrown into this story to cause prudent observers to withhold judgment. Clearly, Donald shows us why he stayed at the attorneys’ tables and never ascended to the judiciary bench.

    In my long experience in parishes and schools, I often find that two sides in a dispute often are talking past each other and not even in agreement on the point(s) in question. It’s usually adequate enough to make the communication connection and allow diplomacy to smooth kinks in the relationship.

    What Art seems to be getting at is this: one must agree with him not only on the major points, but on every small detail of politics in situations like these. No room for dissent from the jots and tittles of the Catholic blogetariat.

    I would hold it is possible to be right (pointing out a grave moral or administrative error, for example) but to go about it in the wrong way (producing a forged document, or making oneself a threat–even just a perceived one–to a school administration). Prudence would dictate leaving the judgment to the Judge, and taking necessary precautions for one’s own children, or one’s own morality, depending on the circumstances.

  • “Clearly, Donald shows us why he stayed at the attorneys’ tables and never ascended to the judiciary bench.”

    Actually Todd, that is by choice. The legal profession is not one where all attorneys wish to be judges. Some, as in my case, make it very clear to judges who indicate that we would make a good judge that we do not wish to have to wear a black robe on the job.

    The school administration, after coming under intense media scrutiny yesterday, has a different story from the parent. That is as surprising as the sun coming up in the east or bureaucrats dodging responsibility. This incident in June 2008 indicates to me that bozos are in charge of the Taunton school system and that the parent is probably more accurate:

    “This is not the first time in recent years that a Taunton student has been sent home over a drawing. In June 2008, a fifth-grade student was suspended from Mulcahey Middle School for a day after creating a stick figure drawing that appeared to depict him shooting his teacher and a classmate.

    The Mulcahey teacher also contacted the police to take out charges in the 2008 incident.”

  • I’ve also read that there was a gun incident in that school district not too long ago. Parents themselves insist that schools be hypervigilant when it comes to the safety of their children. A one-day suspension for a blatant act of insubordination to a teacher … I’m sure you saw enough contempt of court citations in your years in the courtroom. Authority figures take authority very seriously.

    According to you, the school administration was a loser no matter what they did. If they were totally wrong, they could confess or clam up or lie. If they had justification for criticizing the lad, they could either remain silent on the matter and let the conservatives spin it, or they could offer a public rebuttal. By your statement, whether they lied or told the truth, your reaction would be the same.

    The caveat emptor in this case: if something sounds too good to be ideologically true, it probably is. Given how this story is unravelling for the father, I’d say there are a number of media and blog outlets with egg on their faces today.

  • What Art seems to be getting at is this: one must agree with him not only on the major points, but on every small detail of politics in situations like these. No room for dissent from the jots and tittles of the Catholic blogetariat.

    News to me.

    I’ve also read that there was a gun incident in that school district not too long ago.

    So we call the cops over some other kid’s droodles.

  • Part of feminizing men is to make all violence bad because boys tend to violence. Ladies, before you get upset with me, there is nothing wrong with the feminine – I love and respect my beautiful bride and the Blessed Virgin Mary – but women should be women and men should be men – equal in dignity yet different.

    Violence is not necessarily bad, or good. It just is. Drawing a picture of Christ crucified is a picture of violence – what could be more violent than Diecide?
    Mel Gibson’s movie was also violent – too violent for some tastes. Was this bad violence? I don’t think so, the worst evil was also the greatest good. There is nothing wrong with depicting Christ crucified, in fact there is everything right with it, as violent as it is. All men should wish to be Christ on His Cross.

    Boys are violent – boys like guns, swords, fights, tanks, knights, cavalry, shields, war games, etc. and that is as it should be. Our job as a society, and by logical extension our school systems, is to direct and temper that violence – not emasculate it.

    Thank God that the generation born in the 1920s was violent. They went overseas and did some violence to the Nazis – and I am pretty sure we’re all happy with how that turned out.

  • “Our job as a society, and by logical extension our school systems, is to direct and temper that violence – not emasculate it.”

    Which is exactly what a society in which vast numbers of young boys are raised without stable father figures fails to do. Even among animals like elephants, the presence of older males keeps fighting among the younger ones from getting out of hand.

    Was the World War II generation really any more “violent” than we are? I’m not so sure. Yes, boys played with guns, collected toy soldiers, and played cops, robbers, cowboys and Indians and other politically incorrect games. However if you take a look at the movies from that era, even the toughest tough guys like Bogart, Cagney, et al. used far less firepower and killed far fewer bad guys in 10 movies than, say, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger did in just one.

    Also, Knight, I think you overlook the fact that there are times when women can or must become “violent” in a “good” sense, particularly when defending their children from harm. Again, even among animals, a mother defending her young from real or percieved threat is often far more dangerous than the male.

A Perfect Post

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

Occasionally one runs across a post that’s particularly nicely done. I think Matthew Boudway’s recent reflections on a column by Clifford Longley on the new atheists comes dangerously close to perfect. It’s brief, highlights an interesting article, and adds a thoughtful perspective that provides more depth to the article it cites. Here’s a snippet:

[In response to Richard Dawkins’s claim that it is wrong to “indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them,”]

“There is no such thing as value-free parenting,” Longley writes…Longley proposes this as an argument about parenting, but it is hard to see why it wouldn’t also apply to education. If the argument doesn’t apply to education, why doesn’t it? If it does — and if it is a good argument — then people of faith have a compelling reason not to send their children to schools where the subject of religion qua religion is carefully avoided. One could, I suppose, argue that the tacit message of such schools is that religion is too important to get mixed up with the tedious but necessary stuff of primary education, but of course public schools approach important matters all the time, and cannot avoid doing so.

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The Attorney General Hates This Ad

Friday, October 30, AD 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder asked former DC Councilman Kevin Chavous to kill this ad, according to Chavous.  An odd request from the Attorney General one would think.  However, I can appreciate the concern of the AG about this ad.  DC public schools are some of the worst in the country, chaotic and violent.  This school voucher program, which I discussed in a prior post here,  gives a few kids a chance to get out of this mess.  Who could be against the program?  Obama of course.  He, and most Democrat elected officials, are owned body and soul by the teachers’ union, the NEA, and Obama and his colleagues would sooner eat ground glass  rather than allow kids through vouchers to escape from the dysfunctional and dangerous public schools that infest much of inner city urban America.  I am sure they regret that kids suffer as a result, but such is their political reality.  Needless to say, Obama of course would never send his daughters to public schools in DC, and I applaud his parental decision while I condemn his heartlessness in preventing other, less wealthy, parents from having the same option for their kids.

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5 Responses to The Attorney General Hates This Ad

  • Pingback: St. Joseph’s Vanguard And Our Lady’s Train » Blog Archive » School Choice
  • Do as I say, not as I do.

    What’s new?

  • ‘We losing several generations of kids.’
    Translation: Someone besides me has done something bad and I’m here to point that out.

    ‘Something has to be done.’
    Translation: Somebody has to stick their neck out and do the right thing. That somebody will not be me.

    More accurately:
    ‘I’m losing several generations of kids. I refuse to do anything because it’s politically risky.’

  • Mr. Chavous,
    Why are you a life-long democrat? Why do you support our president? His policies are against the human spirit. Babies in the womb stuggling to join the human family are snuffed out. Kids who survived the abortionist’s vacuum are condemned to awful schools. People who have managed to get a decent education are taxed to death to support other death. After living a productive, law-abiding, and positive life, you are urged to die as soon as possible to make room for the next cog in the machine. Mr. Chavous, I dare say the blind loyalty of idiots like you are a major part of the problem you now face.

  • Daledog: there is no way anybody but a Democrat can get elected in DC.

    Mayor Barry was neck-deep in slime and corruption and still got reelected – because people in DC could not bring themselves to vote for a woman with an “R” after her name. (That she was white didn’t help either.)

Obama Ditches Youth Indoctrination Program

Wednesday, September 2, AD 2009

Obama Youth Organization

[Updates at the bottom of this article as of 9-3-2009 AD at 4:39am]

In what is a growing sign that President Obama is showing more signs of incompetence, the White House withdrew the requirement that school children write a paper supporting President Obama and his socialistic policies.  This was going to be a requirement after viewing an indoctrination video showing President Obama pushing his plan for socialism to school children nationwide.

President Obama’s plan to inspire the nation’s schoolchildren with a video address next week erupted into controversy Wednesday, forcing the White House to pull out its eraser and rewrite a government recommendation that teachers nationwide assign students a paper on how to “help the president.”

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15 Responses to Obama Ditches Youth Indoctrination Program

  • thus confirming my understanding that the public school system is really the “government school system”. If you don’t agree with everything the government stands for, why would you send your kids to them for instruction????

  • I know, it was not addressed to you personally, but to the general population.

  • It is, to me, more than merely the text that went along with the speech, it is the very act of speaking directly to students.

    Kids take their cue on social and political issues from their parents and an address to students that becomes something close to mandatory (since it it is during the school day) is inappropriate. Even as it stands now, the White House is demanding that students sit and pay attention to President Obama for a speech on why they should listen to and pay attention to elected leaders.

    When did we reach the point of holding elected leaders up as the bastion of truth and right in schools that forbid the use of sacred texts by students in their reports?

    And, what of the students whose parents insist on an “opt out?”

    Unless a mass movement for an alternative to attending the indoctrination exists, the few students whose parents ask for that consideration are almost assuredly going to be targeted by other students and by their union teachers as non-conformist and troublemakers. Didn’t the Supreme Court already speak to this when it held that students could not be compelled to render the Pledge of Allegiance and that school prayer could not be done in public schools precisely because forcing students to risk alienation by not participating was unconstitutional?

    What makes this different?

  • Can you all be this clueless about something as simple as school?

    No school or teacher is required to show this.

    No student is required by the president to do any paper or homework of any kind.

    Have any of you actually taught in a public school or did you learn your biases at home?

    I have been in both private, public and home school situations and have taught in ALL THREE and you only prove your ignorance.

    There are a thousand reasons to home school, but there is no way that public schools are indoctrinating any kids in any meaningful way. It is hard enough to get them to sit in a chair for 30 minutes.

    This kind of post should have no place in a Catholic Blog.

    Oh and by the way, the hilarious stupidity of the person who chose that photo is that kids who are indoctrinated in that way are done so with religious leader support and not public education!

    Oh and by the way, there was no Hezbollah until Israel screwed up their justified invasion of Lebanon and Reagan left when the marine barracks was bombed. Decades of ignoring Lebanon created the above photo, not Obama.

  • Talk about ignorant. If you don’t know that public schools are foisting a great deal upon children that is contrary to their parent’s beliefs then its you who is clueless.

  • MacGregor,

    You dwell in relativism.

    All religions are not the same.

    That is why many of us have a difficult time taking you seriously about almost anything.

  • Michael,

    Do you practice your Catholic faith?

  • MacGregor,

    so you’re saying that unless I participated in the indoctrination of children into the secular liberal worldview, I can not recognize that it’s occurring? It is no secret what the liberals are doing, we just have to listen to them.

  • and have taught in ALL THREE

    Well, that just about seals the decision to home school.

  • Pingback: ‘Education’, or, ‘Escaping The Handbasket?’ « Truth Before Dishonor
  • “Have any of you actually taught in a public school or did you learn your biases at home?”

    Perhaps you should be asking… “How many of you were taught in public school and know the drill inside and out from personal experience?”

    As in… how many of us homeschoolers and/or objectors to the Liberals using our public schools as their personal indoctrination centers **know what we are talking about because we were educated in public schools ourselves**? And we’re not amused? And we’re not going to follow along like mindless Sheeple and force our kids to endure the same?

    And… we can see right through Obama’s happy-clappy smokescreen from 100 miles away.

    Ever think of THAT before you threw out the “bias” card?

    Furthermore, this topic **does** belong on a Catholic blog because the Liberal ideology goes contrary to the Law of God.

    So please, put that in your pipe and smoke it well.

  • Pingback: Overreacting, The Left Needs To Wake Up To Reality « The American Catholic

Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

Wednesday, August 12, AD 2009

I was thinking of writing a lengthy piece over lunch, when I wrote up my task list and realized that “lunch” needed to be no more than twenty minutes long. So instead, I present a number of pieces that struck me as interesting lately, but which I don’t have a whole post worth of things to say about.

InsideCatholic just reprinted a lengthy piece by medievalist Sandra Miesel discussing the realities of witch burning in the Middle Ages through “Age of Reason”. It’s an article well worth the time to read, avoiding both the slanders of anti-Catholics and the overly rosy rebuttals used by some apologists.

Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill.

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6 Responses to Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

  • Cross-post of the same comment I left at Darwin’s site.
    Instathoughts provided without the benefit of actually reading linked-to articles.

    Re: essays. I don’t think I could tell you what an essay is or what it should be. I’m not sure what is distinctive about an “essay” compared to lengthy article in the New Yorker or First Things. And I went to a college with good core curriculum. Looking forward to reading the piece.

    Re: “agri-intellectuals”. Really looking forward to this one. I remember explaining this concept to my mother once. She replied simply by saying that her (now long deceased) grandparents who lived in rural Louisiana believed that, and I quote, “farming is a cursed life.” I’m not even sure I believe that “one should eat real food most of the time” given that such a view usually connotates, 1) a rejection of the benefit of pesticides and genetic engineering; and 2) a rejection of the great good that industrialized farming has had on improving worldwide life span by making things like famine far less of a threat.

    Re: vegan and vegetarian school lunches. This brought to mind something I have often thought to myself. Conservatives are at a real disadvantage politically on some issues b/c the real conservative response is that “we can’t help you.” But you can’t say that. So when we look at failing schools we have to talk about “free market” solutions like charter schools and vouchers. I believe these do make a difference, at least in the margins. But what we really should say, indeed what our principles should lead us to conclude, is, “There isn’t any structural change we can make – better curriculum, merit pay, competition – that can change the fact that these kids are coming to school each day from homes where the parent can’t even be bothered to pack a peanut butter sandwich and some carrot sticks. And until that changes, little can be done to improve educational outcomes.”

  • Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill. I’m hoping I get the chance to write about some of them later.

    So Darwin is going to write an essay about an essay that itself is essentially an essay in how to write an essay?

    Remarkable. Really.

  • I can’t wait to write an essay about whatever Darwin writes.

  • Well, here, I can’t wait to write an essay about an essay written by S.B. that’s about an essay written by Darwin about an essay written by Graham which subject was about how to write an essay!

  • Thanks for posting some very thought-provoking links, Darwin.

    I’ve just skimmed quickly through the Graham essay on essays and found it pretty compelling, and as a side benefit, it gives lots of historical details about the development of the modern university and legal systems!

    Also read through the entire post by Hurst responding to agri-intellectuals. I own and have read both Pollan’s and Scully’s books, and I found them quite compelling. But the laws of physics also seem to work in literature, and there is an equally valid and opposite “reaction”, provided by Hurst, to the interesting original “actions” of Scully, Pollan and Dreher. It really boggles the mind when we learn about the incredibly intricate and complex systems behind mass-scale farming in the modern world.

    So my concern then turns to something even vastly more complex than large-scale farming: health care reform in one of the largest developed countries in the world! I don’t even want to consider how badly Uncle Sam’s bureaucratic armies could botch up that system in the future–YIKES!

  • *grin* The one from the farmer sounds exactly like my parents. (Dad’s been ranching and farming for roughly 40 years and has an AA; mom has been doing family-sized farming and ranching for about 30, and has a BS in animal husbandry with a minor in education. I sent her the article in hopes that she’ll write something I can blog. ^.^)