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About Isernia

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  1. When I retired five years ago, I went on and on about my bittersweet feelings leaving teaching after 30 some years. There were several other retirees being honored that night at the annual school district (k-12) banquet and I was cutting into their time to reminisce and depart. The master of ceremony, a lower grade teacher, came up to the mike and said..."You know, we have to teach in the morning, cut this short." With that, I simply said "OK I'm history!...and walked off the podium. That line got a laugh from the audience most of whom knew little of me beside the fact that I was a history teacher in the high school. The next day a department colleague and friend said your remarks "lacked a focus" ..."didn't you prepare them?". Indeed I had rehearsed comments, but got emotionally carried away once up there with the significance of this important moment in my life. The very next year when the art teacher,a woman of few words, retired, she shyly went up to the podium and, with all sincerity, said she needed inspiration of my parting words to get her through the awkward moment. She genuinely believed I had done a good job of expressing the complex emotions of leaving teaching. This comment got a huge laugh and applause from the group. Obviously, she was the only one who thought I had articulated the message. I have not attended a retirement banquet since, though my real excuse is that I have moved to another State, far away.
  2. I am Phyllis Isernia with thirty years teaching and chairing in a grades 10-12 United States high school. My experience was largely in teaching European History and elective courses (Sociology, Government/Law, Contemporary Issues). I also taught an honors state university credited course in Western Civilization. For one semester I taught this same course to university freshmen. In addition, I served as scorer or reader of Advanced Placement European History exams, a national test taken by U.S. students each May which could translate into college credits accepted at key universities. The state where I lived established an assessment of beginning (2nd year) high school history/social studies teachers through portfolios and lesson video tapes. I served as an evaluator of these along with other experienced teachers. Happily retired now, I participate in a variety of web forums on teaching, contributing ideas and sending teaching materials to new teachers requesting specific topic resources. I have always been a news junky, but now the habit has reached addiction proportions with time enough to check out C-span on TV, BBC and CBC on radio, and NATION, NY REVIEW OF BOOKS, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, NEW YORKER print that comes into our home. Cheerio to all the English speaking folks contributing to The Education Forum. I am not savvy enough technologically to even correctly use the options presented on this web site, so I hope to be helped by the many design and technical folks who contribute ideas in teaching using the internet, powerpoint, etc. Phyllis Isernia
  3. After some thirty years of teaching political ideologies and concepts of democracy, both ideal and real as played out in U.S. government and law, I have come to the realization that the fabric of democracy has weakened to the point of disintegration. The problem stems not only from the “tweedle-dee. tweedle-dum” nature of two major political parties, observed already by several correspondents, but also by the increasing power of pressure groups, corporations and moneyed classes in the U.S. These special interests have taken over all three branches of government as well as the Fourth Estate and media. The result is that average folks become cynical and apathetic, not even bothering to vote in elections. I suppose one could argue that this industrial/military complex is not different from the l950’s, or early 20th century for that matter. However, in both those periods, labor unions did provide a real or potential counterweight to the robber barons. Unions are dead today. Newspapers were many and varied; today they are owned by media giants that make no distinction between news and entertainment. In addition, a sense of community, noblesse oblige, and even guilt that encouraged the likes of Andrew Carnegie to donate millions of dollars for libraries, concert halls, and schools no longer exists. In contrast, billionaires today take their money to off-shore islands to avoid taxes, outsource jobs to third world and emerging global economies, and cut employees and benefits to pay higher dividends to their stockholders. Cheating, cooking the books, and inside trading are so common that "ethics" is a fantasy with no basis in corporate behavior. Sadly, the most victimized in this cruel system are not just the poor and disadvantaged, but also the American middle class that lives under the illusion that their kids might someday be able to live like sports professionals and vulgar celebrities that flash across our TV and movie screens. Even if not that starry-eyed, they presume their children will have all the advantages they enjoyed – low cost college education, two vehicles (one a SUV) in the garage, and a yearly trip to Disneyland. Ah, Disneyland, the place of dreams and fairy-tales….the perfect escape for us who have no health insurance and little access to reasonably cost medicine. The other escape is gambling at one of the many casinos cropping up all over the landscape. In the days when I taught high school students that the middle class and a high literacy rate were basic to a democratic society, I had no idea that so many U.S. citizens of the 21st century would be lobotomized by inane, mindless media, formulated to “dumb-down” the citizenry. Given this mess here at home, with what conscience can the Bushies say we are going to bring democracy to Iraq!
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