Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rick Hess Interviews Betsy DeVos As She Heads for the Exit

Diane Ravitch's blog

Rick Hess conducts an “exit interview” with Betsy DeVos, which was published at Education Week. Rick is a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which is funded in part by DeVos.

DeVos came to Washington to destroy public education, and she failed. She bitterly dismisses the “entrenched interests” and bureaucrats who frustrated her ambitions to turn billions of public dollars over to religious and private schools and to extinguish teachers’ unions altogether. During her confirmation, she was unable to answer direct questions about education policy, and she was ultimately confirmed only when Vice-President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote. This had never happened before. In poll after poll, DeVos was characterized as the most unpopular member of Trump’s Cabinet. She did her best to skewer the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, to abandon college students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges, to divert COVID funding to elite private schools. Fortunately…

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Poem for the End of a Hard Year

Flowers For Socrates

Richard Hoffman (1949 – ) is the author of the poetry collections Without Paradise: Poems, and Gold Star Road, which won the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club. He is also the author of the memoir Half the House, and a collection of short fiction, Interference & Other Stories. A writer-in-residence at Emerson College in Boston, Hoffman also teaches for the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast low-residency MFA program.

To read Richard Hoffman’s poem “December 31st” click

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The OTHER Maggie Smith

Flowers For Socrates

Maggie Smith (1977 – ), the one who is not a famous British actress, is an American poet, freelance writer, and editor, who lives with her husband and two children in Bexley, Ohio. Her poetry collections include Lamp of the Body; Good Bones; The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, which won the 2012 Dorset Prize; and Disasterology.

To read Maggie Smith’s poem “Rain, New Year’s Eve” click:

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Connecticut: A Teacher Remembers Cardona

Diane Ravitch's blog

A music teacher in Meriden, Connecticut, wrote this comment about Miguel Cardona on Facebook. The teacher is a BAT. Jake Jacobs, executive director of the BATS, circulated this post.

I can tell you this much–he was my principal and evaluator for one year, during a low point in my career. Of the nine principals (and couple dozen assistants) I have worked under, he is the only one who has ever had a conversation with me about my teaching. His is the only formal observation I have ever had that was conducted in a way where the goal was to help me be a better teacher. When I needed something, he did his best to provide it. When he had to say no, he explained why honestly and respectfully. When he moved to central office, he focused on teacher evaluation and had frank and honest discussions with teachers about the state…

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Washington Post: How Trump’s Denial and Mismanagement Worsened COVID

Diane Ravitch's blog

As of this writing, at least 340,000 people have died of COVID.

Washington Post reporters wrote a comprehensive account of how Donald Trump bungled the federal government’s response to the pandemic and made the number of infections and deaths far worse than they should have been if we had had competent leadership. The story was published on December 19. We know that Trump encouraged people not to pay attention to science. We know that he called on his base to “liberate” states that were trying to get control of the coronavirus. We know he refused to wear a mask, the simplest measure to slow the spread of the virus. When you read this story, you will realize that Trump’s decision to politicize mask-wearing was intentional. When Trump realized that he could not “beat” the virus, he lost interest in stopping or slowing it. He thought it was a “loser” issue…

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Holidays – a poem

Flowers For Socrates

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), was the most popular American poet of his day, and one of the first American celebrities who was also known in Europe. Though he was a very private man, who suffered greatly from neuralgia (nerve pain), his public reputation was as “as a sweet and beautiful soul,” as his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson called him at his funeral. His reputation declined quickly after his death, and he has long been overshadowed by the more modern American poets such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Carl Sandberg.

To read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Holidays” click

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To Go in the Dark With a Light

Flowers For Socrates

Wendell Berry (1934− ) American essayist, novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer. He was born in Henry County, Kentucky, the oldest of four children. Both his parents came from families that had farmed the area for at least five generations. In 1958, he won a fellowship to Stanford University’s creative writing program, studying under Wallace Stegner in a seminar that included Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olsen, and Ken Kesey. Berry published his first novel, Nathan Coulter, in 1960. He has gone on to write more novels, essay collections, and several books of poetry. Berry has long been an opponent of war, nuclear power, and the increasing human plundering of the planet’s natural resources. He has been honored with dozens of awards, including the National Humanities Medal in 2010, and the 2016 Sidney Lanier Prize.

To read Wendell Berry’s poem, To Know the Dark.

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We are not dead yet! FfS lives on…

Flowers For Socrates

After considerable discussion, we have decided to keep Flowers for Socrates going. The pandemic helped fuel this decision.

I personally have a number of posts in the can, so to speak, and will now start publishing on a regular basis.

Site administrators will be reorganizing the site in the near future to provide more variety, and get back to our roots of producing human interest stories, introducing more quality writers, and perhaps some artists for added content of visual interest.

Keep watching this site for developments.

Thanks for reading.

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The Argument Essay: Topic, Purpose, Claim, and Reasons


When writing the argument essay, you will be expected to argue a debatable topic, with a clear purpose, strong claim, and clear reasoning.


Let’s begin at the beginning.

Picking an Argument Topic

How do you know if your topic will make a good argument? Many topics might be interesting, but not all interesting topics are arguable. When constructing an argument, your topic must be more than a statement of fact; it must be debatable.

How do you know if your argument topic is debatable? Do you offer a strong opinion? If an audience or reader might disagree with your opinion or premise, it’s debatable. You want someone to disagree. That’s what makes an argument.

This confuses students who might have been told to avoid opinion as they write argument essays. The support and research should not be based on opinion, but the topic itself will be opinionated —…

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The Wordplay’s the Thing

Dave Astor on Literature

Some novels are full of puns, quips, humorous asides, made-up words, generally weird language, etc. All of that can be overdone, but it can also be fun. And those books can have serious moments, too.

One novel with a wordplay bonanza is Ali Smith’s There But For The, which I read last week. It’s a quirky book that opens with a dinner guest locking himself in a room for what will be weeks and weeks — angering the homeowner who hosted the meal — before the novel spins into depicting various people who knew the interloper. The turns of phrase come fast and furious, but there are also poignant sections — most notably one focusing on a very sick women in her 80s. Not sure I can strongly recommend the novel — it was a trial to read at times — but the author certainly deserves props for originality.

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