Michigan Charter Schools Attempt Millage-Pillage & 20 Years of Arizona School Carpetbagging

And from the “Ain’t It Ironic” department… Charter schools in Michigan decided they want a level playing field. “We have ten percent of our students who attend charter schools in my county,” said bill sponsor Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “And I feel like it’s an equity issue.” (link) The GOP leaders aren’t satisfied with just dipping their corporate bills into state per-pupil funding (with far less oversight needed than traditional schools), they now want a piece of local districts’ property tax millage. Michigan Senate Bill 574 proposes a handy crossed-out edit of the 1976 law… It’s just one little edit–few would notice or even really grasp the big deal.  And it’s one way to fix a “broken system,” much like repairing your car by removing a tire.  But Randy Liepa of Wayne RESA responds… “Charter schools by and large don’t have to pay into the retirement system for their teachers. Typically they don’t… Read More…

Back to the Classroom, Slide Projectors, Mountains & Mole Hills

Four years ago, my intended formula for this blog was pretty simple–pick a form of media (TV show, movie, billboard, cat footprints) and let it take you down a path or two.  But the last path I took was in August, before I returned to the high school classroom for my 26th year.  Being in an office setting since 2012 certainly gave me more physical and creative energy for activities like blogging as well as producing a documentary series, but it also pulled me a bit away from some basic reality-check questions that I’ve always enjoyed from teenagers–beyond “Can you give me passing grade and a pass to go home?” The days following Election Day produced some poignant conversations for this English major turned video production teacher–with just a minor in US History. Q.  How can the losing candidate can have 3 million more votes–and what the hell is an Electoral College? It’s certainly a… Read More…

Mr. Greene’s Show Tags: Lanyards and Legacy of One Man’s Life

I don’t think I am alone here. When you reach a certain age and stage in life, you come to the table with a certain level of common sense and experience that you think backs up your values, beliefs and opinions. So, there are many areas of life that I have experience in but I am not a professional. I take my combined experience — mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, lawyer, teacher, book lover, movie and theatre lover— and I use it all when I process the world around me. Situation dependent, certain parts of this experience may overshadow others. Many have seen my mama bear take charge; others the lawyer, teacher, friend etc. Whichever controls, I universally try to follow the signs. I’m on overload this week.  The sudden unexpected death of my daughters’ theatre teacher and mentor, my friend, Micah Greene, set these wheels in motion.  Saturday, the… Read More…

Loss of My Roommate, Micah – Champion of the Big Idea and the Little Guy

Classrooms and schedules can make strange bedfellows.  Yesterday, I lost my roommate of 10 years, Micah Greene.  And like a brother who shares a bunkbed for so long, you become so in tune to his tossings and turnings, snoring and other idiosyncrasies that you stop paying attention–at least consciously. Drama teacher Micah Greene came to West Bloomfield High School in 2003, the second year of the new TV studio whose courses I was asked to create.  He was a proud Western Michigan Bronco who had also spent some time at a Kalamazoo television station.  He was a natural to teach extra sections of our Beginning Video Production program once the program got rolling and had more sections than hours available. As any teacher can tell you, teaching from a cart can be a hectic process as you roll your wares down a quarter mile of hallway during rush hour in the… Read More…

Playpens, Curfews and Trust: Our Responsibility to Children

One of the longer hours you can put a teacher through isn’t monitoring lunch or that final 60 minutes before spring conferences are over–it’s at an in-service, the mandatory training that the state, city, superintendent or your principal inflicts upon educators.  Topics can range from the terrors of airborne pathogens to the correct way to open your laptop.  Michigan teachers are required to attend 30 such hours by law and most fall under the same sad irony found in the half-day seminar on the twenty-minute attention span. But somehow, in 1991, I found myself at a training that stays with me to this day.  Its metaphor was the playpen.  Al Dicken, who would later become my administrator when I changed school districts, was the trainer at a drug-awareness session. Al explained that when our kids are tiny, we place them in the playpen (or its transformer version since the late 80s, the… Read More…

Assassins & Teamwork: Filmmaking (and Break-Making) for Cooper Brothers’ Film “Five Windows”

Sometimes, feeling useless can feel quite nice–particularly on a movie set.  Hurry-up-and-wait sums it up, of course.  But if you’re just lurking like I tend to do, watching former students do their thing, you can be quite invisible and love every minute of it. As an extra in Gran Torino, on the other hand, I felt useless even though I did have a job to do.  I was told to walk down the street toward the Grosse Pointe hardware store and act like that wasn’t Clint Eastwood in front of me.  It took me five times, but I did it.  And when the camera stopped rolling, I quickly came to realize that I wasn’t a person, really–I was a prop, a prop that could be replaced much easier than the rake in the window I was instructed to examine, pretending that wasn’t Clint Eastwood in front of me. In the clip below, I’m the blurry guy on the right walking my usual odd… Read More…

“God, I Love My Job!” Welcoming Mistakes and Exploding Stuff – The Life of Sound FX Guru–Ric Viers

Listen to Kevin’s podcast with Ric Viers…   Perhaps it’s osmosis, but Ric Viers has noticed that his son seems to have his dad’s ear.  In the middle of The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies, there is a Foley mistake–a sword that didn’t clash to the ground.  “And I saw it and I just kind of smiled, but before I could even say anything, my kid leans over and says, ‘Dad, they forgot one of the sound effects.’” After years of on-the-job training, sound effects expert Viers has learned valuable lessons for not just audio but life, not the least includes keeping ones car keys in the refrigerator. Owner of the world’s largest collection of sound-effects, The Detroit Chop Shop, Ric Viers was a guest speaker in November for Detroit area student filmmakers.  The author of the best-selling books The Sound Effects Bible (2008) and The Location Sound Bible (2012), he shared his war-stories and provided tips included in his easy-to-read and… Read More…

New Podcast – Life Lessons & Sound FX with Ric Viers

    Veteran film and TV sound expert Ric Viers, author of The Sound Effects Bible and The Location Sound Bible, joins Kevin Walsh following a workshop Ric gave to Michigan high school students on his 10 Location Sound Commandments, which offer important life-skills as well. They discuss: Soft Skills and Reputation-how the most skilled person on the set may not be the one who stays on the set. How Does One Begin as a Sound Guy? Fatherhood and the osmosis of sound-awareness Gathering sound-effects (and where to leave your keys) Publishing a book (after finding a niche) The “Oh Crap” Kit Check out Ric’s page on Amazon as well as his own website, www.RicViers.com

Ken Burns-on-a-Shoestring: Creating Buzz to Launch Mini-Doc “Digging Detroit”

“The Joe,” the battleship-gray windowless box on the Detroit River, is slated for 2017 demolition, making way for high-rise condos, a hotel and shopping as part of a pay-back to creditors owed $1 billion.  For a few months in-between wrecking-ball and ground-breaking, Detroiters will once again have an unobstructed view of the river at the corner of Fort and 3rd–as if looking back in time and seeing the Purple Gang hijack another bootlegger at the docks, before moving its haul up the street to the speakeasy beside the church. And that same little brick building on the left will probably still be standing when the condos are torn down in 60 years–perhaps making way for the next home for the Wings. When the 1974 picture above was taken, I was probably immersed in Channel 50’s after-school reruns of Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island or deeper in the way-back machine, The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals.  Inevitably I’d have to endure the “Let’s put on a show” moment as Alfalfa or Darla would… Read More…

Propaganda, Potholes and Pensions: Political Ads & Business Clichés During Election (Hunting) Season

It wasn’t supposed to be this close of a race in Michigan. To get Rick Snyder re-elected governor may take more checks from United Citizens like the Koch brothers to create more subtle ads like the following… [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnPG2iW3cqU] This cringe-worthy moment was a response to Mark Schauer’s surprising “too-close-to-call” campaign—perhaps riding on the bumpy road of last winter’s potholes and angry pensioners whose fixed incomes become less-fixed with Snyder’s new tax on their retirement. Even GOP legislators weren’t happy with this tax… Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who introduced the repeal bill on March 20, said he did so in response to constituents in his district who have called his office or approached him in coffee shops to complain about the pension tax as they prepare their returns. “Since it’s tax season, I’ve had a huge amount of calls from my constituents when they find out what their tax liability is,” Jones told… Read More…

Labor Day: Created in Six Days from Collective Guilt and a Stubborn Landlord

This weekend, we’re celebrating the end of summer–the bookend to Memorial Day and a great Monday to have off.  Labor Day was created to supposedly honor the American worker but was  passed in record time in 1887 by a Congress and president with a guilty-conscience. It began with a broken promise–probably one that shouldn’t have been made.  But it was made–and believed to be made for all the right reasons on one side and the more logical reason on the other side–the reason of profit. George Pullman, like any great American businessman, found his niche.  He grew up near the Erie Canal and witnessed the importance of creating luxury transportation and adapted it to the newborn railroad system. After transporting Lincoln’s body through 180 cities and seven states demand for Pullman’s cars grew, in spite of the cost being five times traditional railroad transportation.  (Interestingly, not only did Lincoln’s macabre road-tour change rail-travel it also perfected funeral science… Read More…

New Podcast: “The Fourth Wall” Award-Winning Young Filmmakers

  How do you make a movie?  What does a producer do?  Are English accents tough? Kevin is joined by Adam and Daniel Cooper who wrote, directed and edited the short film “The Fourth Wall,” winner of the international festival for young filmmakers Urban 15’s Josiah Media Festival in San Antonio. Producer Jeremy Shecter and Jonathan D’Ambrosio join the Cooper Brothers to discuss the film, teamwork, making it in the film industry and surprises along the way. The film won the category for best narrative and is now in competition for the festival’s Best of Show award that will occur live via streaming at 7pm July 10-12 via the group’s site:  http://www.urban15.org/

Perhaps “Compromise” and “Politics” Can Coexist? Candidate Fishman Switches Sides and Hopes So

At first, term limits made sense.  At first, letting the giant wooden horse into the gates of Troy made sense, too.  For many, the possibility of voting for a Democrat who was a Republican nine months ago makes less sense. “We’ve always had term limits; they’re called elections,” joked retiring US Republican Congressman, William S. Broomfield in 1996 to me when he was being inducted into the Royal Oak Dondero High School Hall of Fame.  Michigan had just voted to only allow its state elected officials a few terms under the design that it would eliminate “career politicians.” Instead we have legislative musical chairs with no one staying in one job long enough to make any decisions that have any impact beyond six years.  Like short-lived mayflies, state reps exist just three terms then they move on to the next election—maybe a state senate seat, sheriff, mayoral race or the… Read More…

New Podcast: Not Your Father’s GOP – New Democrat Ryan Fishman, New Try for Michigan State Senate

What does it take to drive someone away from his own party?  Ronald Reagan, after all, left the Democrats in 1962 after being a successful union leader for years.   Ryan Fishman decided last September to run for his term-limited Michigan state senate district after a series of his op-ed articles convinced others to convince Ryan that he should leave the GOP and take a shot at a traditionally right-leaning district. Ryan and Kevin discuss: – Difficulties (or not, really) in switching parties – Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats – The bad business logic of Right to Work, removing unions and poor short-sighted infrastructures – Door-Knocking and Lawn Signs – Being under 30 and running for office – Problem with planning for just 7 of 9 innings

Hollywood’s Spring Training – Saturday’s 46th Michigan Student Film Festival (Great Seats Still Available–and They’re Free!)

Two events, besides roller coasters,  when people don’t mind long lines:  movies and sporting events.  People will drive 24 hours through the night to get a glimpse… Spring training.  Your team’s undefeated… There’s sunshine, plenty of seats available, a great overall vibe… And it’s the only time you can get close enough to some celebrities–some even before they’re famous. But you can save yourself the long drive down I-75, the sunblock and even the price of admission–and do a lot to encourage some future filmmakers as well. In the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), there are many who want STEAM instead–remembering the important “A” for arts.  And this Saturday just down Woodward Avenue, you can see STEAM in at its very best. The 46th annual Michigan Student Film Festival takes place from 10 AM to 2 PM at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of… Read More…

The Quarter Million Dollar Student Athlete

College is fun.   It’s a time of liberation and discovery.  It’s a time to develop self-awareness, accountability, empowerment.  What any of us wouldn’t give to go back to college? Watching March Madness always reminds me of that liberation, joy and jubilation.  It propels me back twenty plus years to a time when we were students and the Fab Five were rocking at Michigan. We jammed into Crisler Arena bouncing up and down, partying at our friends’ houses and storming South U at our victories or near victories.  What pride we had in watching our fellow students represent our great University in the hunt for a title. The debate as to whether or not to pay college athletes has been ongoing for years.  At its core it’s a simple argument.  Student athletes bring so much revenue from the two big sports of basketball and football and they deserve to share in… Read More…

You’re Pregnant, You’re Fired – Why Teachers Have Unions…For Now

Dr. Ken Noble followed his Depression-era parents into the teaching profession in Royal Oak, Michigan four years before Governor Romney (R) signed a law permitting collective bargaining for public workers.  In 2010, Ken shared his perspective with teachers struggling with the need for a teachers union in a district that would eventually impose an historically severe retroactive pay-cut on its teachers. I have been out of the classroom and away from the negotiating table for so long I do not know how much my thoughts will help you, but since you asked . . .The evolution of teacher duties and compensation is actually quite interesting. Promising Obedience Before collective bargaining each teacher had an individual contract and served “at the will” of the school board.  In the late 1930’s my parents had contracts about the size of a current postcard.  In each contract the teacher acknowledged that the “right to… Read More…

Do you have a “beautiful question” you’d like to share with the world?

Today, March 14, is “Question Day 2014,” in honor of that master questioner Albert Einstein, who was born on this date, 135 years ago. Einstein is known for his curiosity and passion for questioning. He told us, “The important thing is not to stop questioning” and urged us to “Question everything” and “Never lose a holy curiosity.” I happen to be very interested in questioning myself. My book, A More Beautiful Question, is all about the surprising power of questioning to transform our lives and spark big breakthroughs. The book was published last week by Bloomsbury and now, of course, I’m in full promotion mode. And that’s why I couldn’t just let Einstein’s birthday pass by without marking it. An official Einstein’s birthday / Question Day connection was made in 2008 when National Question Day was declared by an entity called the Inquiry Institute. This year, in partnership with the nonprofit… Read More…

Then Along Came a Snyder: Super Bowl Scuba-Governor & Four Great Lake Shipwrecks to Explore Before Drowning in $30 Million in Ads

It’s not every Super Bowl you see a snorkeling governor rising dramatically from the depths of a swimming pool. Toss in the Phil Hartman-like cheesy narrator and you’ve got a $400,000 bid for amnesia. And while Super Bowl ads often have strange, engaging openings, they often aren’t know for their literary depth Even the press secretary of former Michigan GOP governor John Engler admitted he was a bit baffled: “Truscott initially was confused by the snorkeling scene too, but upon further reflection, he thought it worked as a metaphor.” (link) Most Super Bowl ads don’t require “further reflection.” There’s not a lot of metaphors either, unless you count cute dogs, groin-injuries and trucks hauling cattle. This strange spot produced by Strategic Perception Inc. of Hollywood oddly blends two famous 1960s Hollywood images that have never before co-existed: Benjamin Braddock and James Bond… It’s not too far of a leap, actually,… Read More…

Public Education Going the Way of Netscape Navigator? Common Core, Bill Gates and BATs

Listen to our podcast with two leaders of the Badass Teacher’s Association, Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson… “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” It was a typical tenth grade essay question.  I can still see the red ink circling my first wish on my returned paper; I had written “health.” “Good health or bad health?” “Well, duh?”  I remember my brilliant 16 year-old sarcasm so clearly.  “Who would wish for bad health?” And as my revenge on this injustice, I used the same technique grading papers for 25 years.  I lectured that it was a lesson in being specific.  Students need to pay attention to those details where the devil hangs out.  The kids loved me for that one, you can imagine. I’ve had some of those same students, neighbors and a few friends ask me my opinion about the Common Core Standards.  Do I… Read More…