Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    A total collapse of leadership*

    "A political leader is necessarily an imposter since he believes in solving life's problems without asking its question." ~André Malraux

    Yesterday morning I did a presentation for NYSUT - the state teacher's union - retirees on the 112th congress and the changing political dynamics and yadda yadda yadda it all ended with me announcing that we're pretty much screwed. See also; Canada is just four hours north. Who's with me?

    I've kept mum on the Shutdown Showdown not just due to general time constraints of moving back to Washington three weeks ago but also because of the mixed feelings that come with such a predicament. Let me say that there are no winners or losers or who comes out on top in this debacle. It's a showdown shit show and is embarrassing. Here we are, the so-called leaders of the world, the ones who feel compelled to swoop in and save other countries and yet we cannot be responsible for saving ourselves.

    Congress is elected to do a job and that job, as a branch of government is to move us forward. To be at an impasse six months into Fiscal Year 2011 isn't irresponsible but detrimental to everyone in this country. Not just women on whom much of these last few hours of debate have centered on but people young and old, black and white, you get the point. It's a failure of the purpose of congress as a whole and the administration.

    I'm a little angry, as we all should be. Yesterday during my workshop I attempted jokes to lessen the blow only to have my anger resurface while watching the Senate a few short hours ago. I watched four men speak over each other in an effort to figure out how much time would be allowed for one Senator to speak on the floor. So if you're really looking into why the government is about to shutdown I ask you to look no further than the floor of the House or the Senate. We're shutting down because we can't get out of our own way and because we are averse to compromise, respect and listening. That's why.

    How do you feel about the shutdown? Are you freaking out? Are you indifferent? Are you outraged?
    NPR.org: What's closed and what's not

    What Planned Parenthood Actually Does

    *courtesy of Congresswoman Eshoo on the floor of the House this afternoon

    What happened to education?

    The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Over the past several weeks I have struggled with what or how to write about the the current education crisis. Something that extends far beyond simple budget cuts to a downright assault on educators, their rights, pensions and livlihood. All of the latter done under the guise of the aforementioned budget cuts but with an inexplicable and irrational maliciousness that doesn't seem to come from a place of wanting more and better for students in this country. Instead the retort seems to be that the people of X state elected me for this very reason. To what? Get rid of their kid's fourth grade teacher? To really put the nail in the coffin on how little regard people have for the education profession. Of course we technically need teachers but they're not really worth the (very little) money they're paid and while we're at it, we can always replace said teacher with a laptop. Yes! Genius!

    I am discouraged and disheartened as are most who have followed or been involved in the education community for some time. I'll tell you this; While I never wanted to be a teacher, I have always wanted to be an education policy wonk. Somone who is well versed in the machinations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and how it impacts state law. And now that I do just that for a living it hard for me to sit here and watch one of the most honorabl professions essentially be cast aside for wanting collective bargaining rights and some sort of security at the end of their careers.

    I keep hearing about 'shared sacrifice' or, actually, lack there of. When Wall Street went bankrupt and went to the federal government for funding I do not recall such outrage at providing them with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In fact it was encouraged for without Wall Street the stock market would diminish and all of the wealthy coroporations and their CEOs would be destitute. When these budget crises began no one asked for Wall Street to give up their million dollar bonuses or their multi-million dollar salary. Yet here we are, three years later, with teachers because asked to give up their pensions, salaries and jobs all in the name of sacrifice. We have a deficit, everyone needs to tighten their belts and give something up. So why isn't Wall Street being raided?

    My anger and lot in life clouds any rational thought. Then again my thought appears to be rational in that educators are the backbone for the future of this country and without quality education given by quality educators all future generations will find themselves out in the cold. It amazes me that this simple line of thinking hasn't been drilled into the heads of those governors lobbing attacks towards teachers and their formidable wealth - eye roll. Without the sacrifice of teachers and their time and their own money for often school districts cannot pay for the extras, we would all be screwed.

    What keeps people rallying and moving even though they are being striked from all sides is that thought of future and the necessity of the education profession. The knowledge that what happens today will be the staging point for what occurs 10, 15, 20 years from now. Do we want to look back and say 'remember when?' When teachers were good and needed and supported? I'd much rather say that we fought hard and long and for everything that happened we prevailed. The career that should mean more than that of an NBA star really did matter. But with everything that is going on today, right now, across the country, the future seems bleak. And it's that simple fact of a shadow over the horizon that keeps so many going. Educators are good at instilling hope into a child, so it's inevitable that they have it within themselves, too.

    NEA has a great resource on what is going on in what state . I encourage you to check it out.

    The Women, redux

    Originally published as this The Women

    “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” ~Clare Boothe Luce

    Apparently 2010 was the year of the woman. I didn’t feel that jolt I thought I’d feel upon this triumphant event. I’m not looking for an estrogen fest on Capitol Hill and let it be known that when it comes to getting women up on high, my concern isn’t which side of the aisle does this woman fall on, it’s is she smart? Does she want smart woman to succeed? Does she want to lift up other women to follow in her footsteps? So I look towards 2012 where groups are already are on the lookout for female candidates (organizations such as Women’s Campaign Forum, EMILY’s List, The 2012 Project.).And while I commend them on their efforts, I still get that pang of redundancy; these groups going off and after their traditional lists and not a far reach to women who normally aren’t involved or up to date on the activities of Michelle Bachman. And that is where I get frustrated, bang my fist on the table and question not only what these groups can do to get a woman to run but what can I, Heather L. Barmore, do?

    Of course I turned to Twitter to crowd-source my problem. For isn’t that one is to do with a problem? Whether it’s which shoes to wear, the couch to pick out or why women don’t see themselves as leaders. A few responses:

    @Janiaragon @HeatherBarmore gatekeepers often don't think of women a's a viable candidate. Incumbents have advantage-name recog, war chest, record +

    @Janiaragon @HeatherBarmore Media & people harder on women candidates and that influences others.

    @Poobu @HeatherBarmore I tend to think it takes a certain amount of narcissism to run for public office. Maybe that's more of a male trait?

    @Poobu @HeatherBarmore I mean, it takes a certain amount of ego to think, "*I* know how to fix all the problems of the world!" No?

    So does it come down to women not feeling capable?

    Did you know that women are 51% of the population yet only 17% of congress? Every time I hear that statistic I cringe because on the one hand, how is that so? On the other hand...well...yeah, I can see it. On average women need to be asked three times to even run for office not to mention that the thought of diving in head first into a very male dominated world is so very daunting.

    I'm not saying anything revolutionary here it's just that it makes me mad (in the sense of crazy not angry) that we - as females in general - don't put ourselves out there more. No question about it. WE need to feel that in this very male dominated territory that we can hold our own and that we can be leaders and representatives and quite literally conquer the world if we so choose. It's just that we don't think we can. Or at least that is my perception of things. We think that we might not be good enough or smart enough or knowledgeable enough to break that glass ceiling. Perhaps what hinders women the most in getting themselves involved in politics isn't men or even the electorate it is ourselves. And that is something that we need to work on as a group and as individuals.

    Last summer I interviewed Marie Wilson of the White House Project where she said, very simply, that women need to be encouraged to run. Just asking a woman to run for any office or to involve herself in some sort of leadership position goes along way. Can you do me a favor? Can you first, think of yourself as capable. And second, think of a woman who would make an awesome leader or who is already a leader and say “Hey, have you ever thought about running for office?” Chances are she already has. Chances are she didn’t think she could do it. Chances are she was waiting for someone like you to ask.