MARCH 21, 2019 by NFLANAGAN: John Engler and Me


Public Education. America’s Best Idea.

John Engler and Me

Long-time Michiganders, especially those of a certain age, have probably seen the latest news blast about our hefty ex-governor, John Engler. No, not the incident where he, in his role as Interim President of Michigan State University, accused sexual predator Larry Nassar’s victims of ‘enjoying the spotlight.’  And not the story about Engler’s unauthorized offering one of those victims a quarter of a million dollars, later claiming he was engaging in a ‘philosophical discussion’ about how much money would satisfy them.

The latest on John Engler is his non-appearance at investigative interviews being conducted by Michigan’s Attorney General, about the Nassar affair. Engler has been claiming he’s out of town, but then turned up courtside at an MSU basketball game.  The AG, Dana Nessel, sent a letter to the MSU Board President:

“We must lead from the top. The reluctance of the former interim president of the University to cooperatively participate in a law enforcement investigation into the largest sexual assault scandal in the history of higher education — yet happily sit court-side to watch the men’s basketball team on multiple occasions — speaks volumes about allegations of a culture of indifference on campus.”

Exactly. But Engler doesn’t see it that way.

Today, his lawyers sent Nessel a letter saying that nope, he’s not coming in for any interviews, unless and until Nessel recuses herself. Because she doesn’t like him. That’s right. Specifically—“You have prejudged Mr. Engler’s veracity and motives without ever talking to him. You have launched unfounded attacks and besmirched Mr. Engler…” 

It goes on like this at some length, besmirching Ms. Nessel herself, calling her inexperienced and lacking integrity. Your typical heavyweight bullying and mansplaining.

I’m not worried about Dana Nessel, who seems to be pretty level-headed and courageous. But the re-emergence of John Engler has given me a chance to reminisce about the times I encountered—you might even say helped out and then got dumped on by– John Engler. It’s a long story, but it involves similar outsized bullying and setting up innocent people.

John Engler was Governor when I was Michigan Teacher of the Year, in 1993. And through a series of very unlikely circumstances…




MugFlanaganB&W copy Nancy Flanagan is a retired music teacher living her personal lakeside dream in Cedar, Michigan. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and was named Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1993. She is an active musician. Flanagan has been blogging for 15 years, including a nine-year stint as ‘Teacher in a Strange Land’ @ Education Week. She splits her time between wondering how things got so messed up, and advocating for America’s best idea: a free, high-quality fully public education for every child.

March 22, 1969: DC 9 Protest Dow Chemical Production of Napalm

Nine protesters are led out of the Dow Chemical offices. Source: Washington Area SPARK.

March 22 was the 50th anniversary of the DC 9 protest of Dow Chemical’s production of napalm and nerve gas. One of the protesters, Joann Malone, went on to teach history (outside the textbook) in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

Read more below…


Opinion: Easier to blame teachers for the achievement gap than tackle poverty

A University of Georgia education professor today responds to a recent interview I did with Stanford economist Eric Hanushek about his new study on the achievement gap.

Peter Smagorinsky, a frequent contributor to the AJC Get Schooled blog, challenges Hanushek’s comments on the role that teacher quality plays in student performance. He believes Hanushek underplays the effects of poverty  on student performance.

By Peter Smagorinsky

Get Schooled recently ran an essay titled “New study:Achievement gap persistent and resistant to reform.” The story summarized economist Eric Hanushek’s dismal view of what is called the “achievement gap between low and high income students in the United States.”

The study relies on four sets of standardized test scores over a 50-year timespan, concluding that “A stark opportunity gap persists between America’s haves and have-nots, despite a nearly half century of state and federal attempts to provide poor children with extra resources to catch up. Yet, the gap hasn’t budged.”

To Hanushek, whose thinking is typical of policymakers, tests tell everything we need to know about teaching and learning, and by extension teacher education. Hanushek has a villain or two to account for the differences between the test scores produced by students from the lowest and highest SES levels: “a lack of meaningful reinvention of high school,” and “a decline in teacher quality,” which to Hanushek and colleagues “fell as women gained access to career opportunities outside of the classroom…We are shirking the issue of teaching quality. …There is no direct effort on a national scale to enhance the quality of the teaching profession.”



THIS DAY IN HISTORY March 23, 1965: Selma to Montgomery March Continues

#tdih 1965 The Selma to Montgomery March walked through Lowndes Cty, Alabama where African Americans were not allowed to vote and the Democratic Party slogan was “white supremacy for the right.” Stokely Carmichael & others from SNCC helped organize the Lowndes County Freedom Party (LCFP) with a black panther as the symbol.

Read more below.