Flunking Retirement!

Retirement sucks!  Although I officially retired from the PBS NewsHour last August, it hasn’t worked. I am back, but not as an even-handed and scrupulously objective reporter. I’m now an activist supporting public education through Stars for Schools,my new not-for-profit organization

If you are wondering about the catchy, clever name, here’s the backstory:   With the help of focus groups, we chose “Stars for Schools” because of the double-entendre. ‘Stars’ can refer to outstanding public performers and the ‘gold stars’ that are often affixed to students’ work by their teachers, particularly in the early grades.

I’ve been reaching out to celebrities (stars!) to engage them in this work.  Among those who have already agreed to participate or have been invited but haven’t yet responded are Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Joe Biden, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Mike Huckabee, Jane Pauley, Spike Lee, Charles Barkley, Billy Jean King, Steven Spielberg, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Tina Fey, Steph Curry, Charlie Rose, Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Tony Bennett, Steven Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, Marco Rubio, J.K. Rowling, Monica Lewinsky, LeBron James, Johnny Mathis, Peyton Manning, Jim Lehrer, Amy Schumer, Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, Justin Bieber, Mitt Romney, Samantha Bee, Chris Rock, Helen Mirren, Kim Kardashian, Will Ferrell, John Travolta, Jon Stewart, and Michelle Rhee.  The list goes on and on…..

If you are a big star, I urge you to sign yourself up.  Even if you aren’t a big enough star, you can still be involved by donating to contribution at starsforschools.org.  It’s tax-deductible!

Every year “Stars for Schools” will sponsor a Day of Action to call attention to the vital role that schools play in American life.

We’re calling the 2016 Day of Action “Celebrity Crossing Guard Day,” when some of America’s biggest stars will don the crossing guard’s bright yellow (orange in some states) uniforms and actually do the important work of making sure our children get across dangerous intersections and into their schools safely. That’s right: these dedicated men and women aren’t just sitting on the sidelines; they’re in the mix, in the arena.  Of course, this media event will attract hours of local and national television coverage and set the social media world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram afire.

The 2017 “Day of Action“is going to be even more dramatic.   We intend to superimpose the faces of America’s best teachers on Mount Rushmore.  Over a 24-hour period, 5,760 teachers will replace Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, each teacher’s image on all four faces for 15 seconds.  This event will be live-streamed, of course.  We will begin soliciting nominations later this year.

Stars for Schools” is also going to change the public image of teachers, who for too long have been stereotyped as boring and unsexy.  In fact, in the latest Gallup/Phi Delta Kappan poll, teachers scored lower on the ‘Sexy’ scale than even dentists and accountants. That has to change, and I believe that these subtly suggestive T-shirts will turn that image on its head.









When they see their children’s teachers wearing these snappy slogans, parents will certainly see them in a new light.  Shirts are $39.95 and come in four sizes, S, M, L and XL.

Frankly, I had expected to work from ‘inside the machine’ to reform the system, by serving on the Board of Directors of either Pearson or McGraw-Hill.  After serving on the Pearson Board for a very short time a year ago, I fully expected the mega-company  to approach me again, but nary a word.

As for McGraw-Hill, it dumped me from the Committee that selects the winners of the McGraw Prize in Education.  I’d been serving on that Committee since 2012 and was awaiting word about the time and place of this year’s meeting—when, out of the blue, I saw a Twitter announcement of the winners.  So I guess this means no seat for me on the McGraw-Hill Board.   No big deal. I am better off working from outside the establishment, through “Stars for Schools.

I urge you to support “starsforschools.org” today.   Contribute today if you can. Or wait until tomorrow, April 2, but please don’t delay…..






27 thoughts on “Flunking Retirement!

  1. I am also failing retirement. Great idea. How can I help? Pobre gringo😊 The most innovative teachers who buck the system are my heroes.


  2. Michelle Rhee!!! Surely you jest! This woman has done so much to damage confidence in public education and teachers. Also, I believe she engaged in fraud in order to enrich herself.

    Linda Johnson


  3. Try Kirsten Vangsness of Criminal Minds. She’s the daughter of my close friend and a big supporter of public education. You can use my name.


    • Progressive Zionism is the confident and assertive application of the Israeli basic law supporting Israel as a Jewish state (ethnic) and with equal due process under the law internally.It is non-expansive, but non-suicidal.It values Jewish association, and seeks it to be humane and progressive application.It actively undertakes reform to realize its highest application in law.It seeks a mutual respectful peace.


  4. John, I was thrilled to see your e-mail this morning and immediately thought about the one you sent last year that took me two stops on the Broadway bus before I realized it was April 1. Thus, I am delighted to see that you have your sense of humor intact and I read this one with great delight. Retirement gets better as you get older (: Angela


  5. John, I would like an opportunity to fail at retirement. That’s what working in education in NYC can do. Richard


  6. While April Fool’s Day might be funny, a serious blog runs the risk of not being taken seriously when it puts this sort of thing out. “Just kidding” is often an excuse to transgress acceptable boundaries. This is blog is too important to do that.


  7. John, I just found out this is an April Fool’s joke. I should have known, especially with the “teachers do it” shirts. What a relief!

    Linda Johnson


  8. OK! John,
    I get it!
    Should have realized it when I saw Rubio and Lewinsky’s names on the list!
    But seriously I do hope when you return from your trip that you will
    continue to engage somehow in the work of this world.
    Even part-time.
    Your voice remains important and these are dangerous times.


  9. Duh on me. I really HAVE flunked retirement. I also flunked realizing your post was a spoof – until I got to the T-shirt sale. Thanks for the humor. It brightened my day..


  10. There’s a great sbs series on this topic now. It is called Singapore 1942, six parts episode, episode two is the latest. It narrates through eye witnesses of the war, from the British, Australians, Singaporeans and Japanese. Great doco. Check it out on sbs.com.au/ondemand.


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