Raibow

Raibow
Rainbow over Galileo Lane, Tucson

Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders                                                   April 12, 2016                
From Ken Goodman
 Kgoodman @u.arizona.edu
http://www.thosegoodmans.net/

Dear Senator Sanders,

Every four years for a very long time (I am 88) a have addressed an open letter to the in-coming President of the United States on the subject of public education. If your background includes any Yiddish (My father was a Litvak) you may understand” Iz helfen vi a toiten bankus” (rough translation “It didn’t help at all”)

Actually, the educational policies of every President, Republican or Democratic in that whole time has been detrimental to the great traditions of public education. I applaud your campaign commitment to free universal higher education. But our elementary and secondary schools are so poorly supported   and the national and state educational policies have so degraded our teachers and public schools that large numbers of students will not be able to go to even free universities.

No aspect of American society is more important than adequate free public schools: safe and inviting places for our future generations under the guidance of professional teachers dedicated to accepting all learners and supporting their growth toward whatever each is capable of achieving. Public schools are the one institution in society with the potential to reach every child.

But the conditions of our nation’s public schools have suffered under financial neglect and open attack. Simply speaking our public schools are the last socialized aspect of American society and that makes them the relentless target of free-market think tanks on behalf of their corporate funders.

In developing nations , education exists at three levels: Those who have the means pay for private schools which vary in quality in proportion to their price. Public schools serve mainly the working poor. And large numbers of children of poverty are not in school at all or leave after one or two years.

That’s the goal of the anti-public school campaigns in this country. Big business sees no need to educate any more than a small elite group of technicians and managers to run the increasingly digitized production lines. Why pay taxes to educate anybody else? And besides too much education and literacy produces trouble makers. But they also want to control the curriculum and methods of education. And while they are at it they would like to earn profits on texts and tests. Lots and lots of tests.

Laws disguised as reforms, such as No Child Left Behind where really designed to assure the failure of public schools by imposing archaic curriculum, absurd testing, and unattainable criteria for judging school success.

No Child Left Behind was successfully sold to the minority communities as reform intended to help their children. In fact, it was a calculated attempt to make public education appear to be a failure. It used a punitive approach, setting unattainable goals and then punishing the staff and school districts for failure to achieve them. Many schools had entire faculties dismissed and the school turned over  to  for-profit charters or contractors who employed uncertified teachers. In Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, and New Orleans among other urban cities the entire school systems have been taken over by the state losing any local input. Then the schools have gotten worse.

But the only way to make profit running these charter schools is to raise class size, reduce services, and replace teachers with machines and less qualified personnel.

At no time in our history have teachers been so poorly treated. The United States has the best educated teachers in the world, but they are  constrained from doing what they know how to do and they are blamed for poor results while teaching in decaying sometimes dangerous schools with inadequate materials. Many fine teachers are driven out of teaching within the first five years in the classroom.

Teachers are so poorly paid that they often need food stamps to put food on the table for their own families. It is no exaggeration that many retired teachers are still paying off their student loans.

Many American children are spending their days in inadequate decaying buildings with poor sanitation. It is a national shame that our politicians are more concerned about incarcerating our youth than educating them.

Ironically, in spite of all attempts to destroy it, American public education is damaged but not broken. Due to dedicated and well educated teachers and professional administrators most American children get a pretty good education in public schools. Unfortunately, that is likely to be strongly dependent on zip code.

Senator Sanders, you’ve done a good job laying out the issues facing our people. Of all the problems you have exposed none is more significant to the future of American education than free universal public education . Education must be extended to three to five year olds on one end and higher education on the other. 

Parents and teachers together are ready to support a platform of making education the highest national priority. I believe this is also the issue that can put you over the top.

Sincerely,
Ken Goodman,
Professor emeritus. University of Arizona
Past President, International Literacy Association,
Past President, National Conference on Research in Literacy

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The end of the two party system .

Trump and Sanders: America’s Alter- Egos and the end of the two party system

Perhaps the most important aspect of the 2016 Presidential election has largely been missed. It is the rejection by American voters of the two party system.

 It’s been apparent that the Republican party has lost control of its process for choosing its presidential nominee and faces a dilemma of Donald Trump winning their nomination or taking it away from him and fracturing at their convention. But this is only a symptom of a much more important event: the American electorate is showing by their voting patterns that they no longer accept the two party system that has dominated national politics.

The pundits have struggled to understand the relationship of the defection on the Republican side to Donald Trump and on the Democratic side to Bernie Sanders. The reason in both cases is that they have massively rejected the two party system. 

All through the primary season the news coverage has had to throw away voting models in trying to explain each Tuesday or Saturday what voters did. The old ways of predicting results didn’t work.

And each week, no matter how much money the array of wannabees on the Republican side spent it could not buy votes. Yet Donald Trump seemed to get votes simply by saying outrageous things no party politician would ever say. while a 74 year old Jewish Socialist Senator came out of nowhere to mount a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. 

In both cases the voters no longer were willing to support the two party system. Perhaps what finally got through to voters was the 8-year outrageous behavior of a Congress so dysfunctional that it almost brought the government down several times.

As they disserted the party candidates the electorate fractured, not on the red and blue lines the parties had drawn. They divided between two alter egos of American voters both the product of the persistent way party politicians steered voters away from what they really stood for by framing their beliefs as something quite different.

The Republicans have for years built their platform around the idea that the enemy of the middle class and working class people is “big government," which threatened their jobs with too much regulation and took too much out of their pay checks with taxes. Somehow, from their offices in Washington, they made Washington the enemy.  They created a block of largely male working class voters who voted against their own class interests.  “Washington” was favoring those dangerous foreigners, blacks, Hispanics and women and discriminating again white, Christian, regular Americans. 

So one American alterego distrusts government and believes that “They” are taking America away from us. They don’t like all that politically correct stuff and believe that the second amendment is the most important thing in the Constitution. "They" want to take our guns away. 
These folks get their news and views from radio talk shows and have great fear and anger at change.

The other alterego is evident in the changing social attitudes toward difference of all kinds. Gay marriage and alternate life styles have become acceptable to them. They care about the environment and drive energy efficient cars. 

They believe that the real problems of modern industrial society can really only be solved together and that they are problems that require government to be responsible for dealing with them.

 They get their information on-line and distrust network news and media controlled by big business.  They trust the fake news more than the conventional media.They want the issues to be confronted honestly and fairly and they expect the best knowledge to guide government decisions.   And they don’t like the way politicians hide their beliefs in political doublespeak.

 They see the Democratic party drifting in policies and action farther and farther to the right avoiding confrontation of the serious issues and trading perpetuation of policies that favored the multinational corporations in return for support of their campaigns.    They want to have a government that make things happen.  And socialism is not a bad word if it means being concerned for each other and not beating up on each other.                                                                             .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
This alterego is embraced by young people who have always been more idealistic and impatient for action to solve problems. They connect with each other through smart phones and social media and prefer the fake news which exposes the hypocrisy of politicians and distrust conventional media.
Trump and Sanders represent well these American alter egos.

Even their names tell it: The Don
 He’s the self-proclaimed winner of winners; He’s rich and powerful. His name  is  on everything. Disdainful of losers (and they are so many to be disdained) destined to rule. What is good for him is good for all. He can do no wrong and is ruthless to all who get in his way. He preaches hate of others and contempt for the weak. He shoots from the hip, takes no prisoners, and the ends always justify the means.

And plain Bernie.
Unadorned, independent consistent, truth speaking. He’s S/socialist with big and little S.  A son of Jewish immigrants, proudly Jewish but more likely to cite history than God. His mantra is equality for all.  His priorities are health, education, fair wages, fair elections, fair laws, and a continuous revolution to preserve those priorities. He would provide free higher education, single payer medicare for all, and massive programs to provide jobs by rebuilding the infrastructure by taxing speculation. And he would reform campaign financing and the broken criminal justice system.

These are the alter egos that are America in the twenty-first century. Each truly American. And the electorate has polarized around them because the two party system has failed to govern. The Republicans and Democrats were for a long time two sides of the same coin, both funded and at the bidding of the moneyed interest  while maintaining an apparent choice between conservative and liberal versions of the same status quo.

This election made apparent to voters just how badly the two party politics had failed. Republicans after 8 years devoted to negating any Obama initiative, offered up a sleazy array of Republican politicians in a primary system rigged to favor a candidate who could say patriotic inanities while following the dictates of the rich. And along came the Donald, brashly proclaiming himself Mr. macho America who could do anything, say anything, make up his own laws and beat up on anybody, anywhere anyhow. The rigged system was ripe to be high jacked.
  And the Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton with all her qualification is sounding too much like a politician even when echoing Sanders agenda. Her agenda is eventual slow change meant to sound realistic but sounding like another political excuse for why what is needed can’t be done. Yes, but not just yet is. 

And voters listen to Bernie hammering away at a rigged economy, a rigged criminal system, a system in which the wealth produced by workers goes to a tiny percentage of the elite. And college is either unaffordable or saddling those who do graduate with life -long financial burdens. And when he says it will take a revolution to get our priorities straight, it is the young idealists who believe in his fair and democratic ideals who say enough of two party politics, enough of favoring the rich and powerful.

The two party system is no longer viable. There are no longer any regular republicans who can rely on loyal followers to vote for their official candidates nationally. And their traditional supporters will not vote for Trump. On the Democratic side, if Hillary is nominated she will win by default but if she wants a friendly house and congress she will need not only to mouth commitment to Saunders issues. There have to be local and congressional candidates to earn the support of the revolution he has called for.

 The two party system benefits multinational corporations and wall street. And they will use their media to marginalize, malign, corrupt and control any movement that threatens their power.

America once did have a realignment of our parties that was between a slave based economy in the south and an industrial economy in the North in which half of the states rejected the results of an election and the rule of Washington.
Could our tradition of constitutional law survive if our evil alter ego rejects an election result? A lot depends on how the greed of the powerful corporations prevails  or  our democratic traditons are strong enough to overcome.



Perhaps the best result of the current situation would be a realistic realignment of the party system. What could emerge is something perhaps like Canadian parties which stand for specific platforms that truly are right wing, centrist, or left wing and which give minority parties more participation on national and local politics. Canadians regularly turn out ruling parties from office.

In any case the Red/blue two party system is done.

 Perhaps we will have four parties to represent what are our current blocks:
The Know Nothing Party of the anti government right.
The Greed party that belives in government for the rich and powerful
The Moderates Who want good government without much change
And the New Democrats who see socialism as needed to solve social problems






Saturday, March 5, 2016

3/5/16
A note to the very frustrated Republicans on the hi-jackng of their party by Donald Trump.
Item 1
 You made the receptive audience he now commands:
For years you've been hiding your real agenda by framing it as something quite different.
Your real agenda is to cut taxes on the ultra rich and reduce regulation that restricts profit centered practices. You avoid any tax at all while closingout american jobs by takintake production overseas and shelter yourprofits in untaxable foreign accounts
While opposing every initiative of the President you created a mythical enemy called Washington which is somehow different then the Congress you control.
You justified below poverty wage minimums and taking aaway the social protections of the New Deal as unafforable but wrote your pork barrel into  totally unrelated bills
And you frame federal spending as somehow  bad for the working and middle class.

So there is an elctorate out there who responds to the Pey-eyed Piper who points out that you are Washington and that you are not living by beliefs you never intended to live by.

Item 2
Has it never occured to you as the sponsor of the Republican Presidential debate to set rules of decorum and common decency? Could you not have easily said that obscene language and attacks on gender, physical bodily characterists, ad hominen attacks on other candidiates or interviewers as well as uncontitutioinal proposals were not permitted and that candidtes who crossed the line would a. have their mikes cut off and b. be barred from further participation in the further debates.

Item 3
You also created an audience for Bernie Sanders.by your tactics of  buying off politicians and your flagrant disregard of the common good in your economic policies and your abandonment of the role of Congress to protect citizens from unfair bussiness practices and your treatment of our first black president with total disrespect, You have created education policies that have destroyed local control in major cities and you restricted funding only to schools that restrict the ability of teachers to use their profesional knowlledge. Five year olds are in sweat shop kindergartens with no play  and age inappropriate  methods.You ignored the rising costsof higher education and the fact that graduates are weighed dowm for lifein dwbt they can not even end with bankrupcy.
Can you wonder that our youth find truth in Bernie Sanders platform. And the word socilaism no longer frightens them.  And his candidicy has pushed Hillary CLinton much farther to the left in her campaign. You made that happen too .

It may be that the one good  thing to come out of this election is                           a political reallignment with voters getting some chance to understand who cares about them and who doesn't. Maybe we will end up with a conservative party, a tea party, a democratic socialist party. and a liberal party.





Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why the attempt to make reading simple? A reply to Learning to Read: Should We Keep Things Simple?

In the latest issue of the Reading Research Quarterly the lead article reports an attempt- one of many- to test Phil Gough’s “Simple View”  to make reading simple so it could be studied simplistically.
I’ve written Linda Gambrell and Susan Neuman , current editors, to raise some of the issues.
Psychological researchers in reading have a long tradition of avoiding the simple fact that reading is language. Mainly that’s because they have not wanted to take the time to learn some basic linguistics. But it’s also because the most importance aspects of language- are not amenable to use of the experimental method they have locked themselves into. You cannot permit one aspect of language   to vary (the variable) while holding the rest invariant. Language is a dynamic process that works so well because it is so flexible- changing, ambiguous and redundant.
Gough believed reading ability could be reduced to two factors: word recognition and listening comprehension. The authors of the RRQ study as have most of those trying to make reading simple know that’s not enough so they through a few more tests in the statistical meat grinder which make his formula a little (or a lot ) less simple. But all that does is make the absurdity of the quest for simplicity a bit less obviously a failure.
What makes this whole attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse so absurd is that it isn’t necessary. Language is easy to learn regardless of its complexity. Virtually all kids are using one or more languages successfully by age three with no instruction. And three year old digital natives are learning as easily to read and write as they happily text each other.
Here’s my letter:

To the Editors
Susan B. Neuman
Linda Gambrell
Reading Research Quarterly
Dear editors:
For a few minutes when I started to read the lead article Learning to Read: Should We Keep Things Simple? in the current issue of the Reading Research Quarterly I thought they were reprinting a piece that had been published in 1965. It certainly would have fit right in with the main stream research of the time although my first research article, “Cues and Miscues in Oral Reading” was published that year which showed that even first graders could read most of the words in the context of a story that they couldn’t read from a list. And there is nothing simple about that.
Given what  has been learned about reading in the half century since 1965, I would have thought that correlating scores on a WHOLE BUNCH OF TESTS to test whether a simplistic -excuse me simple view- of reading was useful or not would not have been considered publishable in RRQ.  I also found it curious that the authors say that the simple view is word recognition and listening comprehension but their introduction to the issue the editors call these two – what factors/skills/ aspects/ measurable parts?- decoding and  language comprehension as if these were equivalent terms.  None of the tests used in the article were claimed to measure such factors. Isn’t reading comprehension language comprehension. If so then aren’t they correlating language comprehension with language comprehension. If not, are they saying that reading is not language?
The authors used a lot of tests- a lot of tests. But are the tests testing what they claim to test?  Are they equally valid for all subjects? Do they have floor and ceiling effects? Are the scores normative or ipsative? In effect isn’t this a case of GIGO –garbage in garbage out?
And should we accept the conclusions that elaborating on the two factors making them less simple would make the simple view more useful? What would that mean? If scores improve on the tests that measure the simple view will children learn to read?
Or let’s ask the most important question: by treating learning to read as something simple have we made it simple?
In the last 50 years we’ve learned two facts about learning language (including reading) that may surprise the authors and the editors. One is that language isn’t at all simple in fact it’s so complicated no linguist has a complete system for describing, let alone explaining, language. But fact two: language is easy to learn:  almost all children by age 3 have gained functional use of language without instruction. Many third world children have learned several languages just as easily.
There’s no way to make language learning simple. But there is an easy way to help children to learn to read. It is to make the way they found it easy to learn oral language work for them in learning to make sense of written language.  Written language is learned just as oral language is learned- in the process if using it.
Six editions of Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (ILA/IRA) have presented more enlightened views of how reading works – and how it is learned- than this simple minded article.  And teachers know better that reading is neither simple nor hard to learn except when it’s turned into abstractions on silly tests that have nothing to do with making sense of print.
Ken Goodman

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whole Language: Victory Laps


Yetta and I, in recent months, have visited three quite different places where whole language has been going for some time with quite amazing results.

The first was Zaharis School in Mesa Arizona. In a remote part of a very conservative school district Mike  Oliver, the principal has been grooming a faculty over time to apply principles of whole language and make heavy use of literature. When I asked a teacher of second graders, “Are there any non-readers?” She responded, “You of all people should know better than to ask that!” The school serves an important “safety valve function for the district” It keeps a group of parents, who would not be happy with skill oriented instruction, happy. They love the excitement of their children in their rich school experiences. Parents drive their kids miles to attend and the school has a waiting list.
Then shortly later Yetta spoke at the 10th biennial conference of the Guatemalan Reading Conference in Quetzletenango (Xelay) Guatemala. She heard report after report of application of whole language in situations the polar opposite of Mesa. Children of rock crushers and children whose families scavenge the city dumps are enjoying whole language education. Through the work of Steve Barrett, Marcia Mondschein and many others, courageous teachers are developing their own whole language experiences and bringing literacy to many who would not have had access to literacy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Then again we had the privilege of visiting the preschool and elementary school at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. Dr. Ruth Saes Vega has been promoting whole language in the school and has just published a book in Spanish entirely by whole language teachers writing about their classrooms. And a new generation of teachers were joyously implementing the concepts of great teaching the book represented. Ruthie also has been taking grad students to a small Mayan village school in Guatemala to work with teachers and kids there. Those teachers presented about their whole language at the Guatemalan conference.

For Yetta and me each situation felt like a victory lap. That’s what the winner of a race does after crossing the finish line. In each case we were being congratulated for what courageous teachers have been achieving as they turn concepts and ideas into reality for children.

We felt like shouting, “Viva Lenguaje Integral”, “Long live Whole Language”. May literacy flourish and may children everywhere, one day, find such enlightened teachers in their schools.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where's Your Data?

I spent the weekend in the hospital. A cough turned into pneumonia. But thanks to modern medical knowledge and technology I' m now at  home - still coughing a little but assured by medicasl science that I'm  ready to go home. My vitals are good, my blood test taken at 3 am shows my kidneys are normal - for me.I'm satisfied with the proof offered me that I'm ready to go home. Besides the food was terrible

Yetta just came back from the 10th bienniel Guatemalan Reading conference  held in Xela, (Quetzeltenanga) 7500 feethigh in the Central American mountain.

We've been going to Guatemala every two years over a  20 year period supporting the efforts of  Marcie Mondschein who goes regularly fromNew York and has put paper back book libraries  in schools  all over Gutemala and provided in-service to many many teachers there. Steven Barrett has been working with an NGO CEPA formerly related to a church in Xela to bring education to children who survive in the markets.

The confernce opened with a chorus of 5-12 year old children whose families earn their livings
crushing rock on the river bank. The children sang three songs in Spanish from song sheets that they were reading.

Which brings me to my topic , Where's the data?

In my three day hospital stay I sometimes felt I was emersed in data. "VItals",sugar count, oxygen saturation, heart monitor, temperature, breathing, I saw many doctors and technicians who spent more time looking  at the data than they did looking at me.

I began to think of how health is evaluated in comparison to how learning- paritcularly literacy is evaluated.

Medical students learn a lot about human anatomy by studyng cadaveers- dead people. But there is a great deal more complexity in my living body than in  a cadaver.

The living body is an integrated and dynamic whole. Any bit of data has to be evakuated un terms of norms, changes, and indicators of how the whole body is functioning.My caregivers shared with me the good news that came from trends in the data..

Language, oral and written is also a  living complex system in use. From studying language in
use we learn a lot that helps us to evaluate reading and writing. But there is danger in trying to use a medical model  to produce sets of data by stopping the complex systems and testing the dead cadaver we thus create.

Those rock crushers children were singing from song cheets. They knew the songs so it is possible that some particularly the little one were singing from memory- but singing a song from amemory is a much more meaingful living language experience than  recodning digraphs and trigraphs under pressure from  a tester who only gives a child three seconds before marking the item wrong..

We use miscue analysis to understand the process of reading with a sound recording of the live oral
reading of a reader reading an authentic text without interruption. That gives us
useful data to evalute  reading both quatitatively and qualtiateively. But the importance and perhaps the only analogy to medical data is  the qualtiative analysis of trends - is theire eidence in the miscues  of  meaning  making?. Is the reader able to retell the meaning that was created during the readiing?.

Reading tests- all of them- are based on a false set of assumptions that aspects of reading could be separately tested which could then be used  with other data from tests of  other aspects to give  a measure of  reading competence. .

But no test of an apect whether sounidng out nonsenes trigraphs or recognizing words or letteers or providing an antonym for sn out of context word or an other assumed sub skill  provides any useful information of the ability of a reader to make sense of written text.

A change in my pulse rate or my sugar score may give useful information to  a nurse or doctor about whether my health is improving.

But there is  nothing in a letter recognition test that tells me  about whether a particular six year old is making progressin in learning to read unless learning to read is defined as meeting the criteron score on the test..

And that reification of meaningless test scores is the stark difference between medical data and reading test data..   The data my medical care givers used was collected from my live bady and qualitatively analysed to monitor my body's heralth.

The reading test data is not reading data. But data from children singing from song sheets, or the numberof paper books each child has read by children living by scavening in the market is real data..

Millions of dollars have been poured into Guattemala's neighbor Nicaragua to test children with EGRA (DIBELS in rebosa) and then millions more to get them to improve their scores on EGRA But that has produced no useful gains in literacy  in Nicaragua as reported to the World Bank and USAID who with the Hewlett foundaton fund EGRA.          .

Marcie Mundschein's paper back libraries funded by selling Guatemalan artifacts at reading conferences in the US are producing literate Guatemalan children, I have been in those schools and seen those children reading And the children of rock crushers are staying in school and learning to read and write because  meagerly funded volunteers understand language and learning and care about the children of the poor.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Another New Year
With a birthday in late December each New Year is also a new year for me. This is my 87th new year. Though it ends a year that was not very good for the world and my country, it was a pretty good one for me and Yetta.

 Each year which we continue to exist is itself a bonus.  And continuing to be productive as also a major plus. I finished what I believe is my most important book which hopefully will be published this year. The new augmented edition of What’s Whole in Whole Language was published in time for NCTE in November by Denny Taylor’s Garn Press. My keynote at UKLA in Brighton England was very well received. It is indeed a good year for Yetta with two major awards The Oscar Causey from LRA and the James Squire from NCTE. Her Oscar Causey Address at LRA occupied her for the better part of the year and was a great success. And the new Essential RMA was just published by RCOwen. See it on our new website Thosegoodmans,

New Year’s Eve has never been much of a celebration for us. Usually we are home watching the ball drop in Times Square. In our early married life we did attend parties with close friends and staying up all night seemed to fun.
The most interesting New Year’s Eve we had was at the Wall in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Millennium in 2000. We were completing a tour of Colleges teaching English in Israel sponsored by the US State Department and some visits to schools with Margaret Spencer for the Israeli Ministry of Education. We had been warned to stay away from the Old City by the US Cultural Attaché.  But Prof. Bernard Spolsky who lives in the Armenian Quarter had invited us to dinner and after dinner we went to the wall to celebrate with his congregation. There were no tourists and no trouble- though as we walked from the Sheraton in Jerusalem we had seen truckloads of Israeli soldiers just outside the old city.
The other interesting New Year was in Pasto Colombia in 1991. My daughter Karen was doing her doctoral research in a village across the border in Ecuador and we were visiting. There is a parade the last day of the old year with humorous floats attacking the local and national government and US policies and political figures. Then at midnight they burn effigies of  the old year in bon fires at intersections.

We live quite comfortably in Academy Village at the Southeastern edge of Tucson, Arizona in the beautiful Sonoran Desert. Our interesting neighbors will celebrate with a New Year’s day brunch. We’ll watch our UA Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl (good game but they lost) on television and like our neighbors be home in bed well before the dawn of 2015.

May 2015 indeed be a happier New Year for all.
Peace, clean air and water, shelter, food
And may sanity return to education policies around the world
That would be enough.
And a few more new years.
We woke this morning to a rare blanket of snow covering our desert plants.