Teacher Thought

Every child has a right to an excellent education. Right?


Every child has a right to an opportunity for an excellent education. Whether they make use of the opportunity to get an education, or not, is entirely up to them.

To promise more is a false promise.

Prop 8: It Won't Last

Need I say more?

Merit Pay For Teachers? Don't Go There...

Michelle Rhee is the Devil.

Anyway, merit pay for teachers is a bad idea for so many reasons; teacher evaluation and assessment come to mind. Ezra Klein has a post with this quote:
My point is this. It seems like reformers keep wanting to jump in and start doing things, because education is so stagnant. Which I understand. But the place to start isn't merit pay, it is finding methods of assessing teachers that aren't totally fucking useless and irrelevant. I think if we had such assessment, people would find teachers much more amenable to merit pay and a lack of tenure.
Go check it out. The folks like Klein who think merit pay is a good idea get smacked pretty hard in the comments (yours truly could only cheer!).

: Here is the NYT article referenced in Klein's piece.

Obama Weekly YouTube 1 (ObamaTube 1)

Barack Obama plans to give weekly "fireside chats" as president. He's starting early!


Won't You Try Just A Little Bit Harder?

Jerry Garcia's The Wheel. Enjoy.

Why Do Charter Schools Work Better?

Do charter schools seem to score better on tests because of the teachers? The curriculum? The students? Can I get a straight answer? Yes. All the above.

First, teachers in a charter tend to be excited, energetic, and determined; IOW motivated and independent. They don't need a principal telling them how to make thier teaching more "powerful" or "meaningful", or how to align standards with curricular materials.

Second, the curriculum used at any school has little to do with how well students learn certain standards. Go into any classroom and you will find 10 years worth of curricular materials that the teacher has morphed into one, and used them and tweaked them over the years so that they work for students and the teacher--symbiosis.

Third, almost all charters require certain commitments from parents and students that public schools could never demand; there are codes of conduct (with expulsion as a consequence!), parent volunteer hours, dress codes, homework codes, longer days, and and if you don't follow the codes, you're gone.

So when the unions get busted, and all teachers are scrambling to get hired by the moneyed charters (which will come, mark my words)remember that your child will not be attending an exclusive charter with a self-selected group of students/families that bring the scores up and makes you think it is the school(read: teachers). No. It is the selectivity of a charter--its boutiqueness--that allows it its apparent success. And that success cannot translate when every school becomes a charter school or privatized.

Public education is in such trouble because we throw money and regulation at a problem that should be dealt with locally. If there are students struggling in a school, the school should be free enough to move money and personnel around to accommodate remediation, enrichment, supervision, and all the other things a school needs to provide on moment by moment basis; things that can't be ordered, or planned to death, or requisitioned, or approved.

We have tied our hands with NCLB, and there is no way out other than failure of public education, and the resulting corporatization that will come--with Michell Rhee as its CEO, smiling all the way to the bank.

Raise your kids, people. Don't rely on the government to educate you or your child anymore than you expect the government to get your exercise for you. The government gives you parks and trails for you to get exercise, and the government gives you schools for you to get educated.

Update: Here is a conduct code as an example:

by Dr. Ben Chavis

1. The school facility is open daily from 8:30am until 4:00pm, except Saturdays, Sundays,
and all holidays known to mankind.

2. The staff of AIPCS does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance.
Anyone who does not follow our rules will be sent packing with their rags and bags!

3. Squawkers, multicultural specialists, self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers, and
those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort will be booted out.

4. Boot-licking or self-promoting is not allowed by any politician who enters our classrooms.
Politicians should beware: teachers are on duty!

5. We do not believe standardized tests discriminate against students because of their
color. Could it be many of them have not been adequately prepared to take those tests?

6. The staff does not allow students to wear hats, gold chains, or ear-bobs in the building.
Adults are not allowed to use cell phones, beepers, and other gadgets in our school.

7. Dr. Chavis does provide psychological evaluations to quacks and Kultur specialists on a
sliding scale. See him immediately for such rates.

8. All solicitors should note the nearest exit upon entering this institution of learning. We
view such alley cats with a fishy eye.

9. No more than one psychologist or school administrator is allowed in our school at a time.
This rule is part of our commitment to high academic standards.

10. Photographs of the Director of Staff are on sale at the front office. Payment must be
made in advance. CASH ONLY! The photographs will be sent to you by pony express.

11. The staff of AIPCS is of the first rank. We request that you do not flirt with them. They
will accept your cash donations!

12. Visitors are welcome daily. Due to the time it takes to re-educate university visitors, we
are limiting their number to a maximum of four individuals a week.

13. It will be difficult for our staff to meet with those educational experts who "know it all."
We are willing to meet with such tomcats on Halloween night.

14. How does anyone convince a Billy goat or taxpayer that school administrators possess
above average intelligence? How will we address this educational dilemma?

15. Our staff does not subscribe to the back swamp logic of minority students as victims.
We will plow through such cornfield philosophy with common sense and hard work!

16. If you wish to share any suggestions regarding this page, our common sense
committee accepts suggestions from 8:30am to 8:31am each holiday.

Notice the selectivity in this from American Indian Public Charter.

Go see it for yourself: http://www.aipcs.org/CommonSense.html


Thursday Cartoon Fun

From slideshow

Madame Secretary?

Hmmm. Secretary of State. Whatever. We'll see.

Bush: War Crimes?

Former DC appeals court judge suggests Bush detention policies amount to war crimes.

According to a new Human Rights Center/Center for Constitutional Rights report, former prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay and released without charge went home with “psychological and emotional problems” and found themselves “stigmatized and shunned” and viewed either as terrorists or U.S. spies. In a forward to the report, former DC appeals court judge Patricia Wald compared the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody to the treatment Bosnian Muslims received at the hands of their Serbian captors:
The officials and guards in charge of those prison camps and the civilian leaders who sanctioned their establishment were prosecuted — often by former U.S. government and military lawyers serving with the tribunal — for war crimes, crimes against humanity and, in extreme cases, genocide.
Last June, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (ret.), the Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, also accused the Bush administration of committing “war crimes” and called for those responsible to be held to account.
Update: More interesting news about what might come here (Newshoggers).

Prop 8: You're In Denial!

A great story that reinforces the truth that no matter your bigotry, intolerance, or selfishness, gay people will exist, and soon, thrive! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
"On The First Day Of School, Nothing Happened"

by hilzoy

The American Prospect:
"In Loveland, Colorado -- population 61,000, 92 percent white and heavily evangelical Christian -- Michelle didn't know what to expect when she began to work with the school to facilitate her daughter's transition from a boy to a girl. At first, it was difficult. The school "freaked out when I told them," Michelle says. "When we started with M.J.'s transition, I was envisioning riots." And so Michelle became an advocate for transgender people -- those who identify as a gender different from the one assigned at birth. Michelle organized trainings for the faculty and staff and prepared "cheat sheets" in case any of their students asked prying questions.

But on the first day of school, nothing happened. No flood of calls, no angry protests, and no bullying. Michelle was "happy and shocked" that M.J.'s classmates seemed to get it. When one student made a mocking comment to another using M.J.'s former name, one eighth-grade boy dismissed him with a simple insight. "That person doesn't even exist anymore," he said. "You're talking about somebody who's imaginary."

Given the spate of television and media coverage on transgender youth -- from dedicated episodes of Oprah and 20/20 to a cover story in Newsweek -- this might not seem remarkable. But just eight years ago, a school just like M.J.'s, a junior high in a relatively small town, had to be forced by judicial order to allow a trans student to come dressed in her chosen gender. And that school wasn't in Mississippi or in rural Kansas. It was in Massachusetts, the state that only four years later legalized marriage for same-sex couples. A state thought of by many as one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights.

Many would view the politically red heart of the country as a harsh, unwelcoming, and vaguely dangerous place for the transgender community. When we think of states like Nebraska and Wyoming, we don't think of M.J. -- we think of people like Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepard, both killed in vicious, nationally publicized hate crimes. But the truth of the matter is far more interesting, inspiring, and instructive. Away from the coasts and the urban havens, a vibrant transgender-rights movement is slowly emerging across the mountain and plains states. Through increased visibility, community building, legislative outreach, and face-to-face public education in churches, schools, and neighborhoods, trans people are building a foundation for equality in some of the nation's most conservative regions. (...)

Without doubt, trans people in the mountain and plains states face harsh realities: employment discrimination, obstacles to health care, violence, and few community resources. But even in the reddest of states, successes like M.J.'s are not unique. Moreover, these stories presage even broader long-term change. For each local success or modest legislative action, the effect is the same -- laying the foundation for greater victories tomorrow. After all, as Mike Thompson, the executive director of Equality Utah explains, "If you can convert people in the reddest of states, then you can convert people anywhere.""
That an eighth grader can transition without incident in a heavily evangelical town is a wonderful thing, and it gives me hope that simple humanity might actually triumph in the long run, Proposition 8 or no Proposition 8. On the other hand, there are still altogether too many stories like this (h/t):
"Memphis police identified the body of transgender woman Duanna Johnson lying in the street near Hollywood and Staten Avenue early this morning.

Police believe Johnson was shot some time before midnight on Sunday. No suspects are in custody at this time.

Johnson was the victim of a Memphis police brutality case this summer when a video of former officer Bridges McRae beating her in a jail holding area was released to the media.

The video led to the eventual firing of McRae and Officer James Swain."
Here's hoping more people find it in their heart to act like M.J.'s classmates, and not like the Memphis police.

Mitch Mitchell, R.I.P.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Mitch Mitchell, drummer for the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience of the 1960s and the group's last surviving member, was found dead in his hotel room early Wednesday. He was 61.

Mitchell was a powerful force on the Hendrix band's 1967 debut album "Are You Experienced?" as well as the trio's albums "Electric Ladyland" and "Axis: Bold As Love." He had an explosive drumming style that can be heard in hard-charging songs such as "Fire" and "Manic Depression."


Implement, Implement, Implement.

TNR's got an article up I fully agree with. The editors say GO! Here we go wif a snippet:
Obama's first task, then, is to upend the mindless conventional wisdom which holds that he must never implement the agenda he campaigned on. And this will involve straightening out some of his fellow Democrats who believe that he should replicate the fiscal strategy of the early Clinton era, when the administration scaled back its more ambitious spending plans and focused instead on deficit reduction, a choice that laid the groundwork for the boom of the late 1990s. But the analogy isn't terribly apt. By the time Clinton changed tack, the economy was already well on the path to recovering from the recession- -a very different situation from the one we now face.
Health care will be expensive, but no health care would be expensiver!

Take Lieberman's Manhood!

In case you weren't sure how to vote in the poll at the top of the site, here's 2 minutes of reminding. I suppose he can caucus, but take away his gavel!

Veterans' Day

Veterans' Day

by hilzoy

Today is Veterans' Day. It's not the only day when I am grateful to our veterans, and certainly not the only day when I remember those who died or were injured in combat. But it is one of the days when I try to say: thank you. My thoughts are with you.

I wish I didn't have to add: and we'll keep trying to get you the benefits you are entitled to. But I do. Here, for instance, is an article from today's Washington Post about a lawsuit asking the VA to speed up its handling of disability claims:
"The VA estimated that in 2007 it took an average of six months to reach an initial decision on a benefits claim, according to the complaint, and processing appeals takes years.

"This is a national embarrassment," said Cattanach, a Navy veteran with a son who has served two Army tours in Iraq. "Every day that goes by that this isn't fixed, people's lives are being changed," he said, recalling his effort to obtain benefits for a veteran who committed suicide before his case was resolved."
While a veteran's disability claim is being processed, that veteran doesn't get disability. S/he has to live on a fraction of his or her active duty pay, which would be OK for someone who could get another job, but is not at all OK for someone who is disabled. As I wrote last June, it doesn't have to be this way: rather than putting the burden on vets to prove their disability, we could presume that their disability claims were true, and then audit a subset of them, the way we do with taxes. (This is an idea I got from Linda Bilmes, here.) That way, vets would get the money they are entitled to from the outset, rather than having to live off friends and family while the VA slogs through their mountains of paperwork.

Barack Obama has promised to address this problem, and to take a number of other important steps: fully funding VA medical care, improving care for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, allowing all vets to use the VA, and fighting homelessness among vets. We should hold him to it.

Hertzberg's Like, No Way!

OMG ;)

Sarah Palin on Fox News last night, asked about 2012:
Faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator’s hands—this is what I always do. I’m like, O.K., God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in ‘12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.
So God’s like, whatever.

Reich: Us v Them (Us's Losing)

I am glad Bob is advising Obama. When will Obama take the advice?
The Real Difference Between Bankruptcy and Bailout

When a big company that gets into trouble is more valuable living than dead, there used to be a well-established legal process for reorganizing it - called chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Under it, creditors took some losses, shareholders even bigger ones, some managers' heads rolled. Companies cleaned up their books and got a fresh start. And taxpayers didn't pay a penny.

So why, exactly, is the Treasury substituting government bailouts for chapter 11? Even if you assume Wall Street's major banks and insurance giant AIG are so important to the national and global economy that they can't be allowed to fail, that doesn't mean they have to be bailed out. They could be reorganized under bankruptcy protection. True, their creditors, shareholders, and executives would take bigger hits than they're taking now that taxpayers are bailing them out. But they're the ones who took the risk. We didn't.

The Treasury seems to have lost sight of its real client. It's client is not the creditors, shareholders, or executives of any of these firms. Its sole client is the American people.[emphasis mine]

It would be different if Main Street was getting something out of all this. But credit still isn't flowing to small businesses or distressed homeowners, and unemployment is skyrocketing.

There's more at stake for Main Street when it comes to General Motors and other automakers now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, because two and a half million households depend directly or indirectly on them for their paychecks. But the best way to protect all these people is not to pay off the automakers' creditors, shareholders, and executives, with no strings attached. Recall that when the government bailed out Chrysler in the early 1980s, a third of its employees lost their jobs.

In exchange for government aid, the Big Three's creditors, shareholders, and executives should be required to accept losses as large as they'd endure under chapter 11, and the UAW should agree to some across-the-board wage and benefit cuts. The resulting savings, combined with the bailout, should be enough to allow the Big Three to shift production to more fuel efficient cars while keeping almost all its current workforce employed. Ideally, major parts suppliers would adhere to the same conditions.

Remember: The underlying goal is to help Americans through this crisis and come out of it with a stronger economy.

And what a tragedy it would be if the government spends so much on these bailouts there isn't enough money left for the next administration to help average people get affordable health insurance, send their kids to good schools, and find good jobs -- including jobs rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure and finding alternative sources of energy.

It's not the big guys who need rescuing. It's the small. Right now, the government has its priorities upside down.

Tuesday Cartoon Reality








Paulson Screwed Us, Gave Banks Secret $140B

How surprising typical:
The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.

But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion.
Read it and weep. When is inauguration day?

Afghanistan Will Be Saved By Pomegranates

Check out this story from Crooks and Liars:
James Brett is an Englishman who, in 1999 while on a business trip to Peshawar in the north west province of Pakistan, had his first glass of pomegranate juice, and fell in love with it. He founded the first pomegranate juice drink in the UK, Pomegreat (.pdf). Further research led him to Afghanistan, where the best pomegranates in the world are grown, particularly in the Kandahar region. A recovering substance abuser, Brett was also aware that Afghanistan was a major producer of heroin.

Monday Cartoon Fun

Corporate Education Or Education As Corporation

NCLB is a means to privatize Education, not to mention a way to ruin it!
This report is an expanded version of a speech given by Steven Miller on November 1, 2008. The speech was part of a public forum on “How Standardized Tests are Ruining Public Education” that took place at the Lansdowne Campus of Camosun College in Victoria, Canada.

Steve Miller

With Malign Intent – What’s Behind the Drive for Standardized Testing

It is a great honor to be able to present today. British Columbia teachers are the most steadfast defenders of public education in the English-speaking Americas. Your Charter for Public Education (www.charter.publiced.ca) is a profound and beautiful statement about what public education should be.

I really don’t think we in the US have much to contribute about how to fight. But we do have lots of experience to offer about what happens if you don’t fight.

The US was the first country to establish free, universal public education. The entire world followed suit to one degree or another. It now threatens to be the first to end it.

The process of privatization does not occur openly. It appears differently in every city, taking myriad forms. It raises dozens of complicated issues and many emotions. This hides both the Big Picture and the critical issue of Intent, leaving teachers and parents confused and unable to unite in defense of public education. Testing is central in this campaign.

The great state universities of the US were already privatized in the ‘90s. The University of California, the Universities of Illinois, Virginia etc all receive more of their funding today from corporations than they do from state governments. Now huge corporations are moving rapidly to seize control of K12 public education. The private market that feasts off the public schools is already over a trillion dollars a year. Believe me, they do not intend to stop with only part of the pie.

The result of the struggle against privatization will determine whether public education becomes a right or whether it devolves into being a commodity.

Let’s clarify first the issue of Intent. When the corporate agenda begins to take over, peoples’ first response is shock (though hopefully not awe). Most people wind up telling themselves, “This doesn’t seem right. So why are they doing it?” Something just doesn’t seem right, but people are unclear on exactly what it is.

For example, a big trend in the States is to increase kindergarden to make it an all day class. And the little kids don’t get any naps! How could this be justified? Of course the first thing we are told is that it is all about the kids. Then you find out that they can’t take naps because they need the afternoon to practice their test-taking skills! How, pray, does this help children? This policy is completely age inappropriate.

The privatization campaigns are a cynical attempt to play on the very justified anger of Central City parents at their historically disadvantaged schools. Schools in California, according to a report from Stanford University, have been under-funded by over a trillion dollars in the last 30 years. (See “Getting Down to Facts” (www.ewa.org/library/docs/getting_down_to_facts.pdf) So this anger is very justified, even as the real intent towards privatization is hidden. After all, they keep telling us that privatization is good for everyone.

Here’s how Merrill Lynch described the corporate offensive in their April 9, 1999 report called “The Book of Knowledge: Investing in the Growing Education and Training Industry”:

“A new mindset is necessary, one that views families as customers, schools as retail outlets where educational services are received, and the school board as a customer service department that hears and address parental concerns”.
(Compton and Weiner, The Global Assault on Teachers, Teaching and Teacher Unions. 2008. P 4)

In Oakland, where I teach, district officials have called themselves “CEOs”, principals are touted as “Entrepreneurs”, schools are “revenue centers” and students are “test-takers”.
My small high school – only 260 students – and the most successful in Oakland by both test scores and more authentic measures - is in danger of being closed because the students “ do not generate enough revenue to sustain the budget”.

This is how these people talk to themselves.

Back in the ‘90s, Edward Luttwak, a champion of the free market described the agenda this way. He could be describing public school policy for the US today:

“At present, almost all the elite Americans, with corporate chiefs and fashionable economists in the lead are utterly convinced that they have discovered the winning formula for economic success – the only formula – good for every country, rich or poor, good for all individuals willing and able to heed the message, and of course, good for elite Americans: PRIVATIZATION + DEREGULATION + GLOBALIZATION = TURBO-CAPITALISM = PROSPERITY”. (Thomas Frank, One Market, Under God, 2000. p 17)

Well, you have to give Turbo-Capitalism credit. In the US, as comedian Wanda Sykes has so accurately stated, broke people just bailed out the rich people to a tune of $700 billion!

This statement is a clear statement of Intent to privatize everything, every thing of nature, every human relationship, to broker every aspect of human society under the market – with access only for a price.

Behind such wondrous proclamations, the so-called “free market” line stands revealed as nothing more than a fig leaf for corporate crime. This is the real name for the savage policies of Neo-Liberalism that have forced country after country to eliminate social services even as they turn public resources over to corporations, usually for zero compensation. This has been a world-historic transfer of wealth from the poor to the very rich.

This $700 billion is money that should have been used for the public: to cover health care, to provide educational programs, to protect the environment. The final ignominy is many of the 1.3 families who so far have lost their houses will not be permitted to vote in Tuesday’s election - they don’t have addresses.

New Orleans showed what this new world offers its people. The tragedy wasn’t so much the storm as the response. More federal troops were used in New Orleans than anywhere in the US since the Civil War. Their mission was to guarantee the vast privatization of government services - including firing every public school teacher - and opening up boutique public schools for the rich, while the poor are slammed into under-funded charter schools.

No one spoke this Intent out loud. However, just look at what happened. There can be no doubt than privatization was imposed both politically and militarily. The federal government guaranteed the privatization. That’s good for investment and financial speculation, even if it doesn’t work real well for people.

Central to “turbo-capitalism” was the idea of “securitization”. This is the process of taking individual assets, like your house or a mortgage or the number of times you go to the doctor, and bundling them into large aggragates that can be speculated upon for profit. Securitization is also applied to carbon admissions, water flow and even DNA. We all know that the country of Iceland just went broke. A decade ago they sold the country’s DNA to a private corporation.

BCTF’s outstanding researcher, Larry Keuhn, has shown that that Test scores have been earmarked for securitization since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement of 1988 officially established test scores as tradeable services or commodities (Larry Kuehn. “The Educational World is Not Flat” in Compton, Weiner sited above).

Test scores are included as tradeable commodities in NFTA and every international treaty on trade since that time. While they still haven’t quite figured out how to set all this up, these legal treaties are a clear statement of Intent.

Lehman Brothers managing director, Mary Tanner, stated at their first conference on privatization in 1996:

"Education today, like health care 30 years ago, is a vast, highly localized industry ripe for change. The emergence of HMOs and hospital management companies
created enormous opportunities for investors. We believe the same pattern will occur in education." (Barbara Miner. "For-Profits Target Education," Rethinking Schools,
Spring, 2002, p 2)

Health Care in the US is the most expensive and least productive in the world. It is also the most profitable for corporations. How did this occur? Back in the ‘90s, industrial groups starting publishing “standards” for hospitals. Then they measured hospitals, both public and private, as to how they were “meeting the standards”. These results were then published in the newspapers.

Of course, public hospitals can never “achieve” at the same level as private hospitals. Their clientele are completely different. Public hospitals treat mainly poor people who delay treatment and come in later. They can never match up to the “same level of achievement” as private hospitals. But publishing the results created a public furor that corporations used to take over public hospitals and make them into private institutions.

We are witnessing the same tactic today in the corporate demand that schools should meet “standards”. This effort is embodied in the drive towards standardized testing. There’s nothing wrong with setting standards and goals for education. But corporations always use the so-called scientific standards to privatize. In the US medical care has always been private, Public schools have always been part of local government. So the same old game is being played once again.

How do you create an education market anyway?

Frederick Hess analyzes education policy for the Business Roundtable. This organization centers the corporate agenda, just as does the Canadian Council of CEOs. This organization is not just another policy group. They have powerful status on Wall Street.

“There are steps that would make K-12 schooling more attractive to for-profit investment, triggering a significant infusion of money to support research, development and creative problem-solving. For one, imposing clear standards for judging educational effectiveness would reassure investors that ventures will be less subject to political brickbats and better positioned to succeed if demonstrably effective. A more performance-based environment enables investors to assess risk in a more informed, rational manner”.
(Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities, 2006, edited by Fredrick M Hess, p 252)

“In sum, NCLB represents an enormous challenge to the status quo in public education and has the potential to create a major opening for entrepreneurs inside and outside of the public system. Since NCLB passed, a large number of schools across the country have been identified as ‘in need of improvement’ for failing to meet AYP targets”.
(Educational Entrepreneurshjp. p 80)

Michael Petrilli, former member of the Department of Education under Bush, stated “We want as little regulation as possible so the market can be as vibrant as possible.” (“Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From NCLB”, Daily Kos, March, 30, 2007).

Project Censored has called the story of profiteering from public education one of the most censored stories of 2008.

Frederick Hess provides a very interesting definition of an entrepreneur:

“… educational entrepreneurs are individuals seeking too instigate change in the public education system that will disrupt, transform or radically change the way education is provided. These individuals no doubt seek some individual reward beyond profits, but their activities necessarily extend into facilitating… (the)… creative destruction in the larger system.” Frederick M Hess, ed. Educational Entrepreneurship. P 46).

In Oakland, the schools are run by the Oakland Unified School District. Unified school districts exist in the thousands across the US. The corporate agenda has systematically served to DIS-unify our public schools, closing schools, creating charter schools and often embezzling lots of public money in the process. New Orleans, for example, now has over 50 different school districts, one for each charter school, each with different policies and standards.

So No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is credited with creating the education market for entrepreneurs who claim they can do a better job than public schools AND make a profit. NCLB inforces standardized testing and high-stakes testing. Are there other indicators of a malign intent here?

1) NCLB was never funded. It requires states, school districts and even individual schools to take pay for the increased demands. Once a school is in the “progam improvement” category for 4 years, the school must take money out of the classroom and turn it over to privatizers (the first year this is for after-school programs).

This is the classic model: underfund government services, tout private corporations as saviors and then turn the money over to them.

The real intent is shown by this one simple but unalterable fact. If the goal were to help poor children, then money would flow towards them, rather than be taken from them.

2) Secondly, the US really has two separate school systems. The suburban schools are the best in the world. The inner-city schools are among the worst. This of course is apartheid education. But NCLB is truly insidious here. The threat of NCLB – what forces schools to comply with its demands - is that the federal government will withhold Title I money. This money is to support poor children.

While this threat is crippling to inner-city schools, with high percentages of poor children, it means very little to suburban schools. They usually have dramatically fewer poor students, so the threat is quite significant. Moreover, suburban schools routinely hold fund-raisers, like a Dad’s Pancake Breakfast, that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. This of course is impossible for most inner city schools.

3) California’s CST test that provides each school with a number that is supposed to show how well the school is succeeding. The CAHSEE Test is the high-stakes test that is used as the measure of the students. Like every other standardized test, the scores are not set by psychometircians and statistics experts. They are determined by politicians. (Yes, these are the very same politicians who always refuse to take these tests when challenged to do so).

Both students with documented Special Education needs and students who are new to learning the English language must take and pass these tests or they cannot graduate. How exactly does this help these students? Such a use of testing is neither moral, nor educationally sound.

What would happen if, on the first day of school, you brought your child to class and met the teacher, and that teacher told you that your child’s future would be determined by a one number score that your child achieved on a test in April? You would raise a hue and cry and drive that teacher out of the school. Yet, with the “official trappings” of government, that is exactly what standardized testing proposes to do.

In his important essay about standardized testing ( “The Case Against Standardized Testing” (www.mcte.org/journal/mej07/3Henry.pdf), Peter Henry points out that about the only thing that these supposedly “scientific” tests can predict is the square footage of the test-takers’ principle living space. This of course reflects their socio-economic status. Though it is beyond the scope of this discussion, it is important to understand Henry’s point about how unscientific these tests are.

“Let me say this again because it is terribly important: There are no large-scale, peer-reviewed academic studies that prove, or even suggest, that a high-stakes, standardized testing educational program improves learning, skill development or achievement for students.” (p 45)

Standardized testing alone has siphoned off some $5.3 billion dollars a year in windfall corporate profits. This type of testing, then, is central to the rise of the “educational market” and inevitable paves the way for privatization.

Worldwide, governments spend more money on public education than on any other item, except perhaps for the military. Privatizing public education means the greatest single transfer of public wealth into private hands perhaps in world history.

In reality, public education has never been about the kids. Our public schools have always been structured to serve the labor market.

In 1900, 50%+ of the US population worked in farms. The educational system was designed to support what a rural workforce needed to know in order to work and produce. This gave us summer vacation, so the kids could help bring in the crop on the family farm.

By the 1920s, assembly-line industry was rising and public education was configured to create an industrial workforce. By 1950, 50% of the US population worked in industry and the “factory school” was in place. Students were considered parts on an assembly line that moved from station to station, or from period to period throughout the day, where the workers or teachers could shape them.

OK, time for the quiz. The following statement was made by New York City Superintendent of Schools, William H. Maxwell. What year was it?

“…as a first step, to secure their ends, they (the manufacturers - ed) and their agents, in unmeasured terms, denounced the public schools as being behind the times, as inefficient, as lacking in public spirit.” (Raymond E Callahan. Education and the Cult of Efficiency. 1962, p 13)

The correct answer, of course, is… 1913! At that point assembly lines demanded changes in the way workmen were trained that were qualitatively different than the old apprentice system for training skilled artisans. Corporations attacked public schools across the country until they put a system in place that trained the workers they needed – at no cost to themselves.

By 2000, the computer was the rising technology and today 50% of the US workforce works in various computer assisted “services”. The industrial system of education is today becoming outmoded by technological change to electronics.

New technology always leads to a transformation of the educational system. The question is not whether that system will change, but how. This depends on who controls the technology.

Computers, telecommunication and digital technology today are being configured a certain way. Since they are inherently LABOR-REPLACING technologies, they are being used by corporations to create a global system of computerized production that means that hundreds of millions of people will no longer be able to work. This is already taking place. Look at what has happened to Michigan, Ohio and Central Los Angeles.

The system of education is in the process of being configured to support this kind of workforce. Corporations are quite clear; why should they pay to educate people who will never be allowed to work? The de-skilling of the global workforce inevitably means the de-skilling of the teaching profession.

The global goal for education is to create humans who can read simple directions, rather than novels, who have a basic sense of numeracy, rather than the skills of mathematical thinking, and above all to create people who will believe in corporations and follow orders in a docile fashion.

Hence, corporate privatizers rely on scripted-learning, rather than creating the rich and rewarding curricula that is common in private schools. They pressure older teachers to leave, those who understand that teaching is about care and judgement, rather than standardized testing, and replace them with young people who haven’t been trained as teachers, who will teach to the test, and who will work for a lot less.

Standardized testing is the beginning of the process, not the end. Now we are seeing new stages and new demands and now these are being imposed. Across the board, they conform to the corporate agenda and reduce the quality of education. This is a necessity if you are to make a profit from public schools.

This year, NYC began to implement differential pay for teachers, by using “merit pay” to reward teachers who demonstrate their “value-added” by an increase in their students’ test scores. This program is in various stages of implementation across the country.

Now new forms of testing are being pushed into every school district in our country. These are corporate-written and corporate-assessed mid-term tests called Benchmark Tests. They are coupled to “Pacing Guides”, written by the textbook companies, that purport to guide the teacher through the curriculum by dictating what should be taught each day.

These tests are supposed to be “formative assessments”, meaning that they help the teacher adjust the curriculum based on what kids are learning or not learning. Along with every other testing issue, the idea of formative assessment is not a bad thing in itself. But the idea that corporations are should control this process is sheer nonsense for at least two reasons.

Firstly, any teacher, worth their salt, already knows where each child is in the learning process. Teachers assess students every day in multiple ways. Secondly, if teachers do not have primary control over content, there cannot be, by definition, any real formative assessment, since they cannot deviate significantly from the Pacing Guide. Classroom teachers are losing their autonomy to evaluate their students or to design engaging curricula. Elementary schools in Oakland now test up to 8 or 9 times a semester.

Testing then is one of the major weapons for privatizing public schools. It is the key to re-organizing the schools of the world to fit Turbo-Capitalism in the electronic age.

Corporations are quite clear – in their own words – about the issue of testing and its relationship to privatization. If we lose this battle, we will lose public education.

We dare not shrink from this challenge. Private corporations are engineering a massive change in society without any real public discussion and debate. Let’s open up the discussion about what kind of society people really need.

Corporations are also quite clear that the Industrial System of economy, that has dominated the world for some 200 years, is ending. They consider this a business opportunity and intend to get their first. The campaign to privatize public education by corporations – the most powerful institutions on earth – cannot be taken lightly.

The attack determines and informs our response. If the corporate agenda is to privatize everything and eliminate the public, then our response must be to defend and expand the public in all directions. If people really want things to remain public, they are going to have to fight for it.

If the Neo-liberals are telling us that “earning a living” is obsolete, that all routine work will be done by computers, telecommunications and computer chips, that there are no more jobs. then that’s OK with me. Routine work never paid jack anyway. But why does this have to mean we are all “laid off”? Maybe we need to re-think what “work” really means and what it means “to have a job”.

There can be no doubt, that for the price of the Wall Street bailout, the same electronic technology could be configured to put people before profits. If the market guarantees the power of the private and, by definition, inequality, then the Public is the only guarantee of equality.

In order to win, we will have to transform our public schools into something completely new; we must fight FORWARD, not backwards. The old system didn’t work for most people anyway… and it still doesn’t. It just wasn’t very good. If the Bail Out means anything, it certainly means that we can’t succeed by calling for the good old days to return.

Our fight must be based on a new vision of a future where access to quality education is truly a right for all – one that is supported by vast funding, where public education is marked by achieving our full human potential, and where public education is no longer subordinated to the paltry vision of a labor market that profits from exploitation and deliberately under-educates and mis-educates our peoples.

Thank You.

Miriam Makeba, R.I.P.

Published: November 10, 2008

LONDON — Miriam Makeba, a South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom in her own country even though her music was formally banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died early Monday after performing at a concert in Italy. She was 76.


Funny? Yup.

Monday, November 3rd, 2008
Dear Private School Parents
By Dennis Danziger

Dear Private School Parents:

With the collapse of our country’s financial institutions, many of you will be looking for ways to cut back on the family budget while still hanging onto your home and the family pet.

Some cutbacks are obvious. Put off your dentist appointments indefinitely. Work things out around the kitchen table rather than spending $200 a pop on family counseling. And you may want to consider sacrificing HBO, your cleaning lady, organic goat cheese, the leased BMW and Xmas in Tonga till our government works things out.

But cutting back on small items won’t keep your standard of living at the level to which you’ve grown accustomed. You’ve got two, maybe 2.5 kids, in private schools that are milking you for say $7,000 - $10,000 a year for religious schools, up to $27,000 a year for secular schools.

You can’t afford to charge next semester’s tuitions to your credit card. So come mid-term, next fall at the latest, say good-bye to shaving cream art classes, field trips to Sedona, and paying Desmond Tutu to speak at commencement. Buckle your kids in the SUV, roll up the windows, lock the doors, play a calming rain forest CD and drive to your local public school to enroll your kids.

I know. I know. It would be easier to sacrifice a kidney for a distant cousin. But what choice do you have?

Home schooling?

A) You don’t know squat about calculus or where the semi-colons go


B) You love your kids, but hanging with them all day? Please.

Warning. Since you and the previous generations of well off Americans fled the public school system shortly after court ordered busing became the law of the land, changes have occurred, and you and your kids need to be prepared. So take it from a 15-year veteran:

Class Size – your kids are accustomed to 10 – 15 students per class. In some public schools, that many kids share a locker. The only way your kid will sit in a class with fewer than 35 students is if she’s taking fourth year Mandarin.

Think 35– 42 students per class. Imagine your child is one of 40 in Spanish 1A and the class runs 60 minutes. By the time the teacher asks each student for her homework, time’s up, class is over. If you want your kids to learn Spanish, either send her to Tijuana with a church group that builds houses for the poor or send her home every weekend with your housekeeper, if you can still afford one.

Athletics – if your child played football or basketball at his previous school – let’s hope he cherishes the memories. Public schools have many tall, powerful kids known as African-Americans. They get the uniforms. Occasionally, an Asian point guard or a Latino linebacker will crack the color barrier. If your kid insists on being part of the football or basketball team, he should focus on scorekeeping or wrapping ankles. However, some suburban schools have added water polo and lacrosse teams so the formerly well-to-do white kids can make the team and pretend they’re athletes.

Lunch – if you pack your child a nutritious meal, it’ll probably be stolen. Stick to power bars and dried fruit, things that are flat, can be hidden inside your child’s pocket and can be eaten while your kid is running from a pack of school bullies.

School Violence – it exists. Instruct your child to sit as far from the windows as possible in case of a drive-by or a lock down. Plus, that way she’ll be sitting closer to the teacher. It’s a win-win.

Teachers – are underpaid and overwhelmed. If you call a teacher in early October and she returns your call by the time your child graduates – that’s a good teacher.

Also, public school teachers can’t be bought off with the usual private school teacher gifts - a case of fine wine, a $200 gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret, a weekend at your winter home in Sun Valley. Yet most will gladly change your child’s grade for a bottle of anti-depressants or a fat bag of weed.

Administrators – they respond only to subpoenas.

So, welcome back and maybe if for the next four or five decades, enough middle and upper-middle class families return to public schools and embrace them, our public schools may once again become the slightly above-average institutions they were in the 50s and 60s.

Sincerely yours,

A Veteran Teacher
It's those last 2 bold points that crack me up.

Sorry, Honky

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Sunday Cartoon Fun: Proposition 8 v Chickens

How To Gloat In The Strange New World

This is good advice:
Schadenfreude : A progressive’s guide to gloating

scha? den freu de
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

If you remember Ann Coulter calling Democrats “pathetic” with a self-satisfied sneer after the 2004 election then you’re feeling what I’m feeling. I’m sure you remember back then that the Sean Hannities of the world took great pleasure in declaring that the Left was dead after our losing three election cycles in a row. Conservatives announced that Bush had a “mandate” then even though Bush won by a slimmer margin then than Obama did Tuesday when many of the same conservatives howled that Obama doesn’t have a mandate. Bush ruled this country as if the other 48.3% of voters didn’t even exist. We’ve taken a lot of crap from conservatives over the years. And now they get theirs.

I know. I know. We usually like to take the high road and gloating isn’t a very Progressive thing to do, but we can let it slide just this once. No? Lower the discourse just for a little while? Just for grins? Sure! It’s all in good fun!

But let’s try and do it with a little more craftsmanship than the Sean Hannities and Ann Coulters of the world were capable of four years ago. Try a little passive aggression. Make it sound like a compliment. Break it to them easy. It’s up to you. But have a little fun with it.

I’ll start with a few suggestions:

Express concern:
“We were worried you’d forgotten how to complain.”

Bring up Sarah Palin:
“Look at the bright side; you now have four years to get Palin up to snuff.”
“At least Sarah got some good clothes out of the deal.”
“Sarah Palin kept saying that, just once, she wanted to hear Obama say he wants to win. Hey, Sarah, can you hear us now? Huh?”

Compare Obama’s probable leadership style to Bush’s:
“I’m sure Obama will take your opinions into advisement like Bush did with ours.”
“Do you think Obama will give cabinet positions to all his oil buddies? Oh, wait, that’s right he doesn’t have any oil buddies.”

Remind them about the parts of the Bush administration that even they didn’t like, like the Patriot Act:
“At least you’ll get your civil liberties back”
“Hey, now you can have phone sex with that Pakistani girl and it won’t get recorded!”
“Maybe they’ll close Guantanamo Bay and turn it into a great new vacation destination.”
“You’ll have to go back to torturing people for pleasure instead of business.”

Console them by reminding them how much leisure time they’ll have now:
“You guys have been working hard. Why don’t you sit this one out for a while?”
“Now you’ll have more time to catch up on all the episodes of “24” that you missed.”
“I hear Bush is gong to have a polar bear luau back at the Crawford ranch.”

Assure them they’ll probably win next time:
“I’m sure all those young people decided to try voting just this once.”
“Don’t change a thing; I’m sure we just got lucky this time.”

If you must scare them:
“We’re going to tax you until you need all those programs for the poor that Bush cut.”
“Don’t worry, everyone will be so busy having deviant sex that nobody will notice we’re murdering babies.”
“Hey, it’s our turn to appoint some judges.”

If you’re feeling particularly mean:
“Looks like you’ll have to go back to bombing abortion clinics.”
“At least you have Bush’s legacy to hang onto.”

A question:
“We heard a lot about God’s will from McCain supporters before the election. I wonder if they still think that.”
“Are you going to apologize to Obama if he turns out to not be a terrorist or Muslim or the antichrist?

Finally, you can’t go wrong with sarcasm:
“Why don’t you let us screw up the environment for a while? Oh, wait, that’s right… we don’t do that.”
“I’m sure Conservatism will be popular again really soon.”

Rachael Maddow, by the way, is a champ at all of this so you can always watch the Rachel Maddow Show for ideas. Just from last night’s show alone:
“Which election were you talking about? I was talking about last night’s election.”
“They [Republicans] fail at governing and now they fail to win elections.”

If you have any more, you can post them below. And then we’ll get right back on the high road. I promise.
[emphasis all mine]

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