Safe Schools: Stop Capitulating And Make Some!

Danny Weil of The Daily Censored writes about public education, charters, and the horrors we are destined to realize unless we get the word out to interested citizens that there is another way. To see links in the piece, go see it at The Daily Censored (linked above).
Having safe schools is imperative, but the reason schools are not safe is the same reason all of us are not safe — the material economic and social conditions of our society have left us with a broken ‘free market’ fundamentalist system that has decimated our country and economic and social structure over thirty years.

You know the routine and the banshee cries: the cities are broke, the public coffers are empty; the parents are concerned and righly so (as indicated above) for their kid’s safety and the kids themselves are getting more desperate and afraid — for they are victimized, bored, tired, penniless, come from broken families, enclaves of domestic violence, victims of saturation carpet bomb marketing; many of them they live in the streets, have no adequate shelter and little or no future. Will they turn to an authoritarian state in hopes that it will improve their individual lives? Maybe.

Here is the thinking of one blogger who works in Philly schools:

“I agree that the creation of Renaissance Schools cannot be stopped (emphasis is mine) and that it is important for teachers to try to influence this process. I also agree that drastic changes need to be made in Philadelphia Public School system in general. Where I may differ is that I am and will remain in opposition to this the whole Renaissance plan as it currently stands” (http://www.blogger.com/profile/07326311110464959460).

Then if you are in opposition why not fight for public schools? Why capitulate and become a valet for the whole sordid mess? We see this same mindset in the health ‘care’ debate, don’t we? Resignation. But only due to the fact there is no ‘fight on the ground’.

There will be a fight

There will be a fight though, and the banksters and the corporatists know this. Take this quote from the same Philly notebook site but from an anonymous, yet astute commentator:

“We don’t have to wait four more years to witness the results of Dr. Ackerman’s (the school district CEOs) Imagine 2014 agenda. All we need to do is to reflect upon the current state of Audenried High School. During the course of this school year violent teenage behavior within and outside of this school has been ripping it asunder. The school was literally torn to the ground and rebuilt during the Vallas administration. A new school facility was erected at a cost in excess of sixty million dollars. The school reopened last year under the watch of the Ackerman administration. Its staff has been replaced. There is a new principal who leads a reconstituted staff of relatively young and energetic teachers.

The instructional reforms (remedial reading and math programs) that Dr Ackerman has trumpeted as the district’s next great curriculum innovation are being implemented there. It should be a great school to attend.

Apparently it isn’t as good as it was intended to be. Currently the Ackerman administration is pouring tens of millions of dollars of stimulus money and additional state funding into purchase of new textbook series, consultant fees, testing instruments and the services of various “for profit” contractors. Who is monitoring these expenditures? The Notebook has not been successful in gaining access to information concerning any of these proposed expenditures until after the SRC has voted their approval. For too long the people who are most invested in our schools (children, parents, teachers, and principals) have been the subjects of questionable experiments and the victims of failed reform efforts. It is time that we demand accountability from the adults who are the architects and sponsors of these so-called reform activities. It is time that we the people hold our leadership accountable” (http://www.thenotebook.org/blog/102211/what-youve-been-saying-about-renaissance-schools).

Yes, the same suspect: Paul Vallas ran the Philadelphia school district before saddling up to ride to New Orleans to help privatize that one. This is where he languishes now, with publicly paid for chauffeurs and a six figure salary. He made it ‘back’, one of the few who did.

Do not be discouraged for people do understand!

There are people who understand as the blogger above indicates, all over the country, which is my point and why I share this with you. And as the first parent post and teacher post illuminates, there are people who are confused as well, resigned to the whole mess; they have to work for a living and if there is no work, then they simply live to survive.

But many know that giving our public schools over to the ‘new turnaround’ artists who are really ‘turnover’ artists who wish to bench our children in privately run for profit schools is not only not the answer, it’s criminal. Even the word despicable word ‘provider’ shows the contempt for humanity embedded in the business doublespeak and the deadly scheme as all the wonderment is sucked out of education for brand names and bureaucratic references. We are askance in health providers, school providers, and military providers: it seems there are some who ‘provide’ and some who are ‘provided’ for — the class society.

It is the same all over now from San Francisco to Chicago to Philly

Of course now that tax breaks for the rich and cuts in public schools have forced the cities into bankruptcy, it’s time for the disaster politics in Philly now. This is where we are: from D.C. to LA, from Detroit to Philly, it’s the same and the plutocrats and billionaire philanthro-capitalists use the same language to ‘manage perceptions’ and manufacture consent. It is either a ‘Renaissance’ as in Chicago where Duncan left bloody fingerprints, or it is “Imagine Schools” but it’s all the same – the privatization of education, meaning no democratic decision making but instead centralized control of decision making; no transparency in government but instead secrecy in government; public funds will be used to prime the pump as the schools are bankrolled by ‘investors’ or billionaires who now have all the money; and of course more draconian cuts in public education for the two-tiered educational system like that created in New Orleans, the model for it all, and of course merit pay for teachers to destroy unions, less salaries and benefits for teachers, no job security and teachers divorced from the conception of lesson plans as corporate canned curriculum and the newly written corporate textbooks are ushered into schools.

This is the Wal-Mart model of education also known as neo-liberalism, a stage of economics we are now in and have been for more than thirty years. It is when everything is privatized from prisons to schools and then financed by the public though taxpayer funds. The government is used as a collection agency to fund the privatizers. And since the dragnet has replaced the safety net as social services are cut, keep an eye out for the faith-based charlatans to come along and ‘Mother Theresa’ the whole thing into further illegitimacy.

We are cannibalizing our children

Children used to be our future, the hope for the mobility of another generation. In this disaster phase of capitalism there is no future for children and thus the ‘war on youth’. They must now be contained, militarized, regimented and otherwise controlled for there is no future for them in a country that makes nothing, is broke and owned and operated as an outsourcing enterprise for profit. No public playgrounds, no public schools, no public libraries — no public ‘nothin’. Tethered to the carpet loom of NCLB children will learn quickly that child wonderment has been replaced with adult bewilderment.

They won’t stand for it either, you’ll see. They will either go into gangs (70,000 gang members in Chicago alone), drop out of school, go to prison or be swallowed up by the military industrial complex for the next resource war.

The website Socialist Equality said it best:

“Under conditions in which American capitalism has no future for tens of millions of working class youth, except permanent unemployment, the ruling elite and its political representatives are repudiating the principle that every child, no matter what his or her background, should have access to at least a basic education.

The egalitarian principles that underlie public education are incompatible with the extreme levels of social inequality that characterize American society today. Therefore the fight to defend the right to universal access to high-quality education is inextricably tied to a broader struggle for social equality and the reorganization of society in the interests of the working class. The alternative to capitalism is socialism, i.e., a society democratically controlled by the working class, based on production for social need, not private profit” (The way forward for Detroit teachers, Social Equality, December 8, 2009http://socialequality.com/node/682).

We must take moral and social responsibility

We have an ethical responsibility to assure no harm comes to our nation’s children, not just are own children, don’t we? If so, then many of us know that change will not come from capitulating to the new ‘turnaround’ artists’, the elite social engineers and social Darwinists who habitat the educational landscape – it will come from social organization and united direct action from working people that challenges the brutality of capitalism at its core.

If we want to nurture children and provide them with decent community schools and a decent future, then we don’t ‘turn them over’ to the auctioneers do we? No, not at all, we work to build a better society and this will take time, mobilization, communication and effort. I am hopeful underneath the current cloud of despair for I understand history, and history is the history of class struggle. We have been at such crossroads before and although it is easy to become deracinated and cynical, it is far more gratifying to resist with others. We must help parents understand it is the system itself that has been pocketed. Once they do, I am confident in their ability to understand.

We Are The World: Haiti Edition

Marc Dean Millot Part II

The whole saga, including previous posts and this one, are on the dedicated Marc Dean Millot page found here:  Today's Millot post is being hosted at Ednotes.  Go there for all the links I have removed here.
Millot: Sound Decision or Censorship at TWIE (II)

Please be assured that this isn't really about you or the substance of your post. ?Issues of transparency and accountability have been raised by several folks including hess and edweek…

you try and make it seem to yourself like this is about some higher issue, but it's really just ego and refusing to acknowledge your role.

Readers might reasonably guess that the first quote is from someone who supports the argument I made on February 10 in School Matters http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/02/millot-sound-decision-or-censorship-at.html; the second from someone who does not. Both quotes can be found here. In a sense they would be right. The first is part of This Week in Education (TWIE) http://www.thisweekineducation.com/ Editor Andrew Russo’s email to me of 11:06 AM (Saturday the day after he pulled “Three Data Points. Unconnected Dots or a Warning?” . (http://borderland.northernattitude.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/millot_warning.pdf) from his blog. The second, his email of 11:55 PM Monday, sent after firing me from TWIE. (A complete email record can be found here. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/26695687/Millot-Russo-Email-Communications-February-5-9-2010)) A new man can emerge over 60 hours – especially when he’s under pressure.

Why did Russo pull the post? The short answer, at least the short answer Russo offered over the phone Saturday, lies in his contract with Scholastic. TWIE is not editorially independent. Scholastic decides what will remain on his blog. On Friday afternoon, Russo’s point of contact at Scholastic (I was not taking notes and can’t remember his name) received a call from Andrew Rotherham with the charge he made on Eduwonk (LINK NOW BROKEN) (http://www.eduwonk.com/2010.02/hogworts-on-the-hudson.html)). Russo thought the relationship might have a personal dimension. The contact called Russo and told him to pull the post, a call Russo had received three times since he moved TWIE to Scholastic in late 2007. This was Friday afternoon, Russo was on his way to a mountain weekend, so he did what he was told, hoping to walk the cat back by Monday.

Why did Russo decide to keep my post off TWIE on Friday and fire me Monday? That’s a longer story.

As I’ve admitted before I have an interest in the case. This is why I released a complete record of our email communications to the education media and posted on the web. With the exception of a Saturday morning phone call - that I will do my best to recall in this post, email constitutes the complete record of our discussions. I also believe that there’s more at stake than my reputation. This case offers an unusual opportunity for readers to look at the sausage factory of debate over federal education policy, the role of the new philanthropy in education reform, and the idea of commercially viable, editorially independent “grass roots” or “small business” sites for news and commentary in public education – sites that are not the web extension of mainstream print media.

I’ve known Alexander Russo for several years. Our relationship has been conducted almost entirely by email. We’ve never met face-to-face, and rarely used the phone. We are not social acquaintances, but business colleagues, and asynchronous communications have worked well. We are different, yet similar. Aside from the usual differences in age and experience, our styles differ. Alexander once described his blog style as “snark,” I’d call it “edgy.” He didn’t define snark, but based on observations of his blog, I’d characterize it as brief comments, narrowly tailored “zings” that hit the best or weakest substantive point of the object of his writing and the very button of the object most likely to elicit pleasure or pain. I’d describe myself as more linear and formalistic, and more inclined to nail every point to the floor with every argument, form every perspective I can think of.

We manage to share something of a “bad boy” image, although he’s probably more in the style of Billy Idol (to date myself). There’s an insider quality, but also a flavor of the guy who slipped into the party through the back door, and allowed to stay because no one has to accept responsibility for his invitation. He’s the guy who portrays himself as part of the establishment but independent of it. I too have an inside/outside image. I’ve held reasonably senior positions in some well-established institutions on matters of market-based school reform since the early 1990s. I’ve been called “pugilistic.”

Russo and I also share a real interest in the commercial possibilities of web-based media in public education, its potential for opening up the communications infrastructure affecting policy decision fora, and enormous skepticism in what I’ve called the new philanthropy’s keiretsu.
(http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edbizbuzz/2008/02/deconstructing_a_social_keiret.html) I am not entirely sure of the basis for Russo’s doubts. Mine are based on strong doubts about the financial viability of the organizations and models that have received their investment, the broad implications of their failing investment strategy for the kind of market in public school improvement I’ve worked for and – strongly related to my business assessment, the social implications of their top-down centralized management philosophy.

Russo’s and my experimentation with business models led to different outcomes. Based on my experience at New American Schools, I started K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets, a low-cost (and of course high-quality) RFP reporting service for organizations providing school improvement and similar niche-market services. Russo developed This Week in Education into a web-based news and commentary business, ultimately sponsored by Scholastic.

Start: Friday, April 13, 2007

Move to Edweek, September 10

I tried to get a k-12 news and commentary business going, tried School Improvement Industry Weekly,” a web-enabled publication, tried a podcast, and wrote a market-oriented blog on my own (http://archive.edbizbuzz.com/blog ) and for edweek.org called edbizbuzz. (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edbizbuzz/2007/09/)  I enjoyed them immensely, but my style of blogging is simply too costly to be a hobby. In the end I could not find a plausible financial model, and wasn’t as savvy about the business as Russo.

I admire Russo’s entrepreneurship, and the way he’s built a business around his “edgy” style. The difference between TWIE and every other k-12 news aggregator has been Russo. I’d say he is edgy, chose to cultivate an edgy personae, attracted a growing readership that likes him edgy, and found a source of competitive advantage in the media business in the perception that he is edgy. Scholastic’s decision to invest in him surely had something to do with the fact his edgy approach has appealed to the demographic of young, internet-dependent educators that will be making the big purchasing decisions within the next decade.

I moved edbizbuzz to edweek.org in September 2007..When Russo announced his move from edweek.org to Scholastic in 2008, I posted a comment,


excerpted below:
What Russo has done, in effect, is to launch what I think is the first independent commercial blogsite sponsored by a direct relationship with one advertiser. … Over the next several years a teaching force that got its information via paper media is being replaced with one that relies far more on the internet. Buying into a blog like TWIE is cheap. If it takes off, the investment will have a disproportionate payoff….. (Uncompensated) unaligned bloggers' value-add/competitive advantage has been adopting the independent strategy. As the first professional k-12 blogger to choose free agency in our market, Russo has a special responsibility to stay on the straight and narrow.
Little did I know that I’d be a test case.

Over the years Russo and I read and occaissionly cited and commented on each other’s blogs. I stopped blogging in October of 2008. My one-year agreement with edweek was up, I had several family issues taking a great deal of my energies, and the time required to maintain a daily blog had hurt my business. I decided to stop for a while, but Russo and I stayed in touch.

My agreement in November, 2009 to write a weekly or so column for TWIE was prompted by the fact that the original draft of Tom Toch’s report on CMOs for Education Sector had come into my possession. The differences between Toch’s draft and the final report issued by EdSector were so vast, the events leading to the second draft so unethical, and the fact both so well-hidden that I felt obligated to make the original draft public. I emailed Russo intending to provide him with a scoop, and ended up agreeing to his offer to write a weekly column, over which would have complete editorial control, for $200 a month, for six months.

Did I mention that I’m a lawyer? My view is that if people intend to do what they say, they’ll put it in writing. The monthly payment was relevant to me in that I did not want to write for free, but it was important to me to reinforce that we had a contract that gave me editorial control. The six-month period was enough time to see how this arrangement would work, and not long enough to stick one of us in a position we didn’t like. In my view, Russo’s willingness to do this was based on a sense that I might help keep his blog interesting with original content, that he knew my approach and trusted my judgment, and that it was another manifestation of his edgy style.

I proceeded to write a series of [stories] on problems in the charter school markets the academic fraud of EdSectors CMOs report, Imagine Schools violation of state laws concerning charter a nonprofit governance, and the Massachusetts Board of Education’s abuse of the chartering process. All were pretty aggressive. I was under no illusion that opponents of charter schools, privatization, and Edsector would use them to advantage. But I’ve never thought that pretending bad actors don’t exist served a helpful role with the vast majority of people who have no made up their minds. Moreover, I don’t want a market dominated by bad actors, and I’m not going to sit on my hands and let it happen. None of my work led Russo to suggest he should have a formal role in the editorial process. And neither Russo nor I were niaive – we expected push back from the subjects of my posts.

This lengthy discussion provides a context for Russo’s decisions during the February 5-9 period. They are not isolated events, but a predictable point in the trajectory of his business model.

TWIE readers and I had every reason to believe Russo retained editorial control under his contract with Scholastic. He didn’t publish the contract, but TWIE seemed to operate pretty much as it had at edweek.org and as a standalone blog before. And there’s this November interview with Scholastic Administr@tor Executive Editor Kevin Hogan in Publishing Executive’s INBOX (http://www.pubexec.com/article/scholastic-administr-tor-enters-blogosphere-executive-editor-kevin-hogan-adding-popular-blogger-his-team-83070/2) column:

INBOX: What contractual/payment arrangements were made with Russo?

HOGAN: His arrangement is essentially the same as you would find for contributing editors in the print world.

INBOX: What process have you established for comments on the blog? Are they moderated by someone on the magazine staff, or does Russo handle the moderating/posting of comments?

HOGAN: People are free to leave comments, anonymous or not, on the blog page. Russo handles any moderating that needs to happen. Also, it’s important to note that Alexander is his own editor, and his blog is completely independent from the opinions of the rest of the magazine staff or of Scholastic at large.
(Millot’s emphasis)

So why did Russo keep my post off TWIE and fire me from the blog? As a business matter he had no choice. His contract required him to pull it. He could not persuade his contact at Scholastic to change his mind. Forced between two contractual breeches, economics required him to breach mine. As he approached that point of decision he began to reconsider the substantive merits of the matter.

I understand his business decision. There’s a moral element to all this, but in so far as Alexander Russo is concerned I’m prepared to set that aside. I think he made a bad business decision. Russo cultivated an “edgy” independent image. TWIE’s popularity is based on Russo. Taking my post down on Scholastic's orders rather than the merits undermines Russo’s “bad boy” personae. People might see him as someone who did not demonstrate independence when it mattered, and gave way to Rotherham’s charge without a fight. That image offers no competitive advantage to TWIE.

Next: on Tuttle SVC (http://www.tuttlesvc.org/) – Andrew Rotherham’s role or, the tip of an iceberg.


Jamie Oliver's TED Talk

Good stuff, especially on the heels of the Caitlin Flanagan article where she berates Berkeley's Edible Schoolyard program.

Abe Lincoln And Laws Of War: Reposted

I am reposting this in honor of Abe Lincoln's birthday and due to the fact that we have yet to deal with our torturing of prisoners or other Laws of War.

A very interesting article about learning curves, presidents, and war.
Lincoln's Laws of War
How he built the code that Bush attempted to destroy.
By John Fabian Witt
Posted Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009, at 6:54 AM ET

One of Abraham Lincoln's little-noted accomplishments has become his most unlikely legacy. He helped create the modern international rules that protect civilians, prevent torture, and limit the horrors of combat, the body of law known as the laws of war. Indeed, he was probably our most important law-of-war president, having crafted the very rules that George W. Bush and his Justice Department tried to destroy.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, few Americans had given much thought to the laws of war. Lincoln was no exception. He had never been a soldier of any note. In middle age, he joked about his youthful service as a militia captain, observing that although he had fought and bled in "a good many bloody struggles," all his fights were with mosquitoes. As an Illinois lawyer, his bustling commercial law practice did not bring him into contact with the 19th-century laws of war, either.

When the shooting started at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln became a war president barely a month into his first term in office. As a novice commander in chief, his inclination was to deny that the international laws of war had any relevance to the South's war of rebellion. The rebels were criminals, he insisted, not soldiers. Members of Congress and European statesmen pressed him to take international law more seriously. But Lincoln dismissed "the law of nations," as international law was then called, as a curiosity that country lawyers like him knew little about.

Lincoln's skepticism about the laws of war culminated a year later, in July 1862, in one of the Civil War's most famous early scenes. After weeks of deadly fighting and a demoralizing Union retreat in Virginia, Lincoln traveled to the front lines to encourage more aggressive action by Gen. George McClellan's Army of the Potomac. To win the war, Lincoln was beginning to think, the Union would have to attack the social fabric of the South. But McClellan resisted. The man known as "Little Napoleon" was one of the few Americans versed in the highly idealized rules of war handed down by the professional armies of 18th-century Europe. As McClellan saw it, the more aggressive campaign that Lincoln urged would undermine the European laws that had sought to make war resemble a kind of gentleman's duel.

Instead of embracing Lincoln's new urgency, McClellan lectured Lincoln on the laws of civilized warfare and the sharp constraints they placed on his prosecution of the Union war effort. A war among Christian and civilized people, he told the president, should not be a war against the people of the rebellious states, but a war between armies. He warned against the seizure of private property and especially against the "forcible abolition of slavery." Civilized wars, in McClellan's conception, left the fabric of society virtually untouched.

Lincoln grasped immediately that McClellan's conception of the laws of war would make it virtually impossible to win the war and preserve the Union. Just when a more aggressive war effort was required, McClellan was advocating rules of engagement that would have treated the South with kid gloves. At this same time, Lincoln was encountering a series of excruciatingly difficult problems that led him to reconsider his previous disdain for laws of war. On the high seas, the powerful nations of Europe demanded that the Union adopt a consistent set of predictable rules in its treatment of vessels from neutral foreign states. In the South, Jefferson Davis denounced Lincoln's decision to execute Confederate commerce raiders as pirates and threatened to retaliate in kind against captured Union soldiers. And in the West, guerilla fighting among civilians on both sides threatened to drag the conflict into a war of unremitting slaughter and destruction.

Most of all, Lincoln's increasingly firm conviction that the war needed to be brought home to the people of the South—and to the slave system on which they depended—cried out for new rules. After meeting with McClellan, Lincoln began to think about what advantages new laws of war might offer the Union effort.

The first stage of Lincoln's re-evaluation came in the Emancipation Proclamation. Less than a week after meeting with McClellan, Lincoln confided for the first time to members of his Cabinet that he intended to issue his controversial emancipation order. The proclamation was an utter rejection of McClellan's limited war model. But as Lincoln later explained it, his new view was that the laws of war authorized armies to do virtually "all in their power to help themselves, or hurt the enemy." Lincoln insisted that there were "a few things regarded as barbarous or cruel" that were beyond the pale. But there could be little doubt that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation would extend the war effort beyond the battlefield and into plantations across the South.

The second stage came that winter, soon after Lincoln finally fired the slow-moving McClellan. After appalling casualties on both sides at Antietam in September 1862 and in the midst of a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, Va., in early December, Lincoln commissioned a new compilation of the rules for war. Written by a committee of veteran Union officers led by a professor at Columbia College named Francis Lieber, the code aimed to update the laws of war for modern conditions. It would enable the new, more aggressive war that Lincoln wanted to wage in the spring campaigns of 1863 while preventing aggressive modern warfare from sliding into total destruction.

The code reduced the international laws of war into a simple pamphlet for wide distribution to the amateur soldiers of the Union army. It prohibited torture, poisons, wanton destruction, and cruelty. It protected prisoners and forbade assassinations. It announced a sharp distinction between soldiers and noncombatants. And it forbade attacks motivated by revenge and the infliction of suffering for its own sake. Most significantly, the code sought to protect channels of communication between warring armies. And it elevated the truce flag to a level of sacred honor.

In the spring of 1863, Lincoln's code was given not just to the armies of the Union but to the armies of the Confederacy. The code set out the rules the Union would follow—and that the Union would expect the South to follow, too. For the next two years, prisoner-exchange negotiations relied on the code to set the rules for identifying those who were entitled to prisoner-of-war status. Trials of Southern guerilla fighters and other violators of the laws of war leaned on the code's rules for support. The Union war effort became far more aggressive than it had been under McClellan's rules. As the Union's fierce Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman put it, Lincoln brought the "hard hand of war" to the population of the South. But this more aggressive posture was not at odds with Lincoln's new code. It was the code's fulfillment.

As the code's Confederate critics noticed immediately, the laws of war Lincoln announced in 1863 were far tougher than the humanitarian rules McClellan had demanded a year earlier. The code allowed for the destruction of civilian property, the bombardment of civilians in besieged cities, the starving of noncombatants, and the emancipation of civilians' slaves. It permitted executing prisoners in cases of necessity or as retaliation. It condoned the summary executions of enemy guerillas. And in its most open-ended provision, the code authorized any measure necessary to secure the ends of war and defend the country. "To save the country," the code declared, "is paramount to all other considerations." Lincoln's code was a body of rules not for McClellan's gentleman's war but for Sherman's March to the Sea.

In the decades after the Civil War, Lincoln's rules went global. International norms become international law only when great powers agree to comply with them, and Lincoln's code seemed to allow the great powers of the world to prosecute war aggressively without descending into wars of total destruction. Translations of the code spread through the armies of Prussia and France and into multinational treaties signed at The Hague. Following World War II, its provisions reappeared in the Geneva Conventions that are in effect to this day. Eventually, Lincoln's code would make its way into the pockets of men and women stationed around the world, in the field manuals and wallet cards that soldiers carry with guidelines for the laws of armed conflict.

Yet if soldiers still today carry around a little bit of Old Abe Lincoln in their pockets, the appeal of his approach to the laws of war has waned in recent decades. Today, the two leading paradigms for the laws of war are a humanitarian model and a war crimes model. The former would base the laws of war in individual human rights, the latter in the criminal tribunals like the one at Nuremberg after World War II.

In 1862 and 1863, Lincoln was up to something very different. His personal passage from law-of-war skeptic to law-of-war reviser in the midst of the Civil War offered him a distinctive vantage point. His code sought to organize the laws of war not around individual human rights or war crimes trials, but around reciprocity and coordination between armies. Lincoln's code set limits on his army's conduct, to be sure. But it also aimed to win a war. The function of Lincoln's laws of war was thus to identify and protect opportunities for cooperative behavior even in the clash of armed conflict.

In our own time, Lincoln's pragmatic model of the laws of war can help us in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is little prospect of reciprocity with terrorists, of course. But if one thing has become apparent in the cross-border security threats of the 21st century, it's that cooperation among the decent states of the world will be indispensable to policing against common threats. This is what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meant when she stated in her confirmation hearings, "Today's security threats cannot be addressed in isolation." Combating terror, according to Clinton, requires "reaching out to both friends and adversaries, to bolster old alliances and to forge new ones." Lincoln's laws of war did just that. They were ways of reaching out to bolster cooperation even in the midst of conflict.

For the past seven years, America has repeated the journey Lincoln completed in 24 grueling months. Strong majorities of Americans now call for the dismantling of detention facilities at Guantanamo. Even stronger majorities oppose the use of torture in interrogations. As a nation, we have walked in Lincoln's footsteps, down an uncertain path from skepticism about the laws of war to a rediscovery of their pragmatic mix of toughness and humanity. President Obama, in his inaugural address, pledged to reconcile our interests and our ideals. This is precisely what Lincoln's laws of war sought to accomplish, rejecting lawlessness while relentlessly pursuing threats to our way of life.

NCLB Pushback At The New York Times

Letters to the editor at the NYT:
To the Editor:

“Making ‘No Child’ Better” (editorial, Feb. 5) misses the point that the No Child Left Behind law is founded on faulty assumptions of top-down mandates, zero tolerance, narrow forms of assessment, and privatization. These are all popular nowadays, but have been shown to be ineffective in other sectors (health, corrections, welfare and so on) and have a dismal track record so far in education.

“Tightening up” the law will only prolong the agony.

President Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as education secretary instead of the education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond has set authentic reform in education back by at least a decade. Educators aren’t the villains; we might actually know something about education and how to reform it. Consult us.

Gary L. Anderson
New York, Feb. 5, 2010

The writer is a professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University.

To the Editor:

Die-hard backers of the No Child Left Behind law refuse to recognize that it has failed and needs a comprehensive overhaul. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, student performance was improving faster before the law than after it passed. Achievement gaps have not narrowed significantly.

No Child’s assumptions and strategies are deeply flawed. Updating the law’s name and making cosmetic changes are insufficient.

Real reform starts with determining why a school is not meeting standards, instead of test-driven, one-size-fits-all policies. Improvement must focus on building capacity to help students learn, not the fantasy that sanctions will transform educational quality.

Instead, Secretary Arne Duncan is pushing unproven nostrums like charter school expansion, which failed in Chicago, and linking teacher evaluations to test scores. These are no more likely to succeed than No Child Left Behind.

Congress needs to start over, drafting an education law that truly improves school quality and closes achievement gaps.

Monty Neill
Boston, Feb. 5, 2010

The writer is deputy director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, and chairman of the Forum on Educational Accountability.

To the Editor:

I was intrigued by your phrase “placing a qualified teacher in every classroom,” seemingly mandated by No Child Left Behind. Does anybody really believe that there is an untapped magic pool of “qualified teachers” out there waiting to be placed in the classrooms of the disadvantaged?

The way to guarantee qualified teachers is to train and nurture those who have already chosen teaching as a career. Until boards of education, school administrators, parents, politicians and the general public recognize that teachers are indeed professionals, and treat them as such, they cannot expect professional results.

Teachers respond positively and enthusiastically to praise, constructive suggestions and genuine attempts to improve their performance, as do professionals in other fields.

I taught for more than 20 years in the New York City school system, all of them in schools in disadvantaged areas. I watched earnest, hard-working, mostly new teachers succumb and ultimately fail in a system that featured little or no support, thoughtless supervisors, subpar physical plants and a general feeling that they were disdained by the central board and the public in general.

I submit that for No Child Left Behind ever to succeed, we must first incorporate a module entitled “No Teacher Left Behind.”

Richard J. Leimsider
Staten Island, Feb. 5, 2010

To the Editor:

“Making ‘No Child’ Better” reflects a disturbing tendency in your editorial stance toward educators. Without language to the contrary, words like “fraud” and “evasion” create the impression that education is rife with incompetence and conspiracies to hide it.

Certainly incompetence and cover-ups can be found in education, as in any profession, but so can a great many instances in which educators are doing remarkably well in addressing daunting challenges with inadequate resources. The public interest would be better served by more recognition of those educators, and by some acknowledgment that their resistance to “reform” may be based on well-founded judgments that some reform initiatives are actually counterproductive.

True educational reform will not come from measures intended to force recalcitrant educators to do the right thing, but from coupling reasonable accountability with the support that competent, dedicated educators need to provide a good education for all.

Paul Ammon
Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 5, 2010

The writer is professor and director of the Developmental Teacher Education Program, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley.

To the Editor:

“Experts Say a Rewrite of Nation’s Main Education Law Will Be Hard This Year” (news article, Jan. 29) notes that No Child Left Behind was unpopular “partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests.”

All educators understand the necessity of assessment, but it is our obligation to do the minimum amount of testing necessary, and no more. Every minute spent testing that is not necessary bleeds time from learning, and every dollar spent on testing that is not necessary is stolen from investments that really need to be made in schools.

Any new education law should result in less testing, not more.

Stephen Krashen
Los Angeles, Jan. 29, 2010

The writer is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.
h/t Krashen


Winners Have To Win, Losers have To Lose

You can stop watching as soon as Ed and Alan are finished (there's another 2 minutes of no snow for the Olympics).

Do You Know This Kid XI? Updated

Freddie Mercury

He was born in 1946. He is dead. He is still very famous. He was awesome.  I think this one will be easy, but I've been wrong before.  Once.  And that was a mistake.

Update:  I knew this one would be easy because Freddie Mercury of Queen apparently didn't change very much from when he was a kid.  As usual, Althea figured it out, in about one second!


Wednesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Sorry Keith Edition

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Not Helpful Edition

They Tortured Him Before They Had Authorization (Oxymoron?)

The Bybee memo was written after some torture was already used:
It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer. [my emphasis]
Mohamed was subjected to sleep deprivation, the British Government tells us, more than 75 days before the Bybee Two memo authorized such treatment.

And that abuse was inflicted by “an expert interviewer” implementing “a new strategy.”

That “expert interviewer” and that “new strategy” almost certainly were associated with Mitchell and Jessen, who were at that moment pitching using their “new strategy” with Abu Zubaydah.

So, this is not just proof that the US was engaging in torture before they got their CYA memo authorizing such torture. But it was proof that they were using Mohamed, in addition to Abu Zubaydah, as guinea pigs to test out that torture.

This proves the entire myth told to explain the torture memos (and Abu Zubaydah’s treatment) to be a lie.

Updated with link to Jim White’s diary.

Charlie Wilson, R.I.P.

From NPR:
Charlie Wilson, who as a U.S. congressman funneled money to the Afghan mujahideen during their fight against a Soviet occupation in the 1980s, died at 76 of an apparent cardiopulmonary arrest.

Wilson's unusual story was popularized by the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" starring Tom Hanks who portrayed Wilson.

Arne Duncan's Conflict Of Interest: Updated II And Updated Again

The edublogosphere is circulating this now deleted post by Marc Dean Millot (below, in full) raising serious concerns about conflicts of interest among DOE players and the reformers (and all the $$$).

A couple edublogger reactions here and here:
I have now heard the same thing from three independent credible sources - the fix is in on the U.S. Department of Education's competitive grants, in particular Race to the Top (RTTT) and Investing in Innovation (I3). Secretary Duncan needs to head this off now, by admitting that he and his team have potential conflicts of interests with regard to their roles in grant making, recognizing that those conflicts are widely perceived by potential grantees, and explaining how grant decisions will be insulated from interference by the department's political appointees.

Over the last several months a national education reporter, a senior manager at a national education research organization, and the head of a national nonprofit working in the field all volunteered that the Department's senior officials know exactly who they want to get RTTT and I3 money - in brief, the new philanthropies' grantees and the jurisdictions where they work.

These three hold positions of some responsibility. None have been prone to exaggeration in the past. They are not colleagues. They run in entirely different circles, live in entirely different parts of the country, and work in very different parts of the K-12 education space. They all relayed conversations with colleagues about the problem.

We do know that the Secretary benefited from a strong relationship with the new philanthropy in Chicago. We know that the Secretary is high on charter management organizations and the new teacher development programs that benefited from the new philanthropy. We know that RTTT czar Joanne Weiss was senior staff member at New Schools. We know that Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton was a senior program education officer at the Gates Foundation and NewSchools. We know that both managed investments in the organizations' Duncan favors.

Anyone who remembers the Reading First fiasco is familiar with the pattern. A Secretary inclined towards a particular education reform solution, subordinate political appointees with a personal investment in the same solution, connected to organizations practicing that solution - organizations with incredibly thin files of reliable evidence consistently demonstrating an educationally significant contribution to improvements in student performance in the schools where they work today. The last time education reformers saw this pattern, the organizations with the best evidence of efficacy were pushed aside in favor of those who met a tortured definition designed to produce the desired outcome. Given history, concerns that a repeat is in process are neither unreasonable, nor unwarranted.

Whatever is or is not going on at the Department, the principled response is for the Secretary to address the fear head on, explain how the feared outcomes cannot take place, and then make sure he and his people keep several arms lengths removed from the process.

TWIE Readers: If you have evidence for or against the concerns I've relayed, or if you've heard the same stories, heard the opposite, or haven't heard a thing, please post it here.
Update: Marc Dean Millot responds:
Marc Dean Millot said...
At 1:45 Friday afternoon, I posted a brief commentary in This Week in Education, where I have been a guest columnist. "Three Data Points. Unconnected Dots or a Warning?" was one of many appearing in the edu-blogosphere over the last two week's expressing concerns over the lack of transparency in the Department of Education's implementation of the Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation discretionary grant programs. Within a few hours the commentary generated a modest amount of interest from some of our community's leading bloggers.

A little after 5 pm that day it was taken off the site by TWIE editor Alexander Russo. Russo informed me that he had been directed to do so by TWIEs sponsor, Scholastic as the result of a call from Andrew Rotherham to someone at the firm that Russo thought might be Rotherham's friend.

Over the weekend Russo struggled mightily to fix the problem. He emailed me, "Please be assured that this isn't really about you or the substance of your post." I agreed to sit tight till Monday. Sometime around 10:15 Monday evening I was fired by Russo or, to be more precise, he activated TypePad software on TWIE prohibiting me from publishing. The act was in breech of a six-month contract giving me "complete editorial control" over my columns as well as the princely sum of $200 a month.

I've been asked by my readers to explain what happened. I'm posting here because Kenneth Libby was the first. I intend to tell my story from start to finish. Yes, I have something at stake here. Yes, I intend to draw on materials that don't normally see the light of day - like emails and private conversations. But this situation is also an opportunity for readers to gain some insights into the personal side of Washington policy debates, the ways people with influence use it, the challenges faced by those who seek a commercial model for the new media, and the role of the blog in public discourse over education policy. These are worthy goals, rarely pursued.

I could go out and start my own blog, but I ran one for a year at edweek.org and prefer to be a columnist. I would be grateful for perhaps five days access to an edublog as a guest blogger. In return, I can only offer my best efforts to provide the facts, a good faith interpretation, and the full record in my possession for readers can come to their own conclusions.
I have offered this blog for his posts. We shall see....

Update II:  It looks like Marc will post 5 exclusives on 5 different blogs; TFT should be 4th.  I will update as Marc posts.  First of 5 here.

Update III:  Follow the saga on the Marc Dean Millot page (new feature--look for the permanent link right under TFT's title at the top of the page.)


Time For A Different Tea Party

It looks like Obama is the only one left who thinks bipartisanship is worth a damn. Rachel Maddow has been saying to anyone who will listen that the Republicans have only one desire--to win seats. Period. And she is obviously right.  What is wrong with POTUS?  Does he have a scheme we are too feeble to figure out?  Is he that good?

Did you watch House last night? Cuddy got a great deal from the CEO of the big insurer in town due to a well delivered plea of mutual benefit, even though her hospital is a tiny part of the insurer's revenue. Not, of course, before the CEO said something like 'I don't give a shit as long as I stay rich.' He gives in ultimately, but that's just tv.  She did interrupt his dinner.  I am pretty sure the CEO character is close to the truth, except the giving in at the end part.

Robert Reich seems to think it's time for torches and pitchforks.

Sign me up!
Obama says he’s open to any new ideas from Republicans for how to control health care costs and expand coverage. The problem is Republicans don’t want to play this game. They don’t care about controlling costs or expanding coverage. They care only about taking back the House and/or the Senate next November. And they believe a means toward attaining this goal is to prevent Obama from achieving a victory on health care. The sooner the President accepts that undeniable fact — and gets the House to pass the Senate’s bill, and then uses the reconciliation process (that requires only 51 votes in the Senate) to deal with any remaining irreconcilable differences between the House and Senate — the better.

In the meantime, next chance I get I’m switching to another insurer — if that makes any difference at all in what I pay or the service I get, which seems increasingly doubtful. I’m also joining any Tea Party of mad-as-hellers fed up with how Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Wall Street, and much of the rest of corporate America have taken over our democracy.

Tuesday Bonus Cartoon Fun: The Crazies Edition

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Saints Edition

Robert Gibbs Pulls A Stupid Stunt

Eggs, Milk, Bread, Hope, Change

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' hand at a press conference. What a dick (though it's funny). (link)

Michelle Rhee Discusses Poverty: Updated

Michell Rhee writes about poverty in DC and how it is like Haiti, but not, and how poverty can be eliminated through public education, as long as it is privatized, or something.
I believe we can solve the problems of urban education in our lifetimes and actualize education’s power to reverse generational poverty. But I am learning that it is a radical concept to even suggest this. Warren Buffett framed the problem for me once in a way that clarified how basic our most stubborn obstacles are. He said it would be easy to solve today’s problems in urban education.

“Make private schools illegal,” he said, “and assign every child to a public school by random lottery.” Think about what this would mean. CEOs’ children, diplomats’ children, many would be going to schools in Anacostia and east of the river, where most of our schools are. I guarantee we would never see a faster moving of resources from one end of the city to the other. I also guarantee we would soon have a system of high-quality schools.
Update: Great reaction here.


The Re-Segregation Of Public Schools

Lots of sniping about this study at the link.
Are Charter Schools A Civil Rights Failure?

A study released last week by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, concluded that although charter schools are a political success, they are a civil rights failure. The report found that charter schools are more racially homogenized than traditional public schools and asserted that those in the western United States are havens for white re-segregation.
Is this a fair characterization of the charter school movement?

-- Eliza Krigman, NationalJournal.com

Quote Of The Day: Jay McDonough

Energy, Budget Cuts, Tax, Lift American Spirits
From swimming freestyle:
The issue isn't really that she wanted or needed notes.  The real issue was what Palin felt she needed to jot down on her palm; her core principles.  As John Cole noted: "Put it this way, since this is Black History Month, this is akin to seeing “civil rights” written on MLK’s hand."

Total Pageviews