Thursday, December 20, 2012

EducationBeat: Dirty Secrets; Goldilocks in Class; Emanuel Says "Scroom! "

 The Dirty Secret of Proprietary "Universities": Mainly, it is that they are rip-offs. They 'sell' credentials, the way Toyota or GM sell cars: on credit.

They prey on the aspirations of education-propaganda maddened students facing desperate employment conditions (LOTS of competition, for scarce jobs, with artificial, spurious "education" requirements), and the flexible "mythology" of the magic of the 'Degree." 

What they do, in fact, is essentially indenture their students to life-long, irrevocable loan-repayment contracts, in exchange for essentially meaningless credentials in 'invented' pseudo-disciplines ("Office management?" Really!) which wouldn't REQUIRE "degrees," except that that requirement makes sorting out undesirables from the applications pools easier.

University of Phoenix, an egregiously piratical lending institution fronting as a proprietary school, recently "settled" a $75.5 million claim against them for fraud.


TFA: The Myth of Goldilocks
Through the efforts of the likes of the Gates Foundation, and other "well-meaning blunderers" (scare quotes intended), and despite the frequent recitations in praise of good teachers and their effects, there is a mythology growing that teachers NEED NOT be skilled, well-trained, devoted professionals.

In this discourse, teachers are automatons, merely "delivering content," like fucking pizzas, and conduct periodic examinations. This has contributed to a growing sense--has been apparent since the 80s, actually--that anybody can "teach.

 It's not true, of course. Teaching is as much an art, requiring years of practice to master, as it is anything else.

Along with Gates, and the rest of the zombie-capitalist "philanthropists" mucking about, this sense that teachers are a dime a dozen has been adumbrated and popularized by a project called "Teach For America," which began life as a sorority do-good project developed by a coed from the University of Mississippi to flesh out her CV. I shan't occupy more space here with critiques. They are frequent and fierce, and to my mind, well-deserved.

But since you asked, imho, TFA mainly serves as a safe, non-committal way for the social "debutante" class of graduating sorority girls to safely pass their time whilst winnowing the possible applicants for the appropriately endowed prospective fathers of and providers for their children. 

But I'm told I have too jaundiced a view.

Emanuel: "Screw the Unions." Obama's ass-whole buddy, former White House insider and now Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a CorpoRat rat-bastard of the first order. He's implementing school privatization of Chicago schools regardless of the predicted and predictable, negative consequences for the city, the schools and Chicago's kids. But it WILL make plenty of money for his friends.
""An internal Chicago Public Schools document obtained by the Tribune shows for the first time that the Emanuel administration has weighed how many elementary and high schools to close in which neighborhoods and how to manage the public fallout... ...(T)he internal document, prepared at a time when school leaders faced a December deadline to make their decisions public, lays out multiple scenarios for closing neighborhood schools and adding privately run charters — a key component of Emanuel's plans for improving public education. Chicago Teachers Union members, aldermen and other charter school critics have accused the administration of favoring the charters while depriving schools in poor neighborhoods of needed improvements." (DOTOF to F-Booker Beth Townsley)
Really? Ya THINK? Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Windy City's tortuous school hallways, there are indications of chicanerey between a commission empaneled to recommend school closures and a politically and corporately connected "consulting" firm with boardroom lingks to Bain Capital, Citigroup, McNally Capital, and a slew of big, pro-corpoRat law firms.
Union Workers Died: It would be nice to think that, after enduring years of slanders and obloquy about their membership in unions, more would have been made about the fact that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary were all members of the American Federation of Teachers. But outside the notice of a few folks like "yrs truly" on Facebook and elsewhere, that fact has been largely elided from the discourse of the tragedy.

I got criticized for "profaning the memory of the children" with my "pro-Union "bullshit" I mentioned it on my FB "wall." But, I told my detractor, I didn't mind, because I'd never heard of one single corpoRat CEO who EVER stood and took a bullet protecting his workers or anyone else.

Meanwhile in LA: .The LAUSD stepped up for teachers and students when it unanimously returned to the Board the authority to seek and accept federal, education grants. The Obomber/Duncan RTTP (Race To The Top) replacement for the disastrous NCLB of the Bushevik era is a subtle bribery system, making big money available to grant-0seekers which are willing to throw teachers and students under the (yellow) bus by adopting assessment plans which in effect blame teachers and schools for students' poor performance, and rewards schools and districts which will adapt the test-centered, para-private curricular interventions.

The LAUSD returned these authoroities to the board from the Superintendent's Office, at present occupied by faux-reformer, corpoRatist, test-nazi John Deacy.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

As the Cookie Crumbles: Dolchstoss

The GOPhux are struggling to explain their "loss" at the polls in November. I predict their explanations will evolve, and the GOPhux will eventually--before 2016--come to explain and rationalize their "loss" this year with silent, implicit reference to the Dolchstoss! The "Stab in the back." 

In Germany in the 30s, it was what the Nazis blamed the decline of  'das Heimat' on: the Dolchstoss Legende. The GOPhux have pointed in that direction, already, with their explanations blaming the indolent, grasping poor, women, and minorities.

The GOPhux threw this election, of course; as they did the last one. They didn't "lose" it. That's one of the reasons Bombing Johnny McStain still has his boxers in a bunch: He KNOWS they tossed him under a bus. It was evident after September, '08, and the death-knell the derivatives, when Sarah Palin was named to the ticket. 

Similarly, one knew they were throwing it, this time, from the first appearance of the clown car full of "candidates." They COULDN'T be serious. Choosing among the utterly clueless, doltish, stupidly arrogant Rick Perry? Michelle ("I'm so batshit crazy I flutter") Bachmann? Frothy-mix Rick Santorum? Herman Cain, the serial sex abuser? Come ON! Even Willard looked weird on a stage with that screw-ball lot.This was the "cream of the electoral crop? Newt Gingrich?


What became painfully clear, right from the start, was that the Owners do NOT want a "white" face associated with the pains and disjunctions which will accompany the forthcoming "Great Austerity." They needed a black face to sell it--and later to become the recipient of all the obloquy and vilification which will inevitably, and horrifically, follow from it, as the pains of austerity extract what's left of the soul of the Murkin worker.

Folks are "worried" about the future of the GOPhux, but not me. Just like I'm not worried about the future of cancer. It will somehow survive. Shamwow was and is the last gasp of ANYTHING even FAINTLY resembling a "liberal" or "progressive" government, and from that perspective, Obomber is pretty fucking pathetic, it has to be admitted..

The GOPhux will "retake" the country in 2016, with Bush/Cheney (II): Jebbie and Lizzie, on the platform of "restoring America's lost glory and honor after the depredations of that Negro and his socialist party."

Be attentive: I am almost CERTAIN the GOPhux will soon start to talk about a "dolchstoss," a "stab-in-the-back." It's coming. They're already alluding to the weakness of the 47%, their greed, and indolence.

The only question is which feculent, reaking, drooling GOPhux/Faux demagogue will broach the subject first. I'll say Hannity, but it could be Limbaugh or O'Reilly. He;;, it might be one of the Gretchens or Megyns, the panty-flashers on Faux Nooz.

In whatever case, it is coming.

Can you say "landslide?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Education Beat: All Efferent Now; DIY School Gear; More Bushit; Keeping Watch; Follow the Money

Efferent vs. Aesthetic: Around 75 years ago, the ground-breaking literary theorist Louise Rosenblatt determined the "reading" always occurs for one of two purposed: Efferent reading was reading to find specific information; Aesthetic reading was reading done for pleasure. Now, with the full backing and encouragement of Bill Gates Foundation, and the National Association of School Principals, too, schools in 46 states are getting ready to scrub "classic" literature from their curricula and replace it with instruction manuals. Let NO ONE EVER ENJOY READING AGAIN!@

No, Really! Not kidding:
American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014. A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird,  will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.
As much as 70% of reading materials for high school seniors are slated to be drawn from technical "literature." This 'reform' is called the "Common Core Curriculum." I shall have MUCH more to say about this in future columns.
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Y'know, Cats Are The Same Way...: Here's something to strike fear into the hearts of marketers of childhood "equipment": It seems like kids don't notice when the branded stuff is replaced with quotidian, common-place items like cardboard boxes and blocks.
When a preschool teacher in Ohio decided to replace all the toys and learning materials in the class with cardboard boxes and other raw materials, he expected some grumbling from his three-year-old students.
Much to his surprise, he received none whatsoever.
"Not one of them complained about not having a toys and it was actually really cool because some of the quieter kids actually got to show leadership roles in projects," Pete Kaser told NBC4.
Indeed, not only did the kids enjoy playing with boxes more than they ever enjoyed playing with brand-name toys, but the experiment actually saw some behavioral changes take place as well.
"Kids who had trouble separating from their parents in the morning or just were quieter in the classroom, we have actually seen them become leaders and we have seen them grow," Kaser noted.
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Bush's Family Profited from 'No Child' Act:
In fact, they did (and are still doing) pretty damned well exploiting their position and influence to profit from their own schemes. This, from 2006, is a good example.
A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.
With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.
At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president's signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.
And now Jebbie's jumped into the fray with his unexpectedly honestly monikered foundation,  "Foundation for Excellence in Education" "FEE."). Just as a reminder:
Aptly named FEE, Bush's group is backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America's public schools. FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC. And, they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.

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Do We NEED a "White Students' Association?": Folks who advocate for "white students' leagues" seem somehow to have missed the fact that pretty much EVERY organization in colleges and universities are "white" by default. Here's a fat, ugly, white-boy virgin trying to reclaim the low ground:
Senior Matthew Heimbach, who started the White Student Union at Towson University in Maryland, claims his organization is necessary to fight "inherent anti-white bias in academia and mainstream society."
In a let­ter to Towson’s cam­pus news­pa­per, The Tow­erlight, in September, Heim­bach wrote that “a White Stu­dent Union would rep­re­sent the unique cul­tural her­itage, folk cus­toms and strong Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions that define white civilization.”
Heim­bach also attacked what he claims was the genocide of whites in South Africa and the black on white attacks in the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League website
Heim­bach, a former member of Youth for Western Civilization which was disbanded by Towson University last Spring, wrote that the iden­tity of white “folk” has been “tram­pled and attacked for gen­er­a­tions” and that it was time for whites to “stand up for our rights.”
Heim­bach ended his let­ter with: “We must pro­tect the secu­rity of Euro­peans and a future for the next generation."
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Follow the Money: The CorpoRat investors are DROOLING over $500 BILLION School "Honey Pot"
The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they're as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They'll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.
"You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up," said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. "It could get really, really big."
Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.
Pres. Shamwow and his Education Secretary, the corpoRat lawyer, Arne Duncan are all in for the privatization of schools, through charters, mainly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Education Beat: Adventures of ALEC, the Privatizer; Shamwow's Education Agenda (Term 2)

For-Profit "Revolutionaries"? Really?: Keep a barf-bag handy when you scroll through the putative  "accomplishments" and "agendas" of these "anointed" leaders of educational technology. Who says so?  Forbes Magazine (the BIG money) says so.?

These fuckers are disgusting: 15 "New Age" scammers trying desperately to get THEIR grubby fingers into the TRILLION DOLLAR educational pie, via privatization and profit.

The main way to do so is to use "technology" by-pass the professoriate, deskilling "scholarship," and reducing the idea of the University education to fucking TEST PREPARATION! And FORBES extols their "virtues."

These people, despite their grand pretensions, are not "revolutionaries," they're Fifth-Columnists, working behind the scenes for the CorpoRats' full-frontal attack on the commons.
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"Two in the Bush!": One of those greedy, grasping education privateers is Jeb Bush (sooo-prahs!), following in brother Neil's shit-filled footsteps as an educational entrepreneur.
This week in Washington, DC, Jeb Bush's "Foundation for Excellence in Education" (FEE) is meeting just five blocks away from the post-election conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the controversial corporate bill mill working on profitizing public education among other legislative changes, but the ties between the two groups are even closer.
Aptly named FEE, Bush's group is backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America's public schools. FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC. And, they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.
FEE and ALEC also have had some of the same "experts" as members or staff, part of the revolving door between right-wing groups. They have also collaborated on the annual ALEC education "report card" that grades states' allegiance to their policy agenda higher than actual student performance. That distorted report card also rewards states that push ALEC's beloved union-busting measures while giving low grades to states with students who actually perform best on standardized knowledge tests.
Res ipsa loquitur, as the Romans usta say: The facts speak for themselves. NB: The ALEC Connection!
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 It's Alive, It's ALIVE!: ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which suffered some bad press earlier this year, and achieved some notoriety when several high-profile client/sponsors publicly withdrew from the outfit, never went away, despite what you might have heard. The right-wing, pro-CorpoRat, astoturf lobbying outfit is still active, drafting "model legilsation" for state and municipal bodies to enact and further the interests of the corpoRat pirates and their cronies, including State departments of Education.
This video contains surreptitiously captured video of the proceedings of an ALEC session and a demonstrator who objects to the scam.

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Obama's Not Much Help: Every election cycle, teachers vote for their extremely limited choices in the usually vain hope that some NEW face in officialdom turn back the tide of fundamentally unjustified criticism of teachers and install needed reforms. It never happens. And, according to this correspondent, it's not happening AGAIN under Sir Barry, the pale, either. While giving Obummer and his asshole hoops buddy Arne DUncan an "F" grade for their "work" with schools, the author, a professor at Furman University, observes:
For three decades now, one block of American voters and workers has lost politically regardless of which party or candidate has won—educators.*
That was again likely the case in 2012 despite the re-election of Barack Obama and despite a few positive political victories vis a vis education ballot initiatives and the election of state-level education leaders. Since the rise of Ronald Reagan and the release of “A Nation at Risk” (a politically biased report under Reagan that characterized public education as a failed institution), educators have had no political party, because both major political parties have dedicated their entire education agenda and policies to the accountability movement – founded on a laughable “our standards and tests are better than your standards and tests” ideology.
And NOTHING changed on Nov. 6.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

WWH/CJE Soapbox: Sacrifice This, Pal!

President Shamwow's soaring rhetoric of a nation called to "shared sacrifice" is, if you haven't already guessed, mostly arrant bullshit.

By employing it, St. Barry is endeavoring to persuade us, the proles, serfs, plebes and vassals at the bottom, to nobly endure the forthcoming pillaging of valuable, social capital resources which we OWN as paid-up strands of the social safety net, but which he is planning to reduce significantly so as to avoid having to discommode his wealthy benefactors in any significant way, and endanger his legacy as a conciliator (for such is undoubtedly his sole and only aim, now).  So, he proclaims, we must ALL suffer to avoid plunging over the "fiscal cliff": higher taxes for the wealthy, reduced entitlements for the rest. 

What the CorpoRat-SCUM "Press" is labeling The Grand Bargain is a bargain only if you think a three-dollar reduction in social spending in exchange for MAYBE one dollar of revenue "enhancement" is a a "Bargain." I, for one, don't!

Yet the prime cause for the proclaimed necessity of the "bargain," the dreaded, precipitous, "fiscal cliff," is a totally fictional precipice. Commentators from right, left, and center agree. It's a chimera. It was invented for the sole and only purpose of creating a "crisis"--really, a pseudo-crisis, if you will, in the meaning of social historian Dan Boorstin, 50 years ago; an event (a "crisis" fits the bill) which
only exists to be reported on and commented about

Fear provoked by the specter of the "fiscal cliff" creates the rhetorical screen behind the camouflage of which are introduced "solutions" which are not germane to the issues at hand, but which do advance and consolidate the power of the people in charge of the crises, while disempowering the "peoples'" institutions.

Said another way, the "Fiscal Cliff" is an archetype of those "shocks" about which Naomi Klein was so clairvoyant and descriptive, in her book, "The Shock Doctrine" a decade ago. Remember the Patriot Act? 

Obviously, for the claim of shared sacrifice to be persuasive, a proportional share of the benefit now being repaid must somewhere have been realized by those being called upon to having to repay it. That hasn't been the case since Raygun's gunsels took over in the '80s and implemented the Powell memorandum's 1971 recommendations as the covert, but nonetheless official, domestic policy of the political/ruling class ever since. The falsity of the premise of some kind of 'parity' is exaggerated and amplified because the primary, unstated, and un-proven assumption of the rhetoric of shared sacrifice is so manifestly untrue. If the prosperity were equitably shared, then the shared repayment should be.

But it wasn't.

GOD KNOWS it wasn't. That's what the whole scandal of the "one-tenth-of-One-Percent" is all the fuck about. The average wealth of all less-than-rich USers has declined in the past five years, while that of the uber-dollar wealthy has metastacised like an aggressive melanoma.

O'Barry and his boys in DC--on all sides of the aisle--all fucking KNOW that.

They're just blowing smoke up our asses and covering for their real constituency, the bankstahs/Owners/Oners...And what they're all doing is just performing the National Debt Crisis Kabuki for ya. Give 'em a big hand...

(Graphic, above, came from the estimable "Naked Capital" blog, from a story they released about the same time as I posted this one. They are very good.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ed Beat: PBS on Poverty/School Relation; Charter Rebuttals; Zombie Functionalism; Textual Rubbish

Poverty Is The #1 Impediment to Success in School: The socio-economic status of a student's family is by FAR (on orders of magnitude) the largest determinant in the achievement of ANY student on the standardized exams which more and more determine success in school. 

Family SES accounts for just about 65% of the variance in scores on standardized tests. The zip code in which the child lives exerts a more significant effect on performance than does IQ. Poverty is the KEY consideration in evaluating school performance.

So, good on PBS for bringing their powerful spotlight to bear on the problem of poverty in schools and its effects on kids' growth, development, and success.

Watch Poor Kids on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Charter Facts Rebut Hype (Via Americans United For The Separation of Church & State): Charter schools in Washington, DC, the ONLY federally mandated system of it's kind in the country, show no better results than "traditional" public schools. Plus, the funds appear to be unaccountable, and many parents are using the funds to send kids to religious (Catholic) schools.
Congress allocated $20 million for the D.C. voucher program for this year, The Post reported, and since 2004 the federal government has set aside $133 million for the program. Students who meet the household income requirements can receive about $8,000 per year for elementary school and around $12,000 per year for high school. And yet, the schools are not accountable to the taxpayers who are forced to fund them. No government official has say over the curriculum, academic quality or management of the schools.
And (just to make shit interesting) the name of former DC schools chief, the feculent and failure-ridden Michelle Rhee, is being bruited as a possible replacement for the detestable (it works both ways!) Arne Duncan, Obombster's asshole, hoops pal, if he steps aside from the DoE post.

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Zombie Functionalism and the Return of Neo-Instrumentality in Education

As If I were NOT going to respond to that title!

Not only is the attack on public education one aimed at destroying teacher unions and the public commons in general, but it is also an attack on what is to be taught in classes, the actual methods of instruction, what students are to be thinking about and the educational theories behind a ‘neo-functionality’ that reduces students to mere depositories of pre-masticated thinking."

The attentive among you may detect echoes of the liberationist pedagogy of Paolo Freire, resonances of Freirean rhetoric and passion, in Danny Weil's prose.
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It's In The Book: Every good teacher will tell you that a dictionary doesn't DEFINE a word, but presents the most common usages. The textbook, like the dictionary, does NOT "define" knowledge, but presents the most common, most agreed upon versions of events and content. High school textbooks SHOULD be read the same way, but they're not.

Folks fight over the contents of books because (it is justifiably assumed) these will be the only guided encounters with these facts that the average student will ever have. So it matters what is included and not included in discussions in the text of significant matters. Connor Friedsdorf of the Atlantic chose to examine
"The American Vision by Professors Joyce Appleby, Alan Brinkley, Albert Broussard, James McPhereson, and Donald Ritchie. It's one of the most popular American history textbooks aimed at eleventh grade students. As I understand it, the 2003 copy I hold in my hands would've been used in a typical classroom for five to eight years. In other words, this is the American history book that shaped a lot of the young people who've recently joined the ranks of adult society, or at least eligible voters."
His general findings from the presentation of "History" in the text:: the threat of terrorism can be eliminated, the Patriot Act was not controversial and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

No, really!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Education Beat: Goals Are For Hockey; Bill Gates Is No Friend Of Schools; Diane Ravitch's Penance;

Education Beat: Goals Are For Hockey; Bill Gates Is No Friend Of Schools; Diane Ravitch's Penance; Florida in Virginia

He'll Be Ba-ack: America's chief school executive, charter-school tool, privatizing maven, and hoops-shooting pal to Sir Barry, the Compliant, bankster-buddy Arne Duncan apparently will be staying on as head of the Federal Department of Education. In consequence, there will be no measyrable diminishment in the regime of high-stakes test score 'achievement' measures, and/or test based teacher accountability, and/or the shameful tactic of waving Federal "development" dollars in the faces of financially strapped, local School Boards to entice them into the Obama/Duncan paradigm.
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Public Schools Under Assault:
“Public education today is the target of a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign to privatize as many schools as possible, particularly in cities. This campaign claims it wants great teachers in every classroom, but its rhetoric demoralizes teachers, and reduces the status of the education profession,” Ravitch told a Los Angeles audience in February 2012. “There is no historical comparison to the current movement for privatization and de-professionalization.”
I have had issues with Dr. Ravitch in the past. As a member of the Raygun Education "team"--which included lamar Alexander, Bill Bennett, and Chester ""Chucker" Finnm she was at one time one of the foremost advocates of the policies which she now criicizes.
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 Betting ON Poverty: This is pretty disgusting.
In Detroit, in keeping with the national efforts top de-skill and de-professionalize teaching, the School Board is going ahead with plans to further commodify students in 'at risk' circumstances and 'sell' them to private corporations as eyse on the screen.
Interestingly, the CorpoRats have learned to coopt the discourses of Freirean resistance to make it seem as though these reactionary pedagogies are 'best practices.'  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

My Sweet, Indebtable You!: Recently, the Department of Education released new guidelines and rules covering the repayment schedules for certain student loans. Via Adam Minsky, the "Boston Student-Loan Lawyer":
  • The "new and improved" IBR program, as I've been calling it, will be called the "Pay As You Earn" program. This new repayment plan option for "new borrowers" will allow for monthly payments of 10% of discretionary income (as opposed to 15%) and a 20-year repayment term (as opposed to 25 years), with forgiveness of the remaining balance thereafter. As I've written about previously, this is a great repayment plan option, but it won't be available to most borrowers who have already graduated and are in repayment now. The regulations confirm that the Dept. of Education will exclude most of these borrowers from the "Pay As You Earn" program.
  • The regulations also attempt to streamline the process for applying for a discharge of federal student loans on the basis of Total and Permanent Disability. Specifically, the regulations allow for some Social Security Disability determinations to support discharge applications, and the regulations make it easier for a representative to assist the borrower in the discharge process.
  • Finally, the new regulations try to address some of the ongoing problems with federal loan servicing by offering simpler IBR recertification forms.
Ultimately, these new regulations are a mixed bag. They certainly include some positive changes for federal student loan borrowers, but they do little to aggressively address systematic problems with the federal loan borrowing and servicing system. To read all the details on the new regulations, click here.

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As Goes Florida:We mentioned in a column a litle while back that the Great State of Florida had decided to confront educational, socio-economic "realities" NOT by addressing poverty, homelessness and other social ills which directly impact children in poverty, but instead by lowering standards for Hispanic and Black students. Now Virginia, another historic hotbed of progressive education reform appears to be joining the bandwagon.

Meanwhile: Studies show that charter schools in Florida are NOT out-performing regular, public schools.

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 From the Smoldering Fingers: Bill Gates is not a "good guy." He is, as far as his interest in education goes, at best a well-meaning, blundering, clumsy, bullying fool. At worst, he is what I call a "Zombie Capitalist," whose philanthropy is tainted--POISONED--with self-interest and delusion. The Gates foundation is body and soul behind a "national, standardized curriculum."
Primarily, because it will fit well with the business of selling Microsoft shit to the schools.
Attention people who care about children in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
You’ve been snookered.
The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been snookered by the U. S. Department of Education, working in cahoots with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sample assessment items makes the flimflam obvious to people in the above states. Their leaders gave promissory notes to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
 Susan Ohanian is as fiercely rabid a critic as there IS of the official, corpoRat/charter "reform" movement, whether called No Child Left Behind or Race To The Top. Follow her blog, if this stuff --and especially criticism of the Common Core, interests you.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Education Beat: Message to Obama; University, RIP; Not Again?; The Muslim Test

Dear Mr. President: Via my favorite source for fact and interpretation of info from the ol' school-house, Susan Ohanian, this missive to the re-elected President, from an unimpeachable source, beseeches Obummer to at least back off a LITTLE from  the concerted drive by his DoE director to privatize, and charterize the schools and standardize the curriculum.
"In a recent interview for NBC’s “Education Nation” President Obama said, “You know, I’m a big proponent of charter schools, for example. I think that pay-for-performance makes sense in some situations.” Later in the interview, he said, “What we have to do is combine creativity and evidence-based approaches. So let’s not use ideology, let’s figure out what works, and figure out how we scale it up.”

I want to believe the president’s statement about ideology. But, frankly, I am not reassured. What logic and evidence is behind his support for scaling-up charter schools, merit pay, or for sanctions that require the firing of administrators at struggling schools typically inhabited by poverty-stricken students? Mr. President, are you open to the possibility that maybe your assumptions are wrong?
 This appeared on Valerie Strauss's Washington Post Answer Sheet, Nov. 7, 2012.

Arthur H. Camins is director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

It is more than pertinent that this criticism of Obama education policy is written by someone with innovation and science credentials. Read his previous Answer Sheet commentary here.

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The Death--or at least the serious illness--of the University:
With tuitions rising into the price of middle-class housing, and students clamoring as never before for more and more opportunities to do "higher education," it is ironic that the institution itself is under renewed attack from forces inimical to the epistemic mission of the University.
“In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level...Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.
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Separate, but Equal, Again? From the Department of Don't Raise The Bridge, Lower the River comes "intelligence" that the Florida Board of Education is bowing to "reality" and instituting different sets of standards for student achievement base on race.

The board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.
More than ANY OTHER variable, the family's socio-economic status affects the performance of students on student achievement measures. But, since it's not feasible to raise the income levels of people, we'll lower the standards. It won't matter that much, anyway.

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Creative Teaching Update: The "Muslim Test": I wonder it you recall the case of the fanatic, Creationist, high-school biology teacher who got in trouble--fired, actually--for ignoring repeated warnings to cease the direct advocacy of creation contra evolution, and later branding some of his students with crosses via the application of a so-called 'tesla device?" It was first litigated in 2008.

His name is Freshwater, and he's filed a First Amendment suit alleging his right to academic free speech had been violated by the (public) school denying him the right to teach, e.g., Creationism.

Courts have ruled for "academic freedom." It remains to be seen whether they will support such a claim under these circumstances.

What is the Muslim test?

Ask yourself if what your child's teacher is telling them would be acceptable if it were a Muslim teacher talking to them in school, and surreptitiously supplying materials about the need to follow Shari'a.

Monday, November 12, 2012

WWH/CGE Soap-Box: Campaign 2012, A Post Mortem

Hola! L&G, B&G, Hippies and straights around the  world, this is your ol' pal, John Konopak, Citizen Journalist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, clambering up onto the WWH/CJE soap-box today to bring you my own 'post-mortem' on our recenly concluded Presidential electoral follies.

As I had predicted, fearlessly and repeatedly, over the last two or three years,  O'Barry's got his second term as our First "novelty" president (not counting the utterly cynical installation of the Chimperor Bush in 2000).  No, Hillary won't be elected in 2016, though she may run. But, from now on, for wa good while, ONLY GOPhux, preferably White AND Male, will hold the Executive Office of the USofA after 2016, and until the White majority demographically dissolves...

 Also, as I have also repeatedly declared, despite protestations and aspirations to the contrary, there will be NO significant changes, either in Obomber's governance or in Govt. policy in the second term. There WON'T be a "second-term turn-around." He already got re-elected. He doesn't need you anymore.

Still: If there were going to be ANY sort of transformation, here are the FIRST FIVE THINGS Sir/St. Barry, the Pale, should do to PROVE his reelection will bring the "second-term miracle" which the Obotomized followers proclaim they expect.

If Sir Barry, the Capitulator, wants to conclusively demonstrate that his second term will be REALLY different, what he needs to do TODAY, very first thing, or THIS WEEK at the latest, is:
 1) RELEASE BRADLEY MANNING... Manning's imprisonment should be a bell-weather by which Shamwow's other 2nd term "accomplishments" should be measured. Nothing ELSE he could do would reveal his willingness to respect individual rights of conscience

 2) FIRE ARNE DUNCAN...the Corporatist/Charterist Ed. Sec.,and prove he's not out to bust the teachers' unions and privatize the schools.

3) FIRE Treasury's Banksta-punk/towel-boy Geithner AND his alleged replacement, Erskine Bowles--the Catfood Commissioner--and PROVE he's not going to fuck with entitlements.

 4) ANNOUNCE a cease-fire in Afghanistan and a steady withdrawal schedule.

5) PUT solar technology BACK on the WhiteHouse and on ALL Federal buildings nationally. If none of those are forthcoming, well you can decide what it means.
We could decide on others, substitutes, etc, but any ONE would be a lkandmark, and all five would INDEED signal a change. But no chjange is forthcoming.

After opining in like manner, I was accused today of being a "fundamentalist," by a couple of triumphant Obots:
 "If you were a Latino, a woman, a black person, a gay person, you would know better," one said. "...or a teacher, or a union worker, or someone with an illness and no job, or a parent with a disabled child, or an elder who needs medicare, or..... um, Woody, do you realize that you are being a fundamentalist? You may have different opinions from those who rail on Fox but your style of thinking needs help..."

I was told. 

I am self-evidently NOT a female, a Latino, a Black; you have to take my word that I'm not gay (usual disclaimert included).  BUT I  WAS a teacher, and a union worker, I have a couple of (serious) illnesses, and am retired so have no job, and am an 'elder" with medical needs and who will (probably) need "care" sometime. Shamwow's triumph changes NOTHING for me. But more importantly
  • It changes nothing in the way of Imperial military adventurism. It won't stop any civilians--omen, children, etc--from being slaughtered by US drones in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, or Pakistan. 
  • It changes nothing with regard to further eviscerating the tattered Social Safety Net. 
  • It changes nothing in the power that Wall Street banksters exert, the perqs they accrue, or the bail-outs they expect.
  • It won't REDUCE the influence of parasitical private insurers on your medical coverage. 
  • It won't reduce the wealth/income distribution gap, or reduce the power of the One Percent.
  • It won't prevent further job off-shoring through Trade Agreements  (cue "Great sucking sound").
  • It won't change anything at Gitmo or Bagram or the 'black sites.'
  • It won't change anything in the way the USofA produces energy--"Clean coal" is CROWING today; the Nuke folks are glowing, and the exploiters will drill and spill with impunity, still.
  • It won't repeal the Indefinite Detention clause of the NDAA.
  • It won't change the policy of extra-judicial execution/assassination of citizens without due process.
  • It won't unsign the bill making it possible to detain protestors in the buildings under Secret Service supervision. 
  • It won't repeal the PATRIOT ACT or the myriad OTHER assaults on citizens' civil liberties.
  • It won't even necessarily change the political complexion of the SCROTUS (Dims COULD have prevented seating ALL FOUR of the Opus Deist wing, if they'd possessed even one single cojone among the whole feculent lot.
I'm TOTALLY okay with the fact that Rmoney was thwarted, and that that's the end of his political career. I'm glad the country rejected the cult leader and his Objectivist stooge.

But Remember: Sir Barry promised, during the campaign, to work HARDER to reach "compromises" with the GOPhux on matters that would "piss off his base? Get ready for all that great stuff he promised--cuts to education, Medicaid and Social Security, more drone attacks and bombings in the Middle East, more uncritical support for Israel, more poverty and mass incarceration, more attacks against labor unions and undocumented immigrants, etc., etc. 
Now the electoral dust is settling, there comes the usual, predictable rash of suggestions that our politics is too divisive, and that we need more "national unity."
So I have just a couple of questions for those holding those sentiments, who bemoan the "divisiveness" of politics and claim to want to see more "Unity":

Just exactly WHAT part of the GOPhux agenda would you be willing to cooperate with in the name of "unity"? What part of the Dim/Leftish agenda would you sacrifice?
Tell me what you decide, when I see you at the beach, chers...PAZ!

Monday, November 5, 2012

WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking, Bogus "Reforms,"

 WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking; Bogus "Reforms;" Tennessee; Assisted.

Critical Thinking: All parents would claim they want their kids to think critically...Just not til the little bastids leave home!

Probably the one person who has had the greatest impact on the development of a "radically" critical curriculum in the USofA was Paolo Freire.

Paolo Freire ("Frer-rey") was a Brazilian educator who developed and tested theories of the relations among pedagogy, learning, and social conditions in the barrios and favelas of Rio and other Brazilian cities in the days--beginning in the early 60s--when Brazilian authorities were offering bounties on street kids. The titles of his two earliest publications to see light in the US were "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and "Cultural Action For Freedom," reveal his inclination towards a "liberational" theory of education; both in different ways were landmark (weighty, albeit slender) volumes in the emerging field of critical educational studies and critical pedagogy.  Freire was the point-man.

These were followed by a plethora of further books, articles, institutes, and seminars, as Freire's ideas caught on among guys like Bill Ayers, and Henry Giroux, and Peter McClaren and scores of others.

But what is Freire about? Prof. Shirley Steinberg, an early and ardent acolyte of Freire's from near the begining, produced this video, which is both explanation and testimonial.

My old Curriculum Theory pal, Bill Reynolds, down at Georgia State, found and posted this. It's WELL worth the 15 minutes or so that it occupies.

Seeing Through Paulo's Glasses: Political Clarity, Courage and Humility
Directed and Produced by Dr. Shirley Steinberg, and Dr.Giuliana Cucinelli

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Reform Rubric/Rubbish:I don't know what you know about Race To The Top, the Common Core Curriculum, and the rest of the CorpoRat juking and weaving the Obomber/Duncan Ed. Bureaucracy are trying to pull off, in plain sight, under the rubric of  "modernizing." But a lot of it has to do with the plunge into standardized, corpoRat, test-based schools the purpose of which is the production of complacent, incurious, uncritical, consenting drones. And it is being led, by and large, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested almost 100 MILLION dollars in the corpoRat take-over of public education.

Schooling has ALWAYS contained and conveyed an orthodoxy, but hitherto, regionalisms, and localism, and other, often ethnic variations kept the control more in local hands. The corpoRat "reforms" would virtually erase ANY significant local variations. PLUS they are already huge sumps with which greedy corpoRats already suck BILLIONS of dollars of public money for dubious services:
"The corporate imperative has hijacked the narrative--and the substance of public education. It's about herding teachers and students into obedience.
And money. James Arnold reveals: The June, 2012 Georgia State Board of Education minutes listed over $25,000,000 in state contracts for testing and test development for 2013."
Twenty Five MILLION dollars for TESTING, alone. In Georgia, alone. By the way, do you know what business Neil Bush got into, after Savings & Loans? That's right. Education and testing.
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Tennessee? You Couldn't PAY Me Enough: From the desk of one of the most assiduous critics of all things educationally assinine, Susan Ohanian, here is this account of the indignities and professional humiliations to which teachers in Tennessee must suffer, all the while the number of homeless kids in Tennessee's schools has grown by as mych as 75%.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee saw the number of homeless public school students increase by 74 percent between 2007 and 2010.
That number was well above the national average of 38 percent, but the true number may be even higher.

According to a report from the state Comptroller's office, several neighboring states have a larger percentage of homeless students. That could be a clue that Tennessee's numbers are an undercount.

Also, some districts in Tennessee with high foreclosure and jobless rates did not identify any homeless students.

The comptroller's report says the dramatic increases in Tennessee �" from 6,565 in 2007 to 11,458 in 2010 �" may be a consequence of job losses and the economy. They may also be the result of some school districts' improved efforts to identify homeless students.

But what do the state's and regions major news sources focus on? Teacher evaluation, of course.
I defy you to read this through and try to persuade a young teacher to take a job there.

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Computer-Assisted:I was doing my graduate work in education in the mid-late 80s, when computers were still pretty much new technologies both in the university and in the classroom. I wrote my dissertation on an Apple IIe. I was an early and enthusiastic flame warrior on Use-Net. I finished ALL my degrees before there were computers able to scan millions of documents in three-tenths of a sentence. I walked to school. Barefoot. Up hill. Both ways.

One noted educational critic said (at the time, in the 80s) he'd rather have a working automatic transmission on his desk than a computer, that the transmission would be a more useful pedagogical tool.

So we learn, now, that the measurable effects of using computer-assisted research are evanescent.
The teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work.
But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”
According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up.
While I am unsure precisely what is meant by the term "digital literacy skills," I do not doubt the finding about the attention span.

Dr. Woody's Fascinating Factoids: The Pain of Algebra

Fewer school subjects in the modern curriculum elicit as much discomfort from most students that ALGEBRA!!!!
And, though they don't know it, their mental discomfort is an echo, in a far far different context, from what horrifying shouts, bellows, and even screams of PAIN which were associated directly with the word "ALGEBRA!"
when it first appeared in somewhat different form on signs hanging over doorways on London's streets sometime toward the end of the 15th century.
of course, is an Arabic term, and it was most meaningful when associated with an ancient Arab term which together described the "science of completing and equilibration." That title is drawn from an ancient Arabic book probably composed some time in around the 10 Century, Common Era, in Bagdhad by an eminent scholar, mathematician, and philosopher named Al Khwarizmi.

I can't do justice to the Arabic, but here is whole book title translated from Arabic into the Latinate script:
al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala
In English: The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion [or Restoring] and Balancing.

This book is an explanation of the solution to quadratic and linear equations of six varieties. Al-jabr refers to the process of moving a subtracted quantity to the other side of an equation; al-muqabala involves subtracting equal quantities from both sides of an equation. Hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala was translated into Latin in 1140 as Liber algebrae et almucabala, from which we have the word "algebra" for the whole process.

Incidentally, Al Khwarizmi's name reappears in our contemporary technical vocabulary in the increasingly common English word "algorithm."

Al-Khwarizmi's al-jabr looks NOTHING like our algebra.
The  book is written entirely in prose, and includes none of the abstractions with which we are familiar in our current understandings or algebraic practices. Here is an example:
If the instance be, 'ten and thing to be multiplied by thing less ten,' then this is the same as 'if it were said thing and ten by thing less ten. You say, therefore, thing multiplied by thing is a square positive; and ten by thing is ten things positive; and minus ten by thing is ten things negative. You now remove the positive by the negative, then there only remains a square. Minus ten multiplied by ten is a hundred, to be subtracted from the square. This, therefore, altogether, is a square less a hundred dirhems. (Source: HERE)
In such forms, the Arab flowering across the southern Mediterranean during the European "Dark Ages" preserved much of the knowledge of the Ancients of Greece and Rome and swept them up onto European soil in Spain and later in France where they provided the intellectual power of the Renaissance.  Indeed, it may be projection on my part, but I like to think I can hear echoes of Latin and Greek in the Arabic term "al-muqabala."

(Aside: Back during George The First's Gulf War, in the midst of a lot of Arab-bashing and jingoism, I heard part of a debate between some fat, fatuous, toffey Brit and Edward Said, the now deceased, but justly famed Palestinian scholar in which, in reply to the Brit's observation about the deficiencies of Arab culture, Said reminded the fellow that "we Arabs were solving quadratic equations while your ancestors were still painting themselves blue to make it rain"...A fair point, I thought...but I digress...)

Back to England and the 15th Century, and the screams emanating from the doors over which hung the sign reminiscent of "ALGEBRA!"

The Brits of the time apparently were literalists when it came to "foreign" words, and they took "ALGEBRA!" (SCREEEEAM!) at it's word, so to speak. The Arab term referring to completing/restoring, "al jabr," they applied to the necessary art of BONE-SETTING--that is, literally, RESTORING the broken bone to it's former place. This, in an age without anesthetics of any kind, must have been an EXCRUCIATING experience.

Perhaps as bad as the pain of considering two trains leaving different cities at different times at different rates of speed, and predicting where and when they'll collide...AIIIEEEEEE!


Education Beat: Week #3

As Goes California...:
California is the land where democracy's dreams are tried, and often found wanting.

This was particularly true of the Progressive-era, pro-democracy expedient of the Initiative. It was supposed to be an expedient by which the voice of the people could find its way onto the ballot. And it worked okay for a while.

Until, that is, the Owners/Oners/Oligarchs figured out that, through astro-turf organizations, they could play the roles of citizens and get onto the ballot measures which they couldn't get through the legislature, but could cozen, manipulate, bribe, or intimidate the yokels into supporting, if they spent enough money.

As every election cycle, the Cal ballot is replete with measures, ranging from mandatory labeling of GMOs, ending the death penalty and three-strikes sentencing, and this year, the Billionaire's Bill of Rights. HERE is a link to a "Progressive's Ballot Guide for the California Initiative ballot. And here is an intelligent, reasonable video explaining two important measures. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Mungo Play PeeWee Football!
Mungo get brains rattled, early and often.. Dr. Woody think--if must play "football" at all--nobody should play "organized" tackle football before 16th birthday. And should stop after FIRST concussion.

Seriously. I saw a foto the other week of an 8th grader who was ALREADY 6'5" and 250 lbs dreessed out in helmet and pads to take on OTHER 8th graders of the standard, 5'6, 100-125 pound variety. This report from the NYTimes highlights what are the (hopefully unintended) consequences of submitting pre-teens to repeated, concussive head trauma.
It took just one play on Sept. 15 to suggest the game between the Southbridge Pop Warner pee wees and their rivals, the Tantasqua Braves, could mean trouble. Two Tantasqua players were hit so hard that their coach pulled them off the field. An emergency medical technician on the sidelines evaluated the boys, grew worried that they might have concussions, and had them take their pads off.
The life spans of life-long foot-ball players is more fraught with disabling injuries, and on the whole, is a lot shorter, than that of non-ballers.

(RIP, Mungo.)
Old News: Three Stooges

This is an older (2009) essay, from Black Agenda Report, on the apparently (allegedly) inadvertent, but surprisingly similar projects begun at the beginning of the Obomber regime to further standardize and corporatize America's schools. A decade ago,
Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three grown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”
...Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools ... Even now (2009), the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”
Sharpton and Gingrich fare no better, of course.
But the truly fascinating thing is that, along with Billionaire meddler Bill Gates (whose ulterior motives for an IT-based curriculum mainly supplied by Microsoft SHOULD make him toxic), between them, ALL the high-profile school/teacher CorpoRat school-reform and charter school advocates have exactly ZERO HOURS teaching in ANY classroom ANYWHERE ON FUCKING EARTH!@
This is one of those remarkable RSA videos in which the pen traces and expands the words of the speaker. If you're unfamiliar, either with the work of Robinson, or with the genius of these RSA illustrators, take a seat and get ready for a treat.

This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award. For more information on Sir Ken's work visit:

Friday, October 26, 2012

WikiLeaks: The Detainee Policies.

Julian Assange, embedded in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and the rest of those mischievous sprites at WikiLeaks have gone done stuck another grubby thumb in the eye of the National Security State. Beginning on Oct. 25, and continuing intermittently, the minions of Assange plan to go public with revelations culled from US Dept. of Defense publications, memoranda, and internal communications dealing with the proper, as well as the "acceptable," ways and means of managing captives from war-zones where no "war" has been declared.

 The documents are "more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody," according to a Wikileaks press release circulating on the web. The first of these include the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual from Camp Delta, also known as Guantanamo, SOP draft manuals from Camp Bucca in Iraq, a MOU (Memo of Understanding) on transferring detainees among UK, US, and Australian authorities, and seven other documents, all from the year 2004, which index the concerns of the military bureaucrats with respect to the safe, sanitary, disciplined warehousing of indigenous folks captured by or turned over to "Allied" forces in Iraq. The Camp Delta SOP forbids using, or even possessing, "sap gloves," which are gloves weighted with lead shot, among other things; what's forbidden is often revealing.

One particularly interesting document procured by the Wikileaks folks is this "References for urban operations manual." This fascinating, 11-page document apparently catalogues  publications concerning the "urban operations" in Iraq in some indistinguishable time period (it was created in April, 2004), in which there is reported to be information about the conduct of such operations as part of OIF ("Operation Iraqi Freedom," the successor to the short-lived "Operation Iraqi Liberation, or "OIL," which briefly preceded it in 2003).

Sources listed include everything from the official logs of Marine units engaged in 'urban operations' in Iraq (which at that period might have included Faloujah) to a WaPost piece by Tom Ricks titled "Ruses, Ambushes, and Other Guerilla Tactics, from March 2003. There are approximately 30 entries per page; at eleven pages, that's probably well over 300 stories from sources around the globe and from sources including The Nation and Counter-punch, as well as Al Jazeera, and the Asia Times.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Education Beat--#2

The Education Beat--Week #2 by John Konopak, Ph.D. (LSU, 1989, Education)
Strike Three...But NOT Out.

Against the backdrop of the not entirely successful (to put it kindly) Chicago school strike last month, youthful Chicago education critric/music producer/school activist Luis Gabriel Aguilera composed the following, self-published essay which he posted widely, but which hasn't found a publisher yet. Aguilera, in his own words, "connects the dots as to why current "education reform" is not working in Chicago and elsewhere and suggests possible solutions."
Don’t be fooled, the strike in Chicago wasn’t just about teachers fighting over salary increases. No, this strike was a backlash to the diverse abuses that have been ongoing and increasing over the years from a disastrous Chicago Public Schools central office micromanaging culture that today permeates throughout the district, coupled with close and faraway chieftains simply calling the wrong shots on education reform.
He sees not teachers,a and not parents, but the central Administration as the bad guys in the piece.

Keeping the World Flat:

Last weekend, the well-known Moustache of Mediocrity, Tom Friedman, beshat the pages of the NYTimes with a column on "Obama's secret 'successes,' " among which he enumerated the Shamwow/Arne Duncan "Race To The Top" plan, a thinly disguised bribery/extortion plot by the CorpoRats to assume control (and the HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars spent) in schools.
The purpose of Race to the Top, Secretary Duncan explained to me, was basically to say that if we now live in a world where every good high-wage job requires more skill, we need to get as many of our schools as possible educating their students “to college- and career-ready standards,” measured against the best in the world, because that is whom our kids will be competing against. “We have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan argues. “The path to the middle class today runs straight through the classroom.”
Strangely, the path also leads to MORE regimentation of the school and the curriculum (Duncan used to favor Military-academy style pedagogy for the Underclasses when he ran things in Chicago), increased influence of CorpoRats in the Classrooms, and the destruction of (you guessed it) Teachers' Unions.

Voting On Charters:
Charters on the ballot in Wash. St.--a policy analysis...
Voters in Washington State--one of those which adopted the Progressive-era expedient originally designed to attack the power of the Oligarchs with grass-roots activism, via the "initiative" process, but which was subsequently perverted and usurped by "astro-turf" Corporat interests--will face the prospect of ratifying or defeating a Corporat-sponsored measure that would create a "separate, and unequal" system of Charter schools which would operate in effect independently of the rest of Washington's schjools. U-Dub professor and school policy wonk Dr. Wayne Au analyses the proposals and outlines his objections in a worst-case scenario that is pretty chilling:
An out-of-state charter management organization (CMO) establishes non-profit status/operations in WA State;
This CMO works with a slim majority of teachers (or parents) to convert a high performing school or a low performing school to a charter, and they do so with no notification to the other teachers or parents;
The appointed state commission on charters approves the charter and conversion;
The out-of-state CMO selects its own charter school board to oversee its charter school;
Parents and students at the newly converted charter school have to make a decision about either dispersing to other schools or remaining at the new charter;
The CMO, perhaps backed by real estate investors or with real estate investors selected for the charter school board, purchases the converted school at below market value;
The CMO goes bankrupt or there is fiscal mismanagement or there are other ethical/legal issues (all of which have happened elsewhere) and the converted charter closes OR the charter school does not show academic improvement and is eventually closed as a “failed” school. Either way the now-closed building (purchased at below market value) is sold to developers at a profit to the real estate investors (Under I-1240, the only money that has to be returned to the district is that which they got from the students. All other monies return to outside funders. If outside monies purchased the school “for” the charter, then they get their money – i.e. their purchase – back). Parents, teachers, and students from the closed school have absolutely no recourse because the appointed charter school board has been disbanded due to failure. And I’m not sure if it would be “worse” if this happened to a lower or a HIGHER achieving school.
Understanding this is the WORST-CASE, there is still a LOT of room for screw-ups of only SLIGHTLY less severity. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Towards A More Global Vision
Lest you reach this point and are depressed by the nearly unrelieved gloom attending most discussions of schooling in the USofA, we leave you this week with this optimistic encomium for re-imagined schools, curricula, and teaching profession about Prof. Andy Hargreaves, a visionary 'ed leadership' guru at Boston College.
Hargreaves' book, The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence (Corwin Press 2012), co-authored with Dennis Shirley, reveals the key qualities behind the high performance of some of the world's top educational systems: Singapore, Finland and Canada. His most recent book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (Teacher's College Press 2012), co-authored with international reform expert Michael Fullan, sets out a clear vision as to how to achieve high return from all teachers and teaching. Andy Hargreaves is the Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education at Boston College. He studies and advises on high performance in schools and educational systems around the world.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

WWH/CJE Soap Box: The National Skinner Box

I know I've trod some of this ground before, but the meme keeps cropping up, and it needs to be redressed...
This "pious presidential bullshit" prose just frosts my goddam ass!
I don't care if it is the sainted FDR. It's still blaming the victims, period.
People don't "tolerate the growth of private fucking power!" 
They don't "let" the oligarchs and aristos buy up their fucking country. They don't sell off their Congresscritters to the highest bidders. They don't put business lackeys in important regulatory positions for vital industries and products.
The PEOPLE don't start wars, don't invade harmless nations for wealth or influence. 

All those things happen, of course; but the people have no fucking CHOICE in the matter.
The Owners, Oners, and Oligarchs didn't waltz in and blithely announce they were taking over, didn't say: Here, let's vote on it. They just DID it.

And for all their fatuous flap-jowling, the "sainted" leaders of their polis--OUR polis--don't try to stop it; they don't DARE!
So it's shoved down their/our throats--we are induced to swallow it like broccoli at the familial table--as "the price of liberty" or "good for the economy," or "healthy for their kids," or some other happy horse-shit, the net result of which is that the CorpoRats consolidate power and fuck the people.
That's blaming the victims...
The USer people have been citizens of an ever-increasingly more pervasive, ubiquitous, complex, and persuasive Skinner box since even BEFORE BF Skinner, back in the Teens of the last Century when Edward Bernays effectively coimbined the efficiency, ends-justify-means instrumental 'rationality' of industrial Taylorism, the bare-bones behaviorism of Pavlov, and the sexually founded psychology of his old uncle Sigmund, and from all that created "Public Relations," a benign sounding euphemism for the manipulations, distortions, and disfigurations of truth in the service of Capital and the manufacture of consent to its voracious, destructive, immanently contradicted demands.

Are you straight? Gay? Bi? When did you choose?

Answer, I believe, is: You didn't choose. It always just was. Like your language. 
People haven't had meaningful choices in the public debate since the 30s, at least. It's been settled. It's in the books. And it's what people believe, in overwhelming numbers. They/we've been trained to see it only one way. They/we've been rewarded for compliance AND punished for resistance. They/we're entirely immersed in an artificial, voyeuristic, saturated media environment where their/our every emotion, every thought, every experience is mediated, interfered with, interrupted by carefully designed stimulus/response cues. 
Do lab rats have choice?
Once a dog is trained, it doesn't HAVE to think when you tell it to sit. It just sits. We're all trained mutts, under the whip of Charles Taylor's technical, ends-justify-means morality of efficiency, Pavlov's barbarous behaviorism, and Freud's sexual psycho-pathology.
Welcome to "The Biggest Skinner Box in history: the boundaries are kept by the flickering, blue screens, everywhere.

Not only every TV show, but every app on your IPod/notebook/smart fone is another Skinnerian doggie treat rewarding you for NOT stamping the infernal machine into toxic scrap and turning your justified rage into the streets and at the whited sepulchres of Capital.
Woof, woof, hippies!