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.)