Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The "Data Driven" Nightmare Imposed by the Duncan Regime in the US DOE.

When you base policy on "data" and discount "soft" information such as personal testimony, the hallmark of the Duncan Regime in the US Department of Education, you can produce a policy disaster of epic proportions. Why? Because data can be easily manipulated by self-interested parties. No better example of this can be found than in the sub prime mortgage crisis where Moody's and Standard and Poors gave triple A ratings to bundled mortgages, each of which, on its own, was in grave danger of foreclosure. The same kind of "cooking the books" is taking place in education policy where charter schools are extolled as producing superior test results to public schools, and given preferential treatment, even though they expel or push out students who don't test well.
If you aren't on the ground, taking testimony about what the statistics hide as well as what they reveal, you will never know when your policies end up doing far more harm than good.
Failure to do that is why Arne Duncan is likely to be remembered as the worst Secretary of Education in US History, and the Presidency of Barack Obama as nightmare of false homes and shattered dreams for America's teachers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Educational Malpractice and the Tragedy of America's Teachers

Someday, though I don't exactly know when or how, there will be a full account of the tragedy of America's teachers being forced to commit educational malpractice and deciding between keeping the jobs they need to feed their families and jeopardizing the educational well being and emotional health of the children they teach.
Based on the messages and emails I have received daily since the founding of BATS,as well as book's like Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" this group may well encompasses millions of teachers. This malpractice consists, among other things, of administering multiple tests to children as low as Pre-K, pushing play out of the classroom, cancelling recess for test prep, putting up Data Walls which humiliate students and foster unhealthy competition; failing students for writing essays which do not conform to a script; administering developmentally inappropriate tests to ELL and Special Needs students; doing "close reading" of texts which should be enjoyed or viewed in historical context; denying students access to art, music and sports because they didn't do well on tests; imposing Common Core aligned curricula without dissent even when they are less effective the curricula they replaced.
The sum total of these measures are test mad, creativity deprived, play impaired, and joyless classrooms which break students spirits at an early age.
Teachers are told their jobs depend on imposing these measures. Some resist and are fired, many retire, many feign compliance and try to subvert, but many end of implementing these policies with damaged consciences and broken hearts. More than a few end up going on medication,
What is taking place in our schools is the anti-thesis of Freedom. It has the stench of the authoritarianism that marks the worst dictatorships.
We have to stop it, reverse it, shut it down.
Free the Teachers.
Free the Students.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Short History of Anti-Immigrant Movements in the US

The first wave of anti-immigrant hysteria in the US took place before the Civil War and was directed at Irish Catholic immigrants. It led to the formation of the Know Nothing Party and also sparked mob attacks on Catholic institutions in many northern cities
The second wave of anti- immigrant hysteria took place after the Civil War and was directed at Chinese immigrants. It led to mob violence against Chinese workers, the destruction of Chinese communities in scores of Western towns and the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Acts
The third wave of anti immigrant hysteria took place during and after World War I, largely directed at Southern and Eastern European immigrants. it resulted in the revival of the Ku Klux Klan as an anti immigrant as well as anti-black movement, and resulted in the draconian immigration laws of 1921 and 1924, which sharply reduced immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and made it impossible for millions of people to seek asylum from Nazism after Hitler's rise to power
Now a new wave of anti-immigrant hysteria is rising, largely directed at Latino immigrants. It would be sad and ironic if some of the participants in this crusade are descendants of people who, several generations back, were targets of anti-immigrant hysteria themselves.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Civil Rights, School Reform and the Danger of Weakening Unions

At the turn of the 21st Century, Civil Rights leaders and their liberal suporters were desperate to find some point of access to addressing racial and economic equality  Looking at a grim political landscape due to the Democratic Party's movement to the Right, they decided that education reform was the only strategy that had a chance of securing bi-partisan support because it required no sacrifice on the part of business elites who had achieved an ascendant position in both major parties by the late 90's. The result, beginning with No Child Left Behind, was a national crusade of unprecedented proportions, fully bi-partisan, which still continues. Unfortunately, it has not only failed to achieve the desired results in education, but has seen every other indicator of inequality- from child poverty, to the racial wealth gap, to wage compression, to the concentration of wealth at the top- worsen, not only during the Presidency of George W Bush, but during the ascendancy of Barack Obama.

But liberals and Civil Rights leaders stubbornly cling to school reform and become increasingly desperate to make it work, an understandable if self-destructive act of political stubbornness at a time when no other egalitarian strategy is likely to gain bi partisan support. What they would have to accept is that continuing current School Reform strategies might actually be worse than doing nothing

But there is a further irony which indicates the trap that liberals and Civil Rights leaders have dug for themselves.. The only egalitarian strategy that has a chance of working would be the unionization of the nation's low wage workforce, but that requires strengthening the very trade unions that education reformers decided to undermine and attack!

It is time for a cold hard look by liberals at the failures of School Reform and for them to end their war on America's unions. Unless they want our current march to Plutocracy to succeed so well that all other options are foreclosed.

Football, Violence and the Language of Male Domination

Some of the best times of my youth and well into my 20's took place on a football field. Like many young men who played the game, I needed an outlet for the violence inside me. An outlet that would bring me respect, camaraderie and the friendship of other men, a friendship that crossed racial and cultural barriers more than almost any other activity I was involved in. But though the game required skill and athletic ability,it was still about violence. and my aptitude for it for it derived from the violence implanted in me by parental beatings and scores of childhood fights.

The language that suffused the sport, whether on the field or the locker room, was also violent, and in many cases, had women as its subject. Men were not only challenged and insulted by comparing them to women, but sexual conquests, real and imagined, were a constant subject of bragging and banter. Control over and consumption of women were constant subjects, to the point that when I became politically conscious in my late teens and 20's, I was reduced to silence on the football field, not my normal way of handling situations.

But the point is this. The culture of football, as I experienced it in the 1960's and 1970s, was something that I could easily see spilling over into domestic violence. both because so many of the people who played it well were filled with rage, and because women were so thoroughly objectified by the language almost everyone used. Have things changed so much since then?. I don't think so. It would be interesting to have a tape recorder on in a college or professional football locker room and hear how women are talked about in that setting.

I may be wrong, but if I am right, the effort to deal more forthrightly with domestic violence among football players may be more complicated and difficult than at first meets the eye.

Are Public Schools Focal Points of Failure in A Successful Society?

Many critics of our public schools imply that public education is an ugly center of failure in a largely successful society, However, singling out public schools for failure relative to other spheres of America economic and social life, such as our banking system, housing market, and medical system does not hold up on close scrutiny. Before Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind left teachers and students stressed and demoralized, our public schools may have functioned better and more equitably than those three.
If you say that our public schools didn't function all that well in our poor communities, which is true- ask yourself if they functioned any worse than our banking system, medical care system and housing market in those communities. Just look at banking. In the 1970's and 1980's.the banking system TOTALLY ABANDONED poor and working class communities where check cashing places charging exorbitant rates now serve as substitutes for banks! Perhaps that is the model for education Corporate Reformers have in mind. Or our housing market where tens of millions of families are doubled and tripled up or renting out rooms,while there are more than 13, million abandoned apartments and homes. And for medical care, have you compared life expectancy and infant mortality rates by race and class?.
We, in education, can learn a lot-- about failure and inequality-- by looking at banking, housing and medical care in the US.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stop the Attack on the Nation's Veteran Teachers!

The attack on the nation's veteran teachers- which has taken and continues to take an incredible toll on the mental and physical health of hundreds of thousands of people- is something which must be analyzed and exposed no matter whose "ox is gored" and that includes leaders of the nation's teachers unions. All over the nation teachers are being evaluated, micromanaged and rated in ways that are intrusive, humiliating, and demoralizing. Almost everywhere, teachers at the high end of the salary scale are the ones most targeted. Programs billed as necessary to improve the quality of the profession have turned into  cost cutting through humiliation. Administrators target teachers with the highest salaries; elected officials support such purges as an indirect way to cut pension costs. The varied measures chosen to evaluate staff and remove "bad teachers" have also contributed to the "whitening" of the teaching profession, something which has been documented in city and city which has been willing to provide researchers with the data. We now have a teaching force in this nation which is much younger, more unstable and whiter than it was fifteen years ago. And much less able to resist high powered campaigns to privatize public education and make it a profit center for corporate interests, to the detriment of the students and families public schools serve.