Friday, January 31, 2014

A Common Core Rap

Notorious Phd's Common Core Rap

My Core's not common,
Neither's my brain,
These tests they're giving
Drive me insane
My parents hate them,
My teachers too,
Someone was looking
For students to screw
To make them helpless
To make them fail
To get them ready
For Walmart or jail
But I'm not ready
To give up this soon
My parents taught me
To shoot for the moon
So I won't settle
For second best
It's time to remove
All Common Core tests

"School Choice" Is Not only About Charters and Vouchers

Where are all the advocates of "school choice" when inner city parents and students organize in defense of their neighborhood schools threatened with closing, as they have done in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and now Newark? Somehow, they only mobilize when inner parents want charters or vouchers. They have no problem with Mayors and Governors shutting down public schools that have been community institutions for decades over the protests of principals, teachers, and parents, and even suspending principals for speaking out as Chris Christie's hand picked Superintendent Cami Anderson has done in Newark.

This is rank hypocrisy

If you are going to support "school choice" you should also support the right of parents to attend well funded local public schools which have had a historic relationship to the neighborhoods they are located in. But when your funding comes from hedge fund billionaires, the Waltons or Bill Gates, you are going to only support the kind of "choice" that fits their agenda of privatization and competition.

It is your right to be selective about which community voices you choose to promote.

But standing silent when equally legitimate community voices are suppressed, or even encouraging and participating in their suppression, as Michelle Rhee or New York State Education Commissioner John King have done, give the lie to your pretension to be exponents of the nation's great Civil Rights traditions.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Critique of Shael Suransky Policies at NYC DOE

Corporate Reform versus Child-Centered Progress

by A Guest Columnist

Recent years have seen the growth in influence and power of the corporate reform approach, part of GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement), on education policy-making. It principles include a focus on closing schools, test-based accountability, and building portfolio model district offices. This approach tends to be favored by the elites of both political parties, the wealthy, and well-funded conservative think tanks and is now the status quo. It is often difficult to get behind the headlines and figure out if there is any real evidence supporting this approach. As teachers know a good example is often the best way to bring clarity to a difficult topic… 

The #2 education official in New York City Department of Education during the Black/Walcott era, Shael Suransky, stepped down recently. His tenure serves an excellent example of much that is wrong with the corporate education reform movement and with Bloomberg's implementation of its dogmas. It is clear that if we really care about all children we need to pursue a different approach.
Suransky helped found the Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School in Harlem. The school is now being shuttered, labeled as failing a mere 15 years later. A recent report by the Annenberg Foundation at Brown University revealed that the number of “over the counter” students (that is students who did not receive a spot in any other school through NYC’s match process) sent to Bread and Roses High School increased from 15% to 22% between 2008 and 2011. At the same time the number of overage students at the school increased by 5.3% and the number of students with special needs increased by 7.4%. Unsurprisingly, as the teachers and staff at the school worked to educate students with greater incoming challenges, test scores dropped. As a result the school’s Progress Report grade fell from a “B” to an “F.” This resulted in the school being closed.

Bronx International High School, a screened school for recent immigrants, was opened after Morris High School was shuttered. Suransky was principal of the school for 3 years. The school is one of the hundreds of small schools created under Bloomberg that have been touted as an amazing success story. Once the Department of Education began to measure the college readiness of students in 2011, questions were raised about the school’s success in truly preparing students for college. It scored a “D” on college and readiness the past two years and last year over 94% of the school’s graduates required remediation when they went to college.

Suransky has written that “small schools of choice work best for students, staff, and families.” In fact, the small schools as a whole do not teach the most challenging students. Jennifer Jennings, a professor at New York University, analyzed the differences in student population between Morris High School and the schools that replaced it. She found “lower concentrations of full-time special education students, students qualifying for free lunch, students who were below grade level in reading and math, and English Language Learners.” Specifically in the case of Bronx International High School the data show that, as compared to Morris High School, it served 9% fewer part-time special education students, 15.2% fewer full-time special education students (Bronx International had 0.0% such students), 16% fewer students entering overage, and 45.5% fewer free lunch students. The students at the school also had an average prior attendance rate 10.8% higher and were 10.2% more likely to have passed the 8th grade math exam than the students Morris High School served. Similar to the charter sector, the new small schools selectively choose which children they educate.
In a system as vast as New York City’s shuffling students around can create the illusion of progress. Under Bloomberg a specific group of schools, usually the large comprehensive community high schools, were sent the most challenging students. A different group of schools, usually the new high schools created under Bloomberg, did not serve similar students. The privileged schools were praised and the other schools (and the teachers in the schools) labeled failures. The privileged schools were given extra resources, the other schools were not. Bread and Roses High School got $5,821 per student from the city last year in “Fair Student Funding.” Bronx International got $6,268 per student. The school with the student body entering farther behind was given fewer resources to support them.

Another key component of the corporate reform agenda is holding schools accountable. Suransky became the deputy chancellor in charge of “performance and accountability.” At the release of the 2012-13 school report card grades he told the New York Times “you can see that some schools are beating the odds consistently.” The numbers tell a different story. Since Progress Report grades began seven years ago, only 26 high schools earned an “A” every year. What do these schools tell us about what it took to “beat the odds” under the test-centered grading system? 25 of the 26 schools are screened or selective schools. The focus on test scores has created a perverse system of incentives. Schools don’t want to accept any students with academic challenges, schools don’t want to accept students with special needs, and schools definitely don’t want to accept students who have struggled with school in the past since that would result in lower test scores. Instead of opening all schools to all students a system was created where struggling students are hidden away. Schools that manage to keep struggling students away or transfer them out are said to beat the odds.

The economic and other struggles of students and their families were ignored. In a letter to the New York Times, Suransky wrote “I contest [the] calculation that “schools with wealthier students are three times more likely to get an A than schools serving the poor.” In fact, schools with large concentrations of impoverished students were three and half times less likely to get an “A” than schools serving more privileged students.
The obsession with test scores and short term gains on tests resulted in absurd uses of data. Suransky defended the grades two very similar schools in the Bronx received. One, PS 30, got an “A.” The other, PS 179, got an “F.” He wrote that “the city’s Independent Budget Office [IBO] recently found that progress reports do a better job controlling for student demographics than any other system in the United States.” The report actually said that “the method of calculating the continuous metrics on which final progress report scores are based may not fully control for confounding variables. All other things being equal, a school with a higher percentage of black and Hispanic students or special education students is likely to have lower performance and progress scores than other schools. (page 12)”

Based on math test scores at the two schools he wrote that the “difference in student progress is huge and has great consequences for students’ chances of graduating ready for college, justifying the schools’ respective grades.” Looking beyond the results on a single test in a single year the data do not support this argument. In 2 of the 3 prior years students at the F-rated school had a higher Math proficiency average score than the students at the A-rated school.  In 2 out of the 3 prior years, the F-rated school had a higher % of students scoring a level 3 or 4 on Math than the A-rated school. Looking at the same math test data broken down by grade level the F-rated school had a higher % of 3rd grade students scoring a level 3 or 4. The F-rated school also had a higher % of students scoring at levels 2, 3, or 4 in both 3rd and 4th grades.
The data did not support grading PS 30 an “A” and PS 179 an “F.” The only significant difference was PS 30’s growth for 5th graders. But to quote the IBO report the “student progress sub-score is less stable from year to year” than other elements of the Progress Reports (page 7). Predictions of “great consequences” for “students’ graduating ready for college” were not supported by a wider look at the available evidence.
Other factors important to the quality of a school, such as the rate at which students are suspended or the rate at which teachers are retained, show that PS 179, the F-rated school, came out ahead of PS 30, the A-rated school. The school rated as failing suspended many fewer students than the “A” school. The school rated as failing retained more of their teachers than the “A” school. Student suspension rate: PS 179= 1% in 2008-09 and 4% in 2009-10. PS 30=11% in 2008-09 and 5% in 2009-10.Teacher turnover rate: PS 179=12% in 2008-09 and 14% in 2009-10. PS 30=21% in 2008-09 and 18% in 2009-10.

These two schools provided evidence that the city’s grading scheme penalized educators who teach students with special needs. PS 179 educated 5% more students with special needs than PS 30 (25.7% as compared to 20.7%). For this PS 179 was rewarded by the city with an “F.” Random fluctuation in test scores from a single year is certainly not sufficient justification for an “F” grade. In fact since the letter the F-rated school proceeded to get an “A” in 2011-12 and a “B” in 2012-13. The A-rated school got a “B” in 2011-12 and a “B” in 2012-13 (with an “F” in the performance subcategory).

In addition to the questionable use of data, Suransky’s office at Tweed failed to develop a curriculum for teachers to support the roll-out of the Common Core. Instead schools were given lists of materials to order that often turned out to be poorly designed test prep workbooks that are full of errors. Teachers in New York City are still waiting for a complete curriculum that is rigorous and engaging for students and that includes supports and interventions for students who are currently below grade level in literacy or numeracy skills.  

The path forward is clear: The focus must return to supporting the work of teachers in the classroom. Through rich curriculum, professional development, and expanded student support services all of New York City’s children can have access to a great education. The data games and the testing obsession must end. A child-centered collaborative approach to improving education for every single child in the city must begin.

The Obama Administration's "Scorched Earth Policy" for Urban Schools

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education "Scorched Earth" policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Program for Urban Schools- Do Mayoral Candidates in Your City Support These?

1. Stop School Closings Immediately- Fix Troubled Schools Don't Close Them.
2. End all Contracts with Teacher of America.
3. Three year moratorium on new Charter Schools. Evaluate existing ones.
4. Make Recess Sacred! No test prep during recess or physical education.
5. Fund Pre-K and After School Programs- Schools in High Needs Communities should be Open 6 AM to 9 PM.
6. Cut Testing to fund arts, sports, school counselors and school libraries.
7. Open schools to the community for meetings and public events. Make parents and family members welcome in schools
8. Encourage community history and culturally appropriate pedagogy.
9. Create incentives to encourage talented veteran teachers and principals to work in high needs schools, and live in the communities they teach in.

Why The Democratic Party Can Longer Be Relied Upon to Defend Public Education

The Democratic Party, at its top levels, is mired in a web of corruption and insider dealing when it comes to the "growth areas" of Predatory School Reform- charter schools, on line learning, educational technology, test production. This is one important reason why Arne Duncan was, and still is, the perfect Secretary of Education for Barack Obama. In the face of the profits to be made and the careers to be built in these areas, by key contributors to the Democratic Party, and in some case, by family members of Democratic elected officials, if not the officials themselves, the voice of mere teachers counts for very little. We now face two parties, at the national level, which support the dismantling and selling off of our public school systems- albeit in different ways. That is why what has happened in New York State- where a Democratic anti-testing Mayor was elected in NYC, and where Republicans in the legislature are taking the lead in fighting Common Core and excessive testing in local schools- is so refreshing. The only way to save public education from profiteering as well as actual dismantling, is to create grass roots movements that have influence in both parties. Depending on the Democratic Party alone to defend public education is a losing strategy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why BATS Fight the Common Core

CCSS- which I have renamed Common Core Stealth Standards because of how they have been introduced- should be treated as fruit of the poisoned tree. Given the undemocratic manner in which they were developed, rushed through legislatures, and are currently being implemented, teachers and parents should respond to them with the utmost wariness and suspicion. This is ultimate Legislating by the One Percent- with Bill Gates in the lead. Curriculum should be developed from the bottom up, by teachers, not from the top down, and should be implemented only after a long trial period where there is true collaboration and freedom of discussion. Can anyone seriously say there has been collaboration and freedom of discussion associated with Common Core? It has been a forced march marked by bribery and intimidation. That's why BATS put "End Federal Support for Common Core" as the first demand of our March on Washington. The push for Common Core epitomizes the elitist, undemocratic forces reshaping- and undermining- public education in the US. Undermining it, deconstructing it, and ultimately stopping it is not only an important step in pushing back the TEST MACHINE, it is an important step toward revitalizing public education and restoring democratic participation to public education discourse.

Ten Demands of the BATS Teachers March on Washington on July 28, 2014

1. End all federal support for Common Core Standards.
2. End all federal grants that require teacher and school ratings based on student scores; end high stakes testing.
3. End federal incentives to close and privatize community schools and stop preferring charter schools over public schools.
4. Insist on high quality teacher-developed curriculum based upon knowledge of child development, rather than narrow, top down, test-based standards.
5. Replace Arne Duncan with a lifetime public educator, and require that veteran public educators have majority representation on Education Committees.
6. Promote equity and adequate funding of all public schools for all students; with appropriate class size for all students.
7. Ban all data sharing without parental and school district permission, with full disclosure about collection and sharing for informed consent.
8. Enact legislation that calls for all schools with public funds to operate with transparency and protect the free speech rights of teachers, principals, students and parents.
9. End ties to Teach for America, and support mentoring for new teachers as career professionals.
10. Restore the federal rights of children with special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and protect the needs of English language learners.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sit and Stare Policies for Students Who Refuse Tests in New York State.

I am not sure if this is a policy that is being encouraged by the NY State Education Department, but at least 10 School Districts that I know of in Long Island and Upstate NY require that any child who refuses to take a state test, including those as young as third grade, must sit in the room with students taking the tests and stare at the blackboard for the entire time of the test. They are not allowed to read, not allowed to draw, not allow to use computers. This punitive approach to test refusal has not been challenged in the courts... yet, but you can be sure it will be. It epitomizes the atmosphere of intimidation and coercion that surrounds high stakes testing in New York State, especially since the tests have been aligned with Common Core Standards.

The False Prophets of School Reform

It is astonishing to see people who have never taught, or have taught a few years and left, become the major forces shaping education in the United States.. They are guided by a policy ethos,which, if you were describing it in biblical terms, would be regarded as False Idolatry. While holding the human skills great teaching involves in contempt, they worship Data, Quality Control and Top Down Management, turning schools into caricatures of the early 20th century factories Charlie Chaplin portrayed in "Modern Times." Their soul crushing regimen can be found in every state in the union, driving the best teachers out of the profession, squeezing the creativity and joy out of children, pushing families with resources to abandon public education. You don't have to be a prophet to fight this; but it is precisely the kind of forced march to disaster, and worship of false gods, that our greatest prophets warned against.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Where Predatory School Reform Reveals its Ugliest Face- School Closings and the Common Core Standards

If you want to see the ugly authoritarian impulse that lies at the heart of Predatory School Reform, and the total disrespect for teachers, school administrators, parents, students it embodies- take a look at two phenomena- the closing of allegedly "failing" schools in urban centers throughout the nation, and the sudden, stealth like imposition of the Common Core Standards in 45 states. Most journalists, and even education scholars have not connected these two policies, because the opposition to the first has come largely from Black and Latino parents, teachers and students in large cities, and the opposition to the second has come from predominantly white parents, teachers and students in small towns and suburbs, but in each instance, you have top down policies created by national elites that have been imposed with shocking and brutal suddenness. Worse yet, the voices of people at the local level who questions these policies have not only been disregarded, they have been treated with paternalistic contempt by those imposing the policies as well key figures responsible for creating them such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Vulture Philanthropist Blll Gates.

Three remarks by Secretary of Education embody the smug elitism at the hear of the Predatory School Reform world view - his comment that "Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that happened to the schools of New Orleans," his suggestion that opposition to Common Core was coming from "white suburban mothers who discovered that their kids aren't that smart" and his most recent comment that "most teachers come from the bottom of the academic barrel."

These remarks, and comparable comments from the likes of Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, translate right down to policy implementation. Just get a hold of videos of the Common Core hearings in New York State and look at the smug faces of School Commissioner John King and Regents Chair Merryl Tisch in the face of the most eloquent testimony from parents, teachers and students on the damage done by the Core. Or look at video's of Chicago or Philadelphia School Board hearings on school closings and see the same contempt and indifference on the faces of public officials there. 

And finally look at yesterday's suspension of 4 Newark Principals and one PTA President by Newark School Czar Cami Anderson for speaking out against school closings in that city.

The people fighting School Closings, and the people fighting Common Core may not always look like on another, live in the same areas, or have the same past political affiliations, but they they are fighting the same battle against the same enemies- Predatory Reformers who making a mockery of local control of public schools and our best democratic traditions..

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why the Term "School Reform" Has Lost Its Luster

The term "School Reformer" was once honorable or hopeful. No more. Now, the associations with those two words are so profoundly negative that most people, other than ambitious politicians, can no longer use them without choking. To me "School Reform" now is fatally undermined by policies that lead to child and teacher abuse on the one hand, and profiteering and corruption on the other. So when an arm of government sets up a "School Reform Commission" I am geared up to expect a chain of disasters- school closings, test based teacher evaluations, the proliferation of unregulated charter schools, and the forced imposition of the Common Core Standards. Anyone who uses the term in my presence is going to find themselves in an argument and will not be very happy at the result.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Notes on the Testing Catastrophe in New York State

Policies Which Create Massive Stress in New York Schools
(Notes for a Talk to Southampton Democratic Club)

A.P.P.R- requiring that all teachers in the state must be evaluated with 40 percent of their evaluation coming from student test scores.
Requiring that teachers rated “low performing” two years running must be removed.
Alignment of Tests; many already burdensome (6 days of testing for 3rd graders) to Common Core Standards
Scoring of such tests according to a standard that virtually guaranteed that almost ¾ of students in the state will fail
Closing of schools rated as persistently low performing, and removal of 50 percent of their teaching and administrative staffs
Replacement of closed schools with new schools, with preference given to charter schools

Sharing of student data without parental permission by a company called InBloom.

All of these, other than the scoring of the tests, and the data sharing, were conditions of receiving Race to the Top Money from the Federal government. However the speed with which they were introduced were unique to New York State, the result of the top down manner which they were introduced to the legislature by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the my way or the highway approach to implementation of the New York State Education Department, led by Commissioner John King, and Regents Chair Merryl Ticsch who are now widely despised by teachers and parents in New York state

Symptoms of the Test Catastrophe in New York State
Widespread demoralization  among teachers, leading to many to be treated for depression and anxiety. In Upstate New York there is now a medical condition known as the APPR Flu
Retirement or departure of some of the state’s best veteran teachers who feel they are being micromanaged and forced to commit educational malpractice
Pushing out of creative instruction for test prep as teacher fear for their jobs
Cutting of arts, music, spots and school trips to pay for tests or make sure kids perform well on them
Students starting to hate school because all they do is prepare for tests
And, with the imposition of Common Core Aligned tests
Humiliation, and some would say actual abuse of special needs and ELL students as they are forced to take tests that are developmentally inappropriate for them.
Teachers forced to abandon best practices to teach to a Curriculum that has never been field tested, leaving large groups of students demoralized, confused, and in some cases, totally alienated from school
Declaration of 70 percent of the students as “failing” upwards of 90 percent in high poverty districts.

The Results- An Uprising
The largest parental test revolt in US, history, with more than 10,000 families in the state opting out their Children last April. It should be five times that size this coming April
A massive statewide movement against the Common Core Standards with participants who cross the political spectrum
Demands for the removal of New York State Education Commissioner John King and New York Regents Chair Merryl Tisch

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

First Draft of New York Teachers Petition Refusing Merit Pay

First Draft of Teachers Petition Refusing Merit Pay

As public school teachers in the State of New York we categorically reject Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to give merit pay for teachers rated “Highly Effective” on the State’s flawed teacher evaluation system. We oppose this not only because merit pay creates a competitive atmosphere in schools where there should be collaboration, but because it will increase the emphasis on testing in schools already filled with stress, discriminate against teachers who work with ELL students, Special Needs Students and Students who live in poverty, and lead to an exodus of experienced teachers from high poverty districts. As professionals dedicated to serving all our students, and to reducing the stranglehold of standardized testing on the schools of New York state, we will not only protest against the imposition of merit pay, but refuse any merit increment we are offered based on the junk science teacher evaluations used by the state. 
This is our commitment, and our promise
Name School District

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Not All Conservatives Hate Unions and Support School Privatization!

Throw Away Your Stereoptypes-- A Reminder from NY Teacher Patty Dobrasz Munnikheysen that Not All Conservatives Are Advocates of School Privatization!

There are MANY, MANY of us conservatives that are pro-union, anti-core, anti-h
igh stakes tests. We only see varied politics as the cause of CC/high stakes tests AND we see politicians as the ticket to changing things regardless of which party pushes and proposes the change. Key is that there is ignorance on both sides and to we need to counter it with whomever will push our causes. I only see one side here and it is righteousness for kids & teachers...whomever supports our cause I support although I am a conservative at heart. Right is right, wrong is wrong.

Hate charters, ect...drains the life out of public schools, creates more poverty. Hate TFA infecting public schools. I detest uneducated, presumptuous generalizations about education from arm chair quarterbacks- the main source regardless of party affiliation behind the education deform. I should add I am a science teacher of 22 yrs, union member and most importantly a Christian that believes that God has the final word on this. He cares deeply for kids. Micah 6:8 is my war cry and reflects God's heartbeat

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Educator's Reflections on School Segregation and the Enduring Power of Race in Louisiana

Still think we live in a post-racial society? Recent events in Louisiana provide some of the most convincing evidence of the continued significance of race in our society. Defenders of Phil Robertson-star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty-claim the controversial comments made by the patriarch of the family was not about race, but about freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Robertson’s comments-which were defended explicitly by loyal viewers, and implicitly by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal-must be placed within the appropriate context. There is mounting evidence that Robertson is not the only one in Louisiana (or the country for that matter) longing for the days when the boundaries between whites and blacks were more clearly defined. The proposal by predominately white residents in South Baton Rouge to secede is not about race, so say proponents of the initiative. In Louisiana, where prison rodeos are popular public gathering places, and the school-to-prison pipeline is moving hundreds of thousands of largely young black males from the classrooms to cells more efficiently than in any other state in the union, very few things are said to be about race. In the colorblind era comments such as those uttered by Robertson are supposed to be met with collective outrage, and summarily rebuked. Not only were Robertson’s comments defended as not being racists; anyone who suggested otherwise was accused of race baiting. Under what circumstances is this even plausible? First, it is clear that there are those among us who harbor racial prejudice towards others and are not ashamed about sharing their feelings. More commonly, policies and practices rooted in racial prejudices are stripped of all overt references to race. However, the absence of overt racial language does not mean race is insignificant. A review of the official web page for the creation of the City of St. George reveals that the alleged genesis of the movement was a desire to establish a separate school system. Every parent wants the best educational opportunities for his or her child so on the surface the issue appears race-neutral. However, like many school districts throughout the nation, the East Baton Rouge School District has suffered from the retreat-if not wholesale abandonment-of public education in this country, leaving largely poor and minority children of color in under-resourced schools. The data speak for themselves. Louisiana has some of the worst schools in the nation, and schools in the City of Baton Rouge are no exception. The observed educational shortcomings did not come about by accident in Baton Rouge or in the many other under-performing schools in the US. Baton Rouge had one of the longest running court battles concerning desegregation in the nation. Many residents fought long and hard to keep blacks and whites in separate educational facilities. Educational institutions-like other core social institutions-have been used to incorporate some groups into mainstream society, and to marginalize and subjugate other groups. A majority of students in the East Baton Rouge School District, particularly in the under-resourced schools are poor and black, and their families have few alternatives. The saying, “It is not what you now, but who you know,” rings especially true in large Southern cities, like Baton Rouge. Whites with the right connections can send their children to restrictive public schools. These exclusive public schools may charge tuition and give preferential treatment to the children of very powerful parents, including elected officials. Admission into some of the most prestigious and exclusive schools after kindergarten-without knowing the right people-is a virtual impossibility. Individuals (mostly whites) not privileged enough to send their children to the most exclusive schools do have other options. These parents may send their children to one of the highly selective magnet schools, or gifted and talent programs, in the city. The gifted and talented programs may be located within the same building as an under-resourced school that is also predominately black, making this option less attractive for some white parents. Whites with relatively few powerful connections may elect to live outside of Baton Rouge where their predecessors were successful in carving out separate school districts. Incidentally, some of these surrounding areas are considered safe havens for the Ku Klux Klan to this day. Whites who cannot afford homes in areas outside of the city may opt to enroll their children in one of the many private schools in the city. However, parents with children in private schools often pay more annually in tuition for private elementary schools than parents sending a child to college for the first time. White residents of Baton Rouge who cannot afford to take advantaged of any of these options, but firmly believe they should reap the unearned benefits of whiteness described in Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, do what they have done in the past-attempt to disenfranchise voters and then use the power of the ballot and sympathetic elected officials to achieve their intended goal. The intended goal here is to create two societies-one white, one black; if the St. George, Louisiana movement is successful it will do just that. The new municipality is likely to be more than 70% white and relatively affluent; take upwards of a third of the city’s annual revenue with it; and leave segments of an already segregated and struggling city, in even worse shape. Baton Rouge has an extensive history of racial hostility and evidence of the enduring legacy of racism is all around, especially where education is concerned. Schools were segregated in the city before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and have remained so each decade thereafter. A recent study authored by John Logan of Brown University and Brian Stults of Florida State University highlighted Baton Rouge as an example of a city with persistent racial segregation. With the St. George movement, there is a new conflict brewing pitting the North against the South. This time it is the predominately black North Baton Rouge area and the predominately white South Baton Rouge area. In a city where communities of color still bear the physical, economical, political, and psychological scars of enslavement and second-class citizenship status; it is really disingenuous to claim the recent controversies involving Robertson and the move to incorporate St. George, Louisiana are not about race. Race is as much a part of Louisiana history and culture as the state’s sports, musical, and culinary traditions. Like the nation at-large, Louisiana must take an honest account of race. The City of Baton Rouge recently remembered the life and legacy of civil rights giant, Rev. T.J. Jemison, leader of the Baton Rouge bus boycott and advisor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this country we have a habit of honoring fallen drum majors of justice while simultaneously failing to hold accountable the individuals and institutions that made their sacrifices necessary. From Robertson to St. George, Louisiana, it is about race.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Rich Who Hate Unionized Government Workers

I have rarely met a wealthy person who does not publicly express contempt for unionized public workers- police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, teachers- and doesn't think they are lazy and over paid. Many blame them for bankrupting government and undermining the dynamism of the American economy. This from people whose salary and compensation often exceeds those they are attacking in multiples of tens. They would like nothing better than to smash government employees unions the way they have unions in the private sector. Anyone who thinks a union free America will be a healthier society need look at how many people once in the middle class have to work harder and longer just to stay out of poverty. And how many people in poverty now have little hope of escaping it. Their vision for America sounds very much like a prescription for creating an Autocratic Society that many people's ancestors came to this country to escape

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thoughts on Socialism, Liberty, and Government and Corporate Power

   As long as there is a huge concentration of wealth at the top of the society, as we have now in the US, we cannot assume that centralized government initiatives will have positive consequences. Government at all levels has become the tool of powerful corporations.  This makes the historic socialist identification with strong government highly problematical. In the US today, policies which are egalitarian in intent often become the opposite in implementation because large corporations make themselves the prime beneficiaries. I think we have to pursue egalitarian policies at the local level, through democratic means, while also respecting peoples hunger for greater freedom and control over their lives.

  The irony is that some people who respond positively to the idea of "socialism" have a libertarian side as well- they oppose repressive drug laws, stop and frisk, restrictions on personal liberty in areas ranging from gun laws to religion, and resent surveillance control and authoritarian rule every aspect of their lives, from the work place, to their neighborhood, to the schools their children attend. You cannot have freedom in a society where large corporations have this much power and bend the government to their will. You have to smash the power of the large corporations and at the same time give people greater freedom in their schools neighborhoods, and workplaces. We need much more equality and much more freedom. Developing the policies that do this positively will be the challenge of the next 30 years.

  In the meantime, we fight to get the boot of the large corporations and the state off our necks when they work in tandem to simultaneously suppress personal liberty and funnel greater wealth to the very top. The Common Core standards are a prime example of this. They have simultaneously stripped away local control of public schools while funneling huge amounts of public money to corporations who develop tests and curricular materials. They are promoted in the name of public good, but result in restrictions on teachers, and pressures on students and families, which wealthy elites are exempt from because their children do not attend public schools

  That is the negative side. On the positive side, we need much stronger unions, we need much stronger community organizations, we need to fight for greater freedom from surveillance and control, and we need to develop policies which encourage small businesses and cooperative enterprises.

   Also, we need to be vigilant about policies which attack government power only to enhance corporate power. Beware of those who attack trade unions in the name of enhancing personal freedom. Trade unions are the ordinary citizens most powerful protection against the excesses of great wealth. Weakening them, as we have done for the last 30 years, has contributed greatly to the plutocratic society we live in now.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Notorious Phd’s Quick Tips for College Teaching in the Liberal Arts.

Notorious Phd’s Quick Tips for College Teaching in the Liberal Arts.

1. Make sure that the reading materials you assign are inspiring as well as informative. Don't be afraid to include literature as well as non-fiction. Students need to use their imagination as well as intellect.

2. When you are lecturing, always stop and say. "Do you understand what i am trying to get across." "Do you have any questions." "Do you disagree with anything I am saying."

3. When possible, include music or music videos that help reinforce a point you are making. Students love this.

4. Always reserve a part of a class for student presentations or even student performances. Make sure they feel it is their class too.

5. Bring in guest speakers if they are really good. And encourage your students to have friends or family sit in. It makes them feel the course is exciting
6. Give students great freedom in producing assignments. If they want to submit a play, or a movie instead of a term paper, encourage them to do that- especially if your exams involve essay questions which allow them to show their knowledge of the material in depth.