"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, May 22, 2017

SpeEdChange: Angela Duckworth's Eugenics - the University of Pe...

This piece was published by Ira David Socol in 2014, and it only has become truer since.  

SpeEdChange: Angela Duckworth's Eugenics - the University of Pe...: "The direct result of this inquiry is to make manifest the great and measurable differences between the mental and bodily faculties of...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Moby-Dick for Babies: Marvel or Monster

 NOTE: This first appeared in the Charlotte News, May 17, 2017
Susan Ohanian

A display at my village library invites parents and others who care about young children’s literacy development to take a look at the new assault on childhood—baby versions of the classics.
Cozy Classics, publishers of the baby board-book Moby Dick, claim the book “captures the essence of a literary masterpiece” and is the “perfect vehicle for early learning.” In just 12 words! A Wall Street Journal reviewer insists that this publisher has “done a service to literate families everywhere.” The infant can also settle in for War and Peace, also in just 12 words: soldier-friends-run-dance-goodbye-hug-horse-boom!-hurt-sleep-snow-love. And then move on to Emma, Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, Great Expectations and so on and so on.

BabyLit® offers Anna Karenina as a fashion primer: gown, earring, hairpins and so on. Or Romeo & Juliet: A BabyLit® Counting Primer: 1 balcony through 10 kisses. No deaths. With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Camping Primer, parents can offer infants such words as “raft,” “river” and “fishing line.”

KinderGuides is another firm set on helping parents move on from Baby Einstein into great literature. The headline of a front page article in the Business Section of The New York Times offered this summary: “Forget ‘Pat the Bunny,’ My child is reading Hemingway.” Well, not quite. KinderGuides reduces the narrative of The Old Man and the Sea, a tale specifically mentioned when Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize, to explanation points and editorial intrusions:
Hemingway: “The old man was gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”

KinderGuides: “The other fishermen make fun of Santiago, saying he’s forgotten how to catch fish. Hey, that’s not nice!”

Blake Edwards knew he had to make dramatic changes to Holly Golightly’s lifestyle if he wanted to get a movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s past the industry’s production code. As he explained to The New York Times, “We don’t say exactly what Holly’s morals are. In a sense, she can be considered an escort service for men.”

KinderGuides doesn’t try to explain to six-year-olds why Holly is paid $100 to pass on messages to the mob; instead the kinder-book devotes two pages of illustrations to Holly and the narrator wearing “funny Halloween masks around town.” Capote devotes one paragraph in an 85-page story to this event, telling the reader that Holly stole the masks at Woolworth’s.
KinderGuides omits the one detail in the novel that would amaze today’s youth with their 24/7 phones at the hip: Holly and the narrator go to a bar six, seven times a day—to make telephone calls because “during the war a private telephone was hard to come by.” Here’s a glimpse of why Capote wrote the tale and what KinderGuides does with it.

Capote: “Tiffany’s, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men, in their nice suits and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.”
KinderGuides: “Tiffany’s is a very fancy jewelry store.”

Visit the library to see what happens to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Misspelling Morocco is the least of KinderGuides’ problems, but rest assured, they do eliminate sex, booze and drugs. Lots of exclamation points are used to indicate excitement, and when exclamation points seem insufficient, some words are magnified in size.

And to convince parents they are doing something to boost baby’s future SAT scores and ensure entrance into the Ivy League, there are quiz questions in all the books: What can you buy at Tiffany’s?

The back of every KinderGuides book proclaims. “Give your child a head start! KinderGuides aims to educate our youth on the stories and characters that have shaped our culture. Because classics are ageless. And so are their readers.”

With baby board books of classic literature selling like hotcakes, an Australian physicist is trying to tap into parent aspirations with the Baby University series: Quantum Physics for Babies (It’s never too early to become a quantum physicist!), General Relativity for Babies (accessible introduction to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity), Rocket Science for Babies (Baby will learn the principles of lift and thrust, the forces responsible for flight). And more. Ugly little books with this pronouncement on every back cover: “Simple explanations of complex ideas FOR YOUR FUTURE GENIUS!”

Research shows the positive effects of reading to babies. But classics are not “ageless.” They are written for adults. Babies need to hear words sing; they need to see books that interest them. This means Moo, Baa, LA LA LA! and Dig Dig Digging, not Quantum Entanglement for Babies.
Visit the children’s section of our fine local library, where you will find beautiful, fun, informative books for young children, books with words that sing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Silicon Valley Assault on Children's Learning

For almost 200 years, snake oil salesmen have hawked their wares to schoolmen and to educators, hoping to cash in on the public dollars that taxpayers have intended to help educate the young.

Through the selling of textbooks, reading machines, TVs, test scoring equipment, audiovisual aids, and computer technologies, corporate America has been responsible for the creation of a massive and expanding educational dustbin, now chocked with lucrative "educational solutions" that, at some point, successfully located educational problems that fitted the need of their solutions.

Only in recent years, however, have education industry merchants expanded their marketing efforts to sell educationally-unrelated goods directly to children in school.  Wall Street's favorite bow-tied super-boy, Chris Whittle, broke ground in the early 1990s, when he brought TV news to the classroom with Channel 1, along with TV ads for Skittles, Snickers, etc.

Whittle even proposed the marketing of textbooks with these same ads and others that appeal to children.  Thinks of it: Turn to page 67, just under the Coca-Cola ad, and read along with me . . .

Now a generation later and with computer technology/cell phones accepted as essential elements of  life on Earth, the high priests of Silicon Valley have come up with a new story board for the future of corporate intrusion into schools and the exploitation of the most vulnerable humans--our children.

Google, Apple, and billionaires like Reed Hastings, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have a multi-pronged strategy at work to capitalize on today's children and tomorrow's adults by turning learning environments into marketing research hothouses and massive data collection opportunities, which can be used now and later to laser target products and services to individuals who do not even know yet that they want them.

The new personalized learning empire that tech oligarchs are pushing represents a criminally-cynical abuse of corporate power directed at children to channel, contour, and shape the preferences, values, and neurological wiring of present and future consumers of information, goods, and services.  If allowed to flourish, the new "learning systems" will deliver the kinds of social control and efficiency that have been dreamed of for generations, along with unimaginable profits for the high priests of Silicon Valley.

This story in the Times should be shared widely by teachers, teacher educators, school board members, policymakers, and parents everywhere.  Here is a clip:
. . . . Unlike Apple or Microsoft, which make money primarily by selling devices or software services, Google derives most of its revenue from online advertising — much of it targeted through sophisticated use of people’s data. Questions about how Google might use data gleaned from students’ online activities have dogged the company for years. 
“Unless we know what is collected, why it is collected, how it is used and a review of it is possible, we can never understand with certainty how this information could be used to help or hurt a kid,” said Bill Fitzgerald of Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group, who vets the security and privacy of classroom apps. 
Google declined to provide a breakdown of the exact details the company collects from student use of its services. Bram Bout, director of Google’s education unit, pointed to a Google privacy notice listing the categories of information that the company’s education services collect, like location data and “details of how a user used our service.” . . . .

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brent Staples Leads NY Times Editorial Thought Disorders

In a New York Times editorial entitled "Confronting Segregation in New York Schools," education non-expert Brent Staples begins well enough by talking about efforts to desegregate NYC's segregated schools.  Such an editorial is among other recent ones at the Times that attempt to distinguish the Editorial Board's corporate education plan from the same one embraced by the Trump Administration. 

Near the end of the editorial, however, Staples cannot help but to veer back to the same old rutted road that he has traveled so many times before. 

It is not enough for those fighting segregation to implement a number of strategies to increase diversity in the schools.  This is especially true when such efforts threaten to upend the Times-approved plans to turn the profession of teaching over to the corporate psychology paternalists who would replace educators with neurological re-programmers who have been indoctrinated in the Seligman/Duckworth/KIPP methods of cultural sterilization and behavioral neutering.

. . . critics argue that Mr. de Blasio should take a more urgent approach to remaking schools that continue to fail low-income black and Latino students. That means strengthening the teacher corps where possible and replacing it where necessary.
The most glaring need for replacement is at the New York Times Editorial Board, but replacing an education ignoramus with someone knowledgeable would put in jeopardy the support at the Times for failed Wall Street education policies that have succeeded only in creating whole new industries that prey on the poor, berate their character and cultures, and accelerate the resegregation of American schools.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Personalized Learning Poised to Take Center Stage

from Wrench in the Gears
May 14, 2017

As new state education plans are unveiled, the ed-tech sector is positioning itself to take full advantage of the ESSA’s ample provisions for innovation / entrepreneurial experimentation on public school children. Language in Title lV-21st Century Schools Part F, Subpart 1 of the Every Student Succeeds Act allocates $200 million+ annually in fiscal years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 to “create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students.” Any state educational agency, local educational agency, consortium of such agencies, or the Bureau of Indian Education may partner with a non-profit organization, business, educational service agency or institution of higher education to develop these “innovative” products.

The New Schools Venture Fund Summit 2017, an invitation-only event, expects over 1,000 entrepreneurs, funders, policy makers, educators, and community leaders to converge on the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, CA next week to “reimagine education.” Technology features prominently with sessions on rigor in personalized learning, tech in special education, tech as an equity issue, and developing a robust R&D program to “drive the kinds of technological breakthroughs we need in education.” Platinum level event sponsors include the Gates and Walton Family Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative-all forces behind the Ed Reform 2.0 digital curriculum agenda. According to EdWeek, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative recently teamed up with Chiefs for Change (CFC) to establish a “Transforming Schools and Systems Workgroup.”

Their partnership will promote adoption of “Personalized Learning” at state and local levels, building on efforts underway in states like Rhode Island where Chan Zuckerberg funds are being used to pilotLighthouse Schools” that have adopted online learning platforms developed by the Facebook-affiliated Summit Learning. Diane Tavenner, CEO of Summit Public Schools, is slated to speak at the New Schools Venture Fund conference referenced above.

With backing from Zuckerberg, the company’s “free” Summit Basecamp has expanded its reach from ten bricks and mortar charter schools to over one hundred public schools nationally. The Gates Foundation helped underwrite this expansion via two grants totaling nearly $3.5 million and funded a white paper documenting the program prepared by FSG, a social impact consulting firm. Facebook provided technical support to develop Summit Learning’s “Personalized Learning Platform” that embraces Ed Reform 2.0 principles of competency based education and playlist modules. A New York Times article from August 2016 contrasts Zuckerberg’s current approach to education reform with earlier top-down efforts in Newark, noting this time around he plans to employ “a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools.” The Chan Zuckerberg/CFC collaboration appears to be part of that plan.

Established as a program of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education in 2010, Chiefs for Change spun off in 2015, expanding its mission to include city school districts as well as state departments of education as targets for their bi-partisan ed-reform strategies. Though the group at one point had dwindled to four members, it’s growing again and currently numbers twenty-six, seventeen of whom joined in 2016. The four newest members are: William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools; Kunjan Narechania, Superintendent of the Recovery School District Louisiana; Paymon Rouhanifard, Superintendent of the Camden City School District; and Candice MacQueen, Commissioner of Education for Tennessee. As of now, seven state departments of education are represented in addition to eighteen school districts. You can find information on members of CFC here.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Privatizer Nick Melvoin wants Betsy DeVos style policies for Los Angeles

"Melvoin’s people are not ordinary constituents passing daily through LAUSD’s school house doors. These are an extremely rarefied set of LA’s ruling class, the managers and not the workers of this great city." — Sara Roos

Nick Melvoin is a right-of-center, neoliberal privatizer who is close to David F. Welch and many other anti-public-education billionaires. The list of contributors for his Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) Board run contains some of the most virulent reactionaries bent on destroying the public commmons, and making education an easy source of revenue for the various industries they profit from.

David F. Welch is the right-wing, extremist millionaire that started the vile Nonprofit Industrial Complex (#NPIC) "Students Matter" which initiated/funded the Vergara v. California and other anti-public-education lawsuits.

Fortunately, the California Court of Appeals didn't agree with the arch-reactionary trial judge in Vergara, overturned his wrongheaded holdings, and vacated his judgement: Another defeat in court for right-wing privatizer David F. Welch.

Former Teach for America, Melvoin has worked with other organizations like Teach Plus, and testified for Welch in the Vergara action. Testified, in bad faith, against the very public schools that he worked for. Laura Moser writes in Slate:

"Nick Melvoin taught at one of those high-poverty schools in Watts, Los Angeles—until he was laid off, two years in a row, a victim of LIFO. Melvoin, who is now a teacher organizer with Teach Plus and a recently declared candidate for the L.A. Unified school board, testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in Vergara and thinks that overturning the statutes contested in Vergara “would be a game changer. It’s necessary but not sufficient,” he said."

One has to ask if Melvoin was really put out by layoffs, why didn't he go to work at one of the charter corporations he is so concerned about increasing market share for? Instead of questioning a system that doesn't provide enough resources to keep public school teachers employed — hence last in, first out policies, Melvoin disingenuously held himself out as the "poster child" for a policy that he, and other Betsy DeVos acolytes, falsely frame as an issue of teacher longevity versus quality.

Melvoin's almost irrational hatred of public schools is best summed up by his desire to entirely supplant them with privately managed institutions, including charter schools. When news broke of decades of scandal by Celerity Charter Corporation and their corrupt founder, Vielka McFarlane, Melvoin wrote an Op-Ed providing political cover. McFarlane is best known for the incident where she and her administrators claimed Emmett Till deserved to die, in defense of her firing teachers over a social justice lesson plan. McFarlane's reputation for dishonesty and greed even earned her the ire of former LAUSD Superindendent Johh Deasy, an individual generally not known for taking issue with wealthy charter school executives. That Melvoin positioned himself as McFarlane's champion says much.

Melvoin would bring the entire Betsy DeVos agenda to Los Angeles. His penchant for segregation, privatization, and subsidizing the greed of the charter school industry is peerless.

Trump Is Just Another of Putin's Puppet Oligarchs

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Out of School Time Learning, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

by Wrench in the Gears
May 10, 2017

Digital education, pitched to parents as innovative, future-ready, and personalized, reduces student access to human teachers and builds robust data profiles that can be used for workforce tracking, behavioral compliance, and fiscal oversight. While adaptive online learning is a key element of the Ed Reform 2.0 agenda, it is not the only concern. Another issue that merits close attention is the push to expand “out-of-school time” (OST) learning programs.

Increasingly states are passing credit flexibility legislation where students have the option to earn school credit for activities that take place outside school buildings and without the direct involvement of a certified teacher; though teachers are often pressed to manage the associated paperwork with no additional resources. These are known as ELOs, extended, expanded, or enhanced learning opportunities. States with credit flexibility may also allow online classes to be considered for ELO credit. Even when not offered for credit, out of school time partners have stepped in to provide programs that have been intentionally and systematically stripped from the curriculum through the imposition of punitive austerity and accountability measures. Increasingly, student access to art, music, drama, creative writing, and enrichment activities, particularly in low-income and turnaround schools, is contingent on tapping into programs offered by community-based organizations (CBOs).

I’ve written previously about ELOs but wanted to raise the issue again after obtaining correspondence via an open records request to the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding input provided on the development of the state’s new education plan as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). One letter stood out from the rest. You can read it HERE.