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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kentucky Teachers Strike as Union Leaders Sit on Hands

The continuing waves of job actions across the country demonstrate the irrelevance of AFT and NEA top-heavy and top-down misleadership.  As Kentucky teachers and parents plan an execute sick-outs to shut down schools in protest of a toxic package of state legislation to rob schools and crush teacher voices, the union misleaders continue to urge teachers to go to work and, instead of striking, to send a delegation of beggars to the state capital to "lobby" corporate legislators.   Teachers are not having it.

From Nation of Change:
Don’t call what Kentucky teachers just did a “wildcat” labor action, at least not when you’re speaking with Tim Hall. Hall, a classroom teacher at Shawnee High School in Louisville, answered my phone call as he was driving to the state capitol in Frankfort to protest the latest slate of education-related bills being considered in the legislature. He and hundreds of other teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district that includes Louisville, called in sick, prompting the district to close schools for over 100,000 students. 
Hundreds of those teachers joined Hall at the state capitol. It was the third time in a week and the second day in a row that enough JCPS teachers called out sick to trigger a full district shutdown. The sick-out spread to four other districts that also had to close. But neither the state teachers’ union nor the local union for Jefferson County had anything to do with organizing the action. In fact, union leaders urged teachers to show up for work, preferring instead to have districts send small teams of teachers to lobby state lawmakers. 
Yet Hall bristled at using “wildcat” to describe what JCPS teachers were doing. “I don’t like that word,” he said. “I think our concerns are reflective of teachers not only in JCPS but also across the state.” 
The Kentucky teachers’ actions are the latest in what has become a wave of teachers using their collective power to influence legislation in state governments, but the sick-out in Kentucky is also a sign of how teacher protests are evolving. 
Teachers who once saw labor actions as effective tactical responses to attacks on their financial well-being are now understanding that their labor power is part of a broader strategy to even the playing field in a political landscape that is increasingly unequal. And there’s strong evidence they’re having an impact. 
Teacher strikes are evolving 
The teachers, joined by parents and other public education activists, organized the sick-out action on social media sites including the Facebook page for JCPS Leads, which Hall helps facilitate. Teachers went back to work at one point, but then extended their protest to a fourth, fifth, and then a sixth day to ensure controversial bills were killed in the legislature. 
The roots of this year’s labor action are in last year’s statewide strike when teachers closed schools across the Bluegrass State to protest a new pension bill that would have put retirement earnings for new teachers at greater risk and shortchanged retirees and senior teachers. This year’s sick-out is different. 
First, teachers have a much broader array of targets for their protests. “We want a whole package of bills voted down,” Hall explained. 
Once again, a threat to teachers’ pensions, House Bill 525, has stirred the teachers’ ire because it would reduce the participation of educators on the state employee pension board. But two other bills go beyond wage-and-benefits grievances: House Bill 205 that would establish a statewide school voucher program giving tax breaks to those who donate to private school scholarships for special-needs and low-income students, and Senate Bill 250 that would take school principal hiring decisions away from local, site-based committees, which include teachers, and give the district superintendent sole responsibility for the hiring process – the bill applies to JCPS only. 
Hall sees all three bills as attacks on democracy. “They’re about taking away our ability to collaborate on how our schools operate,” he said. By removing educators from the pension board, ramping up a statewide voucher program, and undermining teachers’ influence on principal hiring, teachers are being pushed further out to the periphery of decision making, he explained, and in turn, are less able to make their voices heard as advocates for their schools and their students.
Also, there’s a good reason why Jefferson County teachers are taking it upon themselves to lead the labor action and go it alone in speaking out for their colleagues elsewhere in the state. Not only is JCPS the only district affected by the bill to change principal hiring; JCPS is also the only district currently under threat of state takeover. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers are generally seen as the most ardent backers of the takeover effort. 
And Hall and other teachers see all three bills as efforts to further undermine their participation in governance of their schools and usher in more state control and privatization of schools. 
A movement about democracy 
In taking their demands beyond economic grievances to include issues of governance and local community voice, the Kentucky teachers are joining a strong new trend in the teacher movement. 
When West Virginia teachers walked off the job last year and started what’s become known as RedForEd, they generally made wages and benefits the core of their grievances. But in their labor action this year, West Virginia teachers expanded their protests to include issues with privatization, specifically, to fight new legislation that would take public money from traditional districts and use it for charter schools and for private and religious school tuition. 
Also this year, teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, made opposition to the unchecked growth of charter schools and their lack of transparency and accountability a centerpiece of the unions’ demands. 
Education journalists and “experts” have noticed this trend and described it as mostly a battle over funding for public schools vs. charter schools, voucher programs, and other forms of privatization. But that misses the broader argument teachers make that all education mandates that stem from top-down authority and big money interests are meant to rob teachers of having a voice in how schools are governed. 
Teachers are making RedForEd a fight not just for funding but also for political power. 
Teacher strikes work 
There’s evidence that the teachers’ change in strategy will work. 
Last year’s RedForEd protests clearly affected state legislation where the protests occurred. According to a new analysis, in four states where teachers walked off the job, state legislatures responded by increasing baseline state funding for schools by 3-19 percent. 
This year, teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland led to calls from local governments for moratoriums on new charters and increased regulation of the industry. In response, California state lawmakers acted with “lightning speed” to enact new laws that require more transparency in charter school operations. 
How successful were the Kentucky teachers? As of this writing, on the final day of the legislative session, two of the three bills teachers targeted in their protests appear to be dead – the bill restructuring the state pension board and the bill creating a statewide school voucher program. The bill targeting the principal hiring process in JCPS appears to have passed in both chambers and will likely be signed by Governor Matt Bevin. 
Two out of three is not a bad batting average in a “red state” where Republicans hold a trifecta of strong majorities in both branches of the state legislature and the governor’s seat. And should the dead bills come back to life, Hall assures me, or similar bills spring up, teachers will return to the capitol. 
“We’re tired of being unsupported and messed with,” he said. “Teachers want to have fair ways for us to ensure the public education system continues to provide access to well-supported schools for all kids.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Admissions Scandal Reminds Us Again of the College Caste System

From CNN:

. . . .The separation of young people into this two-track system matters so much because the outcomes vary so much for students at the most and least selective institutions. Among black and Latino students with above-average SAT scores, 81% at selective public institutions complete their degrees, compared with just 46% at the less selective public schools, the Center on Education and the Workforce found in "Our Separate & Unequal Public Colleges," a comprehensive study released last fall. 
The disparity isn't difficult to explain: The selective public institutions can afford to spend about three times as much on their students as the least selective institutions. Amid sustained cuts in taxpayer funding for public higher education, that spending gap is now about one-fourth larger than it was a decade ago. It's one reason why the gap in college completion is also widening between whites on the one hand and African-Americans and Latinos on the other, even though the latter groups have significantly increased their share of the total postsecondary population.. . . .

NYC Keeps Access to Top High Schools Away from Black Kids

Ten years ago Catherine Rampell published a piece in the NYTimes that showed ever so clearly how standardized tests continue to protect the privileged and to punish the poor.  This chart sums up the connection between standardized test scores and family income.  The same correlations will be found, regardless of the standardized test used:

In 2019, the same standardized exclusion instruments are still used, even as the use of a single high stakes test to seat students in the best public high schools of New York is getting new scrutiny.  Politicians of all stripes continue their silence on the issue:
. . . Mr. de Blasio’s proposal to scrap the entrance exam for the schools and overhaul the admissions process has proved so divisive that the state’s most prominent politicians, from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have mostly avoided taking a definitive position — even as black and Hispanic students are grappling with increasingly steep odds of admission into the city’s eight most selective public schools.
Meanwhile, 7 out of 895 students at Stuyvesant High School are black.
Students gain entry into the specialized schools by acing a single high-stakes exam that tests their mastery of math and English. Some students spend months or even years preparing for the exam. Stuyvesant, the most selective of the schools, has the highest cutoff score for admission, and now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Schools That Matter!

A clip from Jacobin on the New York City Schools' involvement in the student climate strike:
. . . .Like the Urban Assembly students, Meremetoh and her schoolmates credit their school with their engagement on this issue. Melanie Mueses, eighteen, said, “The school really pushed me to understand how the environment is crumbling and how we are affecting it,” she says. “I wasn’t like that before.” Meremetoh tells me about an art project she did, showing the sun going from cold to warm to hot. “A lot of people don’t pay attention, and don’t realize the world could be ending in a couple years.”

Mueses suspects policymakers don’t care since they think they’ll be dead when problems caused by climate change get more serious. “I feel people in power don’t feel as deeply about this as us because they’re not going to be here,” she explains. “Us, as ‘the future,’ we are the ones who are going to be most affected.”

Emmanuel Pimentel, eighteen, also a student at High School for Environmental Studies agreed: “We need the world.”

Said Meremetoh, “We have to stand up to everything Trump is saying because he’s crazy. We have to continue to fight. We can’t stop.” Asked what she hopes comes out of these actions, she says, “I hope the future president listens. We have to start taking care of the environment. I really hope the government listens to us, the young people.”

Climate strikers at City Hall were mostly high school kids, but there were younger children, too. A growing movement, #Fridays4Future will continue the Friday strikes that Greta Thunberg began.

There Will Be Plenty of Time for Fear If We Fail

In the meantime, let's get to work:
. . . . Amid all the carnage, the leading global authority on warming, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, detailed the horrors in store if average temperatures pass 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. (We’re already over 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and worldwide carbon emissions hit a new high in 2018.)

Scientists are now sounding the alarm. Young activists are skipping school and taking to the streets. And in the U.S., a bold proposal to remake the American economy is sending shockwaves through climate legislation discussions that had been stalled for a decade.
Into that now-bubbling climate cauldron comes the book The Uninhabitable Earth, a distressing review of climate science designed to jolt us out of complacency. David Wallace-Wells, who characterizes himself as a concerned liberal who “wasn’t really focused on this issue until a few years ago,” channels the panic he felt at reading reams of scientific reports into a vision of a dystopian future that we’re not doing enough to avoid.

The question is whether fear is the right emotion to play on to get people to sit up, listen, and take action. According to Grist’s own Eric Holthaus, who’s been writing about climate change for more than a decade, it’s not. To him, it’s best to accept the scientific consensus and inspire our fellow humans to roll up their sleeves and ensure we do whatever it takes to decarbonize the global economy rapidly. . . .

Zuckerberg, The World's Richest Sociopath

From a highly recommended read at The Guardian by Julie Carrie Wong:


It can be hard to remember from down here, beneath the avalanche of words and promises and apologies and blogposts and manifestos that Facebook has unleashed upon us over the course of the past year, but when the Cambridge Analytica story broke one year ago, Mark Zuckerberg’s initial response was a long and deafening silence.
It took five full days for the founder and CEO of Facebook – the man with total control over the world’s largest communications platform – to emerge from his Menlo Park cloisters and address the public. When he finally did, he did so with gusto, taking a new set of talking points (“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”) on a seemingly unending roadshow, from his own Facebook pageto the mainstream press to Congress and on to an oddly earnest discussion series he’s planning to subject us to at irregular intervals for the rest of 2019.
The culmination of all that verbosity came earlier this month, when Zuck unloaded a 3,000-word treatise on Facebook’s “privacy-focused” future (a phrase that somehow demands both regular quotation marks and ironic scare quotes), a missive that was perhaps best described by the Guardian’s Emily Bell as “the nightmarish college application essay of an accomplished sociopath”.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Old Delusions, Illusions, and Collusions Are Hard to Break

  • Access to higher education has always had various layers of unfairness baked in that are designed to make sure that privilege remains privileged in America.  There is, of course, the use of a fake meritocracy based on the use of standardized tests, with scores that mirror the economic advantage or disadvantage of the children who are forced to take them as part of a demeaning scam that has gone on for a hundred years.  The scam part most people ignore.

    And there is the long history of legacy admissions, where top college access is passed down across the generations, regardless of how dim-witted the descendants of the white protestant elite might be (see the Bush clan).

    But the most recent FBI sting has uncovered a new depth of corruption among the rich and famous, as well as the whores throughout academia who are paid off to give preferential treatment to the spawn of the wealthy.

    And yet the the illusions, delusions, and collusions permeating higher ed down at the cellular level continue.  Look no further than this interview excerpt below, which was aired on PBS the day the news broke about the decades-long conspiracy to cheat and steal Ivy League access. it is clear from insiders, even reporters like Jeffrey Selingo, that the false belief continues that "in many cases, it wouldn't matter where they went." 

    William Brangham:
    At its core, really, this is about wealthy parents who are trying to buy in some ways even more influence for their wealthy children, right?
  • Jeffrey Selingo:
    I mean, what's amazing to me is that, in some cases, it wouldn't really matter where these kids went to college, right? They have both the means, the financial means, but also the connections to live a great life because of their parents, no matter where they go.
    So it's kind of shocking that they really wanted that piece of paper from an elite college — an elite college, because, in many cases, it wouldn't matter where they went.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Mind Trust’s Neo-colonial War on Parents: Part One

I am busy finishing my new book--a follow-up to Hoosier School Heist that will be released next year--and will be blogging again this summer. Please read John Harris Loflin's new and significant piece posted below. Thanks! Doug Martin

The Mind Trust’s Neo-colonial War on Parents: Part One

By John Harris Loflin 


Due to the Mind Trust’s (MT) view that urban schools are broken and need fixing, this January the non-profit began looking for someone to launch “an independent parent advocacy organization” with emphasis on social justice and closing the Achievement Gap for communities of color in high poverty areas.  

However, this commentary argues urban schools are not broken. As concluded in The White Architects of Black Education by Watkins, America’s public schools never meant to educate all children, especially children of color. We can’t call schools broken that were designed to fail.  

Because America’s school system was designed to fail and/or mis-educate certain children, it was colonial. That is, its purpose was to colonize Native Americans and other non-whites, “fitting” them and settlers/immigrants into America’s “melting pot.”  

“Education’s indoctrination if you're white--subjugation if you're black.” -- James Baldwin 

Thus, initial (and current) public schooling confused education with conformity via assimilation/acculturation, making coloniality (kuh-loh-nee-al-i-tee) the main characteristic of US public education.  

Coloniality is based on a Euro-centric world view. It’s the continued existence of colonialism (assimilation/acculturation) even after anti-Jim Crow and Civil Rights legislation.
   
MT’s concern for neighborhoods of color comes from its “Othering” mentality. “Othering” is inherent in MT’s “settler-minded” DNA because without this “other” there would be no reason for MT to exist.  

So, intentional or not, this positions MT as purveyors of coloniality and “whiteness” as normative, presupposing difference from “the norm” as somehow inherently “damaged” and needing assistance. Such deficit models of these neighborhoods misconstrue social justice by emphasizing the Achievement Gap and its creator, standardized testing. Both perpetuate the assimilationist/missionary logic of coloniality.  

Failing to challenge MT’s colonality means the onus of change is forever on the “colonized.” Success for people of color will endlessly revolve around finding ways to conform and succeed on another’s terms, rather than around nurturing their own criteria for achievement.  

“Urban students quickly receive the message that they can only be smart when they are not who they are. This in many cases is classroom colonialism.” ~ Prof. Chris Emdin 
   
From the perspective of this commentary, under MT’s parent advocacy scheme, the value of parents will depend upon how they’re able to get working-class students of color to assimilate towards the cultural normative dogma of whiteness.

 

What to do? De-colonize the Mind Trust

 

To push back against this parent advocacy enterprise requires the un-settling of MT’s anti-democratic ideology. Alternatives such as Transformational Community Schools and Local School Councils will begin a process of hope, rooted in resistance, leading Indy towards education for liberation.  

Ultimately we need to de-colonizing parent advocacy efforts: center on the humanity and possibility of students of color, and dismantle the prevailing discourses of coloniality that only highlight their “otherness”/difference from whites.  

But, will the Mind Trust and its elite-class board members allow their parent advocate to disrupt coloniality, playing transformative roles of cultural, economic, and political liberators of their communities of color?  

Please read Part Two here: http://vorcreatex.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/The-Mind-Trusts-Neo-colonial-War-on-Parents-Part-Two.pdf


John Harris Loflin 
Parent Power--Indianapolis 
Education-Community Action Team (E-CAT)  
johnharrisloflin@yahoo.com  
www.vorcreatex.com 
March 10, 2019








Friday, March 08, 2019

People Alive Today Will Determine the Future of the Earth

Great power entails greater responsibility.

If you don't care about global warming, then you should read this book.  If you care about global warming, then you should read this book.

An excerpt of a good review from NYTimes:

. . . .“The Uninhabitable Earth” seems to be modeled more on Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” — or, at least, it’s a bid to do for greenhouse gases what Carson’s 1962 book did for pesticides. “Silent Spring” became a galvanizing force, a foundational text for the environmental movement. The overarching frame for Wallace-Wells’s book is an analogous call to action: “How much will we do to stall disaster, and how quickly?”

Part of his strategy is to tell us how much we have already lost. “The climate system that raised us, and raised everything we now know as human culture and civilization, is now, like a parent, dead,” he writes. Some of the technology we rely on to make the effects of climate change more bearable, like air-conditioning, also worsens them. The harms of global warming tend to fall disproportionately on poorer people and poorer countries, but the “cascades” already set in motion will eventually grow so enormous and indiscriminate that not even the rich will be spared.

Wallace-Wells avoids the “eerily banal language of climatology” in favor of lush, rolling prose. The sentences in this book are potent and evocative, though after a while of envisioning such unremitting destruction — page upon page of toddlers dying, plagues released by melting permafrost and wildfires incinerating tourists at seaside resorts — I began to feel like a voyeur at an atrocity exhibition. His New York magazine article already synthesized plenty of information about perilous climate risks and scared the bejeezus out of people; what are we supposed to do with this expanded litany of horrors?


“Fear can motivate,” Wallace-Wells writes. He’s aware of those who denounce the graphic doomsaying as “climate porn,” but he arrived at his own ecological awakening when he started to collect “terrifying, gripping, uncanny narratives” about climate change. He describes himself as a Bitcoin-buying, non-recycling city-dweller who hates camping. He was scared out of his “fatally complacent, and willfully deluded” inertia when he became immersed in the awful truth and, his book suggests, you can be too.
Besides, it’s not as if any of the hair-raising material with which he has become intimately familiar has paralyzed him with fatalism — quite the opposite. “That we know global warming is our doing should be a comfort, not a cause for despair,” he writes. What some activists have called “toxic knowledge” — all the intricate feedback loops of societal collapse — “should be empowering.” . . . .