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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The President Asks for Our Help: We Ask the President to Stop Treating Us Like Idiots

Arne Duncan's federalized system of bribes called Race to the Top has all sorts of incentives for state education departments. It has incentives to develop constant data surveillance systems for both students and teachers, with tests to decide who gets to graduate, who gets rehired, who gets to move to the next grade, and which schools get needed cash. There are incentives, too, for the creation of unlimited numbers of the segregated corporate charter school test camps based on the Wall Street Model of Public Oversight, i. e. NONE. And, indeed, there are incentives for states and localities to dump their curriculum and standards into the trash in favor of a single nationalized curriculum and testing system based on the deep thinking of the MBAs, economists, and lawyers hired by the Business Roundtable to oversee the project.

Having entered and lost the first round of this Race to Serve the Oligarchs, many states and localities are balking at the thought of entering Round 2 of Judgment by the Plutocrats. By now all the states have figured out what Arne and Bill and Eli want--it's just a matter of who can craft the most morally irresponsible, pedagogically-suspect, and profession-damaging mode of getting there. In ed deform nomenclature, that's called Bold Planning.

Some states have pulled out of Arne's bribe game entirely, including Kansas, Indiana, Texas, and Alaska. Ohio is so desperate for local participation that it is using its own pathetic bribes to get LEAs to sign up for Round 2, with "the state . . . sweetening the pot . . . by guaranteeing a minimum of $100,000 to districts and $25,000 to charter schools - over four years." Could there be anything sadder!

So while Duncan, Gates, and Broad use bribes and extortion to circumvent the legislative process that was intended to make federal education policy, the nation's schools are on the brink of a nervous breakdown while losing up to 300,000 teachers in the coming Fall--that is, if developments in Greece do not trigger another worldwide economic Panic between now and then.

Meanwhile, the President, now running neck and neck in the polls with Ron Paul, tells us that he needs our help to save the Dems from a crushing defeat this coming November. Well, we need something from the President: we need him to stop treating us like idiots and to do something about education that would distinguish his approach from the past generations of failed reforms that preceded him and that are now being repackaged for, yet, another generation of failure. More corporate control and corporate welfare, test-and-punish child abuse, and anti-teacher policies are not the answers to the problem of renewing and strengthening the American public education system. So, Mr. President, let me respectfully remind you that when you get on the side of the people (the parents, students, and teachers) instead of the side of the billionaires, then the people will get on your side. Not until then. Only then. In the meantime, your Party be damned. It's just that simple.

And here are the People asking for the President's help--the children who, indeed, are looking for something a little more than the same "shitty deal" for education that Eli Broad, Walmart, and Bill Gates have in mind. From the New York Times:

It was a silent call to arms: an easy-to-overlook message urging New Jersey students to take a stand against the budget cuts that threaten class sizes and choices as well as after-school activities. But some 18,000 students accepted the invitation posted last month on Facebook, the social media site better known for publicizing parties and sporting events. And on Tuesday many of them — and many others — walked out of class in one of the largest grass-roots demonstrations to hit New Jersey in years.

The protest disrupted classroom routines and standardized testing in some of the state’s biggest and best-known school districts, offering a real-life civics lesson that unfolded on lawns, sidewalks, parking lots and football fields.

The mass walkouts were inspired by Michelle Ryan Lauto, an 18-year-old aspiring actress and a college freshman, and came a week after voters rejected 58 percent of school district budgets put to a vote across the state (not all districts have a direct budget vote).

“All I did was make a Facebook page,” said Ms. Lauto, who graduated last year from Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, N.J. “Anyone who has an opinion could do that and have their opinion heard. I would love to see kids in high school step up and start their own protests and change things in their own way.”

At Columbia High School in Maplewood, that looked like 200 students marching around the building waving signs reading “We are the future” and “We love our teachers.”

In West Orange, a district that is considering laying off 84 employees, reducing busing, cutting back on music and art, and dropping sports teams, it was high school students rallying in the football stands.

At Montclair High School, it meant nearly half of the 1,900 students gathered outside the school in the morning, with some chanting, “No more budget cuts.”

In the largest showing, thousands of high school students in Newark marched past honking cars stuck in midday traffic to fill the steps of City Hall under the watchful gaze of dozens of police officers.

With their protests, the students sought to send a message to Gov. Christopher J. Christie, a Republican whose reductions in state aid to education had led many districts to cut staff and programs and to ask for larger-than-usual property tax increases. Mr. Christie, who has taken on the state’s largest teachers’ union in his efforts to close an $11 billion deficit, has proposed reducing direct aid to nearly 600 districts by an amount equal to up to 5 percent of each district’s operating budget.

“It feels like he is taking money from us, and we’re already poor,” said Johanna Pagan, 16, a sophomore at West Side High School in Newark, who feared her school would lose teachers and extracurricular programs because of the governor’s cuts. “The schools here have bad reputations, and we need aid and we need programs to develop.” . . . .

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