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

Friday, December 31, 2010

"Highly-Qualified" Temporary School Missionaries for Children Who Need Experienced Teachers

Arne and the Disruptors (great name for a bad band) are always talking about edu-reform taking us beyond the status quo.  Well, they are at it again, and the resulting changes this time are like most of the rest, taking the status quo backward, rather than forward. 

The arrogant corporate fools in charge of federal education policy have slid language into a continuing resolution that will allow alternate route "certification" programs like TFA to claim that their candidates are "highly qualified" for NCLB purposes after four weeks of preparation. 

With these clueless, well-meaning 2-year missionaries of TFA serving only in poor, brown, and black schools that desperately need teachers, rather than trainees, this has to be a solid basis for a civil rights lawsuit.  Here is part of an important piece by former TFAer, Ilana Garon, posted at HuffPo:
. . . .Unfortunately, the two-year mark -- which is pretty much exactly the time it takes for an average teacher to get "good" -- is the duration of the commitment required by most alternative certification programs, including my program (NYCTF), Teach for America, and the regional teacher corps programs across the country that fall under the umbrella of the New Teacher Project. During most of their tenure in these programs, the majority of new teachers are not only under-qualified for certification, but also completely clueless.

Last week, an "anomaly amendment" was inserted into Congress's Continuing Resolution (a stop-gap that allows the government to continue functioning in the absence of an official budget.) The amendment in question allows teachers who are in an alternative certification program, regardless of the amount of time they've been teaching or whether or not they've obtained licensure in their respective states, to be considered "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulations. It comes as no surprise that the amendment received a major push from Teach for America, a program whose mission is to place inexperienced teachers, most of whom are fresh out of college, in high needs schools across the country.

The passage of this Continuing Resolution (and by extension, this amendment) is problematic for several reasons. There are obvious criticisms of alternative certification programs -- the funneling of money and resources into teachers who generally leave when their commitment is up, the fact that placing these new, inexpensive teachers in schools often takes away jobs from experienced (and comparatively more expensive) teachers.

But independent of those critiques, allowing novices to be considered "highly qualified" absolves school districts of their responsibility to attract and retain teachers who possess true skill and experience. Instead, it allows them to tell parents and students, particularly those in the high-needs schools where participants in alternative certification programs are overwhelmingly placed, that all teachers are "highly qualified" without any accountability.

In the wake of heated debates about ways in which teacher efficacy can be most effectively judged, this current move seems particularly misguided. Instead of putting tried and true teachers in the classrooms that need them most, the amendment allows a perpetuation of the status quo: high-needs schools serve as a training ground for the most inexperienced teachers, the majority of whom leave before they ever have a chance to be truly useful to the communities and profession that they serve. For NCLB to then allow this fact to be hidden from parents behind meaningless designations seems not only ineffectual, but downright unethical. Yes, there will always be new teachers, and yes, these newbies are often placed in schools that struggle to fill positions -- but one simply cannot call a club a spade. . . . .

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parent Trigger, Media Coverage, and More...

In case you haven't been following CA education happenings, there has been more than a little dust-up over the newly-enacted "Parent Trigger" legislation and implementation.  Accusations of wrongdoing have been tossed around, confusion reigns, and - if anything - this should tell policymakers and the general public that the legislation ought to be looked at again sometime in the very near future.  I'd recommend Larry Ferlazzo's explanation of why he doesn't think the "parent trigger" will help schools and parents.  Parents certainly deserve a significant degree of power over schools - something like the Local School Councils in Chicago - but the current law doesn't actually give parents any say over the school once it's handed over to new operators or tinkered with in other ways.  You can read the actual text of the bill here.  This law expects a very different kind of parental involvement: parents as consumers.  The parent trigger legislation mentions that parents can pick a certain reform, but they're limited to options laid out by the reauthorized ESEA (ie NCLB), particularly paragraph 7 of section 1116(b).  Here are the relevant options (via ed.gov):
(i) Reopening the school as a public charter school.
(ii) Replacing all or most of the school staff (which may include the principal) who are relevant to the failure to make adequate yearly progress.
(iii) Entering into a contract with an entity, such as a private management company, with a demonstrated record of effectiveness, to operate the public school.
(iv) Turning the operation of the school over to the State educational agency, if permitted under State law and agreed to by the State.
(v) Any other major restructuring of the school's governance arrangement that makes fundamental reforms, such as significant changes in the school's staffing and governance, to improve student academic achievement in the school and that has substantial promise of enabling the school to make adequate yearly progress as defined in the State plan under section 1111(b)(2). In the case of a rural local educational agency with a total of less than 600 students in average daily attendance at the schools that are served by the agency and all of whose schools have a School Locale Code of 7 or 8, as determined by the Secretary, the Secretary shall, at such agency's request, provide technical assistance to such agency for the purpose of implementing this clause.
The de-facto option is handing over the operations of the school to private operators (generally charter management organizations), and that brings up some serious concerns.  Here's a snippet from EdWeek:
“The fact that the parent trigger allows parents a role in choosing new management for the school puts the onus on parents to be very wise consumers,” said Ms. Lake. “It will take some community education and support to make sure parent groups have the capacity to make informed choices.”
Lake brings up an important point, and one that needs to be considered: functioning markets require informed consumers. [I'm not in favor of market-based reforms for public education, just engaging in a little critique here.]  I'd wager that simply providing information about test scores the PR pitches by various charter management organizations fall short of any definition of high-quality information (although some might disagree).  Did anyone in the Parent Revolution sit down with parents and explain that they had more than one option here?  Not that I'd advocate for it - nor do I think it's a better option - but parents could have opted for removing all or most of the school staff.  They could have turned the operations of the school over to the State education agency (if the law allows it, and I'm not schooled in the specifics of CA education law).  They could have asked for changes to the governance of the school.  I hope they were told that these options were available.

But let's add another wrinkle to this mess, and a significant wrinkle at that.  From the LA Weekly:
The accusation of potential wrongdoing on the part of Compton school officials — not Parent Revolution, as reported in the L.A. Times — prompted the California State Board of Education and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate. The Times fed an atmosphere of misinformation with a story titled "California Board of Education seeks probe of Compton charter campaign." It implied the probe was prompted by actions of the reformers, Parent Revolution.

State Board of Education president Ted Mitchell tells the Weekly, "The Times got it backwards."
What the Weekly doesn't tell you - in ANY of their coverage of the parent trigger happenings at McKinley - is that Mitchell is the CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund in addition to serving as the President of the CA State Board of Education.  And their most recent coverage of the issue fails to mention that Austin is on the CA State Board of Education (to their credit, earlier stories did mention it). I find this concerning considering that some of NSVF's ventures could certainly benefit from the parent trigger legislation.  Additionally, I'd sure hope that Austin excused himself from any voting/discussion of the parent trigger considering his organization is the primary driver in the arena (heck, does anyone else have a million-dollar budget to organize parents?).  One could make the case, I think, that Mitchell should excuse himself, too, considering it's entirely possible that he'd be in a position where acting as board president could come into conflict with the activities of his day job.  NSVF isn't in the business to make money (well, not anymore - they did invest in for-profit education providers, including Edison and LearnNow).  Nevertheless, the mostly ignored CRPE interim report on CMOs suggested they're not financially stable, and clearly expansion or drastic changes are necessary in order for these organizations to become self-sustaining.  In other words, I believe even a casual observer may have concerns about this situation if they were given all the facts.  Or maybe they wouldn't, but the LA Weekly ought to include a mention of Austin's and Mitchell's status as board members when discussing issues that potentially relate to the trigger and the board of education.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rhee's Backers

Which foundations will back Rhee's new org?  Some clues from the Washington Examiner:
Rhee said grants from foundations -- including several that sponsored the teacher merit pay plan Rhee introduced in the District -- will fund Students First, alongside membership dues and individual donations. Her goal is 1 million members and $1 billion.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation are the four foundations that sponsored Rhee's teacher merit pay plan.

One billion dollars is an insane amount of money - and that's how much Rhee wants to raise in year one.  And what does Michelle plan to do with her dough?  We'll know pretty soon:
The first step will be an educational platform outlining "the gold standard of what the environment should look like and the laws that should be in existence," which Rhee plans to publish this month. "Some governors want to mention it in their state-of-state addresses or introduce it in their first legislative session," she told The Washington Examiner.

How to save more money: The California Budget

Published in the San Francisco Examiner

How to save more money

Letters, December 28, 2010

I hope the Jerry Brown administration considers all suggestions for reducing the budget problem, including Dan Walters’ suggestion (“Closing tax loopholes could help California’s budget gap,” Friday).

Walters’ idea would save about $1 billion dollars a year. Here’s how we can save another half-billion: Eliminate the high school exit examination. Analyst Jo Ann Behm has estimated that the combined state and local costs of California’s test exceed $500 million per year.

The most recent review of research on exit exams, done by researchers at the University of Texas, concluded that high school exit exams do not lead to more college attendance, increased student learning or higher employment.

In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam.

Stephen Krashen, Professor emeritus, USC, Los Angeles

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Breastfeeding the Answer to our Literacy Problems? Probably Not.

Is Breastfeeding the Answer to our Literacy Problems? Probably Not.

Stephen Krashen

A recently published Australian study on the impact of early breastfeeding on school test performance at age 10 captured the interest of the media, but the most important results for educators were typically not included in these reports.

Researchers found that breastfeeding for longer than six months was a significant predictor of reading, spelling and math test scores at age ten for boys, but not girls. This finding is clearly of great importance to medicine.

Inspection of their data shows, however, that other predictors were much more powerful, including family income, mother's education, and whether the mother and child read together when the child was five years old. Family income and mother's education are related to access to books in the home, school and community (Krashen, 2004).

These results are very important for educators. They are a strong confirmation that access to books and reading to and with children are powerful means of insuring high levels of literacy, a commonsense view that is well supported by previous research (Krashen, 2004) but nearly completely ignored by policymakers.

Of interest to educators is how much breastfeeding added to the power of income, mother's education, and reading together in predicting test scores. Unfortunately, the authors did not perform a hierarchical analysis, but looking at their results (table 4), my guess is that it did not count for much.

Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Company, and Westview, CONN: Libraries Unlimited. Second Edition.

Oddy, W., Li, J., Whitehouse, A., Zubrick, S. and Malacova, E. 2010. Breastfeeding duration and academic achievement at ten years. Pediatrics. Published online Dec 10, 2010, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2009-3489v1

Wake County's Gang of Five Chooses Inexperienced Broadie for Superintendent

No experience in curriculum, instruction, assessment?  Check.  No experience as educator? Check.  A graduate of Eli Broad's training camp? Check?  Former Rhee employee? Check?  Tea Partier? Check.  Thinks Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?  Double check. Plus he writes spy novels and blogs.  Sign him up:
The Wake County School Board announced Thursday that the former Chief Operating Officer of DC Schools - Anthony Tata - will be Wake County's new superintendent.
Board members nominated and appointed Tata as the new superintendent of the WCPSS at Wake County Schools' headquarters.

In a 4-2 vote following a closed-door meeting, school board members Deborah Prickett, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman and John Tedesco voted for Tata.

Board members Carolyn Morrison and Kevin Hill voted no. Members Keith Sutton and Anne McLaurin were not in attendance. Board Chair Ron Margiotta did not need to vote.

In a letter Morrison said, "I think we could do better for the parents, children, staff and taxpayers, so I will not vote for (Tata) to be appointed as the next superintendent for the Wake County Public School System."

Click here to read Morrison's full statement. . . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Breaking News: Boston Globe Has Something Worth Reading on Education

Is the Boston Globe's printing of this a signal that the Oligarchs are having a change of heart?  Don't kid yourself--that would require, first, a heart:
. . . . Finland, one of the world’s top educational performers according to the last PISA study and a recent McKinsey report, was once in a similar slump and can offer lessons for the United States and others seeking a cure for poor public schools.

As recently as 25 years ago, Finnish students were below the international average in mathematics and science. There also were large learning differences between schools, with urban or affluent students typically outperforming their rural or low-income peers. Today, as the most recent PISA study proves, Finland is one of the few nations that have accomplished both a high quality of learning and equity in learning at the same time. The best school systems are the most equitable — students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. Finally, Finland should interest US educators because Finns have employed very distinct ideas and policies in reforming education, many the exact opposite of what’s being tried in the United States.
Finland has a different approach to student testing and how test data can or should not be used. Finnish children never take a standardized test. Nor are there standardized tests used to compare teachers or schools to each other. Teachers, students, and parents are all involved in assessing and also deciding how well schools, teachers, or students do what they are supposed to do. Politicians and administrators are informed about how well the education system works by using sample-based learning tests which place no pressure on schools, and by research targeted to understand better how schools work. Parents and politicians think that teachers who work closely together with parents are the best judges of how well their children are learning in schools.
Another difference is that Finland has created an inspiring and respectful environment in which teachers work. All teachers are required to have higher academic degrees that guarantee both high-level pedagogical skills and subject knowledge. Parents and authorities regard teachers with the same confidence they do medical doctors. Indeed, Finns trust public schools more than any other public institution, except the police. The fact that teachers in Finland work as autonomous professionals and play a key role in curriculum planning and assessing student learning attracts some of the most able and talented young Finns into teaching careers.
Educational leadership is also different in Finland. School principals, district education leaders, and superintendents are, without exception, former teachers. Leadership is therefore built on a strong sense of professional skills and community.
Many Americans may doubt that Finland, with its homogeneous population, has much relevance to the United States. However, due to growing immigration, ethnic and cultural diversity is increasing in Finland.
The secret of Finnish educational success is that in the 20th century Finns studied and emulated such advanced nations as Sweden, Germany, and the United States. Finns adopted some education policies from elsewhere but also avoided mistakes made by these leading education performers.
What could the United States learn from the Finns? First, reconsider those policies that advocate choice and competition as the key drivers of educational improvement. None of the best-performing education systems relies primarily on them. Indeed, the Finnish experience shows that consistent focus on equity and cooperation — not choice and competition — can lead to an education system where all children learn well. Paying teachers based on students’ test scores or converting public schools into private ones (through charters or other means) are ideas that have no place in the Finnish repertoire for educational improvement.
Second, provide teachers with government-paid university education and more professional support in their work, and make teaching a respected profession. As long as teachers are not trusted in their work and are not respected as professionals, young talent in the United States is unlikely to seek teaching as a lifelong career.
Finally, with the fourth PISA study again showing that the US education system is lagging those in many other countries, Americans should admit that there is much to learn from these systems. Relying on one’s past reputation is probably not the best approach for transforming an educational system to meet tomorrow’s needs and challenges. With America’s “can do’’ mentality and superior knowledge base in educational improvement, you could shift course before it’s too late.
Pasi Sahlberg is director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture and is a former Washington-based World Bank education specialist.

To Starve the Beast, We Must Drown the Children

Posted at Kenniwick School District Citizens:
Waiting For SuperFraud
By Michael T. Martin

Public schools have to fail. There is no alternative. So give up trying to argue otherwise with facts and logic.
The mockumentary Waiting For Superman made this clear. Funded by millionaires, the movie told the story of some privatized schools in Harlem portrayed as saviors of children otherwise condemned to public schools. Privatized schools mostly funded by hedge fund millionaires on Wall Street. They spent two million dollars to promote the film nationally. Another major film titled “The Lottery” told a similar tale: children in Harlem desperate to escape public schools. Funded by more millionaires.

State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents the people of Harlem, tried to put profit restrictions on these privatized schools. So the millionaires spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run an opponent against him in the November, 2010, election. The people of Harlem voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Perkins.

One of the supposed heroes in the mockumentary was Michele Rhee, the caustic head of Washington, D.C., schools. She subsequently was the focus of the November, 2010, mayor’s election in D.C., campaigning for the existing mayor who appointed her, promising to resign if he lost. The people of D.C. voted him and her out.

The little people in Harlem and D.C. who see the truth on the ground voted against the millionaires. But the big money people still rate Rhee as a hero and keep pouring money and propaganda into charter schools. Ever wonder why? Brooklyn city councilman Charles Barron laments the situation in New York City: “Our public schools need to be in the control of parents and the community, as opposed to businessmen who see the $23 billion budget as a means to giving no-bid contracts to their cronies.”

In April, 1999, the Wall Street financiers at Merrill Lynch published a 193 page “In-depth Report” titled “The Book of Knowledge, Investing in the Growing Education and Training Industry.” Early in the report they noted: “The K-12 market is the largest segment of the education industry with approximately $360 billion spent annually or over $6,500 per year per child. Despite the size, the K-12 market is the most problematic to invest in today. Entrenched bureaucracies and personal and political interests contribute to the challenges facing this sector.”

Public schools HAVE to fail in order to crack open this egg and give these financiers access to the $360 billion they are after (estimates are that it is around $700 billion today). No matter what logic you use to explain the problems or successes of public education, it will be of no avail: public schools HAVE to fail. Whatever it takes. In a 2007 appellate court decision ruling that Merrill Lynch could not be sued by Enron stockholders for facilitating the fraud of Enron, the dissenting third member of the judicial panel wrote: “The majority immunizes a broad array of undeniably fraudulent conduct from civil liability.”

Big money wants the public schools to fail and they are quite willing to engage in “undeniably fraudulent conduct” to ensure it. One prescient book titled “The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America’s Public Schools” told the tale back in 1996 but logic and facts won’t stop big money.

Back about the time NCLB was promulgated, Ron Susskind, a New York Times reporter, related a conversation with a senior aide to President George W. Bush in the summer of 2002: “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore.’”

. . . ..
The overarching thrust of the mockumentary Waiting For Superman is that teachers’ unions are responsible for the faux failure of public schools. That teachers have their own self interest rather than that of children in mind. The teachers’ unions that have been major supporters of the Democratic Party since the Civil Rights era. So the Republican Party will stop at nothing to undermine public education.

After President Clinton was elected in the early 1990s, Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), asked H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Education Bill Bennett to support legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country. “I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers, charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education.”

Grover Norquist, a major political leader in the Republican conservative movement, was asked by writer Ben Adler of The New Republic “How evolution should be taught in public schools.” Norquist responded “The real problem here is that you shouldn’t have government-run schools.” Norquist is better known for his patriotic comment that he wants to shrink the federal government to where he can drown it in a bathtub. His words; somewhat evocative of drowning a child.

So there are powerful forces who will ensure that public schools fail. There is no sense arguing to the contrary, there is over $700 billion to believe otherwise. The same greed by the same people that left the U.S. economy in ruins, with millions of ordinary people unemployed and in bankruptcy, will ensure that the U.S. education system is soon in the same condition. Public education has to fail, because that is “the way the world really works anymore.”

How to Fix Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten

Looking at the Newsweek photo, I was struck at how it might feel to find yourself in a pre-arranged motel room with the antithesis of what your chosen partner would look like.

Here is Bill, having become the richest man in the world as the result of federal tax largesse and a marketing department that has made his second-rate products standard issue for corporate America. (Did you know that Microsoft paid less in taxes on its $12 billion income in 1999 than a family of four in Kentucky with an income of $36,000? (Anyon, 2006).

And next to him across a gash of winter light from the partially-curtained window, his unlikely partner, Randi Weingarten, who no doubt is getting used to these pre-arranged econo-dates where she gives up it up (the "it" being the future of teaching) for a chance to have AFT morph into an org.com that will stand for After F'ing the Teachers.

Both are equally attuned to the challenge of how to grind out higher test scores to make competitors in the global economy, the only reason for education and schooling to exist at any level.  And each knows what subjects to avoid, even though Weingarten actually does utter the "P" word once.   
Gates: I agree with all that, except we spend more money by every measure than any other system. Any way you look at it we spend by far the most money. So that is a dilemma. What are we going to do to get more out of the investments we make? Are there practices in terms of helping teachers be better that we can fit into our system? What can you do to help the teachers be better? You know, a quarter of our teachers are very good. If you could make all the teachers as good as the top quarter, the U.S. would soar to the top of that comparison. So can you find the way to capture what the really good teachers are doing? It’s amazing to me that more has not been invested in looking at how does that good teacher calm that classroom? How does that good teacher keep the attention of all those kids? We need to measure what they do, and then have incentives for the other teachers to learn those things.
Weingarten: Football teams do this all the time. They look at the tape after every game. Sometimes they do it during the game. They’re constantly deconstructing what is working and what isn’t working. And they’re jettisoning what isn’t working and building up on what is working, and doing it in a teamlike approach. We never do that investment in public schooling. What’s happening in Finland is they do that investment in the graduate schools of education before people become teachers. They recruit a very select group of people who become teachers. Now it is also true that Finland has a 5 percent poverty rate and the United States has a 20 percent poverty rate. But there’s this notion of really figuring out what the best teachers do and trying to scale that up.
From this open promotion by Weingarten for Gates's constant surveillance eval cams,  they move on to talk about the virtues of nationalized personnel systems for teachers, never seeming to notice that Weingarten has inadvertently exposed the corner of the problem that Gates and his predecessors have covered over with three decades now of the same diversionary reform effluvient. i. e., shit.  If Gates and the other Oligarchs would spend some of their billions to leverage solutions to urban and rural poverty, they could put the billions that are now spent on schooling the ragged to educating children who have reason to hope, rather than to despair.  If the BBC (Billionaire Boys Club) would create venture philanthropy outfits to seed jobs creation and anti-poverty campaigns, they could achieve education reform while focusing on socioeconomic reform: THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP IS PRIMARILY THE POVERTY GAP.  But Gates is enthralled with the fanciful delusion that we may aspire to have all teachers as effective as the top quartile, which is as likely, as Rothstein has pointed out, as having every member of your favorite baseball team batting over .300.

And if you are as tired as I am of the obfuscating lies by Gates about all the money spent on social welfare by Americans, here are a few facts that could help fix Bill and Randi if they were inclined to escape from their denial of the problem:
By Lane Kenworthy|Jun 8, 2010, 11:36 AM|Author's Website
It’s commonly thought that a market-liberal political economy is best for the rich while a social-democratic one is best for the poor. Some recent research suggests reason to question this. Analyses by Willem Adema of the OECD, by Adema and Maxime Ladaique, and by Price Fishback conclude that the quantity of social expenditures in the United States is similar to or greater than in Denmark and Sweden, two nations long considered large-welfare-state exemplars.*

How so? Government social transfers account for a much larger share of GDP in Sweden and Denmark. But the U.S. government distributes more benefits in the form of tax breaks rather than transfers than do the two Nordic countries; Denmark and Sweden tax back a larger portion of public transfers than the United States does; private social expenditures, such as those on employment-based health insurance and pensions, are greater in the U.S.; and America’s per capita GDP is larger.

The standard indicator of social policy effort is gross public social expenditures as a percentage of GDP. Denmark and Sweden are much higher than the United States on this measure.
Social Spending and Poverty
Now shift to net (rather than gross) public and private (rather than public alone) expenditures per person (rather than as a percentage of GDP, with purchasing power parities used to convert Danish and Swedish kroner into U.S. dollars). According to the calculations by Adema and Ladaique (Fishback’s are similar), we get a very different picture. By this measure the U.S. is the biggest spender.
Social Spending and Poverty
This looks like good news for the poor in the United States. Is it? Unfortunately, no. These adjustments change the story with respect to the aggregate quantity of resources spent on social protection in the three countries, but they have limited bearing on redistribution and on the living standards of the poor.

Begin with tax breaks. Researchers count as “social” those designed to provide support in circumstances that adversely affect people’s well-being. In the United States these disproportionately go to the affluent and the middle class. The chief ones are tax advantages for employer and employee contributions to private health insurance and private pensions. These do little to help people at the low end of the distribution, who often work for employers that don’t provide health or retirement benefits. One valuable tax benefit for low-income households is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but it is already included in the standard OECD data on government social expenditures. Another is the child tax credit, but it is non-refundable and so of limited value to low-income households, many of whom don’t owe any federal income tax.

Next consider tax “clawbacks” in the Nordic countries. Public transfer programs in Denmark and Sweden tend to be “universal” in design: a large share of the population is eligible for the benefit. This is thought to boost public support for such programs. But it renders them very expensive. To make them more affordable, the government claws back some of the benefit by taxing it as though it were regular income. All countries do this, including the United States, but the Nordic countries do it more extensively. Does that hurt their poor? Very little. The tax rates tend to increase with household income, so much of the tax clawback hits middle- and upper-income households.

What’s the impact of private social spending? In the U.S. this accounts for roughly two-fifths of all social expenditures. It consists mainly of employer contributions to health insurance and employment-based pension benefits. Here too the picture changes a great deal on average, but not much for the poor. Employer-based health insurance and pension plans reach few low-income households.

So how well-off are the poor in the United States, with its “hidden welfare state,” compared to social-democratic Denmark and Sweden? One measure is average posttransfer-posttax (“disposable”) income among households in the bottom decile of the income distribution. Here are my calculations using the best available comparative data, from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS). (The numbers are adjusted for household size. They refer to a household with a single adult. For a family of four, multiply by two.)
Social Spending and Poverty
This is a pretty big difference, not in America’s favor.

In his paper, Fishback cites similar numbers from the OECD. He cautions, though, that “One advantage the poor Americans would have had in spending their disposable income is that they face consumption tax rates in the 4 to 7 percent range, while consumption taxes in the Nordic countries are above 20 percent.” Actually, consumption tax rates are incorporated in the purchasing power parities (PPPs) used to convert incomes to a common currency, so these income figures already adjust for differences in consumption taxes.

What’s the source of this cross-country difference in the incomes of low-end households? It’s entirely a function of government transfers. Again using the LIS data, I’ve calculated mid-2000s averages for households in the bottom income decile for the three chief sources of household income: earnings, net government transfers (transfers received minus taxes paid), and “other” income (money from family or friends, alimony, etc.). Average earnings are virtually identical across the three countries, at about $2,500. The same is true for “other” income, which averages around $500 in each of the three. Where bottom-decile Danish and Swedish households fare much better than their American counterparts is in net government transfers:
Social Spending and Poverty
Fishback rightly points to one other key difference between these countries: “Public services not counted in disposable income, like health care and education, likely are better for the very poor in the Nordic countries than in the United States.” It’s difficult to measure the impact of services on living standards with any precision. One indirect way to assess their effect is to switch from income to material deprivation. Two OECD researchers, Romina Boarini and Marco Mira d’Ercole, have compiled material deprivation data from surveys in various rich nations as of the mid-2000s. Each of the surveys asked identical or very similar questions about seven indicators of material hardship: inability to adequately heat one’s home, constrained food choices, overcrowding, poor environmental conditions (e.g., noise, pollution), arrears in payment of utility bills, arrears in mortgage or rent payment, and difficulty in making ends meet. Boarini and Mira d’Ercole create a summary measure of deprivation by averaging, for each country, the shares of the population reporting deprivation on questions in each of these seven areas.

Government services — medical care, child care, housing, transportation, and so on — reduce material hardship directly. They also free up income to be spent on other needs. The comparative data, though by no means perfect, are consistent with the hypothesis that public services help the poor more in the Nordic countries than in the United States. The gap between the countries in material deprivation is larger than in low-end incomes.
Social Spending and Poverty
Helping the poor is not, of course, the only thing we want from social spending. But it surely is one thing. The United States spends more money on social protection than is often thought, yet that spending doesn’t do nearly as much to help America’s poor as we might like.

For those interested, I’m finishing up a book manuscript that looks at this issue and related ones in more detail.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Maybe you are failing the schools, Chancellor ...


Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?
Chancellor: The school is failing.
Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?
Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.
Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?

From: Declassified: Struggle for Existence (We Used to Eat Lunch Together). Conceived of by students from Jamaica High School and Queens Collegiate High School in the Actor’s Workshop at Queensborough Community College. Full play here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

UK reactions to ther low PISA scores

Letters to the editor published in the Independent (UK), Dec 14 in reaction to Britain's low scores on the PISA.

The first blames the "truculent laziness" of underclass children. The second (mine) blames poverty. The third says the Chinese do well on tests but are not creative. The fourth says we need better teachers and smaller classes and repeats the mantra that young people these days are illiterate and can't do simple math.

As usual, I included research citations with my letter. I assume the others didn't, and that the editor thought their arguments were reasonable enough for publication.

The overall heading for all four letters is unfortunate: "Children who defy teaching," implicitly agreeing with the author of the first letter.

Children who defy teaching

It is worrying that Britain's performance in education is falling relative to that of other countries, ("British schools slump in global league table", 8 December).

Look at those countries that come highest in the table. In their schools, lessons are more formal and regimented but discipline is excellent. In Britain, we are reluctant to talk about an "underclass" but we have a stratum of society in which income (wage or benefit) is low and the upbringing of children chaotic. These children are doomed from the moment they walk into school if not, indeed, from the moment that they are born.

The report suggests that the level of achievement in English and maths of the bottom 20 per cent is sufficiently low as to limit their chances of gaining employment. This is not strictly true. I have taught many pupils of very limited ability who have good personal qualities, have drawn fulsome praise whilst on work experience and have gone on to find employment. When, however, limited ability is allied with a truculent laziness and aggressive "yobbishness", then their employment prospects are bleak.

The Government has little doubt where the fault for educational failure lies. Ofsted inspections are based on the principle that any child, no matter how wild, will respond with enthusiasm if only the quality of the teaching is good enough. We need to end this fiction and tackle the problem of the "underclass" in a determined manner. If we can succeed in this then improved educational performance will be just one of the benefits that society will reap.

Stephen Shaw, Nottingham

American scores on an international test of reading (the PISA) show exactly the same thing that UK scores show: children of poverty don't read very well. American students in schools with few children of poverty scored near the top of the world, those in schools with mostly high-poverty children scored near the bottom of all countries tested.

Similar to the UK results, our research also shows that middle-class English language learners often do better on reading tests than children of poverty who speak English as a first language.

The research tells us why: studies done world-wide show that high poverty means less access to books at home, in school and in the community. This results in less reading, and less reading means lower performance on reading tests.

A necessary part of the solution: more support for libraries and librarians in high-poverty areas.

Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

Dr David Lambert's view (letter, 10 December) that the success of the Chinese education system is based on the concentration of its teaching time on the communication and the production of knowledge, explains why they are so high in global league tables.

The fact that he did not observe any scrutinising of knowledge, explains why they tend to do badly in creative subjects. These, of course, are harder to quantify and hence not included in global league tables.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

I can't see why anyone is surprised that the standard of UK education has dropped to 25th, below countries such as Belgium, Poland and Estonia. Young shop staff can't add up the cost of a few items without using the till calculator and anyone who reads internet forums can see that most contributors are illiterate. We need better teachers and smaller classes.

Peter Bergman, Altrincham, Cheshire

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Randi Weingarten sees the problem and then looks the other way.

The problem is poverty, not teacher quality

Sent to Newsweek, Dec 21, 2010

Randi Weingarten sees the real problem and then looks the other way (Gates and Weingarten: Fixing Our Nation's Schools, Dec. 20): She recognizes that child poverty in the US is much higher than in other industrialized countries (20% or more, compared to Finland and Denmark which are under 4%). She still thinks, however, that the solution is "figuring out what the best teachers do and trying to scale that up." She is apparently unaware of the fact that middle class American children who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on standardized tests, a finding that indicates that teaching quality is not the problem.

It's always a good idea to try to improve teaching, but the major problem is poverty. Study after study shows that that school performance suffers profoundly when children suexperience "food insecurity," live in unsafe and toxic environments, and have little access to reading material. The best teaching in the world has little impact when children are hungry, the best literacy programs have little impact when there is nothing to read. Studies also show that providing adequate nutrition and access to books improves school performance.

Our first priority must be to protect children against the effects of poverty: Let's start with nutrition ("No Child Left Unfed") and increased support for libraries and librarians. We can make profound improvements for a fraction of the cost of the Arne Duncan/Bill Gates solution of new standards and tests.

Stephen Krashen

Newsweek article at: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/12/20/gates-and-weingarten-fixing-our-nation-s-schools.html

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EEOC Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Kaplan

From the EEOC:
EEOC FILES NATIONWIDE HIRING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST KAPLAN HIGHER EDUCATION CORP.
Company’s Use of Job Applicants’ Credit History Discriminates Because of Race, Federal Agency Charges


CLEVELAND – Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, a nationwide provider of postsecondary education, engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by refusing to hire a class of black job applicants nationwide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

Since at least 2008, Kaplan Higher Education has rejected job applicants based on their credit history. This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit.

As a result of these practices, the company has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-02882) filed by the EEOC’s Cleveland Field Office in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. It is a violation of Title VII to use hiring practices that have a discriminatory impact because of race and that are not job-related and justified by business necessity.

The EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement before filing suit. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief in its lawsuit, as well as lost wages and benefits and offers of employment for people who were not hired because of Kaplan Higher Education’s use of job applicants’ credit history.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to eliminate practices that serve as arbitrary barriers to employment because of a job applicant’s race,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and portions of New Jersey and Ohio. “Employers need to be mindful that any hiring practice be job-related and not screen out groups of people, even if it does so unintentionally.”

Workplace discrimination charge filings with the federal agency nationwide rose to an unprecedented level of 99,922 during fiscal year 2010.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Child Doping Goes to College

Pressure cooker schools (see Race to Nowhere) and the doping of school children (see The War on Kids) are having a predictable but no less tragic outcome.  As reported by the New York Times, suicide, depression, cutting, bulimia, and other manifestations of mental illness are approaching epidemic proportions on college campuses.  Predictably, unnamed experts in the Times piece do not find the doping a children as the culprit but, rather, as allowing more troubled children to attend college:
Experts say the trend is partly linked to effective psychotropic drugs (Wellbutrin for depression, Adderall for attention disorder, Abilify for bipolar disorder) that have allowed students to attend college who otherwise might not have functioned in a campus setting. 
Big Pharma to the rescue for problems that child doping initiated, going back to Ritalin in elementary school.  I suggested to the Times reporter in an email that he read some of the work by Dr. Peter Breggin to get some facts that aren't purchased by Smith-Kline or one of their competitors.

Here is another clip from the Times piece that captures some of the reality at Stony Brook:
. . . .Stony Brook, an academically demanding branch of the State University of New York (its admission rate is 40 percent), faces the mental health challenges typical of a big public university. It has 9,500 resident students and 15,000 who commute from off-campus. The highly diverse student body includes many who are the first in their families to attend college and carry intense pressure to succeed, often in engineering or the sciences. A Black Women and Trauma therapy group last semester included participants from Africa, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from violence in their youth.

Stony Brook has seen a sharp increase in demand for counseling — 1,311 students began treatment during the past academic year, a rise of 21 percent from a year earlier. At the same time, budget pressures from New York State have forced a 15 percent cut in mental health services over three years.

Dr. Hwang, a clinical psychologist who became director in July 2009, has dealt with the squeeze by limiting counseling sessions to 10 per student and referring some, especially those needing long-term treatment for eating disorders or schizophrenia, to off-campus providers.

But she has resisted the pressure to offer only referrals. By managing counselors’ workloads, the center can accept as many as 60 new clients a week in peak demand between October and the winter break.

“By this point in the semester to not lose hope or get jaded about the work, it can be a challenge,” Dr. Hwang said. “By the end of the day, I go home so adrenalized that even though I’m exhausted it will take me hours to fall asleep.”
For relief, she plays with her 2-year-old daughter, and she has taken up the guitar again.

Shifting to Triage
Near the student union in the heart of campus, the Student Health Center building dates from the days when a serious undergraduate health problem was mononucleosis. But the hiring of Judy Esposito, a social worker with experience counseling Sept. 11 widows, to start a triage unit three years ago was a sign of the new reality in student mental health.

At 9 a.m. on the Tuesday after the campus’s very busy weekend, Ms. Esposito had just passed the Purell dispenser by the entrance when she noticed two colleagues hurrying toward her office. Before she had taken off her coat, they were updating her about a junior who had come in the previous week after cutting herself and expressing suicidal thoughts.

Ms. Esposito’s triage team fields 15 to 20 requests for help a day. After brief interviews, most students are scheduled for a longer appointment with a psychologist, which leads to individual treatment. The one in six who do not become patients are referred to other university departments like academic advising, or to off-campus therapists if long-term help is needed. There are no charges for on-campus counseling.. . .

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Most important youtube video ever

This is a FANTASTIC video.

Some high points, thanks to Susan Ohanian:

Nothing to Hide and No Excuses: Video Evaluation to Raise Teacher
Quality

School Reform Foundation and Charter Teachers for the Future of America have a
plan for teacher evaluation. Every reform cliche is turned on its head here,
starting with "the strong correlation between student low performance and
teachers having desks.

# We need an inquisition to make schools strong again.

# with video replay and stop motion we can analyze every last twitch or spasm in

transforming student outcomes.

# You're not hiding something are you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpmQZ5MXs8c

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Media Bullpen

Keep an eye on this new "media/policy platform," The Media Bullpen.  It's put together by the Center for Education Reform and is funded, at least in part, but the Gates Foundation.

From Idealist:
The Center for Education Reform is seeking a top-notch Managing Editor as it prepares for the launch of The Media Bullpen, a groundbreaking journalistic media/policy platform dedicated to dedicated to: a) correcting the record on K-12 education issues and; b) improving the media/public understanding of topics in K-12 education and education reform.

The ideal candidate will lead The Media Bullpen’s editorial program, under the supervision of CER senior executives, through an evolving combination of hands-on content creation and management/supervisory responsibilities. He/she will create and/or direct the creation of all Media Bullpen editorial content, will be thoroughly acquainted with education players and issues, will be a passionate advocate for education reform, and will have a strong journalistic background, which includes high-volume daily content creation in a fast-paced and Web-based environment.

He/she will be a consistent, accurate, compelling, and lively “voice” for the Media Bullpen. As the platform grows, the Managing Editor will have increasing supervisory responsibility for a growing team of researchers, analysts and freelance writers who will also generate original content for this national media initiative.

Qualities sought: Decisiveness, tenacity, authority, passion for the issues, journalistic background, flexibility, superb and succinct writing/editorial style, reliability, comfort in a tech-heavy social media environment, balance, “voice”, and a sense of humor.

Sample Duties:
• Drafting and posting rapid-fire content creation with high accuracy; concise editorial responses to media stories from daily news feeds (up to 300 stories per staffer/per day)
• Assuring the accurate inflow of state-wide and national multimedia news inflows on an ongoing basis
• Overseeing the acquisition, placement, and appropriate use of content, data, art, and graphics
• Making prioritized editorial assignments to other staff members
• Evaluating new opportunities for improving online content from various sources to ensure complete coverage
• Must be able to react to change productively and handle other essential tasks as assigned

Requirements:
• Professional experience: 5-10 in traditional and online journalism with superb references and a demonstrated record of excellence
• Education: Bachelor’s Degree (minimum), MA preferred; communications, journalism, public policy
• Knowledgeable about education issues and policy; with a passion for education reform
• Ability to craft short, clean copy for consumers, policy makers, grassroots activists, and media stakeholders
• Strong headline writing, copywriting, teaser development
• Able to make quick decisions and judgment calls
• Experience generating daily, high-volume content
• Experience developing and motivating writing teams
• Ability to work easily with data and social media in a technology-centric editorial environment
• Adept with Web-based CMS tools and content generation applications
• Experience in web publishing, keyword research and tagging, HTML/CSS
• Aware of legal requirements for content acquisitions and re-use
• Flexible, self-starting, accountable, and absolutely reliable
• Exceptional project management skills with an ability to set priorities and deadlines
• Ability to communicate effectively with co-workers and manage telecommuting relationships
• Exhibits and models sound journalistic ethics
• Able to provide "live" radio interviews & two-ways on the topic of education & reform for use on the air

Hours: Full Time (Note: Initial Part Time training and/or consulting engagement may be considered as precursor)

No relocation assistance.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Boston's Appointed Superintendent and School Board Couldn't Be More Polite and Undemocratic

Last updated December 17 8:30 AM
The air of irony last evening could not have been thicker at the first public high school of Boston, as all the children in the audience at Boston's Public High got an unforgettable lesson in what democracy does and doesn't look like.

On the "doesn't" side was the feckless School Committee, peering down from the stage of the school auditorium at speaker after speaker, 70 in all, most of whom came to speak against the impending school closures.  The seven appointed Board members and their appointed Superintendent of Schools sat, some leaning forward, some flouncing, some yawning, some chatting, and all waiting patiently for the anticlimactic climax, to make the centrally-planned backroom decision official, while thumbing their noses at the citizenry, regardless of pleas, logic, tears, begging, demonstrations, catcalls, raps, and the rest.

The school closing decision, of course, had been made for them, and they were there last evening to play their bit parts in the democratic farce that has come to the Commonwealth where Horace Mann battled for the creation of public schools, where Benjamin Roberts, Robert Morris, Frederick Douglas, and Charles Sumner made the case for integrated public schools a hundred and sixty years ago.  Now looms the incredible specter of a system based on apartheid, zero-tolerance charter school chain gangs in the black and brown areas of the City.

The children in the audience last night also saw the promise of a democracy renewed in the strong, eloquent voices of their friends, teachers, parents, bus drivers, school helpers, and community activists, who are now galvanized by the decision of the Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate foundations to turn their backs on so many amazing school programs and committed teachers and energized parents.

The School Committee vote last evening was one of the first bombs lobbed into the laps of Boston's public school parents, teachers, and students, and there are sure to be more.  Waiting with their anti-public strategies wrapped in measured, unyielding, Puritan politeness are the charter zealots and the corporate CMOs, EMOs, and CEOs who see education as a controllable commodity whose production cannot be exported but can be exploited for economic gain.

The next bomb will try to blow apart teachers and parents, with school resources or teacher salaries on either side of the crater.  And waiting in the wings for the empty school properties are the charter schools, which in fact are the reason for the $63 million shortfall to begin with.  If Boston were not paying for these charter schools and the incredibly expensive and inefficient transportation to them, there would be no shortfall of $63 million.

The day before yesterday the Mayor was the invited speaker at the Annual Breakfast hosted by Chamber, where he stood before a backdrop of Bank of America and Chamber of Commerce logos to announce the closings or mergings that got formalized last evening.  And even though the mayor got his first standing ovation in all his speeches to the Chamber of Commerce, he should enjoy it while he can.  The Boston public is aroused and angry and ready to act.  If you thought you saw repudiation in Washington, DC in November, just wait.  This could easily be the event that signaled the beginning of the restoration of public control of the Boston Public Schools.  

Finally, one of two elected official to speak last evening was City Councilman, Felix Arroyo, whose eloquent appeal to save the schools fell on the same deaf ears.  When the Councilman's 2 minutes were almost up, he was reminded by the Committee's timekeeper on the stage.  Someone in the audience yelled, LET HIM SPEAK--HE WAS ELECTED!

Perhaps in the not so distant future, those on the stage will be elected as well.  Let's make it happen.  Let's restore Democracy to the Cradle of Democracy in America.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gates Gives to Rs

Here's a partial list of Bill Gates' donations from 2010.  These are the Republican recipients.  This is hardly a lot of money: $11,000 is less than pocket change for Bill, and candidates are not bought off with $1,000 donations:

1/8/2010 $1,000 to Mike Pence
1/15/2010 $1,000 to John Thune
1/21/2010 $1,000 to Mitch McConnell
6/21/2010 $1,000 to Cathy McMorris
6/21/2010 $1,000 to Kevin McCarthy
6/22/2010 $1,000 to Eric Cantor
6/24/2010 $1,000 to Richard Burr
6/30/2010 $1,000 to Joe Barton
7/19/2010 $1,000 to Mitch McConnell
7/19/2010 $1,000 to Mitch McConnell

You can look up other donations via the FEC website.  A list of Gates' donations, including Democratic recipients, is available here.  Eli Broad, on the other hand, sticks strictly to Dems.  Both, of course, have donated to right-wing think tanks.

Save money and improve education at the same time: A suggestion


Sent to the Los Angeles Daily News, Dec 15.

Re: "Gov.-elect Jerry Brown says money for schools could be chopped by up to 20-25 percent," Dec, 15.

California can save a lot of money by eliminating programs that aren’t doing any good. A good place to start is the High School Exit Exam.

Analyst Jo Ann Behm has estimated that the combined state and local costs of California's high school exit exam exceed $500 million per year.

The most recent review of research on exit exams, done by researchers at the University of Texas, concluded that high school exit exams do not lead to more college attendance, increased student learning or higher employment.

In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a High School Exit Exam.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

University of Southern California


Most recent review: Holme, J., Richards, M., Jimerson, J., and Cohen, R. 2010. Assessing the effects of high school exit examinations. Review of Educational Research 80 (4): 476-526.

http://www.dailynews.com/ci_16857249?source=most_emailed

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to "fix things fast" in education: Support libraries and librarians

Sent to TIME Magazine, Dec 14, 2010

TIME's report that the US "lags behind" countries like Finland and South Korea" on the PISA reading test ("In school, China on the rise," Dec 20), and TIME's positive evaluation of the film Waiting for Superman (The Best Movies of 2010, Dec. 20), leads to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong with American education and that "we have to fix things fast." A closer look at the data shows that what is wrong is our unacceptably high rate of child poverty.

Poverty had a huge impact on American PISA reading test scores. American students in schools with less than 10% of students on free and reduced lunch averaged 551, higher than the overall average of any of the 34 member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). Those in schools with 10 to 25% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch averaged 527. Among the OECD countries, only Korea and Finland did better.

In contrast, American students in schools with 75% of more of children in poverty averaged 446, second to last among the 34 OECD countries.

Our overall scores are less impressive because we have one of the highest rates of child poverty among all the countries tested. According to a 2005 UNICEF report, the US has a child poverty rate of over 21.9%; in contrast, the rate in high-scoring Finland is only 2.8%.

Among other things, high poverty means less access to books at school, at home and in the community. Less access to books means less reading, and less reading means lower performance on tests such as the PISA.

What all this means is that our first priority should be to protect children against the effects of poverty, including making sure all children have access to reading material. And the obvious way to do this is to support school and public libraries and school librarians.

The PISA report confirms this: Reading fiction for enjoyment and on-line reading were associated with higher PISA reading scores across all countries tested.

Stephen Krashen

Watching Big Brother Makes Him Very Nervous and Angry

From Michael Moore:

Why I'm Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange (A statement from Michael Moore)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Friends,

Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:

**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks "has violated the Espionage Act."

**The New Yorker's George Packer calls Assange "super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal."

**Sarah Palin claims he's "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands" whom we should pursue "with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: "A dead man can't leak stuff ... there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

**Republican Mary Matalin says "he's a psychopath, a sociopath ... He's a terrorist."

**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a "terrorist organization."

And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won't be so easy because the tables have been turned -- and now it's Big Brother who's being watched ... by us!

WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks ("they've released little that's new!") or have painted them as simple anarchists ("WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!"). WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There's no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don't want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept ... as secrets.

I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago. Take a look at this photo. That's Mr. Bush about to be handed a "secret" document on August 6th, 2001. Its heading read: "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." And on those pages it said the FBI had discovered "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." Mr. Bush decided to ignore it and went fishing for the next four weeks.

But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden's impending attack using hijacked planes?

But back then only a few people had access to that document. Because the secret was kept, a flight school instructor in San Diego who noticed that two Saudi students took no interest in takeoffs or landings, did nothing. Had he read about the bin Laden threat in the paper, might he have called the FBI? (Please read this essay by former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time's 2002 co-Person of the Year, about her belief that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.)

Or what if the public in 2003 had been able to read "secret" memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the "facts" he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched -- or rather, wouldn't there have been calls for Cheney's arrest?

Openness, transparency -- these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 -- after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin -- there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.

Instead, secrets killed them.

For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the "official story." And regardless of Assange's guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money -- and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that's the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you're up to. You simply can't be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.

And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.

I stand today in absentia with Julian Assange in London and I ask the judge to grant him his release. I am willing to guarantee his return to court with the bail money I have wired to said court. I will not allow this injustice to continue unchallenged.

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

P.S. You can read the statement I filed today in the London court here.

P.P.S. If you're reading this in London, please go support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a demonstration at 1 PM today, Tuesday the 14th, in front of the Westminster court.

The $hared No Labels Goals of the Corporate Party

From the website:
The No Labels movement was born out of support for these shared goals, and we are committed to helping our nation remain true to these values that we all profess in an environment, [sic] which encourages fact-based discussions.
We are not labels – we are people.
We must put our labels aside,
And put the issues and what’s best for the nation first.
A promising future awaits us.
It sounds so right, doesn't it.  Yes, I am ready.  Yes, we can can our democracy.  The shared goals we all agree on?  Replacing the old-school goal of a nation serving as a beacon for democratic living and the spread of democracy will be, first and foremost, world economic hegemony and cutting away the social net at home for our corporate benefit (my underlining).  I am feeling the power surging through us:
 The US must Remain the World’s Premier Economic Power- Most Americans realize that unprecedented levels of debt threaten America’s economic growth. [i]  What’s worse, half of that debt belongs to foreign countries like China. We need to restore fiscal solvency. Because a huge share of the budget goes to fund mandatory, “entitlement” programs, fiscal solvency is simply not possible without entitlement reform.[ii]  We need our representatives to do the math, without worrying about ideology.
To remain # 1 at the cash register, we will need an energy policy that is aimed toward the same goal, one that does not mention the annoying and impending extinction of most species on Earth:
We need an Energy Policy that Promotes National Security. . . . The United States needs a coherent energy policy to guarantee our economic vitality and energy security for years to come. We need an approach that focuses on increasing energy supplies from diversified, clean, sustainable sources. We need to reduce unnecessary and inefficient demand. Developing abundant energy must be a unifying effort for our country--a national mission that draws on America’s extraordinary invention and entrepreneurship. 
And let's not leave out education.  After all, to change a democracy, you must change its education system. Where old-school thinking was focused on civic virtue, democratic values, productive citizenship,  we set out our new shared goals for our children, goals for the benefit of our shared corporate economic engine that put labels aside (unless you cling to the status quo and insist on resisting the corporatization of America and its public spaces).  And let's base our shared goals on some bold decontextualized "facts" from a discredited scare document from 2005 called Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.   The sequel, just out in October of this year, is scarier still: Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5:
We Must Prepare Our Children for 21st Century Jobs—The United States now ranks 20th among industrialized nations in high school completion rates [iv]   And-- in a global economy that is increasingly driven by technological development--, we rank a dismal 48 in quality of math and science education.[v]  This year a National Academy of Sciences panel found our students are less competitive than they were five years ago.  Our children should be prepared for the best jobs in the world; they deserve an educational system that does that.  It is time for our children to come before entrenched interests that protect the status quo.  We need increased accountability throughout the educational system, as well as the the support systems teachers and students need to succeed. We need elected officials who realize this is not an option. 
Not an option, and No Excuse, by the way.  After all, we have universal agreement in the No Labels camp for more name taking and punishing and grinding children into test scores for the benefit of us billionaires.

And finally, our shared goals the government, itself, which is hopelessly broken like every other institution requiring a corporate fix.  Please note that "for the people" has been eliminated from Lincoln's speech, for purposes determined by the Home Office:
We Need a Government of the People, By the People—None of the problems we list above are new. But our government has failed to come up with common sense solutions because our political process is broken. . . .
I am glad we all agree, and I am hopeful that all of you will vote for mayoral control nationwide as we ramp up the campaign to put Mayor Bloomberg in the Corporate Wing of the White House as CEO of the CEOs.

Old (Unreported?) News

I sure didn't see any news coverage of it at the time, but Imagine Schools' CEO Dennis Bakke gave $1,000 to Sharron Angle's political action committee in August of 2010.  Via the FEC:


Angle recently started a new political action committee (everyone's doing it these days!)