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

Monday, May 22, 2017

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

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



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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Moby-Dick for Babies: Marvel or Monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Silicon Valley Assault on Children's Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brent Staples Leads NY Times Editorial Thought Disorders

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Personalized Learning Poised to Take Center Stage


from Wrench in the Gears
May 14, 2017

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

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



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

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

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

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Privatizer Nick Melvoin wants Betsy DeVos style policies for Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Is Just Another of Putin's Puppet Oligarchs

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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

by Wrench in the Gears
May 10, 2017



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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Happened When Sister Betsy Spoke at an HBCU Commencement

Racist billionaire and Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, thought she would smooth over some of Trump's more outrageous abuses of HBCUs when she went to speak at Bethune-Cookman's commencement.  I don't think she will make that mistake again.


Friday, May 05, 2017

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos' 'School Choice' Movement Isn't Social Justice. It's a Return to Segregation.

Charters and vouchers have always been intended to break public schools, and wrest education away from the public commons. "School choice," a phrase coined by segregationists, has always been about maintaining and exacerbating segregation by race and class.

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos' 'School Choice' Movement Isn't Social Justice. It's a Return to Segregation. by Adam Bessie and Erik Thurman is a powerful piece that makes complex concepts easy to understand. It's a excellent thing to share with non-academics regarding the scourge of school privatization via charters-vouchers. I've included a quote and a teaser from the piece below.

http://socialjusticequotations.tumblr.com/post/160327844183/the-school-choice-system-is-jim-crow-education
https://charterschoolfacts.tumblr.com/post/160327683353/graphic-essay-betsy-devos-school-choice

Monday, May 01, 2017

Hoping to escape Competency-Based Education? Looks like Wyoming is your only option.

from Wrench in the Gears
May 2, 2017

Last week Susan Patrick of iNACOL (International Association of K12 Online Learning) and Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks presented “An Overview of K12 Competency-Based Education for Education Leaders and Teachers.” The webinar and slides can be accessed here. Compare the slides below and consider the gravity of our situation.

The first (above) shows the reach of Competency-Based Education policies today. Only Wyoming remains untouched.

The second shows the reach of those policies in 2012.


The Carnegie Corporation has signed on as a sponsor of iNACOL’s 2017 National Summit on Competency Based Education to the tune of $50,000. A list of 2016 sponsors can be found here.

Last September the Gates Foundation awarded iNACOL a grant “to develop an evidence-based report that identifies how personalized learning is emerging in the United States, what the drivers for moving to personalized learning are, and identification of patterns of why and how personalized learning is taking hold.”

In 2014 the Nellie Mae Education Foundation awarded a grant to “support iNACOL in the development of an integrated learning system that provides a platform for a school’s learning environment by enabling the management, delivery and tracking of student-centered learning and includes robust reporting and analytics capabilities.”

This week the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Digital Promise are bringing hundreds of researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to Washington, DC to collaborate on EdTech Efficacy Research. Click here for bios of working group members who will be finessing data analytics that will set the stage for widespread adoption of impact investing in public education.

With the Ed Reform 2.0 transition well underway, it is imperative that education activists familiarize themselves iNACOL’s operations. The organization’s 2014 tax filing states their mission is to “Ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success.” Susan Patrick, President and CEO, left her position as Director of the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in 2005 to launch iNACOL. While at the US DOE, she was the primary architect of the 2004 National Educational Technology Plan. Her LinkedIn profile notes she earned degrees in English and Communications and was employed as a legislative liaison and administrator of educational technology programs, but never taught or worked in a K-12 school setting.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

KIPP Calls for End of Debate and More Disposable Teachers

My response below to Mike Feinberg's op-ed in the Houston Chronicle:

It's that time of year again when thousands of exhausted KIPP Model teachers are anticipating their final teaching days and hoping to recover from the regular traumas of working in "no excuses" charters like KIPP.  In these schools, unsustainable hours, unending paperwork and meetings, impossible discipline and test score expectations, unbearable, unrelieved workloads, total compliance school cultures, autocratic administration, shortages of materials, the absence of textbooks, and an unbending and uncaring organizational hierarchy, all have served once more to push out thousands of teachers after a couple of years of trying to bear the unbearable.

KIPP and its charter chain emulators could not staff their corporate operations without yearly infusions of malleable teacher-missionary beginners from Relay and Teach for America. With the average tenure of KIPP Model teachers being two years, it is not surprising, then, to see Mr. Feinberg's adver-torial aimed to yield another crop of well-meaning neophytes to staff the KIPP Model segregated charter chains.

Nor is it surprising that Mr. Feinberg would advocate an end to debate about the future of privately-run and publicly-funded K-12 schools like KIPP, which embody the zero-tolerance school culture that weeds out the low performers and behavior problems that could damage the KIPP brand.

Debate about the place of segregated no excuses corporate reform schools in a democracy is not going to end, however. Just as the the agenda of the assimilationist and segregative charter schools has been laid bare in my book and others, the racist plan by white philanthropists' to fix the weak work ethic, the defective behaviors, and inferior character traits of black and brown children will continue to be exposed. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Dangers of Transhumanist Fantasy-Science

“Transhumanism . . . . is the idea of humanity attempting to overcome its limitations and to arrive at fuller fruition.” --Julian Huxley

Gifted investigator, writer, and former evangelical Christian, Meghan O'Gieblyn, has published an abridged version of her important essay on transhumanism in The Guardian.  What is transhumanism, and why should we care?  

In short, transhumanism is the pseudo-scientific belief that human evolution will “advance” within the foreseeable future to a super-biological state, whereby consciousness, or some digital high priest's version of it, will be coded and uploaded to a version of supercomputers that defies the limitations of human organisms and opens the window to limitless possibility and eternal, um, life?

Like the theologians at my Bible school, Kurzweil [author of The Age of Spiritual Machines], who is now a director of engineering at Google and a leading proponent of a philosophy called transhumanism, had his own historical narrative. He divided all of evolution into successive epochs. We were living in the fifth epoch, when human intelligence begins to merge with technology. Soon we would reach the “Singularity”, the point at which we would be transformed into what Kurzweil called “Spiritual Machines”. We would transfer or “resurrect” our minds onto supercomputers, allowing us to live forever. Our bodies would become incorruptible, immune to disease and decay, and we would acquire knowledge by uploading it to our brains. Nanotechnology would allow us to remake Earth into a terrestrial paradise, and then we would migrate to space, terraforming other planets. Our powers, in short, would be limitless.

While historically tracing the connections of this high tech scientism to millenarian Christian sects focused on the Rapture, O'Gieblyn does a terrific job of laying bare the theistic underpinnings of this romanticized dystopianism that is intent upon engineering a future society that will advance their dubious prophecies couched as scientific inevitability:

. . . although few transhumanists would likely admit it, their theories about the future are a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology. The word transhuman first appeared not in a work of science or technology but in Henry Francis Carey’s 1814 translation of Dante’s Paradiso, the final book of the Divine Comedy. Dante has completed his journey through paradise and is ascending into the spheres of heaven when his human flesh is suddenly transformed. He is vague about the nature of his new body. “Words may not tell of that transhuman change,” he writes. 

Dante, in this passage, is dramatising the resurrection, the moment when, according to Christian prophecies, the dead will rise from their graves and the living will be granted immortal flesh. The vast majority of Christians throughout the ages have believed that these prophecies would happen supernaturally – God would bring them about, when the time came. But since the medieval period, there has also persisted a tradition of Christians who believed that humanity could enact the resurrection through science and technology. The first efforts of this sort were taken up by alchemists. Roger Bacon, a 13th-century friar who is often considered the first western scientist, tried to develop an elixir of life that would mimic the effects of the resurrection as described in Paul’s epistles.

Aren't these transhumanists just fringe elements, you may ask.  Not quite:

Transhumanists today wield enormous power in Silicon Valley – entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel identify as believers – where they have founded thinktanks such as the Singularity University and the Future of Humanity Institute. The ideas proposed by the pioneers of the movement are no longer abstract theoretical musings but are being embedded into emerging technologies at organisations such as Google, Apple, Tesla and SpaceX.

In the end, it is not the transhumanist religious belief system that is the danger here but, rather, the operationalizing of this belief system to shape society (economics, culture, morality, science) in ways that would appear to make a religious goal, which is based really on an unacknowledged faith, achievable in a secular world:

What makes the transhumanist movement so seductive is that it promises to restore, through science, the transcendent hopes that science itself has obliterated. Transhumanists do not believe in the existence of a soul, but they are not strict materialists, either. Kurzweil claims he is a “patternist”, characterising consciousness as the result of biological processes, “a pattern of matter and energy that persists over time”. These patterns, which contain what we tend to think of as our identity, are currently running on physical hardware – the body – that will one day give out. But they can, at least in theory, be transferred onto supercomputers, robotic surrogates or human clones. A pattern, transhumanists would insist, is not the same as a soul. But it’s not difficult to see how it satisfies the same longing. At the very least, a pattern suggests that there is some essential core of our being that will survive and perhaps transcend the inevitable degradation of flesh.

As with other dogmas that end up imposing their faith as a result of treating it as fact, the operationalized cult of the transhumanist agenda sends science and technology on a narcissistic goose chase, just at a time when science represents one of the few remaining tools that may help to sustain life on earth as we know it.

While holding out the ridiculous fantasy that human consciousness, or some manufactured version of it, can be uploaded into virtual time and space, transhumanism represents a capitulation to the eventuality of environmental end times, and it offers a free pass to the murderous corporate exploitation of life on Earth. 

And while we wait for the high priests of Silicon Valley to devise the algorithm to transport what is ineffable of humans into ones and zeros that can self-organize in such ways as to “break through the material framework of Time and Space,” society must be prepared to expect attempted domination of a highly-lucrative techno-religiosity into all human enterprises.  

If the transhumanists have their way, theirs will be the final religion.

Tell California State Senators to support SB 808


Network for Public Education (NPE) is helping to support California Senate Bill 808. The legislation, while it doesn't go far enough, is an important first step towards reeling in the outrageous excesses of the charter school sector. My letter to my State Senator appears below, as well as the call to action letter from NPE.

Senator de Leon:

I am a third year law student, studying hard so that I can become an attorney and defend families of children with disabilities against discrimination by the lucrative charter school industry. Prior to my studying law, I wrote for numerous publications about the essentially unregulated charter sector, exposing abuses, fraud, misrepresentation, and more importantly, discriminatory conduct towards the most vulnerable students.

Charters discriminate against English language learners, students with disciplinary histories, students with disabilities, and more. Meanwhile, their high-powered executives—many of whom are not even educators—pull down astronomical salaries and use their ability as unregulated 501c3s to award no bid contracts to their friends, relatives, or in the case of a current Los Angeles School Board member, to their own consulting firm. Since members of the taxpaying public don't elect charter school boards, there exists a system that puts public money into private hands with no mechanisms to ensure even a modicum of transparency or oversight.

Furthermore, my alma mater, UCLA, has conducted several studies demonstrating that charter schools exacerbate segregation, and fuel the so-called "school to prison pipeline." A perusal of the studies compiled by UCLA's The Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles would cause any reasonable person to realize that decades of letting the revenue-stream-driven charter school industry "regulate" itself has resulted in an abject situation.

Therefore, I'm asking you to please support SB 808. This bill would give California’s democratically elected, local school boards the final say when it comes to the approval of charter school petitions. The present system takes away community control, forcing districts to navigate reduced budgets and high legal costs for schools over which they have no authority.

Schools that receive public dollars must be responsible to the public. Thank you.


Dear Robert D,

NPE and NPE Action have long been concerned about charter schools in California. You can read our NPE reports about them here.

Now there is a chance to make a small improvement. On April 26th, SB 808 comes up for a hearing before the Senate Education Committee.

This bill would give California’s democratically elected, local school boards the final say when it comes to the approval of charter school petitions. Under current laws, charter petitioners can appeal to state and county boards of education, thereby taking away community control, forcing districts to navigate reduced budgets and high legal costs for schools over which they have no authority. Meanwhile, charter schools often receive blank checks, in the form of pro-bono legal work, funded by the billionaire-backed lobbying group, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). We need to level the playing field, so that all schools which receive public funding are responsible and accountable in the same ways.

Here is what we need you to do.

1. Send an email to your Senator. We make it very easy- just click here.

2. Call the members of the Senate Education Committee and ask them to vote YES on SB 808.

• Benjamin Allen, Chair (Santa Monica) 916-651-4026
• Scott Wilk, Vice Chair (Santa Clarita) 916-651-4021
• Cathleen Galgiani (Stockton) 916-651-4005
• Connie M. Leyva (Chino) 916-651-4020
• Tony Mendoza (Artesia) 916-651-4032
• Richard Pan (Sacramento) 916-651-4006
• Andy Vidak (Hanford) 916-651-4014

Let them know that the taxpayers of California deserve local, democratically elected and accountable officials overseeing how their children are educated and tax dollars are spent. Let them know that you are tired of charter school scandals. California's children and taxpayers deserve better.

Thank you for all that you do.

Carol Burris

Executive Director of NPE Action

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mr. Staples: Here's What Happened to Black Teachers

As the chief education spokesman for the New York Times editorial board, Brent Staples' support for corporate education polices most often goes unsigned in his editorials.  This week, however, Mr. Staples has an editorial piece in the Times that asks, "where did all the black teachers go?"

For almost three decades, Brent Staples has refined the New York Times' editorial policy on education to support, unfailingly, the corporate education reform agenda that began in Charlottesville, VA almost 30 years ago.  It was in 1989 that GHW Bush called together the nation's governors to meet with the nation's leading CEOs to set a national education agenda designed to put corporations in charge of making education policy based on Reagan market ideology, and to put governors in charge of implementation of that policy. 

The year after in 1990, Brent Staples joined the Times editorial board.  It was the same year that one of the governors leading the Charlottesville Conference, Lamar Alexander, was named Secretary of Education and charged with promoting education privatization policies to end the "public school monopoly." The other governor in charge at the Charlottesville Conference, Bill Clinton, was elected President in 1992, which began the school privatization effort in earnest. 

Clinton used the bully pulpit to advance charter growth, and by the time Clinton left office the nation was seven schools short (1,993) of meeting Clinton's goal of 2,000 charter schools in the U. S. by the year 2000.

As a black man embracing white racist policies, Staples voiced support for the white elite corporate education policies and policy talk that has for centuries blamed the shiftless poor for their impoverished and oppressed conditions and their lazy and ignorant black teachers for falling short of expectations on standardized tests designed to humiliate anyone outside the white middle class for which the tests were normed.

With Clinton, accountability demands began to be ratcheted up with more testing, so that by the time GW Bush was appointed President in 2000 by the Supreme Court, Brent Staples, as the voice of the Times on education, was ready to embrace a multi-prong frontal assault on the disenfranchised and the public school teachers that serve them. 

Thinly veiled as a social justice initiative that would "leave no child behind," the NCLB Act put the Business Roundtable and the oligarchs with tax-sheltered corporate foundations in charge of making education policy to test, label, demonize, and shut down thousands of public community schools in favor of corporate charter schools. 

In New Orleans, hundreds of black teachers lost their jobs almost overnight when disaster capitalists took over NOLA public schools after Katrina.  Tens of thousands of others around the country lost their jobs as well, just as they continue today to lose them wherever charter school operators replace credentialed teachers with pedagogically-ignorant, culturally-irrelevant, and empathy-free Ivy Leaguers devoted to turning impoverished black and brown children into robotic versions of middle class white kids. 

Staples and the Editorial Board applauded the creation of a new category of white male overseers and white female missionary teachers to staff the corporate charters, which were charged by their paternalist philanthrocapitalist bosses with dehumanizing and culturally sterilizing the children of the poor, while grinding out, from the surviving high scoring charter children the test results that would be used to justify charter expansion. 

Today there are almost 7,000 charter schools, and thousands more KIPP Model schools planned and funded by nearly $400 million in federal funds each year and the tens of billions of dollars annually from starving state education funds.

Now Brent Staples, near retirement age, asks in his most recent signed editorial piece for the Times, "what happened to black teachers?"  What happened, indeed!

Having gone to segregated schools, himself, up through grade 4, Staples was handpicked in 5th grade to attend the all-white William Penn School in Chester, Pennsylvania.  There at the William Penn Elementary, in a school with the social capital and educational resources to allow his talent to shine, his voice to develop, his aspirations to open up, he flourished.  In fact, he won scholarships that allowed him to advance his education, so that today he holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Chicago.

If Mr. Staples were growing up today in a poor urban environment, such an intellectually precocious 5th grade child from a poor family would most likely end up in another segregated school like the punishing KIPP Model charter schools, where children in educationally-minimalist environments are beaten down until they become compliant and malleable enough to be molded by corporate happiness training into aspiring robots.

Black teachers, Mr. Staples?  Black and brown teachers who have not absorbed the white racism that imbues the KIPP Model schools want no part of this brave new world of total compliance training and child cruelty that you continue to support, as you hide behind the anonymity that your editorial board position affords you, except on the days that you put your name on a piece that pretends to care.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Karl Dean Sits on Left Aisle of Corporate Party Jet

Former Nashville mayor, Karl Dean, is running to be TN's next governor.  He is running as a Democrat, but he is no less a Wall Street corporatist than Michael Bloomberg, Rahm Emanuel, or the Clintons.  As mayor, Dean's most visible accomplishments, aside from killing a mass transit effort that was opposed by the auto lobby and Gov. "Pilot Oil" Bill Haslam, were 1) providing incentives and other tax breaks for big business to locate or expand in Nashville and, 2) leading a muscular advocacy for school privatization via corporate charter school expansion.

Take Hospital Corporation of America, for instance.  Even though HCA was already headquartered in Nashville, Dean was able to wrangle a deal that gives HCA a $3 million annual tax abatement for 20 years, plus moving expenses to relocate into a new headquarters in West Nashville.  The year that Dean provided his corporate welfare deal to HCA, the company brought in over $30 billion and had a net profit of $2.45 billion.

And then there is the Omni Hotel deal, which provided Omni $103 million in tax breaks over 20 years, plus another $25 million to acquire the building site near downtown.  And, of course, there are other sweet deals of less impressive proportions.

Dean's generosity with public funds for corporate welfare projects was just as striking when it came the white elites' final solution for schooling the children of the disenfranchised.  In 2011, as public school buildings were crumbling and teachers were running around with garbage cans to catch the rain from leaky roofs, Dean ponied up 10 percent of Nashville's four-year school building budget, $10 million, for one KIPP, Inc. school in Nashville. 

When Dean left his mayoral post, he joined the board of a national charter school privatization venture bent on spreading the paternalistic gospel of "no excuses" charter schools as replacements for urban public schools. He still serves in that post.

In spite of the fact that the appetite for charters in Tennessee has waned as Tennessee taxpayers now realize that the only people getting fat from this deal are the charter operators and corporate foundations, Dean has doubled down on his charter zealotry:
Dean is unapologetic about his pro-charter position, which he said is in line with other big city mayors and with President Barack Obama.

“The important message for me is that charter schools are public schools,” he said. “It’s a different way of management, it’s a way that gives parents more choices and has produced very positive results in Nashville.”

“I don’t regret my support for charter schools and I think it’s consistent with being a good Democrat, and in line with some very, very good Democrats,” he said.
Will a real Democrat emerge in the gubernatorial race to support public schools?  Only time will tell. 

One thing is for sure: there is no appetite among progressives for the Republican Lite candidates that the DNC has supported in the past.  On education issues, the difference between Dean and the Republicans is that the Republicans love vouchers with their charters for school privatization, whereas Dean is strictly a charter man.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Indianapolis (and a few other places), Meet John Arnold



By Doug Martin 


With the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Foundation, and others, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation is pumping millions of dollars into Indianapolis, and former Mind Trust executive vice president Ken Bubp now is the Arnold Foundation’s director of education.  For the 2016-2019 years, the Arnold Foundation plans to hand the Mind Trust $11,075,000 and the Indianapolis Public Schools Education Foundation, Inc. $1,256,250 for the “expansion and replication of high-quality schools.” 


As Lindsey Erdody and Hayleigh Colombo noted a few days ago, Arnold, the Texan and former Enron millionaire turned hedge fund billionaire, in a YouTube video says “If Indianapolis is successful in doubling the number of kids that are attending high-quality schools, it will be one of the best investments that the Arnold Foundation has made.” Arnold continues “Indianapolis has this great chance and opportunity to show the nation what can be done.”


It’s no surprise that Arnold is teaming up with the Dell Foundation in Indianapolis, for promoting edtech is one of his many favorite pastimes.  In 2012, the Arnold Foundation handed $10,000 to Innosight Institute, Inc. to promote digital learning, almost $600,000 to the North American Council for Online Learning Ltd. in 2011 and 2012, $6 million in 2012 to the PowerMyLearning, Inc. (Computers for Youth Foundation, Inc.) to support blended learning, $3.5 million to the American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences to “advance evidence-based policymaking and promote the use of longitudinal data in education research,” $60,000 in 2016-2017 to the Data Quality Campaign, Inc. to “support the development and distribution of materials that capture the growth of the current data systems in education and share lessons for other sectors,” and over $8 million to the edtech charter school investors NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO Ted Mitchell later went on to become Obama’s undersecretary of education, just to name a few.  The Arnold Foundation stresses so-called personalized learning, recently giving a $2.7 million grant to the personalized learning OpenStax College project that Rice University researchers are working on.  The Arnold Foundation is helping develop digital textbooks for college students, investing in EdX, an online platform for high school and college courses, and Arnold’s foundation has given $6 million to the Silicon Schools Fund, Inc over the last few years, “which is supporting the development of schools where face-to-face instruction is combined with online, self-guided activities, collaborative projects, and innovative classroom models.”  This is just a small fraction of the money the Arnold Foundation is pouring into corporate school reform.



Arnold is steeped in the school privatization movement.  In 2011, the Arnold Foundation gave (PFD) $100,000 to the hedge fund-operated Education Reform Now, $2.1 million to Stand for Children (who used hedge fund money that same year to buy Illinois Democrats, as I detail in Hoosier School Heist), $5 million to Teach for America, and $52,500 to the Thomas Fordham Institute, the rightwing organization whose quest with the fake liberal Center for American Progress is to entirely eliminate elected school boards across the country. 


Arnold, like all billionaires and edtech titans, hate publicly elected school boards.  Alongside Lauren Powell Jobs, Apple’s Steve Jobs’ wife, and billionaire corporate school reformer Eli Broad, and others, John Arnold in 2014 attempted to buy the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction race, supporting Democrat Marshall Tuck of Los Angeles, who was up against another Democrat.  Tuck, in favor of using test scores to evaluate teachers, had started L.A. charter schools and was the CEO of “the Partnership for L.A. Schools, a nonprofit he ran (created by [once-mayor] Villaraigosa) that is working to fix 17 failing schools.” The “Enron commodities trader and hedge fund manager John Arnold gave $300,000 to a pro-Tuck PAC” and “has jumped into California union battles before, donating $200,000 through his PAC to help place on the state ballot a government employee pension reform plan by San Jose's Democratic mayor, Chuck Reed,”  as L.A. Weekly’s Matt Fleming points out.  


Arnold has thrown money across the U.S. to influence the so-called pension reform of public workers, and a whole book could be written about that alone.  


PAY FOR SUCCESS, OR PROFIT FROM A RIGGED GAME 


The new and international corporate gimmick to wipe out public education and every other public investment that aids or monitors minorities and people from low-income households is known as “social impact investing,” and the Arnold Foundation is on the forefront.  One version of “social impact investing,” a scheme to invest private money in social programs for a profit, is known as Pay for Success, now written into the Every Student Succeeds Act.  


As researcher Alison McDowell writes:


The John and Laura Arnold Foundation has worked steadily to advance Pay for Success. A 2015 article from Inside Philanthropy notes, “The Arnolds and Bloomberg Philanthropies both recently received props from the Obama administration for being “essential partners” in government’s quest to surface the tools, programs and approaches that will help the country adapt to a changing educational and economic landscape.” Both are high-profile figures in the movement to privatize public education, and the Arnolds have also been at the forefront of pension “reform” efforts. Since 2013, the foundation has poured tens of millions of dollars into an “Evidence Based Policy and Innovation” initiative. In 2015, the Coalition for Evidence Based Policy wound down its operations after 14 years and merged with the Arnold Foundation. Among the coalition’s accomplishments were successfully lobbying for the creation of the Social Spending Innovation Research program in K12 education as well as Paul Ryan and Patty Murray’s Commission on Evidence Based Policy Making.


McDowell has posted a map of Arnold’s Pay for Success plan, noting the Arnold Foundation’s “strategic investments” for the national “adoption of Pay for Success and Social Impact Finance,” which includes “investments in funders, think tanks, lobbyists, data brokers, evaluators, as well as reform groups like KIPP and Teach for America suited to working within the constraints of data-driven educational environments.”


On the Arnold Foundation website, you can find many of these Social Impact/Pay for Success grants, which include:


New Profit, Inc.
2013 - 2014
$210,000

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.



Nonprofit Finance Fund
2014 - 2015
$343,660

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Nonprofit Finance Fund
2014 - 2018
$1,080,000

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Nonprofit Finance Fund
2016 - 2017
$350,000

To support the Pay for Success Learning Hub.



One Hope United
2015 - 2017
$672,848

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Partnership for Public Service, Inc.
2015 - 2017
$184,223

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Partnership for Public Service, Inc.
2016 - 2018
$800,881

To identify measures that can help to improve operations at the Office of Management and Budget in order to drive better decision making, resource allocation, and performance at federal agencies.



President and Fellows of Harvard College
2013 - 2015
$551,134

To support the Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab.



President and Fellows of Harvard College
2016
$800,000

To support the Center for Public Leadership’s efforts to evaluate a series of low-cost, high-yield interventions and their impact on student outcomes.
President and Fellows of Harvard College
2016 - 2018
$2,141,762

To develop and support a network of government chief data officers that will collectively use data analytics to solve critical policy problems.



Roca, Inc.
2016 - 2023
up to $1,666,689

To support an extension of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Project.



Social Finance CT**
2016 - 2022
$1,000,000

To support the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success Project.
Social Finance NY State Workforce Re-Entry 2013 LLC**
2013 - 2019
$4,000,000

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Social Finance, Inc.
2014 - 2015
$148,598

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Social Finance, Inc.
2014 - 2017
$4,000,000

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.



Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc.
2014 - 2015
$159,000

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Trust for Conservation Innovation
2015 - 2017
$71,971

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.



University of Utah
2015 - 2017
$354,143

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Urban Institute
2015 - 2018
$8,433,895

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.
Urban Institute
2016 - 2018
$1,191,932

To support the development of an evidence-based policymaking collaborative, which will provide actionable strategies for using and building evidence in public policy.











Youth Services, Inc.
2014 - 2020
up to $3,344,350

To help advance Pay for Success Financing.



For the Pay for Success scheme to work, the billionaires need data--data, in fact, to manipulate for a profit, and edtech is ripe to create it.   In fact, we have already witnessed a scenario that will become way too common if John Arnold and the other billionaires get there way.  In a 2015 Salt Lake City preschool program with a Social Impact Bond (SIB) from Goldman Sachs and the Pritzker Family, we can glimpse where this road is heading.  Here is how education scholar Tim Scott narrates the story:


Through a $7 million investment from Goldman Sachs, J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation and the United Way of Salt Lake, the SIB financed the expansion of an existing and highly regarded preschool program. The SIB was aligned with the program's goal of reducing the number of “at-risk” children identified to be on a path to special education services in subsequent grades. According to the Philanthropy News Digest, Goldman claimed, “that of the one hundred and ten four-year-olds who attended preschools in the program during the 2013-14 school year that were identified as likely to need special education, only one required special education services in kindergarten.” This outcome also guaranteed the first of many large payouts for the notorious investment bank. “It was, in the vernacular of corporate America, a win-win: a bond that paid for preschool for underprivileged children in Utah while also making money for investors.”


A month later, several early childhood experts interviewed for a New York Times article reported that they saw a number of substantial irregularities in how the program's success was measured, leading them to believe that Goldman Sachs and the state of Utah were able to exaggerate the outcome of the SIB:


...even well-funded preschool programs — which the Utah program was not — typically have been found to reduce the number of students needing special education later by 10 percent or 20 percent, and rarely by more than 50 percent… For example, the program screened low-income three- and four-year-olds using a picture-and-vocabulary test known as the PPVT and labeled all those who scored below 70, a very low score, as being likely to require special education. According to nine early childhood education experts who reviewed the results for the Times, however, the PPVT isn't typically used to screen for special education, especially on its own, and there was little evidence for assuming that all children who scored poorly on the test — 30 percent to 40 percent of the children in the program, many of whom did not speak English at the time of testing — would require special education after preschool.


The NY Times article went on to report how “Early-childhood education experts said that the results from Utah should have been viewed skeptically from the start, just based on the amount of money being spent on the program… the preschool that the bank had paid for cost $1,700 a year for every student, or barely enough to cover the cost of part-time day care. Some of the children Goldman paid for were sent not to preschool but to a local daycare center or Y.M.C.A.


Prior to making the investment, Goldman Sachs could see that the methodology was leading significant numbers of children to be labeled as at-risk; and therefore increasing the number of children that could later be identified as avoiding special education. Ultimately, according to the Times,


When Goldman negotiated its investment, it adopted the school district’s methodology as the basis for its payments. It also gave itself a generous leeway to be paid pack. As long as 50 percent of the children in the program avoid special education, Goldman will earn back its money and 5 percent interest — more than Utah would have paid if it had borrowed the money through the bond market. If the current rate of success continues, it will easily make more than that.


THE HEAD START SMOKE MIRROR 


 In 2013, the national news painted John Arnold as a Jesus figure when he and his wife announced they were going to cover the government costs of funding Head Start during the government shutdown.  The Arnolds dished out the couch-change of $10 million for Head Start as a loan to be paid back.  Actually, the whole thing was merely a publicity stunt meant to digress from  what Arnold had been up to lately. When the news broke on the Head Start funding, David Sirota, noting that John Arnold is worth $3.8 billion, saw through the smoke and mirrors:


What do you do after a week’s worth of embarrassing revelations about your craven effort to slash the pensions of unsuspecting middle-class retirees? If you are a billionaire former Enron trader, you manufacture a self-congratulatory spectacle by offering a bit of pocket change to low-income kids – and you get to rest assured that the national media will suddenly ignore your pension-looting ways and dutifully portray you as a benevolent hero.


Such is the breathtakingly cynical P.R. strategy of John Arnold. After a week of revelations about his scheme to help Wall Street and the conservative movement loot public pensions, the former Enron trader made headlines yesterday by handing over a rounding error of his billion-dollar fortune to the federal Head Start program ostensibly to help float it through the government shutdown.   


SPYING ON YOUR NEIGHBOR 


What else should Indianapolis parents, students, teachers, and citizens know about John Arnold? People in Indianapolis, first, might want to look toward the sky for any suspicious activity for an answer, for in Baltimore, with no public input, Arnold and his wife’s foundation recently paid $360,000 to Dayton, Ohio’s Persistent Surveillance Systems to fly a surveillance plane over the city for at least “314 hours, taking more than a million images,” according to the Baltimore police department which finally acknowledged the surveillance and Arnold’s role several months after, ironically, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a story.