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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A New Generation of Corporate Spinners at Ed Week

I read the corporate media's flagship education magazine, Education Week as a reliable barometer of the story lines being pushed by corporate education reformers.  As in the recent coverage by reporter/editorialist, Madeline Will, who is listed on Ed Week's "Experts" page as having a bachelor's degree in journalism/political science from UNC (Class of '14).

I would expect Ms. Will to move up quickly within the corporate ed reformer reporter ranks at EW, for she already demonstrates strong potential in bending news to fit the ideological needs of a penurious corporate edugarchy that has damn near demolished the idea of school as a humane and creative public space for learning and working.

A couple of Ms. Will's recent pieces demonstrate that she is more than willing to manufacture division out of unity and to take old news and give it new spin.

In "When Strikes Happen, Teachers' Aides Have the Most to Lose," Ms. Will tries to make a distinction between teachers who don't get paid for strike days and teachers' aides who don't get paid for strike days.  What results is a subtle propaganda piece that attempts to create division among the teachers, aides, parents, and kids who are now bonded together in a growing number of states attempting to reclaim the potential for public schools to serve the public, rather than to exploit the public.

It must be scary, indeed, for the billionaires' educarchy and their stooge unions (AFT and NEA) to see a unified front of adults and children who are willing to finally stand up and say, ENOUGH!

Ms. Will's other piece says plenty about her focus with just the title: "Nearly Half of Public School Teachers Are Satisfied with Their Salaries, Data Show."  Another way to report the same facts might have used a headline that aims to capture the bigger point, which is, of course, that 55 percent of teachers were willing to say they were dissatisfied with their salaries, even when the Feds came asking.  Why not use a more appropriate headline: "The Majority of Public School Teachers Are Dissatisfied with Their Salaries, Data Show?"

More puzzling, still, is the use of data that Ms. Will refers to as "a new analysis."  The data, in fact, are from a 2015-2016 survey, which was reported out almost a year ago in August 2017.  What is new, however, is the spin on the data provided just this week by Betsy DeVos's Dept. of Education, which, by the way, focused also on the percentage of "satisfied" teachers.

So even though a new generation of "journalists" is moving to center stage at Ed Week, readers can count on, it seem, a magazine that continues its long tradition of kow-towing to the corporate misleaders and miseducators who have run public education into the ditch.  

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Noblesville School Shooting and the NRA’s Indiana Campaign Donations

By Doug Martin

The day after a school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana left one teacher and a 13-year-old girl wounded, students and parents protested a recruitment tent set up by the National Rifle Association at the Hoosier Armory gun shop in downtown Noblesville.  That day, yesterday, May 26, demonstrators from Noblesville and students from Warren Central, Lawrence North, and Carmel schools also attended the We Live rally for gun control at the Indianapolis statehouse.  

According to the Noblesville gun shop owner, the NRA recruitment event was planned before the school shooting.  Still, the recruitment tent was insensitive, to say the least, and it hasn’t been the first time the NRA has shown up right after a gun tragedy.  

Noblesville resident Ashley Dick told WTHI TV:  "It's ridiculous, especially in Noblesville.  It happened yesterday - in Noblesville. They are trying to recruit new members. Why? Why? What's the point?"

Protestors were asked to leave multiple times, and five police cars arrived on the scene.

Former Indiana Republican lawmaker Luke Kenley’s grandson was one Noblesville student protesting the NRA’s Hoosier Armory tent.  Luke Kenley was not funded by the NRA, but many lawmakers in Indiana and Hoosier politicians in Washington have packed their campaign chests with donations from the pro-gun group.  Although there are undoubtedly other factors involved in school shootings, the NRA's fingerprint in Washington, in state houses, and in schools is enormous, as is its influence in Indiana.  

Shortly after the middle school shooting, Indiana U.S. Republicans Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita, and Democrat Joe Donnelly, sent out either prayers or other statements.   

Brooks visited teacher Jason Seaman at Noblesville West Middle School, after he was released from the hospital.  Seaman was the one who tackled the gunman on Friday and stopped a major massacre.  Brooks from 2013 to 2016 pocketed $3,000 in campaign donations from the NRA, but she also introduced the Jake Laird Law of Indiana which “gives law enforcement the ability to remove guns from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.”

Rokita has secured $7,000 from the NRA for the years 2010 to 2016 for his campaigns. 
Steering away from gun-lobby money in recent years, Joe Donnelly was once heavily funded by the pro-gun group, receiving $13,900 from the NRA from  2007  to 2010According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent more money opposing Donnelly than in his support. 

Indiana's Todd Young, who went to Noblesville after the shooting, "has received $2,896,732,  9th-highest among all politicians", from the NRA. This includes "contributions from the NRA PAC and indirect support, and includes money spent against his opponents."

President Trump even personally phoned Jason Seaman, calling him a hero teacher.  Mike Pence, who sent out prayers to Noblesville with his wife, tag-teamed with Trump at the NRA convention on May 4 in Dallas where, because of the attendance of the president and vice president, all guns were banned.   The NRA gave “more than $30 million” to support Trump’s presidential campaign, “more than any other outside group.”  

To state lawmakers, the NRA has given $113,900 since 1997 to both Republicans and Democrats in Indiana.  Indiana’s current governor, Eric Holcomb, has grabbed $2,500 in NRA donations.  

The NRA Foundation has handed out “$7 million in grants to hundreds of U.S. schools in recent years,” 34 in Indiana receiving a combined $280,000 from 2011 to 2016, as the Kokomo Tribune noted. The money was used for “the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, rifle teams, hunting safety courses and agriculture clubs.”  The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, in March, found that northeast Indiana schools Concordia High School, Whitko Community School Corporation, Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers high schools, and the Bellmont High School Rifle Club all have accepted NRA Foundation grant money.  

Indiana school board members are often unaware of the NRA Foundation money.  According to the Associated Press:

Donna Corbett, a Democrat on the school board in southern Indiana’s New Albany-Floyd County School Corporation, said she never heard about $65,000 that went to a JROTC program at one of the high schools. Corbett said she plans to raise the issue with her board but feels conflicted about it.

“I am not a big NRA fan, but I also realize that ROTC is a good program,” she said. “I’m not sure I would be willing to pull it to the detriment of the kids and their programs.

South Bend school board president Stan Wruble also said he had no idea about the NRA funding to "Washington High School's Air Force Junior ROTC club in 2014 until he was contacted by The Tribune" newspaper.  Wruble stated: "I'll be bringing this up with the school board and the superintendent.  I do not think it's appropriate for any of our schools to receive money from the NRA because I don't want guns in our schools. My understanding is the NRA promotes arming our teachers and I think more guns in our schools is going to lead to more deaths or injuries."

Although it was not widely publicized by the mainstream media, Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect who allegedly massacred 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, was a member of the JROTC school rifle team that received “$10,827 in non-cash assistance from the NRA's fundraising and charitable arm in 2016, when Cruz was on the squad. The school's program publicly thanked the NRA Foundation on its Twitter feed.” Broward County schools, Stoneman Douglas’ district, has since said it will no longer take NRA money, as have several other school districts across the U.S.

Monday, May 21, 2018

'Panicked' Trump roundly mocked after parroting Fox News conspiracy theory in Monday morning Twitter meltdown

What a fucking dope!

'Panicked' Trump roundly mocked after parroting Fox News conspiracy theory in Monday morning Twitter meltdown: The American president used to be considered the leader of the free world. As such, any president of the United States should have access to the absolute best: the best intelligence, the best advisors, and, if necessary, the best attorneys. But not Donald Trump, who ironically won the White House in part by telling voters he only hired “the best.” That’s turned out to be the far from from truth. The “best advisors” he can …

Sunday, May 20, 2018

KIPP Bribes Parents in San Diego: "Bring two 5th Graders to the school--get $1000!"

When shiny brochures and smooth talk don't attract enough parents to submit their children to KIPP's cultural sterilization schools, KIPP uses the old-fashioned method: bribes. 

With KIPP bringing in over $9,000 per child in state per pupil fundinng for ever child enrolled, KIPP can afford to offer a few hundred dollars to cram their 5th grade classrooms with thirty or so kids with untrained beginning teachers at the bottom of the pay scale.  A clip from The Intercept (my bolds):
In December 2016, KIPP Adelante, a San Diego charter, sent a newsletter out to enrolled families offering substantial cash stipends to those who could help recruit new fifth graders to their school.

The promotion read:
If you know a 5th grader at another school and you get them to come to school here, you will receive a premium of $500 to offset your child’s educational expenses. In addition, the family you bring to KIPP Adelante will receive a premium of $100 (also for educational expenses) for enrolling their child here. Bring two 5th Graders to the school – get $1000! These students have to attend our school for at least 2 weeks before you can collect your premium.
A former KIPP Adelante teacher shared the newsletter with The Intercept, troubled by the ad targeting a school where 99 percent of students enrolled are children of color, and 98 percent qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trumpian Racism Comes to Medicaid Guidelines

Last January Trump's boys in Congress put together new work rules for Medicaid, which promises to brutally dump untold numbers of sick and poor people from the Medicaid roles, just to make the Kochs, Waltons, and Mercers of the world sleep a little better at night.  

The Washington Post has an analysis today that provides some of the details on how states with big red voting blocks are customizing their rules to advantage the white rural Trump voters who would, otherwise, get really pissed about being treated like black folks:
. . . .In Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, work-requirement waivers would include exemptions for counties with the highest levels of unemployment, which are overwhelmingly white, rural — and GOP-leaning. But most of these exemptions would do nothing to help people of color who live in high-unemployment urban areas, because they live in places where countywide unemployment numbers are skewed by the inclusion of wealthy suburbs.

In Michigan, for instance, Medicaid work requirements would exempt those living in counties with an unemployment rate of over 8.5 percent — but leave out high-unemployment (and majority-black) cities such as Detroit and Flint. According to an analysis of state data done by The Post, whites would account for 85 percent of those eligible for the unemployment exemption, despite making up only 57 percent of the potentially affected population. African Americans, in contrast, would constitute a mere 1.2 percent of people eligible for an exemption, despite being 23 percent of the affected Medicaid population. . . .
 Ah, the sanctity of whiteness.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gates and Zuckerberg Take Direct Aim at Children

Bill Gates began his purchased reforms of education policy and practices in 2000, and his repeated failures in this arena have not altered his determination to turn American schools into technology-dependent, business-modeled training camps, to turn American teachers into disposable contract middle managers who are laser-focused on the bottom line--test scores, and to convert children into eager culturally-sterilized recipients of the global economic mindset of personal sacrifice toward an eventual corporate reward. 

Of course, what I mean by "failure" needs some explaining, for not everyone affected by the Gates philanthropic ventures in education has been negatively affected.  Even though the Gates Foundation reforms have done nothing to raise achievement levels, and they have done nothing to staunch the shameful resegregation of American schools, and they have done nothing to build or renew support for public education, the Gates initiatives have been wildly successful in promoting the privatization of public schools, dependence on high tech and big data, and the marketing of thousands of corporate product lines in curriculum, testing, professional development, and teacher preparation.  

In short, Gates initiatives over the years have been used to feather the nests of Gates's own businesses, along with the thousands of entrepreneurs and hangers-on who trail the Gates army as it moves in and occupies the various sectors of the education landscape.  

There is nothing new in my critique.  More extensive criticism of Gates's giving has been delivered by the social advocacy group, Global Justice Now, whose 54 page report in 2016 examines the darker side of Bill and Melinda's giving business.  Here are three allegations from the report aimed at the Gates Foundation:
  • It provides a disproportionate amount of funding to health organizations in high-income countries, "exacerbating unequal research and development infrastructures between poor and rich regions." The report cites as an example the foundation's "overwhelming focus" on developing and promoting new vaccines at the expense of already-proven preventative measures for diseases that most affect poverty-stricken areas.
  • Its projects are primarily "vertically funded interventions targeted at specific diseases or health problems" and do little to strengthen public health systems, leaving underdeveloped nations ill-equipped to combat the root causes of disease. The report backs this claim with comments from Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), who said in an interview with The New York Times that the WHO's budget is "driven by what I call donor interests." This limits the organization's ability to maintain fixed support staff "to build response systems" when there is no active health emergency. Adds the report: "The inference in Chan’s remarks is that the WHO, whose largest donor is [the Gates Foundation,] is unable to respond adequately to ebola and other disease outbreaks because donor interests prevent it from being able to build public health systems in developing countries.
  • It "prioritizes support for corporations." The report notes that the Gates Foundation has funded a huge number of projects for major corporations—including Monsanto, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Coca-Cola—and that the corporations often stand to profit. According to the report, the foundation has owned or still owns shares in some of the corporations it funds. "The foundation is profiting from its investments in corporations which contribute to social and economic injustice," reads the report.
And most importantly, perhaps, Global Justice Now points out that the strategic giving on a massive level is aimed, too, to buy the silence of would-be critics of the Gates army.  There's no better examples than AFT and NEA, whose leaders have been bribed to support a Gates-led war to cororatize schools.  Both have accepted multi-million dollar grants from Gates and have partnered with Gates-linked corporations to involve teachers in advancing the Common Core, the war waged by the Business Roundtable and funded by Gates to impose a stupidifying sameness to American schooling, while constructing many new layers of profitable bureaucracy within the educational corporate complex.

And there are many other examples here.

Now we find the two dollar-fortified armies of Gates and Zuckerberg converging to wage a new corporate education war, this time with a primary focus to remap the neurological paths of children through psychological interventions beginning at an early age and proceeding through the schooling years.  From the AP
Tech moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday they will team up to help develop new methods for kids with trouble learning — an effort that will include dabbling into child brain science. . . .The effort is now seeking information and ideas from across sectors, from education and academia to business, technology and medicine. Future investments based on that information are expected, but no dollar amount has been set.
Part of the oligarchs' dream, of course, is to develop and deploy the psychological equivalent of individual surveillance cameras that can interactively monitor the choices, behaviors, preferences, and levels of involvement of children and adolescents, and to further develop learning algorithms that can intervene to redirect individual behavior or thoughts when they move outside acceptable parameters.  
The idea that disadvantaged children struggle to learn because of poor executive brain function involving memory, thinking flexibility, and behavioral issues related to autism and other attention disorders has long been lamented by social workers and health advocates.
The joint project by Gates and Zuckerberg details possible ways to mitigate those shortcomings
Among the ideas is using games and technology simulations to support teachers and family, and tracking progress in certain vulnerable student populations such as kids with disabilities or those who are learning English as a second language.
In effect, Gates and Zuckerberg are intent upon eliminating the debilitating effects of poverty on learning, while doing nothing to eliminate child poverty aside from rewiring children's brains to make them behaviorally immune to inequality and mistreatment.

What could go wrong!