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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Laurie Garrett on the Folly of Re-opening Schools

Remote Learning Should Continue This Fall

Remote Learning Should Continue This Fall in Tennessee


A growing body of evidence makes it increasingly clear that opening Tennessee schools this Fall represents an unwise and irresponsible political decision that will endanger staff, faculty, students, and students’ families. With a sophomore grandson chomping at the bit to get back with his friends and teachers at the L&N STEM Academy, I do not come to this conclusion lightly.  But I have to listen to the facts.


We know, in fact, that pediatricians agree that schools offer intellectual and social development opportunities that healthy kids require.  Even so, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics told Congress on July 23 that schools “really can’t open” in communities where Covid-19 remains widespread . Presently, the Washington Post ranks Tennessee 5th in the nation for new Covid infections per capita.


The facts tell us, too, that many working parents with elementary-aged children are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making sure their children are properly cared for during the work day. Too, there is ample pressure to re-open schools in hopes of producing good economic numbers in the fall that might resuscitate November election prospects for Trumpsters who have failed to provide the leadership required to manage the pandemic. 


Sadly, any short term economic and political gain from forced early re-opening is sure to further delay sustained economic recovery beyond November.  After all, the health of the economy is dependent upon the good health of its workers. Opening schools drastically increases the chances for new transmission and increased spread of the virus to children’s parents and teachers’ families.


Unfortunately, some factually-challenged advocates for opening schools as the pandemic is headed in the wrong direction argue that children are less susceptible to the virus and are less likely to spread it if it is contracted.  Recent research, however, clearly shows that even though children often exhibit mild symptoms when they contract Covid-19, children 10 and older are just as effective as adults in spreading the virus.


Let’s consider a few more relevant facts.  In Knox County, the Health Department noted most recently that three of five Covid benchmarks are now in the red zone, which indicates “statistically significant increases in deaths and the number of positive cases, and that testing is not optimal.”


And even though Tennessee has increased Covid-19 testing by 200% since May 22, the number of positive cases has increased by 566%.   In short, the increase in testing does not come close to matching the increased number of new infections.


Even though a majority of parents (59%) are worried that their children are falling behind academically due to the pandemic, an ABC/Ipsos poll released July 24 found that only a minority (44%) of those same parents are willing to send their kids back to school this Fall.


Another national poll released July 24 by Gallup shows that teachers, who understand the challenges of keeping children safe from infections at school, are even more concerned: 75% are extremely or moderately concerned, and 74% said remote learning should continue this Fall.


The most compelling piece of evidence for keeping schools closed this Fall comes from the White House, however.  Even though his administration insists that children and teachers nationwide should head back to school in August, Mr. Trump announced July 23 that Covid makes it too unsafe to hold the in-person GOP convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville.  Now if public gatherings are too unsafe for responsible adults with no limit on resources to make conditions safe, how can we expect children to return safely to schools that have not been provided extra funds, clear guidance, and necessary protocols to make and keep them safe? 

Just outside Knox County, Alcoa City Schools opened last week.  Their first case of Covid was detected at Alcoa Middle School two days after opening.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

CVS Covid Test Worse Than No Test at All

I was pretty sure I had Covid on Saturday, July 11, but the first test I could schedule was at a CVS Pharmacy July 13. The next best time was July 14 at Complete Health Partners, an emergency medical clinic nearby. I scheduled them both out of caution and self-isolated myself in an upstairs bedroom. 

Very oddly, I thought, the CVS pre-screening form asked me if I had been to Wuhan, China in the past two weeks.  Something told me they might be a bit behind the curve on what's happening with Covid-19.

Scheduling both tests proved to be a good call.  When I followed the signs at CVS to the drive-in window around back, a clerk inside greeted me from behind a closed window, read from her script, and dispensed me out a bag with testing collection materials: a ziplock bag, a small vial, and 4 regular Q-tip swabs. 

She continued reading from her script as I followed her directions the best I could to gather a nasal sample, all the while sweating and shaking and feeling awful. 

Both nostrils. Pull lid from vial, place swab into vial, and reseal. Put in ziplock and drop in Deposit Box on side of building.  She didn't even take my temperature.

I had a real test the following day at Complete Health Partners and waited three days during the height of my illness for the results (I found out later that I could have had my results in a half-hour if I had paid $350 on top of my insurance payment). 

Three days later I was entirely NOT surprised by the positive reading on the Covid test. The previous 72 hours days had been hellish, with severe headaches, chills, fever, night sweats, nausea, skin rash, and mental fogginess. 

And I was not surprised when I did not hear any test results from CVS.  Until today, that is, July 26, now 13 days after the test. 

A chipper young woman with CVS informed me that the labs were backed up, but I need not worry anymore because my Covid test came back NEGATIVE!

Even while I was offering an extended verbal review of CVS's Covid bullshit "self-test" on the phone, I knew I was going to have to write about this.

I checked online for any information on the CVS's bogus test, and as I did so, I remembered the CVS exec with Donald Trump announcing plans for Covid tests that would be conducted in CVS parking lots.  When I went to CVS, in fact, that's what I thought I would be getting, instead of a q-tip and a test tube in a bag.

Then it came back to me, something I read a couple of years ago about CVS's political connections with the Trump Administration. I quickly found at Snopes.com that

CVS corporate and its associated PAC contributed $535,000 in donations in 2017 to political organizations that support Trump,

and that Trump is the only presidential candidate that CVS has supported since 2016.

Enough said.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

KIPP Drops the Motto But Keeps the Brutality

Four out of five students who started school at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute during the decades just after the Civil War never earned their certificates of completion, even though academic expectations were far below schools for white students.  Getting booted from Hampton's residential program, you see, was more likely to come from a bad attitude, or bad character, than bad study habits.

Hampton's chief purpose, after all, was to inculcate in freed slaves and Western Indians a deep and abiding respect for hard work, above all else.  Secondarily, the purpose was to politically neuter Southern blacks and to assimilate Native Americans. As Captain Richard Pratt made infamous, "Kill the Indian, save the man."

The indoctrination at Hampton was non-stop, and most students who completed the program became teachers who were expected to fan out across the South to teach young black folks "the dignity of labor" and a ready acceptance of second-class citizenship, which had been earned, they were taught by white male instructors, by the inherent moral depravity of their race. 

To earn the favor of the white philanthropists who supported Hampton's methods, and to advance in white Southern society, Blacks would need to labor diligently and to remain compliant without complaint. You might say, those indoctrinated in the Hampton Model schools were taught to work hard and to be nice.

I was gratified to see, then, in Jay Mathews' announcement yesterday that KIPP would be dropping its motto, "Work Hard, Be Nice," that Jay acknowledges the obvious connection between the 21st Century KIPP Model of African-American and Latinx schooling and the 19th Century Hampton Model of Black and American Indian schooling.

Mathews explains KIPP's decision to drop the motto this way:

The announcement quoted a former KIPP student saying: “Asking us to ‘be nice’ puts the onus on kids to be quiet, be compliant, be controlled. It doesn’t actively challenge us to disrupt the systems that are trying to control us.”

Just as we should celebrate the taking down of monuments to racism across our deeply racist country, we should celebrate the dumping of this racist semantic monument by a racist organization.  It is a beginning.

What will the new motto be, and what, if any, effect will it have on KIPP's ongoing programs to culturally sterilize, behaviorally neuter, and neurologically rewire young children to work efficiently within their chains of poverty? 

We must remember that philanthrocapitalists and their politicians who support the KIPP Model do so because of its reputation for churning out gritty and grateful students who become gritty and grateful employees who are willing "work hard, be nice."  It took the Hampton Model forty years to finally begin to move toward the kind of quality education that current student of Hampton University enjoy. 

And of course, Jay Mathews continues to spin for KIPP.  Some things never change.  I have heard the same spin from him so long, in fact, that I will use one of my earlier responses to another of his similarly misleading columns:

Mathews would have us believe that . . . [the] growth of KIPP resulted from two young geniuses inspired by a "magical" teacher godmother who sprinkled her fairy dust on them and gave them her blessing. 

The facts, however, are a bit more complicated and prosaic.  KIPP sprang from the corporate conceptual ground provided by Teach for America and its market-centered and publicly-fed neoliberal agenda, and it was fertilized and manicured by tons of tax-sheltered cash provided initially by renowned conservative GAP founder, Donald Fisher.  It did not hurt, either, that KIPP was asked to do a skit at the 2000 National Republican Convention.

As for the godmother teacher in Jay's fairy tale, Harriet Ball, her ideas were harvested by the KIPP machine, and she was left unpaid for her intellectual property. 
Read this book:

Anderson, James. (1988). The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

From the back cover:

James Anderson critically reinterprets the history of southern black education from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. By placing black schooling within a political, cultural, and economic context, he offers fresh insights into black commitment to education, the peculiar significance of Tuskegee Institute, and the conflicting goals of various philanthropic groups, among other matters.

Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order--supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators, and most southern school officials--conflicted with the aspirations of ex-slaves and their descendants, resulting at the turn of the century in a bitter national debate over the purposes of black education. Because blacks lacked economic and political power, white elites were able to control the structure and content of black elementary, secondary, normal, and college education during the first third of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, blacks persisted in their struggle to develop an educational system in accordance with their own needs and desires.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Quadruple-Dipping by Corporate Welfare Charter Chaingangs

Let's add 'em up: charter schools in California are eligible for 1) state per pupil funding equal to public schools, 2) chunks of the half-billion dollars each year from the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants, 3) hundreds of millions from white philanthropic oligarchs and high rollers who see total compliance charter schools as the solution to what white philanthropists of the last century referred to as "the Negro problem," and 4) hundreds of millions available under new federal relief for small businesses.

And on top of that, you may add the stacks of cash saved by charter schools operating as non-profit corporations.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

. . . . Fourteen charter schools or chains in Oakland combined to receive roughly $20 million from the program. They included Education for Change, which runs six schools in the city and received $5.25 million, and Lighthouse Community Public Schools, which has two campuses and got $2.3 million.

Eight charter schools or chains in Santa Clara County combined to receive roughly $20 million. All but one received at least $1.5 million. Summit Public Schools, which has three schools in the county and a total of eight in the Bay Area, received $6.8 million.

At least two schools in San Francisco received loans. San Francisco Creative Arts Charter School got nearly $600,000. Envision Education’s City Arts and Tech High School also received a loan, but says the money will go to its consulting business — not the school that is supported by public funds. It did not divulge the amount it received.

And the St. Hope charter schools in Sacramento, whose board is chaired by school choice advocate Michelle Rhee and which was founded by her husband, former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, received more than $1.5 million.

Some of the loans were first publicized by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education. The Chronicle independently verified their research and conducted its own.

Traditional public schools are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, and state-funded charter schools’ access to the loans raises questions among their critics about fairness.

“Because charter schools are currently receiving full funding as public schools intended to maintain employees, while at the same time receiving funding as private entities that are also intended to maintain employees, taxpayers are left covering what appears to be the same bill twice,” the groups said in a report questioning whether Oakland schools were “double dipping” on funds.