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The Religious Right and GOP Escalate Battle to Destroy Public June 6, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Religion, Right Wing.
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Church & State Magazine / By Joseph L. Conn

 The push for vouchers is not about “education reform,” but
part of a national drive to radically privatize education.

June 5, 2011  |

America’s public school system and the constitutional separation of church
and state are under relentless assault.

In late April, the Indiana legislature approved House Bill 1003, a measure
that broadly funds religious and other private schools. The multi-million-dollar
program sets up a new school voucher scheme, expands a tax credit program and
offers tax deductions for the costs of private education and homeschooling.

Gov. Mitch Daniels was a chief promoter of the package, and he clearly means
to force taxpayers to fund religious education. He is the founder and driving
force behind The Oaks Academy, a “Christ-centered” private school in
Indianapolis. Daniels sometimes poses as a moderate, but his education plan is
anything but.

Make no mistake. This is not about “education reform.” This is part of a
national drive to radically privatize education. Indiana is just one of many
states where mega-bucks foundations and sectarian interest groups are demanding
taxpayer dollars for parochial and other private schools. Their long-term goal
is to shut down the public school system or leave it so damaged that its role in
American life is minimal.

In October 2010, Religious Right godfather Tim LaHaye addressed the Council
for National Policy about his goals for education. (The secretive CNP is the
premier meeting place for Religious Right zealots, TV preachers, right-wing fat
cats and others who want to take America back to the Dark Ages.) He viciously
mischaracterized the public schools and issued a call to arms for the CNP and
its allies to remake them.

“I have a pet concern,” said LaHaye, the fundamentalist preacher and “Left
Behind” author who founded the CNP. “And I think it is the concern of everyone
in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school
systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me
educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders
of the next generation.

“And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school
system in the history of the world,” he continued. “At one time, Noah Webster
was the school master of America, a dedicated Christian who founded people on
the Word of God and principles of God. And I’d like to see you join me in prayer
that God would let us wrestle control of the American school system from the
secularists, the anti-Christians and anti-Americans that want to bend the minds
of our children.

“At our expense,” LaHaye blustered, “they want to take the most priceless
thing we have – the brains of our children – and let them educate them. They
educate the teachers, they provide the textbooks, and we give them the most
precious things we have. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m hoping that this
conservative movement will be long enough to get a majority who can vote what I
consider a new bill of rights – a bill of parental rights where parents can
decide where to send their children to school.”

Touting “biblically based education,” LaHaye concluded that ideology is the
answer to education reform, not additional funding.

“May I suggest,” he said, that “more money is not what they need, it is a
better ideology, and we have already got it.”

LaHaye’s take on public schools is, of course, a pack of lies. Our school
system is not secularist or anti-Christian or anti-American. It welcomes
children of all faiths (and none). Nobody is turned away from the door,
regardless of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, family background,
disability or economic situation. And our public schools are generally governed
by elected school boards, whose members represent their diverse communities and
are answerable to them.

But LaHaye’s screed serves an important purpose. It gives us the master plan
that he and other right-wing ideologues are pursuing. That’s why we have raging
battles over vouchers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and a host of other states.
(And it’s why House Speaker John Boehner strong-armed through Congress a federal
taxpayer-funded voucher scheme in the District of Columbia.)

LaHaye and his cronies hate America’s vitally important public school system.
They want to shut it down and move to a “choice” system where taxpayers
subsidize private schools that are accountable only to the sponsoring clergy and
are free to indoctrinate children in their “biblically based” ideology. They
don’t want to improve public education, as they sometimes claim; they want to
destroy it.

LaHaye is not alone in this battle. Betsy DeVos, the infamous Koch brothers
and other wealthy members and supporters of the CNP are funding the nationwide
attack on public schools and church-state separation today. Don’t be fooled.
They often put forward bogus “parents groups,” to serve as front operations, but
it’s they who are calling the shots.

Wake up, America. This radical movement is advancing. Let your legislators
and members of Congress know how you feel before it’s too late.


Obama’s Education Reform Push is Bad Education Policy March 14, 2010

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(Roger’s note: beware the word “reform.”  Under mental health reform, “de-institutionalization” only left psychiatric survivors struggling to survive on the mean streets; Clinton’s welfare reform was little more than an attack on the poor; and Obama’s health reform, if passed, will institutionalize the blood-sucking private insurance industry, probably forever.  The Republicrats are one in the same on these issues.  The objective is always the erosion of the social safety net and the corporatization of America.  Obama’s “Race to the Top” educational reform is no different.  The [not so] hidden agenda is privatization and union-busting.  Obama may be a brilliant orator, but he is either terribly naïve or wilfully blind.  Take your pick.)

Published on Sunday, March 14, 2010 by The Los Angeles Times

One simple solution for our schools? A captivating promise, but a false one.

by Diane Ravitch

There have been two features that regularly mark the history of U.S. public schools. Over the last century, our education system has been regularly captivated by a Big Idea — a savant or an organization that promised a simple solution to the problems of our schools. The second is that there are no simple solutions, no miracle cures to those problems.

Education is a slow, arduous process that requires the work of willing students, dedicated teachers and supportive families, as well as a coherent curriculum.

As an education historian, I have often warned against the seductive lure of grand ideas to reform education. Our national infatuation with education fads and reforms distracts us from the steady work that must be done.

Our era is no different. We now face a wave of education reforms based on the belief that school choice, test-driven accountability and the resulting competition will dramatically improve student achievement.

Once again, I find myself sounding the alarm that the latest vision of education reform is deeply flawed. But this time my warning carries a personal rebuke. For much of the last two decades, I was among those who jumped aboard the choice and accountability bandwagon. Choice and accountability, I believed, would offer a chance for poor children to escape failing schools. Testing and accountability, I thought, would cast sunshine on low-performing schools and lead to improvement. It all seemed to make sense, even if there was little empirical evidence, just promise and hope.

Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working. But with confidence bordering on recklessness, the Obama administration is plunging ahead, pushing an aggressive program of school reform — codified in its signature Race to the Top program — that relies on the power of incentives and competition. This approach may well make schools worse, not better.

Those who do not follow education closely may be tempted to think that, at long last, we’re finally turning the corner. What could be wrong with promoting charter schools to compete with public schools? Why shouldn’t we demand accountability from educators and use test scores to reward our best teachers and identify those who should find another job?

Like the grand plans of previous eras, they sound sensible but will leave education no better off. Charter schools are no panacea. The nation now has about 5,000 of them, and they vary in quality. Some are excellent, some terrible; most are in between. Most studies have found that charters, on average, are no better than public schools.

On the federal tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2003 to 2009, charters have never outperformed public schools. Nor have black and Latino students in charter schools performed better than their counterparts in public schools.

This is surprising, because charter schools have many advantages over public schools. Most charters choose their students by lottery. Those who sign up to win seats tend to be the most motivated students and families in the poorest communities. Charters are also free to “counsel out” students who are unable or unwilling to meet expectations. A study of KIPP charters in the San Francisco area found that 60% of those students who started the fifth grade were gone before the end of eighth grade. Most of those who left were low performers.

Studies of charters in Boston, New York City and Washington have found that charters, as compared to public schools, have smaller percentages of the students who are generally hardest to educate — those with disabilities and English-language learners. Because the public schools must educate everyone, they end up with disproportionate numbers of the students the charters don’t want.

So we’re left with the knowledge that a dramatic expansion in the number of privately managed schools is not likely to raise student achievement. Meanwhile, public schools will become schools of last resort for the unmotivated, the hardest to teach and those who didn’t win a seat in a charter school. If our goal is to destroy public education in America, this is precisely the right path.

Nor is there evidence that student achievement will improve if teachers are evaluated by their students’ test scores. Some economists say that when students have four or five “great” teachers in a row, the achievement gap between racial groups disappears. The difficulty with this theory is that we do not have adequate measures of teacher excellence.

Of course, it would be wonderful if all teachers were excellent, but many factors affect student scores other than their teacher, including students’ motivation, the schools’ curriculum, family support, poverty and distractions on testing day, such as the weather or even a dog barking in the school’s parking lot.

The Obama education reform plan is an aggressive version of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind, under which many schools have narrowed their curriculum to the tested subjects of reading and math. This poor substitute for a well-rounded education, which includes subjects such as the arts, history, geography, civics, science and foreign language, hits low-income children the hardest, since they are the most likely to attend the kind of “failing school” that drills kids relentlessly on the basics. Emphasis on test scores already compels teachers to focus on test preparation. Holding teachers personally and exclusively accountable for test scores — a key feature of Race to the Top — will make this situation even worse. Test scores will determine salary, tenure, bonuses and sanctions, as teachers and schools compete with each other, survival-of-the-fittest style.

Frustrated by a chronic lack of progress, business leaders and politicians expect that a stern dose of this sort of competition and incentives will improve education, but they are wrong. No other nation is taking such harsh lessons from the corporate sector and applying them to their schools. No nation with successful schools ignores everything but basic skills and testing. Schools work best when teachers collaborate to help their students and strive together for common goals, not when they compete for higher scores and bonuses.

Having embraced the Republican agenda of choice, competition and accountability, the Obama administration is promoting the privatization of large segments of American education and undermining the profession of teaching. This toxic combination is the latest Big Idea in education reform. Like so many of its predecessors, it is not likely to improve education.

Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”

© 2010 The Los Angeles Times

How Sports Attacks Public Education March 5, 2010

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Published on Friday, March 5, 2010 by The Nationby Dave Zirin

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

On Thursday, I was proud to take part in a student walkout at the University of Maryland in defense of public education. It was just one link in a National Day of Action that saw protests in more than 32 states across the country. I am not a student, and haven’t been since those innocent days when Monica Lewinsky mattered, but I was asked to come speak at a post walkout teach-in about the way sports is used to attack public education. It might sound like a bizarre topic, but it’s the world that students see every day.

At the University of Maryland, as tuition has been hiked and classes cut, football coach Ralph Friedgen makes a base salary of 1.75 million bucks, which would be outrageous even if the team weren’t two-steps past terrible. Friedgen also gets perks like a $50,000 bonus if none of his players are arrested during the course of the season.

Ground zero of the student protest movement is the University of California at Berkeley. Over at Berkeley, students are facing 32% tuition hikes, while the school pays football coach Jeff Tedford 2.8 million dollars a year and is finishing more than 400 million in renovations on the football stadium. This is what students see: boosters and alumni come first, while they’ve been instructed to cheer their teams, pay their loans, and mind their business.

The counterargument is that college athletic departments fund themselves and actually put money back into a school’s general fund. This is simply not true. The October Knight Commission report of college presidents stated that the 25 top football schools had revenues on average of $3.9 million in 2008. The other 94 ran deficits averaging $9.9 million. When athletic departments run deficits, it’s not like the football coach takes a pay cut. In other words, if the team is doing well, the entire school benefits. If the football team suffers, the entire school suffers. This, to put it mildly, is financial lunacy. A school would statistically be better off if it took its endowment to Vegas and just bet it all on black.

If state colleges are hurting, your typical urban public school is in a world of pain with budgets slashed to the bone. Politicians act like these are problems beyond their control like the weather. (“50% chance of sun and a 40% chance of losing music programs.”)

In truth, they are the result of a comprehensive attack on public education that has seen the system starved. One way this has been implemented is through stadium construction, the grand substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country. Over the last generation, we’ve seen 30 billion in public funds spent on stadiums. They were presented as photogenic solutions to deindustrialization, declining tax bases, and suburban flight. The results are now in and they don’t look good for the home teams. University of Maryland sports economists Dennis Coates and University of Alberta Brad R. Humphreys studied stadium funding over 30 years and failed to find one solitary example of a sports franchise lifting or even stabilizing a local economy. They concluded the opposite: “a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area….Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy.” These projects achieve so little because the jobs created are low wage, service sector, seasonal employment. Instead of being solutions of urban decay, the stadiums have been tools of organized theft: sporting shock doctrines for our ailing cities.

With crumbling schools, higher tuitions, and an Education Secretary in Arne Duncan who seems more obsessed with providing extra money for schools that break their teachers unions, it’s no wonder that the anger is starting to boil over. It can also bubble up in unpredictable ways. On Wednesday night, after the University of Maryland men’s basketball team beat hated arch-rival Duke, students were arrested after pouring into the streets surrounding the campus. In years past, these sporting riots have been testosterone run amok, frat parties of burning mattresses and excessive inebriation. This year it was different, with police needing to use pepper spray and horses to quell the 1,500 students who filled Route 1. In response, students chanted, “Defense! Defense!” At the Thursday teach in, I said to the students that I didn’t think there was anything particularly political or interesting about a college sports riot. One person shot his hand up and said, “It wasn’t a riot until the cops showed up.” Everyone proceeded to applaud. I was surprised at first that these politically minded students would be defending a post-game melee, but no longer. The anger is real and it isn’t going anywhere. While schools are paying football coaches millions and revamping stadiums, students are choosing between dropping out or living with decades of debt. One thing is certain: it aint a game.

© 2010 The Nation

Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Obama Backs Rewarding Districts That Police Failing Schools March 2, 2010

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(Roger’s note: I could support the idea of mass firings if it included the presidency, congresss and supreme court.  One becomes more disgusted with Obama each day.  His support for union busting, privitazation, and militarization in our school system makes him a neocon if I ever saw one.  The lunatic right might call him a socialist, but in a real sense, he is one of them.)
Published on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 by The New York Timesby Jeff Zeleny

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday that he favored federal rewards for local school districts that fire underperforming teachers and close failing schools, saying educators needed to be held accountable when they failed to fix chronically troubled classrooms and curb the student dropout rate.The president outlined his proposal to offer $900 million in federal grants, which would be made available to states and school districts willing to take aggressive steps to turn around struggling institutions or close them.

The president’s proposal, which was included in his 2011 budget request to Congress, is his latest criticism of America’s failing public schools. In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Obama said federal aid would be available for the districts that are home to the 2,000 schools that produce more than half of the nation’s dropouts.

He spoke alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma, who lead America’s Promise Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to combating the school dropout rate.

“We know that the success of every American will be tied more closely than ever before to the level of education that they achieve,” Mr. Obama said. “The jobs will go to the people with the knowledge and the skills to do them. It’s that simple.”

He singled out Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, where last week the school board voted to dismiss the entire faculty as part of a turnaround plan for the school, which has a 48 percent graduation rate.

At Central Falls High, he said, just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests. Mr. Obama said he supported the school board’s decision to dismiss the faculty and staff members. “Our kids get only one chance at an education and we need to get it right,” he said.

The president’s comments incensed the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers, which criticized Mr. Obama for “condoning the mass firing” of teachers at the Rhode Island school.

“We know it is tempting for people in Washington to score political points by scapegoating teachers, but it does nothing to give our students and teachers the tools they need to succeed,” the president of the union, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement.

In their efforts to overhaul failing public schools, Mr. Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have frequently drawn the ire of teachers’ unions.

In his speech on Monday, Mr. Obama said states would be asked to identify schools that perform at persistently low levels, with graduation rates of 60 percent or less.

To qualify for the federal money, known as School Turnaround Grants, he said, the school districts must agree to take at least one of the steps: firing the principal and at least half the staff of a troubled school; reopening it as a charter school; or closing the school altogether and transferring students to better schools in the district.

“If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year,” Mr. Obama said, “if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability.”

The $900 million grant program, which would be subject to Congressional approval, follows $3.5 billion included in last year’s economic stimulus plan that also was aimed at improving school performance and lowering the dropout rate. The program would support interventions at 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

Mr. Obama is seeking to use federal money as an incentive for local schools to improve their standards. The initiatives his administration is pursuing are similar to those of the Bush administration. At the event on Monday, Mr. Obama recognized Margaret Spellings, a secretary of education under President George W. Bush, who was seated in the front row.

Mr. Obama said he was particularly troubled by the dropout rate. He said 1.2 million students left school each year before graduating from high school, at a cost to the nation of $319 billion annually in potential earning losses.

“Now it’s true that not long ago you could drop out of high school and reasonably expect to find a blue-collar job that would pay the bills and help support your family,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s just not the case anymore.”

The Powells, who founded America’s Promise Alliance in 1997, announced on Monday a 10-year campaign called “Grad Nation” directed at the lowest performing high schools in the country and focusing on improving graduation rates and preparations for college.

“We’ve got to catch our kids long before they drop out,” Mr. Powell said.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Obama’s Idea of Education Reform? Fire All the Teachers February 25, 2010

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(Roger’s note: one of the hallmarks of  a good leader is the ability to delegate authority, but there always remains the question: to whom?  Obama has made some disastrous choices, including Bush’s man Gates at Defence and  super hawk Clinton at State.  He has given the education portfolio to his Chicago political and hoop shooting crony, Arne Duncan, who wouldn’t recognize a class room if one fell on his head.  Duncan’s idea of education reform is to convert the public school system into quasi-militarized profit-making corportations, this from a supposedly progressive presidency.  Expect union-busting and turning our children into well-honed corporate serving robots.)
Published on Thursday, February 25, 2010 by The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)

Central Falls Thurst into School Reform Forefront

by Jennifer D. Jordan

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. – “You’re a coward!”

[Central Falls High graduates gather in support of the teaching staff during Tuesday’s meeting in which all 93 teachers were fired. (The Providence Journal / Connie Grosch)]
Central Falls High graduates gather in support of the teaching staff during Tuesday’s meeting in which all 93 teachers were fired. (The Providence Journal / Connie Grosch)

“You should be ashamed!” 

Shouts broke through the heavy silence that had fallen in the auditorium of Central Falls High School.

Supt. Frances Gallo had just recommended that the district’s Board of Trustees fire the entire teaching staff of the city’s only high school, effective at the end of the school year.

Then, as the board’s vice chairwoman, Sonia Rodrigues, read each name aloud, a teacher stood. Some stood in silence, others held back tears.

“Look up, Gallo! Look at us!”

Gallo was sitting on the stage with the seven trustees and a small group of administrators. She rose and looked out at the audience in the packed high school auditorium. She remained standing until the last of 93 names – a history teacher, a reading specialist, physical education, music and art teachers, a social worker, a nurse, the school psychologist, even the principal – was called.

A few minutes earlier, a resolved Gallo had opened her remarks by lashing out at teachers union leaders who she said had contrived stories “that misinform and twist the truth.” The union, the superintendent said, has distorted what went on in negotiations in “a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the issue of meaningful reform.”

Once again, Gallo described what had led to Tuesday night’s showdown.

She reiterated the conditions essential to transform the chronically troubled high school, plagued for years with dreadful test scores and a graduation rate of just 48 percent. She wanted the teachers to spend more time with their students and also more time improving their own skills.

Union leaders said at first they were on board with Gallo’s vision for improving the high school. But the two sides couldn’t agree on how much extra pay teachers should receive for the additional work.

Gallo said that if the teachers had gone along with her transformation plan, they would have had “100-percent job security.”

Shouts broke out again.



The superintendent looked out and repeated: “100-percent job security. And still, the answer was no.”

Gallo ended by recognizing the emotional toll the battle has taken. She acknowledged that many of the high school’s 800 students love their teachers and have voiced support for the faculty in several public meetings. She asked the audience to also “remember those souls who make up the 52 percent of the student body we no longer see before us.”

At a crowded outdoor rally held before the meeting, union leaders painted a very different picture.

“We think it’s an outrage,” Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers Union, said, as hundreds of union supporters from across the state began flowing into Jenks Park. “Our members are feeling awful, devastated. How would you feel, being terminated?”

“If they can do this here, they can do this anywhere,” said Marie Zaminer, a speech pathologist in Woonsocket schools. “I’m worried it will happen where I am.”

Union officials said Gallo refused to negotiate with them and instead demanded they take on extra tasks. In some cases, teachers objected because they would not be paid for duties such as eating lunch with students once a week, or formalizing a tutoring schedule. In other cases, teachers said they already freely did those things, and resented being ordered to do so.

A dozen people – parents, students, union leaders – took turns at the microphone to decry the unfairness, to pledge solidarity and to vow to fight.

Jim Parisi, field representative for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, said Gallo was punishing teachers. “It is never acceptable to threaten anyone’s job as a bargaining tactic. Not in this state,” he shouted.

“This is not about time and money,” Parisi said, as the crowd cheered. “It’s about our right to negotiate time and money.”

A few days before the showdown Gallo acknowledged the uncertainty that accompanies being at the forefront of radical change.

“I feel great trepidation,” Gallo said in an interview in her office. “I have never been any kind of political entity. I do my job. I love my kids. This has thrown me into a new realm I am very uncomfortable with. But I can’t wish it away. It is what it is. I have to promise to do my best, and see this through.”

Gallo knows she has an ally in Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who is aggressively adopting many of the changes outlined in new federal mandates to fix troubled schools.

From the day that Gist identified Central Falls High School as one of the state’s worst performing schools, Gallo finally had the means – and the authority – to re-create the high school as a place entirely focused on the needs of students.

In her Jan. 11 order, Gist instructed the district to select one of four methods to fix the ailing school and gave Gallo just 45 days to decide. Transformation was one option; turnaround another. Gallo had already decided the two other approaches – closing the school or turning it over to a charter-management organization – weren’t viable.

With their swift actions, Gist and Gallo have placed Rhode Island at the vanguard of the latest wave of school reform. And no one – not federal or state officials, not education experts, not union leaders – is sure how it will all work out.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has taken notice.

“I applaud Commissioner Gist and Superintendent Gallo for showing courage and doing the right thing for kids,” Duncan said Tuesday night.

Governor Carcieri also praised Gallo and the trustees for their “action to reform Central Falls High School.”

As both Gallo and Gist fielded calls from the national media Wednesday, the commissioner of education said she recognized the gravity of their actions.

“These are the lives of young people – more than 50 percent of whom are not finishing high school, which completely changes the course of their lives,” Gist said.

“And this choice that Dr. Gallo made, and that we support, also affects the lives of people who have chosen to be teachers and have dedicated their lives to education. So this is an extremely serious situation,” she said. “But we have to do the right thing, and I do commend Dr. Gallo for her courageous steps.”

It is unclear what will happen next.

Union president Sessums says she is pursuing all legal options to fight the across-the-board firings.

Gallo has 120 days to develop a detailed plan explaining how she will turn around the high school, starting in the fall.

Some of the fired teachers – up to half – could be rehired, as allowed in the federal turnaround model.

As of Wednesday morning, 88 teachers, along with the high school’s administrative team, faced their own uncertainty. All 93 were sent letters of termination.

© 2010 The Providence Journal

Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform” February 2, 2010

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Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three grown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”

by BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon

Back in the late 19th and early 20th century heydays of vaudeville, when the singers bombed, when the jokes fell flat and audience attention started wandering, management knew what to do. They would send in the clowns. Some things haven’t changed.

Despite a decade of hard sell by right wing think tanks, foundations, and big media, the American people have not bought the corporate version of school reform. Most people just don’t believe public schools should be privatized or militarized, or operated by business people like businesses instead of by educators, parents and communities in the interests of children, parents and communities, like the best schools always have been run. And most educators doubt that high stakes testing improves educational outcomes in any meaningful way.

Since the public debates on charter schools and privatizing education are ones that our elite cannot win, they have decreed there will be no debate. Instead of an honest public examination of the disastrous impact of No Child Left Behind, and its attendant decade of creeping educational privatization, corporate media, the Obama administration and its bipartisan allies are sending in the clowns with a 21st century three stooges remake starring the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Republican former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, elbowing and slapping at each other, yukking it up about their supposed political differences while they all come together around the corporate elite’s version of “school reform.”

Stooge number one is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former basketball player and friend of the president who, without a single hour of teaching experience was named by Chicago’s Mayor Daley to head the nation’s third largest school system. Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools. Thanks to Duncan, Chicago’s public schools are now being sued by black teachers for racial discrimination in the wholesale dismissal of hundreds of qualified, dedicated black teachers and their replacement with younger, cheaper, less experienced and mostly whiter ones. Even now, the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”

Stooge number two is the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose presence allows the stooges to claim they are a “civil rights” act. Rev. Sharpton jumped aboard the corporate education reform bandwagon with both feet after receiving a half million dollar bribe last year for his National Action Network, reportedly brokered by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein through a right wing not for profit agency that promotes charter schools.

Stooge number three is the same Newt Gingrich who once advocated removal of underachieving children from their parents’ homes to boarding schools and military academies, and whose 1994 Contract For America, demanded the dissolution of the US Department of Education.

Mass media ought to be where the studies, the facts, the experience and the voices of parents, educators, students and communities across the country wrestling with the problems of education are held up for all to examine and understand. But that would be too much like public service for our America’s privatized media. What we’ll get instead is entertainment. They’re sending in the clowns. And here they come!

Privatization Pictures presents a No Child Left Behind Production starring the New Three Stooges, Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich in Corporate School Reform directed by Barack Obama and produced by the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations, featuring fake statistics, dubious studies, crackpot merit pay schemes, charter schools including military charter schools, cronyism, patronage, corruption, worse educational outcomes, thousands of school closings, mass firings of qualified teachers, community destabilization, loss of public and community control, and the privatization of education.

For Black Agenda Report, I’m Bruce Dixon apologizing to the ghosts of the original three stooges. They’d understand. On the web, we are at http://www.blackagendareport.com.

Obama Gives Bush a 3rd Term in Education June 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Education.
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Published on Monday, June 15, 2009 by Huffington Post

It is time to kill the Bush-era No Child Left Behind program

by Diane Ravitch

The great mystery of education policy today is why the Obama administration is embracing the Bush program. I recently wrote in Education Week (June 10) that it is time to kill the Bush-era No Child Left Behind program. The overwhelming majority of teachers agree with me. Those who educate our kids know that NCLB is a failed program that is not improving our schools but rather turning them into test-prep factories and dumbing down our kids. Bush’s main advisor Sandy Kress reacted with outrage on the website of Education Week, and Tom Vander Ark on Huffington Post called me an “edu-curmudgeon” for speaking plain truth.

Let me say it again: It is time to kill the Bush-era No Child Left Behind program. This is a program in which the federal government requires every state to test every student from grade 3-8 in reading and math every year. If states do not make “adequate yearly progress” towards 100% proficiency by 2014, then the schools face a series of increasingly onerous sanctions, ending with their being closed down. Vander Ark thinks that this punitive approach to school improvement is swell. I don’t.

If judged solely by test scores, the only coin that the NCLB crowd understands, the law has been a dud. Kids today are making less progress on national and international tests than they did during the Clinton administration years.

While our kids focus endlessly on preparing to take their state tests in reading and math, they are not learning science, history, geography, foreign language, the arts, or anything else but how to find the right bubble on a standardized test.

A California study in Science magazine predicted that by 2014, nearly 100% of all elementary schools would be deemed failures because of NCLB. This would unleash a flood of sanctions: closed schools, fired staffs, public schools handed over to private management (a remedy that has recently been proved ineffective in Philadelphia, among other places), and public schools handed over to state control (another ineffective remedy).

Now Secretary Arne Duncan promises to close 5,000 low-performing schools. The thought of closing 5,000 schools thrills today’s so-called “reformers,” although none of them has any idea how to make them better. Where will Duncan find 5,000 new principals? Is there an army of great teachers waiting to staff those 5,000 schools?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965–which is the original law onto which No Child Left Behind was grafted–had none of these punitive features. It was premised on the belief that the federal government could help schools by sending more money. In fact, the federal government never sent much money, never more than 10% of overall spending, and often much less than that. No one today could visit a typical inner-city school and complain that its biggest problem was that it got too much federal money.

But with this leverage, the new mandarins of education want to control all of American education. For some reason, first the Bush people and now the Obama people believe they know exactly how to fix American education. (Chicago, their model, is one of the lowest-performing cities in the nation on national tests, and Texas was never a national model for academic excellence.) Their answer starts with testing and ends with data and more testing. If children were widgets, they might be right; but children are not widgets, they are individuals. If reading and math were all that mattered in school, they might be right, but basic skills are not the be-all and end-all of being educated.

A recent study by Common Core (Why We’re Behind: What Top-Performing Nations Teach Their Students But We Don’t) shows that the top-ranking nations do not spend endless hours preparing for tests of basic skills. Instead, in nations such as Finland and Japan, there is a balanced curriculum of science, history, geography, the arts, foreign languages, civics, and other studies. Meanwhile our children are learning to guess the right answer on a multiple-choice test!

The amazing thing about American education today is that the Obama people–who promised revolutionary change–have no ideas other than to tighten the grip of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program on the teachers and children of the United States. © 2009 Huffington Post

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has written many books and articles about American education, including: Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch.

Represent Our Resistance March 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Race, Racism.
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The significance of the hegemonic domain of power lies in its ability to shape consciousness via the manipulation of ideas, images, symbols, and ideologies.
I would never have imagined that history was connected to art, that philosophy was connected to science, and so on. The usual way that people are taught to think in amerika is that each subject is in a little compartment and has no relation to any other subject. For the most part, we receive fragments of unrelated knowledge, and our education follows no logical format or pattern. It is exactly this kind of education that produces people who don’t have the ability to think for themselves and who are easily manipulated.
-Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography
What would the coming dawn bring and what would we build after the storm?

It is not enough that Black and Brown children are subjected to the school-to-prison “programs” called “education in America. We have Arne Duncan, Education Chief, who specializes in establishing military schools for Black and Brown children.

From white liberals we hear this question: how do we (the city, the state, the nation) provide schooling for children growing up in urban America? The question should be, how do we (Black, Brown parents, citizens, intellectuals, teachers, activists, and students) provide schooling for our children growing up in capitalist America?

In “The Duncan Doctrine: The Military-Corporate Legacy of the New Secretary of Education,” independent journalist Andy Kroll looked at Arne Duncan’s performance as Superintendent of Public Schools in Chicago. He turned to the military! According to Kroll, Duncan’s solution for “educating” Black and Brown children in Chicago included the establishment of military academies in low income areas or areas with a dense population of single parents. It was no surprise that Duncan’s military school solution to achieving equitable education for all American children didn’t target suburban children.

No, the military school solution will teach obedience. But obedience to what end? What is the product if not docile citizens who won’t resist and who will accept their place as commodities and consumers? Who benefits from surrounding Black and Brown children in the walls of a military academy? What will these children learn? To remember and honor their ancestors? Or will they learn to love a country and an economic system that refuses to even engage a dialogue on reparations? Will they learn to love a country and an economic system that has little regard for Black and Brown life? What does Duncan care about our ancestors?

But, it will provide structure in the lives of these children! All Black and Brown children are without structure in their lives? For even those without familial structure, the question should be what in this nation’s ideology of the “American Dream” destroyed the “structure” in these children’s lives?

Kroll added that the Chicago military academies, if not explicitly a military recruitment tool, certainly offer deals to graduates, encouraging their entrance into the military.

Under Duncan’s “education” solution, children come to associate education with monetary reward. Students receive money for high grades. The higher the grade the more money! Education is also associated with “getting the job.” In corporate America that means becoming a content cog in the machinery. Education means money and a job that makes you “worthy!” Being “worthy” in the eyes of others depends on how much money you have in your bank account, if you can trust the banks to keep your account.

Love capitalism; hate yourself!

Kroll writes that Duncan’s Chicago legacy emphasized “a business-mined, market-driven model for education. If he is a ‘reformer,’ his style of management is distinctly top-down, corporate, and privatizing.” Teachers are “expendable,” unions are “unnecessary,” and students are “customers.” But since Arne Duncan plays basketball and his managerial style mirrors President Obama, his friend, he finds himself in Washington D.C., rewarded for his “good job” in Chicago.


Encouraging students to be critical thinkers, to question accepted beliefs and norms, remains key to a teacher’s role at any grade level.

And? Black and Brown critical thinkers would question the status quo of a U.S. corporate-lead government, and such people would certainly come to “question” capitalism itself? Do we remember Malcolm and King?  Thinkers are not welcome now and they certainly won’t be welcome within Duncan’s “educational” scheme! 

Sheep are easier to control and manipulate.  Sheep look to the leadership of an oligarchy.  Sheep obey orders.  They chew on the dribble from corporate media without understanding the difference between their interests as “sheep” and the interests of the leadership.



A student who learns to play the cello, who studies how to read music, will learn discipline too, without a military-themed learning environment. But what use are Black and Brown cello players within a market-driven, corporate-militaristic government?