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Tag: "education"

Hillary Clinton and Education

[ 26 ] March 24, 2015 |

Since she lacks a credible primary challenger, it might be awhile before we know whether Hillary Clinton is as in the pocket of the wealthy education privatizers and Rheeists as Barack Obama. Given her close relations with the teachers’ unions and the Wall Street Democrats, she is definitely being pulled in different directions. Where she does eventually fall may tell us much about what her presidency might be like for progressives.

I confess that I am not confident.

Andrew Cuomo: Bought and Paid For

[ 104 ] March 20, 2015 |

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Above: A terrible person.

George Joseph has an excellent exposé on Andrew Cuomo selling public education in New York to billionaires looking for new profits off formerly public goods. You should read it. But why has Andrew Cuomo done this? Is it because of his deeply felt but perhaps flawed concern about poor children? Of course not:

Clearly, the governor’s ambitions are not focused on New York State any longer. A recent Quinnipiac poll, for example, indicates Cuomo’s education proposal has lowered his overall approval rating to its lowest in office, with only 28 percent in support of and 63 percent against his massive reform plan. While 50 percent support his advocacy of charter schools, an overwhelming 71 percent do not believe teachers should be evaluated based on student test scores, and 65 percent do not believe such scores should determine tenure. Furthermore, if Cuomo was at all interested in staying in New York, he would not be waging an all out war against the state’s still formidable teachers’ union, once considered the preeminent political force in Albany. “Andrew Cuomo’s career is based on copying everything Bill Clinton ever did, going against teachers’ unions with the support of billionaires, just like the Clintons did with Walmart,” argues one Albany lobbyist to The Nation. “He’s not especially original, but he’s tough, mean, and can execute a plan. He doesn’t give a rats’ ass about education, he just wants Wall Street money. He sees the backing of billionaires key to his future success.”

An even more right-wing version of the Clintons is precisely what the Democratic Party needs! Luckily, I think Cuomo has gone too far down this road to ever be the presidential nominee. He has become so toxic to Democratic Party activists that I think an “Anyone But Cuomo” campaign would unite Democrats around someone else were he to run. The one caveat to that is probably if Hillary doesn’t run in 2016 since there wouldn’t be time for another major candidate to play that role except maybe O’Malley and Biden, neither of whom would exactly galvanize the forces, or maybe Elizabeth Warren but she isn’t running in any case.

The “We” in U.S. History

[ 45 ] March 14, 2015 |

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Elizabeth Yale has an interesting essay arguing that the real conservative outrage over the AP U.S. History standards is that AP is avoiding the “we” in history, not taking a stand that our past celebrates a glorious narrative of heroism and progress that defines “us” today. Of course, such narratives of “we” and “us” are automatically exclusionary and thus should be avoided since they inevitably imply a “you” and “them” that are not part of this grand historical narrative.

Yet, perhaps these questions don’t belong in a U.S. history classroom—or, at the very least, in that space, their answers should not be assumed. The AP framework seems to take this stance; this may be one of the reasons it so frustrates its critics. In its discussion of the early history of settlement, warfare, and colonial expansion in the territory that became the United States, the new framework resists saying “we.” On the religious roots of the American Revolution, it reads, “Protestant evangelical religious fervor strengthened many British colonists’ understandings of themselves as a chosen people blessed with liberty, while Enlightenment philosophers and ideas inspired many American political thinkers to emphasize individual talent over hereditary privilege.”

This is hardly neglect: evangelical fervor is right there, strengthening British colonists’ resolve when confronted with challenges to their liberties. But in speaking of “British colonists’ understandings of themselves,” the language also sets up a distance between us and them. They understood themselves as a chosen people blessed with liberty; we can adopt that view if we wish, but we don’t have to take it on uncritically. The framework creates this measure of historical distance not only between us and early American Protestants, but between us and each of the many different kinds of colonial Americans it discusses—enslaved Africans, Indians, and colonists, traders, missionaries, and adventurers from France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. It presents colonial history as a diverse space inhabited by many different kinds of people, with many different kinds of aims. Students of a range of backgrounds might see themselves here—though the framework certainly doesn’t force them to.

How do we acknowledge and move forward from the sins of the past? The historical “we” in place, the distance between past and present falsely collapsed, we can only understand them as our own. Here is where the historical distance created by the AP U.S. framework, with its careful locutions, pays off. For, of course, in seeing that U.S. history has been shaped by racism, one may be lead to reflect upon our inheritance of that history, and how it plays out in daily life, in ways big and small, across the United States. Our history, properly told, should push students towards these kinds of reflections (though it won’t dictate their outcomes). But such thoughts may be particularly painful—too painful to confront—for those who look back on the “Founding Fathers,” and say, “Them. Those are my people. Those are our people.”

That so many of the conservative critics of AP U.S. History standards are also deeply invested in exclusionary politics of other types–including repealing the meaningful sections of the Voting Rights Act–suggests that “we” is just as contested when talking about 2015 as it is about 1775.

Technology over Pre-K

[ 63 ] March 11, 2015 |

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This is a very small newspaper item from the small but pretty wealthy Rhode Island town of East Greenwich. But I think it is telling about education today, where school districts (and most certainly the outside funders) are pushing expensive technologies as answers to education issues while basic and fundamental aspects of education like funded pre-K are left to rot. We might ask whether every East Greenwich high school student student should receive a pricey Chromebook before universal pre-K is implemented in the town. I’d probably argue no but the fact that it happens that way here and no doubt in school districts across the country is too telling about educational priorities in the age of privatizing public goods.

Opposition to Teach for America Having Effect

[ 19 ] February 6, 2015 |

Great to see students begin to realize that Teach for America is a way to bust teachers’ unions while placing young people in teaching situations that are way over their head. The anti-TFA movement is beginning to have a real effect.

The Year in Education

[ 15 ] December 31, 2014 |

Between the growth in parents opting their students out of stupid standardized testing, the rapid retreat of the technofuturists and their program of replacing professors with MOOCs, a real push back against Teach for America and its union busting program, and stories about the corruption of charter schools (and hopefully someone took the subtle anti-charter school message from True Detective), the year in education policy was unexpectedly someone less terrible than usual.

Unions Shouldn’t Fund Their Enemies

[ 30 ] October 8, 2014 |

Talked about this last week, but Arkansas electing Tom Cotton is going to be horrible. So I don’t blame liberals and unions going all in for Mark Pryor, bleh as he is.

On the other hand, I do think unions should have some baseline standards before they give a politician money. For instance, should teachers’ unions give money to Pryor when he turns around and gets in bed with the union-busting charter school movement? I would argue no, but they are giving money to Pryor anyway. It’s one thing to give money to someone who is your not greatest supporter in Congress. It’s another to give it to someone who openly opposes what you stand for. I have trouble believing that’s in their members’ interest. After all, it is not unions’ job to be the only progressive organization to have to ignore their own self-interest for the broader progressive movement. It’s not as if NOW is expected to work for anti-abortion Democrats or Sierra Club is supposed to get out the vote for politicians in the pocket of the oil industry. But unions routinely go to the mat for politicians who don’t pay them back. Tom Cotton is bad but on the issue of teachers unions, Pryor is not much better and certainly not good.

“That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation”

[ 112 ] July 20, 2014 |

Turning schools into profit-making enterprises has been a disaster, not only in the U.S., but also in Sweden. Applying Taylorism to schools makes perfect sense to the high modernist education reformer like Michelle Rhee or Arne Duncan, but does nothing positive to address the real complexities of the classroom.

Obama Administration Veterans Target Teachers’ Unions

[ 150 ] June 24, 2014 |

I mostly reject lazy “both parties are the same” rhetoric. But if it fits on one issue, it’s education. Obama has long surrounded himself with Rheeists and now that some have moved on from government service, they are renewing the fight against their nemesis: people who we trust to take care of our children 8 hours a day and prepare them to be productive members of society but who we don’t trust to bargain their less than stellar wages.

The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead role in the public relations initiative.

The involvement of such high-profile Obama alumni highlights the sharp schism within the Democratic Party over education reform.

Teachers unions have long counted on Democrats as their most loyal allies. But in the past decade, more and more big-name Democrats have split with the unions to support charter schools, tenure reform and accountability measures that hold teachers responsible for raising students’ scores on standardized tests.

The national legal campaign is being organized by Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who told POLITICO that she has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months to get the effort off the ground. She intends to start with a lawsuit in New York, to be filed within the next few weeks, and follow up with similar cases around the country. Her plans for the New York lawsuit were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Brown’s campaign will be modeled on the recent Vergara v. California trial, which dealt a major blow to teachers unions. In that case, a judge earlier this month struck down California’s tenure system and other job protections embedded in state law, ruling that they deprived students of their constitutional right to a quality education because they shielded even the most incompetent teachers from dismissal. Teachers unions have said they will appeal.

Campbell Brown!!! Brown really goes for the kill here:

Brown said she sees a parallel to the fight for gay marriage, noting that the legal fight around California’s Proposition 8 sparked a public conversation that she credits with changing attitudes and increasing acceptance of same-sex unions. “It entirely changed the dialog,” she said.

Really, aren’t anti-sodomy laws less evil than teachers’ unions, a monster so great that everyone cowers in fear from how 1st year teachers at the age of 23 are making $150,000 while luxuriating in mansions and using the children as slaves.

Unintentionally Honest Tweets

[ 46 ] June 9, 2014 |

Say what you will about modern conservatives, but sometimes they are at least unintentionally honest.

The End of History Education

[ 237 ] May 23, 2014 |

The Boston public school system is eliminating history and social science departments, merging them with other departments that don’t matter because they aren’t on the standardized tests.

No doubt this is paving the way for the same thing to happen on the university level to the non-STEM departments.

Obama’s Privatized School Agenda

[ 135 ] May 16, 2014 |

Obama’s Rheeist agenda on education again rears its privatizing head:

One of the nation’s leaders of the privatization movement, Ted Mitchell, has been confirmed by the. u.S. Senate as Undersecretary of Education, the second most powerful job in the U.S. Department of Education.

Mitchell most recently was CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, which collects millions from philanthropies and venture funds and invests the money in creating charter chains and for-profit ventures.

Among his many other accomplishments, Mitchell served as chairman of the State Board of Education for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegegger, a time of unprecedented expansion of charter schools and deep budget cuts for both K-12 piblic schools and public higher education.

Once again, Obama’s education agenda is nothing short of terrible. It’s one of the few issues where those who say that there are no differences between Republicans and Democrats are more correct than not.

Lee Fang had more on Mitchell back when he was nominated in December:

His ethics disclosure form shows that he was paid $735,300 for his role at NewSchools, which is organized as a non-profit. In recent years, he has served or is currently serving as a director to New Leaders, Khan Academy, California Education Partners, Teach Channel, ConnectED, Hameetman Foundation, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Silicon Schools, Children Now, Bellwether Partners, Pivot Learning Partners, EnCorps Teacher Training Program, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Green DOT Public Schools.

In addition, Mitchell serves as an adviser to Salmon River Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in education companies. Mitchell sits on the board of Parchment, an academic transcript start-up that is among Salmon River Capital’s portfolio.

Salmon River Capital helped create one of the biggest names in for-profit secondary education, Capella University. “As a foundational investor and director, [Salmon River Capital’s] Josh Lewis made invaluable contributions to Capella’s success. From leading our landmark financing in 2000, when Capella was a $10 million business operating in a difficult environment, through a successful 2006 IPO and beyond, he proved a great partner who kept every commitment he made,” reads a statement from Steve Shank, founder of Capella.

The Minnesota-based Capella heavily recruits veterans and has received $53.1 million from the GI Bill in the past four years. The Minnesota attorney general is currently investigating several unnamed for-profit colleges in her state.

Obama has promoted Rheeism and profit-generating education from the start of his presidency through Arne Duncan’s unusual power for a Secretary of Education and personal closeness between the two. We see it again and again. If Michelle Rhee wasn’t so controversial and tainted at this point, I’d hardly be surprised to see Obama nominate her if Duncan ever stepped down.

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