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Tag: "education"

“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.

A New Brown v. Board is Needed

[ 296 ] May 5, 2014 |

This is an excellent but depressing piece of reporting on the resegregation of Tuscaloosa schools after a series of Supreme Court decisions rolled back the progress made in integrating America’s public schools. Be sure to view the slideshow and the full story.

Of course, the schools never were fully integrated thanks to racist parents either moving to all-white suburbs or sending their children to private or religious schools to not have their pretty young white daughter dating a big black buck driving her around in his welfare Cadillac and dining her on t-bone steaks. Of course the language of the 1970s isn’t acceptable today, but the reality of education and race is pretty much the same, whether because of the only slightly more veiled racism of Tuscaloosa or because liberal professors are sending their children to private schools because the public schools “are bad.”

Still, before we can have another Brown that truly integrates our schools, we need a much better Supreme Court, which means electing liberal Democrats regardless of their flaws, a fact I will be throwing in the face of everyone who says that 3rd party voting is OK because the Dems suck on their pet issue they’ve prioritized over the concerns of everyone else in 2016.

Socialism

[ 182 ] March 13, 2014 |

I look forward to Republicans discovering the interstates are a socialist program and thus Interstate 5 Brought to You by Microsoft can be a pothole-ridden road that would make no nation proud:

“Socialism, defined on Wikipedia, ‘is a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,’” state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R ) wrote in a post published Mar. 3 on Brenner Brief News, a website founded and edited by his wife. “That seems to summarize our primary education system. Public education in America is socialism.”

Brenner serves as vice-chair of the Ohio House Education Committee.

In the post, titled “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?,” Brenner laid out his argument. He noted that the Tea Party, which “will attack Obama-care relentlessly as a socialist system,” rarely brings up “the fact that our public education system is already a socialist system[…] and has been a socialist system since the founding of our country.” He addressed teachers unions — “an outgrowth of our socialistic education system” — which he granted originally improved things “temporarily” before they ultimately “became bureaucratic and they started to take the place of school boards and school management.”

Opt Out of Standardized Testing

[ 149 ] February 9, 2014 |

The more parents who opt out of making their children go through the pointless and educationally destructive Common Core standardized testing that is the fad of Rheeist politicians of both parties, the better. I certainly implore all the parents who read this blog to stand up against this horrible education policy that hurts both students and teachers.

What Unions Face with Democrats

[ 45 ] November 11, 2013 |

Another sign that most Democratic politicians simply don’t care about organized labor outside of writing checks and getting on votes on election day. Illinois governor Pat Quinn has named Paul Vallas as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Who is Vallas? The ultimate Rheeist, Vallas attacked teacher unions in Chicago before going on to doing the same in New Orleans and Bridgeport, where voters have just repudiated his “reforms” that had both Democratic and Republican support.

“Paul Vallas is one of the least popular leaders among the rank and file educators in Chicago public schools we’ve ever had,” said laid-off teacher Xian Barrett, a former member of the Chicago Teachers Union executive board currently working for a non-profit. Barrett cited Vallas’ moves that “reduced the power of the local schools councils,” and said before his 2001 departure he “was already laying the groundwork for a lot of the privatization movements” that progressed under his successor Arne Duncan, now President Obama’s Education Secretary. Barrett said Quinn’s choice of Vallas “reflects a disconnect between our state governance and the people, and specifically in this case a lot of the educators who’ve been Quinn’s greatest supporters his last time getting elected.” (The CTU, an AFT affiliate, did not respond to a Friday afternoon inquiry.)

Rob Traber, the vice president of Bridgeport Education Association, disputed Quinn’s praise for his new running mate. “I have seen nothing to show that he has been successful anywhere he’s gone, including Bridgeport,” Traber told Salon Friday. “And he has moved from one place to another and left it in worse shape than when he got there.” Traber contended Vallas and Finch had wrongly taken credit for construction of a new high school that “was already in the pipeline,” and that “the ‘miracle’ of balancing the budget” under Vallas was a response to “a budget crisis created by Finch.” Traber added that “the only reason it was balanced was Finch suddenly came up with money, which he hadn’t done for five years,” as did the state of Connecticut. “And so you know,” charged Traber, “that seems a little phony to me.” Like the IEA, the BEA is an affiliate of the NEA, the largest US union.

This is a case where organized labor should withdraw all support for Pat Quinn and the Illinois governor’s race. If the governor is openly opposed to labor’s interests, why should labor support him at all? This is a classic Samuel Gompers mentality–labor supports candidates who support labor. Labor does not support candidates that do not support labor. Progressives may look askance upon Gompers today for a number of reasons, but he understood the interests of his people and if Pat Quinn wants to put a teacher union busting Lieutenant Governor on the ticket in a relatively pro-union state like Illinois, then how much worse is a Republican going to be for organized labor? And while the answer to that question is potentially a Scott Walker and that would be horrible, we have to ask–would we expect pro-choice women to give money and support to an anti-choice candidate? Pro-gay marriage groups to support a candidate who named a homophobe as his running mate? Civil rights groups to support a ticket that included someone who backed voter ID laws? Ultimately, labor can’t be the only group asked to sacrifice when the Democrats promote people who oppose its interests. There has to be a payoff.

Ravitch v. Rhee

[ 146 ] September 21, 2013 |

Andrew Delbanco has a largely excellent review of the new books by Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee in the latest New York Review of Books. Essentially, the two come across in their books as you’d expect. Ravitch is passionate in her defense of teacher unions, subtle in her understanding that we need to fight both poverty and improve schools at the same time. She sees schools as largely succeeding (the idea that schools are failing our students seems to be conventional wisdom yet largely lacks evidence. And where are schools are failing, such as the teaching of art and music, its precisely because of the policies that people like Rhee support) and that if SAT scores declined in the 70s, it’s because far more children were taking them in an increasingly inclusive education system. She sees privatization as a great threat to our schools, with little accountability for charter schools and national priorities moving toward giving snake-oil salesmen access to our schools.

Rhee’s book seems to be an exercise in pure narcissism. She is perfect, everyone who opposes her is not just wrong but has evil, nefarious motives and must be personally impugned (an attitude and style of argument that I find particularly distasteful). She has no understanding of historical context and doesn’t care. Teacher unions are evil, she is pure. She wants the shock doctrine applied to the public schools and brooks no opposition to her project of turning our schools into a capitalist experimentation station. She thinks the whole world should be competing viciously in a William Graham Sumner-esque race to the top. She lacks the ability to look outside her own experiences growing up in a household where she was pushed hard by her parents to understand why others might not find this valuable or desirable or even possible.

Rhee says that we can’t solve poverty until we solve education. This is absurd on the face of it. First and once again, does education need to be solved? That’s not to say it can’t get better; of course it can. But not only is there zero evidence that Rheeism will improve education for the average child, but her policies make it harder to do what we really could do to improve education–increase funding for school programs, hire more teachers for smaller class sizes, increase funding to teach foreign languages and better prepare our students for 21st century global life, build schools with better learning (and working) conditions that actually have air conditioning (a major issue in the Chicago Teachers Union strike), increase the salaries of teachers to make it an appealing profession for young people, improve the intensity and quality of education programs at the college and university level, etc. But of course these things cost money and take political power and Rhee’s interest in those questions go only so far as it profits her and her friends.

I’m also curious, even if we do “solve education,” how Rheeism will solve poverty. Will it convince Congress to improve the food stamp program? Raise the minimum wage? Pass a national guaranteed income? Undermine racial segregation? Bring industrial jobs back to the United States for the working class? Of course it will do none of these things. I guess it’s supposed to make “job creators” or something, but the end game of Rhee’s ideas are never spelled out precisely because she completely lacks interest in the long-term implications of her project.

Overall then, the review is great except for the last paragraph. After spending an entire article talking about Rhee’s own self-regard and unwillingness to admit the problems in her points while also talking about the sense Ravitch makes, Delbanco closes with the following sentence: “One thing that certainly won’t help our children is any ideology convinced of its exclusive possession of the truth.” Ah, a classic both sides do it ending! Earlier, Delbanco talks about how Ravitch’s ideas make more sense but they won’t get you on the cover of Time. I guess a true judgment at the end of a hot topic domestic article won’t get you the featured New York Review of Books piece either.

Nonetheless, a review very much worth your time.

A More Perfect Union

[ 122 ] September 4, 2013 |

Just in case anyone wasn’t aware that Teach for America is a tool of the capitalists, the organization has teamed up with Goldman Sachs to funnel TFA members into a career with a corporation that only played a major role in the crisis that helped bring down the world economy in 2007 and 2008.

Rheeism and toxic investments–what could be a more perfect union in the 21st century?

Seniority

[ 120 ] August 15, 2013 |

The Philadelphia school system has decided to use a classic union-busting tactic: destroy seniority provisions:

There’s something about seniority that really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It challenges our national mythology about meritocracy, a myth that ignores the race, gender, and class privileges that underlie a system where I as a white dude just happen to succeed where others don’t. Unions defend seniority not because it is perfect. No system is perfect. They defend it because it is the only system that is fair to workers.* Otherwise, how do we decide who has job preference? Like the Philadelphia schools, it is employers who want to decide. Employers are going to favor those they like, those who don’t support the union, those that are toadies. It is also an illegal labor action and let’s hope this pernicious union-busting gets fought off.

*Obviously the one exception to this was with affirmative action. That’s a complex story. The exception is noted before someone brings it up.

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