but they still believe the Sun revolves around the Earth . . . and, well, that US of Amerika is the best country since, well, Eden!
“Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward all research.”
-Malcolm X [el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz]
“If you don’t know history, it is as if you were born yesterday.”
The new hyper rich — the IT-AI-Robotics-Virtual-Info/Data/Surveillance Jammers with their Tweeter IPO orgasm and bit-coin realm of worthless junk trading – they are probably worse than the old robber barons, the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the entire genocidal and resource and cultural stealing folks with their names not just plastered and etched on concert halls, libraries and philanthropic organizations, but their dead influence on some of the biggest non-profit grant organizations in the world, ones that have people with their loose fingers into everything that should be PUBLIC goods, PUBLIC welfare, PUBLIC safety, PUBLIC space.
This is the issue, now, then, in Amerika, around the globe – Do communities produce anything, learn how to take back and take care, learn that interlopers like the Intels and Boeings and Googles are not members of a community of place?
Our enemies are the virtual people with virtual ideals whose bank accounts swell with the corporate welfare dollars and the dollars of our own national collective health.
They are the dialing for dollars and Lotto mavens. They want more-more-more. They want disruption, implosion, a new-new world that is imagined by ethically-vacant people who think that the world goes better with Coke and Computers.
They count on false dialogue, false accusations, false science, false ethics. They count on homey stories of America the great, the land of opportunity, the great melted pot, err, melting caldron of false ideas and a buck made a second on idealess ideals.
They live in myth, and they want some idea cooked up in GIS-Computer splendor. Get it – San Francisco-Austin-Boulder, you name it fake liberal America, they still believe one-, two- and three-HOUR, one-way, commutes make the man, steel the woman for some early retirement. Really, population growth, bulging cities, roads into hell, service-service economies, it all is a fragile little cut-out, little ideas with billions behind them . . . yet how livable are our communities? What space is public?
Favelas without the flavor. Dead white men can jump out of the grave and pay back-pay back.
This is a crisis, then – in education, in science, in society, in culture, in communities, in our own internal mechanisms that supposedly took most of us from the head-spiking/head-lopping days into one where cooperation and compassion would win the day.
Of course, that never happened – moving from apes with nukes to apes with a culture — but a whole lot of people are trained to combat consumerism and corruption, are trained to think it out and see the disaster that befalls us with endless profit-free market-supply side-trickle up and down and all around.
Be it mafia thugs or the thugs of silicon valleys. They’ve pushed their nepotism and flagrant disregard of duty to their elders and teachers into a new category of shame. The want drones flying dildos to the doorsteps of 20,000 square foot Gates-styled homes on Christmas Eve (Jeff Bezos, Amazon (dot) cum/com/ con ED, CEO, progenitor). They want some miracle of nano-robotics and medical messiah magic, for just the right price, the right limited audience/patient/ user. They are the inventors, drug pushers inventing more OCD, ODD, ADD, the entire mess of lies for their kingdom.
DR. Gabor Mate: Alan Schwarz’s article is very significant, I think, because it points to a major dynamic in American medicine, which is—there’s an article—he quotes Lawrence Diller, who’s a psychiatrist, or at least a child’s pediatrician, in California. And Diller says—Dr. Diller says that they, the pharmaceutical companies—referring to their success in inducing doctors to prescribe medications, Diller says that for an epidemic to take hold, there has to be a susceptible host—in this case, the medical profession. And then Dr. Diller says, quoted by Alan Schwarz, that they must know something about us that they can exploit. And what the pharmaceutical companies know about the medical doctors is that we’re in the grips of this ideology that reduces everything to brain biology and everything to genetics, so that it’s not just a question of ADHD, it’s a question of millions of kids being on medications of all kinds—ADHD drugs, the stimulants. There’s half-a-million children in the States on antipsychotics, who are not even psychotic; there are kids getting SSRI antidepressants for OCD, for depression, for anxiety—so that this template of the medical profession reducing everything to questions of brain biology and then thinking that they can solve problems by handing out pills is what has given the pharmaceutical companies the foothold, which they’ve exploited so brilliantly, as demonstrated in Alan Schwarz’s article.
And I’ll just add to that that absent from that awareness in the medical profession is the science, which is not even controversial, but most physicians are not aware of it, that the brain biology actually develops in interaction with the environment, beginning in utero and in early childhood, number one; and number two, that an individual’s physiology, including brain physiology, is in lifelong interaction with the environment. So when we have lots of children in trouble, when in Canada you have the number of prescriptions for ADHD going up 45 percent in the last five years, when you have the kind of figures that Alan has accumulated and demonstrated in his article, what are we looking at? We’re looking at the huge impact of the environment on the troubled functioning of many, many young people and children. And to reduce that to a question of brain biology and to try and smooth it out by medications is an abdication of medical responsibility. crisis, and it’s not the crises that the neo-liberals and libertarians and conservatives say the crises are all about.
You don’t get under the skin of the marketing veneer without a little bit of head scratching/ head butting. It takes time, lucidity, and a whole hell of a lot of wrestling the blind and deaf and intellectually crippled, in real time, mano y mano, group dynamics and multiple disciplines, we can only hope.
So, the only choice is EDUCATION, and not some tired old version, one flippant or one unnecessary to the needs of those 80 percent who will not go onto graduate school or pontificating school. You know, construction management major — doodads sure, in the form of GIS and new technologies in home-siting, home-building, home-ownership/rental, but also a bloody history of the trade movement, a look at the history of buildings and trades, a look at the morphology of cities, a look at history, art, architecture, and some deep regard for the planning process, including how government works and the role of lobbies in the construction fields. Learning how to read and talk and debate people who do not lock-step with you and your little clique of like-minded folk.
A tale of two visions. I know, I know, there are rebels like myself, and of another swatch of cloth – we have the innate skills to survive, maybe, in a wilder world, with the quick wits and physical prowess, but alas, that world is vapid, gone, just a huge centrifuge of the survival of the fittest. Some of us are steeped in helping the underdog, and, that devotion in some cases – as in mine – puts us into UNDERDOG category . . . Mighty Mouse is Andy Kaufman is Hanna Barbera.
Do we have the critical mass/ masses to fight the kingdom of the Deanlets, the smolts of Admin Class swimming into the ranking class, pushing false ideas and computer filing schemes onto creative souls, the real teachers who are in the trenches with their students? We can have construction lovers, mechanics, you name it, anything, but still, we need to bridge the divide between the few that have and the masses who are subjugated by the walled-in thinkers.
Time to decide what society is, what culture means, how civilization fits into the scheme of things. Cooperative and communitarian, or, well, matchless wits and overlord Spencerian Darwinism?
What are community colleges for? One thing? A set of proscribed momentary things? Of, for a larger project to build, reinvent, buttress things that count?
Here, one report, a la National Zion Radio, err, NPR:
City College of San Francisco is one of the biggest community colleges in the country, and it may be about to close. The fault was not the quality of City College’s education, problems cited were fiscal and administrative. A lot of people in higher education are watching closely what’s happening at City College, as it symbolizes a larger fight between two visions of what community college should be: a place for non-traditional or non-credit students to find enrichment or a place that efficiently sends students to job placement or university degrees.
City College of San Francisco is one of the biggest community colleges in the country and it may be about to close. Its accreditation is in jeopardy. The problems aren’t in the classroom, they’re financial and administrative. And a lot of people in higher education are watching closely.
As Jen Chien of member station KALW reports, what’s happening at the school illustrates a larger fight between two visions of what a community college should be.
JEN CHIEN: The trouble at City College of San Francisco could be symbolized in the difference between two students, Jacob Ortega and Ivy Gao. Ortega is 18 and studying political science.
JACOB ORTEGA: I was originally planning to go to San Francisco State but my father had passed away and without his pension we didn’t really have that great of a financial situation. So, I thought it would be better to get my general education here.
CHIEN: Ortega is what some call a traditional community college student. He’s fresh out of high school, in college for the first time and, after two years here, he plans to transfer to complete his bachelor’s degree. Ivy Gao is considered a non-traditional student. She’s a recent immigrant from China, in her 30′s, and takes free English as a second language classes.
IVY GAO: (Through a translator) Right now I take three classes a day, from about 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.
CHIEN: Gao is unemployed at the moment but says these classes will eventually help her get a job.
GAO: When you first get here to the U.S., if you don’t speak English, even businesses here in Chinatown won’t hire you.
CHIEN: ESL is actually the largest department at City College, with 700 courses. Many are free. In fact, there are a lot of non-credit classes at City College, and the majority of its 85,000 students are non-traditional. But now, the school’s commitment to higher education for all is being tested, as its accreditor demands fiscal belt-tightening.
Okay, a little bigger picture, Socialist Worker:
THE CITY College of San Francisco is currently facing the threat of losing its accreditation–a potential catastrophe for public higher education in San Francisco.
The private organization threatening to close City College–the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges–is itself a threat to equity, democracy and justice. And Dr. Sherrill Amador, the chair of the commission, has a controversial past herself.
Amador resigned from her post as president of Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif., after faculty and staff issued no-confidence votes against her during union contract negotiations in 2003.
Palomar College Trustee Nancy Chadwick told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the time that “the major issue was a lack of communication between the president’s office and constituents –an attitude of unilateral kind of authoritarianism.”
Not surprisingly, then, the commission’s report threatens City College workers with demands that City College “reduce the percentage of its annual budget that is utilized for salaries and benefits; and address funding for retiree health benefits costs.”
The history of accreditation is in the United States, however, is rooted in racism. New York City Teacher Brian Jones writes in Education and Capitalism that accreditation was devised during old Jim Crow-days as a “technique to limit Black higher education.”
A national accreditation system began taking shape in the early 1900s that required colleges and universities to have certain financial resources and facilities–a system that shut out many Black institutions and favored those supported by white philanthropy.
Thus, “schools that were independent, Black-financed institutions were almost always denied accreditation, while those favored by (white) philanthropists had the means to pass.”
These grievances with the accreditation commission and the chancellor should raise a question, do we really have to play by these rankling rules, or can we make up our own?
Well, will we take to the streets, when, as I’ve said, we are a downloading and uploaded society? I just had a great conversation with a fellow worker, who is going for nursing at a community college in Portland. He lives the life of Portland, hates the gentrification, and is anarchist, for sure, but he still scratches his head and thinks street protest, building busting and amassing humanity in the public square is a European model. Or that, in the USA, we are not collective enough, don’t know the first thing about whacking the corporate-government-financier moles.
Italian, anyone? Dec. 9 Movement, Pitchfork Rebellion, the Five Star Movement: BBC.
First it was the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, led by charismatic comedian Beppe Grillo, that shook up Italy’s political landscape.
Now a new populist movement headed by disgruntled farmers and lorry drivers has taken its anti-austerity message to Italy’s streets and squares.
The past week has seen four days of rallies and protest actions across the country by the Forconi, or “Pitchforks”. The name derives from the movement’s roots among struggling farmers in Sicily, who in 2011 and 2012 staged strikes and roadblocks to demand more help from the government.
The loose-knit grouping has expanded nationwide and has drawn in a variety of groups who have suffered badly as Italy’s economic crisis has dragged on. The protesters include road haulers, small businessmen, low-paid workers, the unemployed and students.
Some of the protesters complain of excessive state regulation and are unhappy about austerity-driven tax hikes. Others have denounced capitalism and the euro.
All seem to be united in their contempt for Italy’s politicians, who are accused of failing to address the country’s grave economic problems.
Demonstrations spread across the country after they began on Monday, with major northern cities including Milan, Turin and Genoa showing the biggest turnouts.
Turin saw some of the angriest protests, with police using tear gas to disperse protesters, who blocked rail traffic at the city’s main stations before heading to the main office of the Italian tax collection agency, Equitalia.
Demonstrators later sought to block a border crossing between France and Italy. Riot police moved in to disperse them.
Protests also caused disruption in the northern regions of Veneto and Emilia Romagna, and in Puglia and Sicily in the south.
Bitcoin stupidity, and some call it cyber-anarchism? What, holding a digital coin until it’s worth $1000 bucks? Then cashing in?
These people are polluting cities, like Austin, with that fake hippie-ness, all that money, all those Yuppies, all those careerist UT faculty, all the hubris and the tangled Texas traffic. How about SILICON, VALLEY?
Homeless Shanty Towns Surrounded by Wealth – Soweto? Nope!
And then in the 1980s, global competition, automation and rising prices for labor and real estate here drove chip manufacturing out. By 2008, Intel had closed its last fab in Silicon Valley.
What happened to manufacturing here isn’t really unique — it happened all across this country. But what happened next is different.
The same venture capitalists that helped build Intel and Apple began betting on software and design. The knowledge economy exploded. The Internet was created, then commercialized.
These businesses were cheaper to build. They scaled quickly. When manufacturing was required, it was done overseas. There are still new high-performance chip makers in Silicon Valley, but they are almost all fab-less. The manufacturing is outsourced.
“Many more people are becoming quite wealthy which is great, but there are a lot of people stuck in only okay service jobs,” said Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University. “They struggle to pay the rents of Silicon Valley, so there is a thinning out of the middle class.”
Cowen, the author of the book Average Is Over, says someone who 30 years ago could get a job in a chip fab is now stuck working at a Starbucks. This is driving more income inequality here and Cowen believes it’s only going to get worse.
“I think once again you could say the future is happening first in California,” he said.
A Rising Wealth Gap
Income inequality in the Bay Area is rising rapidly. San Francisco still lags New York and Los Angeles when it comes to uneven distribution of wealth and income but it is quickly catching up. And Cowen believes technologies being developed and commercialized right now in Silicon Valley will only exacerbate the trend.
But not all economists believe that rising income inequality here is a bad thing.
“If you want to see a more equal income distribution, go to Detroit,” said Stephen Levy at the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.
Levy argues that large accumulations of wealth here benefit low-skilled workers in Silicon Valley. He says today they have lower rates of unemployment and higher wages than in many other parts of the country.
Back in Mountain View, historian Leslie Berlin says this place is in the midst of another rapid transformation.
“What we are seeing in the Valley, I think, is a starting line that has moved,” she said.
“Silicon Valley has maintained its meritocratic culture among the people who are able to get to the starting gate. So if you are coming equipped with the right knowledge and the right experience … it doesn’t matter what your family name is. It doesn’t matter what country you are from. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you can get to the starting gate then you are good to go.”
“The question is who can get to the starting gate now?” Berlin said. “And that really has changed.”
Without the right education or exceptional skills today it’s nearly impossible to enter the race.
Oh-no, the education thing, and who gets it, or which kind do they GET? What crisis? I’ll raise you five hundred bitcoins and you can pay me half a million bucks.
Bitcoin, which is basically digital cash, has been getting a lot of hype lately as governments such as Germany, China, now the United States begin to recognize its validity. That recognition has led to financial speculation; and bitcoin’s value has soared, hitting a thousand dollars for the first time this week. [CORRECTION: This week marked the second time bitcoin's value reached $1,000.]
New Hampshire Public Radio’s Emily Corwin recently visited a group of early bitcoin backers, who seem to have hit the jackpot.
EMILY CORWIN: So the more I heard about the booming value of bitcoin, the more I thought of the Libertarians and Anarchists who have made New Hampshire their home. People in this liberty community were early adopters of bitcoin, and I figured, these guys must be making bank. So I asked a friend to set up a meeting for me. And when I arrived, a small of group of Anarchist and Libertarian-type folks were gathered around a table, looking at something.
PEDRO AGUIAR: Right, it’s about four-by-four inches. And it has a circuit board and a heat sink and a fan sitting on top of it. And it plugs into computer via USB.
CORWIN: Pedro Aguiar describes a dusty piece of hardware he purchased for $150 a year ago. When he plugs this device into his computer, Aguiar says, he joins a network of computers that collectively mint new bitcoins.
AGUIAR: I want to be part of what maintains bitcoin.
CORWIN: When some of these folks started using bitcoins, they were worth just a couple dollars each. Recently, bitcoin are going for as much as a thousand dollars apiece. As Pedro Aguiar says, it feels like winning the lottery.
AGUIAR: I mean it’s exhilarating.
CORWIN: People in this community tend to be pretty cagey about sharing personal financial details. So it was hard to get anyone to tell me exactly how many bitcoins they own. But one person did say he invested relatively little, back in 2011 when each coin was worth just six or $7. He says today, he has more than 10 times his annual salary in bitcoins.
Of course, the return on investment is not what got this crowd into bitcoin. Mike Segal is a libertarian-leaning software engineer.
MIKE SEGAL: I wanted to support the effort because of what it represents. Whether or not bitcoin itself would take off and make me money, that wasn’t so much my concern. My concern was to support a growing crypto-currency economy.
CORWIN: The idea here is to create a currency that circumvents both the government and taxes; and avoids banks and transaction fees. As Anarchist Curt Howland puts it…
CURT HOWLAND: Bitcoin started as, hey, stick your finger in the eye of the man.
CORWIN: See, these folks detest centralized government.
HOWLAND: I would like to make a soufflé in Washington D.C., and then jump up and down real hard so that it just went shhhuptck, down and collapsed.
HOWLAND: That would be great. That is what I’d like to make of the federal government.
CORWIN: And here we arrive at the big paradox. It is recognition from federal governments both here and abroad that is driving the value of bitcoin ever higher, accelerating its use and encouraging speculation. In essence: Making it more successful.
Howland says he worries federal recognition could inevitably lead to federal regulation. And as far as he’s concerned, that would jeopardize the currency’s biggest advantage. Mike Segal, the software engineer, says the problem is deeper than just disliking the feds. He says, let’s say the government starts tracking bitcoins, and finds out some were exchanged for sex or drugs.
SEGAL: And then they try to blacklist certain bitcoins, for example, based on what they were used for. Then that destroys the fundability that makes bitcoin less useful.
CORWIN: And so, as Segal and others in this liberty-loving community score a fortune they didn’t necessarily go looking for, they also worry that bitcoin’s success could cost it its integrity.
No need to read between the lines – Corwin, Segal, Howland, Aguiar – their language is not one of culture, not one even close to reality. Shantytowns . . . larger and larger economic divides. Privatizing until everything goes belly up except the exception ones’ holdings.
Their discussion is that of the One Percent and the Little Eichmanns planning the next chessboard move to throw more and more out into the streets, or, locked down in their homes, or shantytowns. Circular and circular they go, money to make, money to burn.
How about Black Panthers, or even a Black Agenda Report look into their schemes? Never will the mainstream or taproot of society get that vision.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and the formation of the Black Riders Liberation Party.
Formed in the crucible of YTS (Youth Training School in Chino, California) prison, the groundwork for the resurrection of the Black Panther Party – under the official name Black Riders Liberation Party – was created. The formulation of a Black Commune program inside called for many of the points of the original BPP 10 point platform plus some new points: 1) the demand for proper medical care for AIDS victims and 2) an immediate end to the smuggling of crack cocaine into the Black community.
The Black Riders describe themselves as being “faster, stronger, smarter and upgraded.”1 Immediately upon their release, they attacked the problem of police brutality in poor Afrikan communities. “Their determined resistance to police terrorism produced a decrease in police harassment in areas they patrolled.”2
The African Inter-Communal News Service states: “Black Riders Liberation Party is the New Generation Black Panther Party for Self Defense and has been organizing since 1996 in Los Angeles and 2010 in Oakland. In serving the people, we have created multiple regularly functioning survival programs that are serving the masses’ interest of self-determination.”
These programs include Watch a Pig, Educate to Liberate and Break the Lock Prisoner Support. They also include a thorough study of effective resistance, in the forms of fearless armed and unarmed community self-defense, which has its genesis in Marcus Garvey’s Black Legion, the Fruit of Islam created by Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams’ “Negroes with Guns,” the Deacons for Defense and, of course, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.Audiomatic aka Shango Abiola, who also performed, is shown here with the father of James Rivera Jr., murdered by Stockton police. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Other serious studies on this subject include the recently published “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”
From 1996 to 2011, The Black Riders for Liberation Party in Los Angeles forged ties of unity in the communities of Watts and South Central, even as they battled police raids, brutality and assassinations against their organization. According to the 2012 Volume 1 issue of the BRLP newspaper, in April 2002 the 20-year-old BRLP national spokesman delivered a speech in front of San Francisco City Hall and 45,000 anti-war demonstrators denouncing the Patriot Act as racist and urging Afrikan community self-defense and opposition to the so-called War on Terrorism. Six months later he was mysteriously assassinated. No one was ever charged with his murder, despite the family’s appeals to authorities.
Now, Hard Knock Radio is being threatened, again, KPFA, Pacifica, Oakland-SF insights from East Bay Express:
A couple weeks ago, Weyland Southon moderated a standing-room-only panel at Cody’s Books in Berkeley, featuring such leading lights of the hip-hop literary movement as Tricia Rose, Jeff Chang, and Adam Mansbach. Southon — a swarthy, freckled Samoan dude — made a near-perfect moderator, spurring the conversation without dominating it. The provocative result was the sort of event Hard Knock Radio – the KPFA radio show Southon has executive-produced since its inception — has proactively promoted throughout its five-year history, addressing issues we don’t hear about often enough: namely, race, class, white privilege, and social activism as they relate to the Hip-Hop Generation.
But as KPFA — along with its parent media company, Pacifica — undergoes a catastrophic, high-profile implosion, its most important program might be suffering most of all.
As the Cody’s panel wound down, Southon made a shocking announcement:Hard Knock‘s future, as well as his own, was in jeopardy, threatened by a new boss with a bad attitude coupled with an opposing faction within KPFA. He got even more specific a few days later, firing off a widely forwarded open-letter e-mail that officially put the station on blast.
The letter, signed by Southon and the entire HKR staff — including host Davey D and senior producer Anita Johnson — wasted little time asserting the show’s importance: “As many of you know, funding for public radio is constantly threatened by government forces who do not value free speech and community-minded media. The people who stand to lose the most are the next generation of listeners: people of color and youth, poor folks, and immigrants.” This demographic appreciated HKR because “We understand how to speak to their concerns, engage in sincere outreach to their communities, and provide them with programming that is neither patronizing nor alienating. Without HKR as a lightning rod, these audiences may abandon Pacifica and KPFA entirely.”
KPFA’s internal crises are myriad and well reported (by the Express‘ own Bottom Feeder, among others), and the letter went on to address the epicenter of the station’s recent calamity, accusing controversial station GM Roy Campanella of trying to “crush” HKR through intimidation and malicious rumor-mongering. Nevertheless, Southon and company insisted, “We refuse to abandon all that we have done in the last five years to build a new audience for KPFA, Pacifica, and public radio. We will not allow such progressives to continue to marginalize and ghettoize programming for young people and communities of color. We regret that it has come to this.”
And, of course, it’s a liberal media, run by liberal progenitors of free trade and free markets, the poor be damned:
Conservatives are often heard to complain about the “liberal media,” a nefarious cabal of journalists and media owners supposedly endeavoring to twist the news to serve their ideological agenda. Media Matters for America has shown in a variety of ways that the “liberal media” is a myth. Our two reports on the Sunday talk shows showed how those programs are dominated by conservative guests. Our analysis of the coverage of religion showed how that coverage favors conservatives. Analyses performed by other organizations have shown how conservatives dominate talk radio. And this study demonstrates that in yet another key portion of the news media, conservatives enjoy a structural advantage that gives them a leg up in influencing public opinion.
That structural advantage enables them to transmit an overarching narrative across the country, one that serves to convey the impression that conservative ideas that in many cases enjoy tiny support are actually the “reasonable center” in key debates. To take just one example, prominent conservative columnists who wrote about the topic were nearly unanimous in support of President Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence, while some advocated pardoning him outright, despite the fact that polls indicated the decision had the support of only around one in five Americans.
Funny, the Portland, Oregon (no, Portland, is not radical, just sort of liberal) alternative station, Pacific trained, KBOO, is made up of long-in-the tooth retrogrades, anti-union board members, and no Black Agenda Report but a testing ground for the middling white mess-up, Tom Hartmann.
Slavery + Genocide + Vast Theft = Capitalist Genesis
“The capitalist state was an imperialist state from its inception,” said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, at the party’s 6th Congress in St. Petersburg, Florida. The wealth necessary to launch capitalism was accumulated through slavery, extermination and land theft. “Our material condition has its origin in the attack on Africa,” said Yeshitela.
De Blasio Picks Giuliani “Retread” for Top Cop
According to Stop Stop-and-Frisk activist Carl Dix, New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s choice of William Bratton as his police commissioner is designed to send a message: “Guess what? There will still be two cities, and the city that I represent, the city of the power brokers, of the elite, of the capitalist class, will continue to clamp down on the rest of you.” Bratton deployed the much-feared street crime units under law and order mayor Rudy Giuliani in the mid-Nineties.
America’s Mostly War Budget
Peace and social justice activists gathered on Capitol Hill to mark International Human Rights Day and demand that Congress reject a budget that allocates more than 50 percent of resources to war-making. David Swanson, publisher of the influential website WarIsACrime.Org, noted that some lawmakers were away in South Africa. “You can’t celebrate nonviolence and then come back and dump over 50 percent of your money into so-called ‘defense,’” said Swanson. “It’s offensive, in every sense of the word.”
Okay-okay, gentle and patient reader. The point of this post was to discuss whether our education is in crisis. The crisis is deep, but not the one Bloomberg or Gates or Pearson Publishing or Michele Rhee or Arne Duncan or the other privatizers and racists might say. WE NEED more teachers, more communities involved in bricks and mortar realities, more policies to shut out consumer corporations and pigstie companies from influencing education. We need smaller classrooms, hands on work, community service, and an entire re-affirmation that education — book learning, arts, crafts, trades, philosophy, reading, writing , edible schools, gardening, languages, something other than the endless stream of crap and consumser addiction and war mongering and dog eat dog mental illness we produce NOW.
“Public education is not broken; it is not failing or declining” –Diane Ravitch
… from Diane Ravitch’s latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools:
Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining. The diagnosis is wrong, and the solutions of the corporate reformers are wrong. Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is, and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it. The solutions proposed by the self-proclaimed ‘reformers’ have not worked as promised… Their reforms have had a destructive impact on education as a whole… These changes have been the ultimate fulfillment of a longstanding reactionary dream to destroy public education, rooted in an implacable hostility to the public sector. The transfer of public funds to private management has created thousands of deregulated schools and opened the public coffers to profits, fraud, and exploitation by large and small entrepreneurs…
Ravitch’s solutions to improve school and society:
- From the day they are born, young children need a loving caregiver, good nutrition and medical care; their parents should get the help they need to learn how to care for their babies.
- Children need pre-kindergarten classes that teach them how to socialize with others, how to listen and learn, how to communicate well, and how to care for themselves while engaging in the joyful pursuit of play and learning that is appropriate to their age and development and builds their background knowledge and vocabulary.
- Children in the early elementary grades need teachers who set appropriate goals for their age. They should learn to read, write, calculate and explore nature, and they should have plenty of time to sing and dance and draw and play and giggle.
- Classes in these grades should be small enough—ideally fewer than twenty—so that students get the individual attention they need. Classes should be small enough to ensure that every teacher knows his or her students and can provide the sort of feedback to strengthen their ability to write, their non-cognitive skills, their critical thinking, and their mathematical and scientific acumen.
- Testing in the early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but diagnostically to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn. Test scores should remain a private matter between parents and teachers, not shared with the district or the state for any individual student. The district or state may aggregate scores for entire schools but should not rank individual students by test scores or judge teachers or schools on the basis of these scores.
- Teachers should write their own tests and use standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes.
- As students enter the upper elementary grades and middle school and high school, they should have a balanced curriculum that includes not only reading, writing, and mathematics but also the sciences, literature, history, geography, civics, and foreign languages. Their school should have a rich arts program, where students may learn to sing, dance, play an instrument, join an orchestra or a band, perform in a play, sculpt, or use technology to design structures, conduct research, or create fanciful artworks.
- Every student should have time for physical education every day. Every student should have a library with librarians and media specialists. Every student should have a nurse, a psychologist, a guidance counselor, and a social worker. And every student should have after-school programs where students may explore their interests, whether in athletics, chess, robotics, history club, science club, nature study, Scouting, or other activities.
Chapter 2: The Context for Corporate Reform
“By dangling the chance to win millions of dollars before hard-pressed states, the Obama administration leveraged changes across the nation, aligning state education policies with the requirements of Race to the Top. Among the premises of Race to the Top was that charter schools and school choice were necessary reforms; that standardized testing was the best way to measure the progress of students and the quality of their teachers, principals, and schools; and that competition among schools would improve them. It also gave a bipartisan stamp of approval to the idea that a low-performing school could be improved by firing the staff, closing the school and starting over with a new name and a new staff.”
Chapter 13: Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?
“The highest-ranking states (on the National Assessment of Educational Progress) have strong teachers’ unions and until recently have had strong protections for teachers. The lowest-ranking states do not have strong teachers’ unions, and their teachers have few or no job protections. There seems to be no correlation between having a strong union and having low test scores; if anything, it appears that the states with the strongest unions have the highest test scores. … Eliminating unions does not produce higher achievement, better teachers or even higher test scores. Eliminating unions silences the most powerful advocate for public education in every state.”
Jon Kozol’s review of the book:
In her new book, Reign of Error, she arrows in more directly, and polemically, on the privatization movement, which she calls a “hoax” and a “danger” that has fed on the myth that schools are failing. Scores go up and down from year to year — usually, as she explains, because the testing instruments are changed and vary in their difficulty. But, pointing to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which has sampled math and reading scores every two years since 1992 and, in an alternate version, every four years since the early 1970s, Ravitch demonstrates that levels of achievement have been rising, incrementally but steadily, from one decade to the next. And — surprise! — those scores are now “at their highest point ever recorded.” Graduation rates are also at their highest level, with more young people entering college than at any time before.
In the long run, she puts her faith in teachers but wants to strengthen the profession with higher entry standards. We can’t rely on “enthusiastic amateurs” who teach short term, any more than we’d rely on amateur physicians. She rejects stick-and-carrot incentives like merit pay — “the idea that never works and never dies,” and that undermines the spirit of collaboration by pitting teacher against teacher. She also deplores humiliating practices like publishing teachers’ names beside students’ test scores, as has been done in California and New York.
If we are to cast about for international comparisons, Ravitch urges us — this is not a new suggestion but is, I think, a useful one — to take a good, hard look at Finland, which operates one of the most successful education systems in the world. Teachers there, after competing for admission to schools of education and then receiving a superb course of instruction, are “held in high regard” and “exercise broad autonomy.” They are not judged by students’ test scores, because “there are no scores.” The country has no charter schools and no “Teach for Finland.” But, as Ravitch reminds us, there is one other, crucial difference: “Less than 5 percent of children in Finland are growing up in poverty.” In the United States, 23 percent do.
Again and again, she returns to this: “Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation,” which make for a “toxic mix.” Public schooling in itself, she emphasizes, is “in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it.”
In her zeal to deconstruct that narrative, Ravitch takes on almost all the well-known private-sector leaders and political officials — among them Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee — who have given their encouragement, or barrels of their money, to the privatizing drive. It isn’t likely they’ll be sending her bouquets. Those, on the other hand, who have grown increasingly alarmed at seeing public education bartered off piece by piece, and seeing schools and teachers thrown into a state of siege, will be grateful for this cri de coeur — a fearless book, a manifesto and a call to battle.
Jonathan Kozol is a former fourth-grade teacher and the author of “Savage Inequalities,” “The Shame of the Nation” and, most recently, “Fire in the Ashes.”
Clearly, shutting down schools, teach to the test mentality, poor kids getting computer and no teachers, firing teachers, not paying us, fighting against our rights to collective bargain and to coalesce around defending students’ needs, and the bombardment of the neocon-white man’s-profiteering-reductionist thinking/policies that are roads to nowhere, and the constant neoliberal basement fire sale mentality, all of that, plus the drone in every driveway, boat in every four-car garage stupidity of our times, our media, our might mouse mental midgets in politics, well, all of that has created snippet thinkers, snippet givers, snippet journalists, snippet ethics, and snippet values.
Here is David Berliner, who works on debunking the right-wing and left-wing attacks on public education.
David Berliner (author with Burce Biddle, 1995, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools, New York: Addison-Wesley)
Another educational reform policy, like imprisonment, is based on a punishment-oriented way of thinking, not a humane and research based way of thinking. This is the policy to retain children in grade who are not performing at the level deemed appropriate. As this chapter is being written about a dozen states have put new and highly coercive policies into effect, particularly to punish third graders not yet reading at the level desired. Although records are not very accurate, reasonable estimates are that our nation is currently failing to promote almost 500,000 students a year in grades 1-8. Thus, from kindergarten through eighth grade it is likely that about 10 percent of all public school students are left back at least once, a total of about 5 million children and youth. Research informs us that retention policies throughout the nation are biased against both boys and poor minority youth. Furthermore, it is the wrong policy for the vast majority of the youth whom we do leave back. On average, students left back do not improve as much as do students who are allowed to advance to a higher grade with their age mates. Moreover, the retained students are likely to drop out of school at higher rates than do their academic peers who were advanced to the next grade.
Of course advancement in grade does not solve the problem of poor academic performance by some of our nations’ youth. But there is a better solution to that problem at no more cost than retention. Children not performing up to the expectations held for their age group can receive tutoring, both after school and in summer. On average, the cost to a school district is somewhere about $10,000 per child per year to educate in grades K-8. That $10,000 is the fiscal commitment made by a district when it chooses to leave a child back to receive an additional year of schooling. That same amount of money could be better used for small group and personal tutoring programs over a few years to help the struggling student to perform better. This is the method used by wealthy parents of slow students to get their children to achieve well in school. That same opportunity should not be denied youth who come from poorer families. And for the record, Finland, whose school system is so exceptional, shuns retention in grade. It retains only about 2% of its students, not 10%, using special education teachers to avoid letting any child ever fall significantly behind their age mates.
Other policies that would help the poor and reduce the inequities we see in society include reducing teacher “churn” in schools. Lower class children experience more of that, and it hurts their academic performance. Policies to help experienced teachers stay in schools with poorer students need to be developed. New teachers rarely can match a veteran of five or more years in accomplishing all the objectives of modern schools.
Other likely effective policies include the provision of wrap-around services for youth in schools that serve poor families. Medical, dental, vision, nutrition counseling, if not accessible by the families in a community need to be provided so the children of the poor have a better chance of leaving poverty in adulthood.
Adult programs also need to be part of schools so the school is part of its community: health clinics, job training, exercise rooms, community political meetings, technology access and training, libraries, and so forth—often help schools to help poor families. It seems evident that America simply cannot test its way out of its educational problems. Other policies need to be tried.
During the great convergence in income, from World War Two until about 1979, American wealth was more evenly spread and the economy hummed. With the great divergence in income, beginning in about 1979, and accelerating after that, American wealth became concentrated and many factors negatively affected the rate of employment. The result has been that despite our nations great wealth, inequality in income in the USA is the greatest in the western world. Sequelae to high levels of inequality are high levels of poverty. Certainly poverty should never be an excuse for schools to do little, but poverty is a powerful explanation for why they cannot do much!
Although school policies that help the poor are appropriate to recommend (pre-school, summer programs, health care, and so forth), it is likely that those programs would be less needed or would have more powerful results were we to concentrate on getting people decent jobs and reducing inequalities. Jobs allow families, single or otherwise, to take care of themselves and offer their children a more promising future. The approach to school improvement suggested in this chapter is that the policies we need to fix our schools are not policies that schools can easily implement. The point is that school and economic policies are not independent of each other. If we had a housing policy that let poor and middle income children mix in schools, it might be better than many other school improvement strategies designed specially to help the poor. This is a policy that works for Singapore, a nation with great inequalities in wealth and greater equalization of achievement outcomes between its richer and poorer students. If we had a bussing policy based on income, not race, so that no school had more a than about 40% low income children it might well improve the schools better than most other policies we have tried. This is the strategy tried by Wake county, North Carolina, and it has improved the achievement of the poor in Raleigh, North Carolina, the county’s major city, without subtracting from the achievements of its wealthier students (Grant, 2009). So citizens calling for school reform without thinking about economic and social reforms are being foolish. Policies in many educational and social areas need to be coordinated better to attend to America’s neediest youth.
We have come to understand that poverty hurts families and affects student performance at the schools their children attend. But the bigger problem for our political leaders to recognize is that inequality hurts everyone in society, the wealthy and the poor alike. Reductions in income inequality throughout the United States might well improve education a lot, but more than that, such policies might once again establish this nation as a beacon on a hill, and not merely a light that shines for some, but not for all of our citizens.
Below the stupid things Americans believe: This is Larry Stedma, who attacks Berliner and Biddle, on some level that makes sense — we are a society of 18 year olds having 1/3 the graspable and grab-able vocabulary than their counterparts in the 1980s, and we are typically a functionally illiterate society when it comes to physics, geography, geology, biology, math, and, well, history. Bottom line, though, poverty does determine A LOT, Mucho, Way too Many outcomes in education and in other areas. No genius-level thinking necessary to COMPREHEND that.
Stupid Americans, indeed: Here
Obama’s A Muslim
Moon Landing Was A Hoax
Sun Revolves Around The Earth
Ghosts Are The Real Deal
Dinosaurs and Humans, BFFs
Evolution? That’s A Bit Of A Stretch
Environmentalists Intentionally Caused The Oil Spill
The Existence of Aliens
Fox News Most Trusted Channel In News
Respecting the Evidence: The Achievement Crisis Remains Real
Lawrence C. Stedman
State University of New York-Binghamton
Let me be clear. I have no doubt that right-wing forces have organized an assault on the public schools; that conservative school critics exploited the evidence and exaggerated the decline. I was, for example, an early critic of the NATION AT RISK for misusing data, exaggerating the decline, and ignoring equity issues (Stedman & Smith, 1983; see also Stedman
& Kaestle, 1985).
But just as conservative critics were wrong to argue that we were in a massive decline and needed to return to traditional schooling, so too, progressives such as Berliner and Biddle are now wrong to suggest that our schools are achieving well and that concerns about students’ levels of knowledge are unfounded.
As I explained in my WASHINGTON POST review (Stedman, 1995), progressives should be willing to admit that achievement is low. But that does not mean embracing a conservative agenda or calling for the U.S. to be #1 in the world in math and science, as the nation’s Goals 2000 program does. Nor does it mean calling for the schools to go back to old-fashioned,
regimented teaching. The existing curriculum is already too facts-based and memory- driven and is not working. As I wrote in the POST review:
An historical perspective helps here. Conservatives often blame the decline of excellence on 1960s liberalism, but students’ achievement and general knowledge were low even in the 1940s and 1950s–a clear indication traditional practices have never been very successful. Such persistent failure strengthens the case for a sweeping, progressive restructuring of schools.
Berliner and Biddle, therefore, missed a great opportunity to strengthen their own case for progressive reform. By combining the progressives’ call for cooperative learning and rich curricula along with the conservatives’ emphasis on high levels of knowledge, we would be far more likely to develop reflective, well-informed students. (Note as well that thoughtful
conservatives are also calling for innovative teaching methods, an engaging, challenging curriculum, and an end to tracking.) A far more compelling case for reform could be made–and one that could garner more universal support–when we explain that traditional methods have failed and that even children of the middle-class are often not mastering important academic knowledge.