“… and furthermore, this committee (HUAC) can go f*@! itself!”

The entire NSA and Surveillance Society has wrangled humanity

It’s the 25th, and I am thinking about my buddy Jacob. He’s 25, riddled with PTSD, Battle of Fallujah, Marines, young spirited, radicalized at boot camp and then in country. It was a big scam, but one that ate at his heart. Scam, lie, bullshit war, and now, another year goes by, and the Gitmo madness of our cognitively sapped politicians, intellectuals, rot-gut CEOs and media moguls.

We have the brass balls to deny extended unemployment benefits over the Xmas break, these pieces of human depravity, bankers all, rotten private welfare queens, these CEOs running government, these insurance agents running our lives, from health care to education care. What an unholy bunch of scoundrels, and we, the masses, no upchucking of protest.

Getting ready for more bullshit Target-Walmart-Best Buy-Amazon-iScrews ‘r’ Us Happy holidays.

Because it is about the caloric, salt and sugary love of American crap that is important now, this pre-bubbly season, and bring on a new year, fat-cat 2014, and let it be known that more money for the rich and almost rich, and, well, more lottos for us, more taxes, more hikes in gasoline tax, more levies, fines, fees and scams by the Central bank, Central intelligence agency, Central planners of a fallen state, Central creators of sacrifice zones and economic free-fire zones.

For Jacob, he had no big choice in this shitty little town, Spokane, like a hundred shitty little towns across the nation. Okay in high school, wrestler, football, old man in the air force, and, he just wanted out, and he tried the air force, but his honesty got him expelled from the entire process: he admitted he had toked up in the past six months before applying to be an airman.

Bye-bye military post office like corps (US Air Force, in those blue USPS outfits, funny killers, drone killers, B-52 killers), and hello 17-year-old – Marine Semper Fi Bootcamp, Iraq and Afghanistan or BUST-busted-busted up.

There was no patriotism, no rite of dreamy American idolized passage in those 3.5 years. No skills gained-learned-needed in his eventual release from the army of death, into the Civilian World of Surveillance, kettled thinking, the worst of the worst at the bottom of Darwin’s scale becoming masters of us, masters of the world, of the universe. These skills and the training, never enough to bring Johnny and Jane home and into our revolution. No real phalanx of young, disillusioned, pissed off ex-soldiers out there willing to help monkey wrench this society back, or forward, away from total awareness job-culture-economy-family-junk-reality-bullshit-digital-cyber rottenness.

Ya know the youngsters never got the training to be leaders here, in a revolutionary way. Jeff “Drone-and-CIA-and-Private-Hell” Bezos likes his ex-military super sarges and LT’s hitting his warehouses to snap the whip and scare the shit into his fulfillment center low wage slaves. But, the rest of the PTSD, depleted uranium-boosted, whack jobs, well, they are lumbering along, bifurcated between those that killed and loved it, and those that killed and are ashamed.

Some are tea baggers, others are AK-47 lovers, and others are just one step away from jumping into Puget Sound or into a pile of rocks at the end of the half-done bridge to nowhere.

Amerika, mistletoe, warped movies, madness of music mush, the entire football and basketball orgy, and a rotten Amerika of schizophrenia – you know, Tweet and Face-Sodomy-Book the latest news on Duck Dynasty; or some college defense coach or some head coach yelling into a crowd or spilling it so some insipid GQ kinda un-Journalist’s microphone can pick up the mush and turn it into a story? Really, that’s a story? Brad Pitt buying an island and Duck-Redneck-Piece-of-Shit-Dynasty guy rambling his racist-homophobic Christ-is-a-white guy crap? Endless snippets from snippet journalists snipping and sniping, all these worthless stories of worthless people and their worthless deeds! Empty-wimp-i-fied world of school to prison pipeline Amerika. Yammering on cable or over at HuffPo about some stupid thing by an even dumber Duck Dude because of the stupidity of Hollywood – Cable and the money thrown at a bunch of DNA-mutants who get shows as redneck stupids (duck what, dynasty …) or repo-punks, anything with a spatula and yelling chef. Then, some pudgy freak of human thinking telling us how to act in their op-ed’s, syndicated, blared on TV, these One Percenters telling people already mentally compromised how to act and what to say,  in this world of white phosphorous, depleted uranium, the entire cleft-lip society of radionuclides and nanoparticle food delivery system. You know, anger management classes while the military rapes and ravages, while the cops and prison punks hog tie entire races, while the pigs of the glassed cities determine which penny is added or subtracted to the 6.8545 dollars an hour to prop up the disease of the diseased leaders of industry, masters of all, dumber than the dirt they spit out their enemies’ first-borns upon.

Yeah, the marines, the craft of war, the endless jumping jacks at halftime, the crocodile tears of a nation of thyroid-challenged Americans waiting for the Dollar Store to open up on Xmas eve.

You know, the orders, at age 18, to shoot to kill. Jacob, remember, “no prisoners.” Amped up on uppers and steroids. Company policy. Boot camp buddies hanging themselves over at the water tower, sleek rope and pencil strong neck, asphyxiation by hanging. Suicides in Iraq, and the rapes as the women soldiers head to the latrines. Double-quadruple rapes, quadriplegic Special Olympians in the making.

Iraq, circa 2006 –  Orders: pedal to the metal. No matter who crosses the street. One honk, two flashes of the lights, and, well, metal meets muscles. Bones. No looking back. Just ram on through – child, goat, old hobbler, man, woman, anyone in the American way toward complete militaristic madness.

That’s one fine Jacob PTSD moment – ordered to find a head. You see, the lady crossing the road looked sort of like his own mom – Mexican American, dark skin, dark hair, a bag with bread held in her arms like a child. The Hummer and amped up Yankee jar heads just cruised right over her when she didn’t do the American thing. You know, a honk and then a light flash. Seems logical to Americans: “Means – Danger, redneck Bush-Clinton-Zionist-Neo-con-Obama-con tells you to hop on back or you shall receive the full force of American craftmanship.”

The problem was that mother/grandmother with the groceries in Fallujah was creamed so hard her body was trapped under the frame, up against the exhaust manifold. Smoking hijab, smoldering flesh.

Decapitated. Ordered to go find her fucking head. That’s what Jacob had on that fine morning. Head retrieval duty. Guys out of the metal cage, secure LZ, or in this case, HZ – FHFZ: fucking head finding zone.

That was point one to dual with, from our Yankee-Zionist-Wolfowitz-things-go-better-with-GE-General Dynamics-USA-and-NRA-sucking-industrial-arms-complexes.

Yeah, he told me that story, over time, as Jacob was in my writing class – freshman composition, parts one and two. You know, community college, and a communist teacher like me who had time around lots of military men and women. In Central America, seeing those ex-tough guys doing special ops in Honduras, Guatemala. Taught at the Sergeants Major Academy. Instructed minimum security prisoners on an Army compound. Taught airmen and airwomen on two air force bases. Been to Vietnam as a civilian. Old man was a career military guy. Army brat turned against the entire mess of military-police-banking-educational prison complexes.

It was compelling, Jacob trying to hang (or handle) with those superficial people, fellow students looking at the drama of cell phone bills and the other shit of American adolescence and infantilism. Completely out of it, war-wise, Middle East wise, brought up to take tests and forget history and to love the punk Bush and the way of America, those poor NYFD first-responders. Kill them all. Kill all those darkies. All of them. They want to destroy our way of life. Drive-through and snippet lives of us law-abiding, gun-loving Americans. Whew.

He missed a lot of class. Days on end awake. Triggering paranoia with the sight of a bag on the side of the road. Trouble with fascist cops, Taser-loving pussies, the typical Spokane (you name the city or county) cops.

No job prospects, and a Veterans Administration that was running on pure stupidity, or almost sadism. Prescribed Jacob 10 meds, all lobotomizing, all sleep-inducing, dumb-downing. He tossed them in the shitter, the same shitter that is the mouth of America. Drain and pipe and pond of waste scum, USA.

Jacob did the self med program of booze, pot, sniffed-up Adderall, and why not proceed with fisticuffs. That’s how you treat our vets, welcome home, buddy.

He ended up written into one of my presentations at the Washington Community College Humanities Association conference. A first, some punk teacher like me having a fellow presenter, a student, come on out to the other side of the state and be part of the presentation.

Jacob wanted that PhD and that mystical teacher in college job and to be a writer. He listened to David Zirin speak one day, guest speaker at our conference. Heard others talk. Then, we did our presentation. The reality was I needed to break the mold there, break down pomposity, and, well, there is a big need to shift the discourse, to that new and growing emerging student population of PTSD-inflicted students, and not all war veterans, to boot. But the continuous flow of special needs youth and older folk. A lot of family abuse. A lot of physical abuse even in junior high school. Drugs, booze, the law, welcome to America, the community college, that is. The very system the pigs of the west and the east want cut-cut-cut. Gates-Bezos-Walton-NPR-PBS-Politicians-after-Prostituting Politician.

My own crew bosses, the pit bosses, those ADMIN class, and deans, some of the tenured faculty, they are the biggest pukes, the pussies, the Little Fat Eichmanns, the ones who end up at symphonies, or listening to some poet who in reality the ADMIN class  would never agree with. If the fucking poets would ever get off their fucking MFA asses and start writing down and speaking down the system, lifting voices and bodies from their enclaves where the  whoring administrators and HR wonks and software and cyber terrorists rule-rule-rule.

PEN West and author David Eggers, well, a limp move, really. What a time to be an American middle-class or top 20 class special person with nothing to lose. Eggers, well, he survived a few hard knocks in life, and there is talent, but in reality, the desire to pull in NSA (it should be fucking disbanded, dropped, closed, like Chicago’s 53 public schools, most elementary schools which should have never been allowed to be killed by Zionist democrat mayor!) and to have more oversight over the rotten agency is nothing compared to the daily toil of us, even me, writing this blog. Notice the verbiage, the tone, the attacks on my bosses. Am I protected? My free speech? Do the schools and joints I work at, will they buy into digital software nets that, for a  fee, will scour every byte of the internet to check on current or prospective employees’ subversive thoughts and lamentations? Front and center, plastered on this silicon library billboard called the WWW, Internet, in blogs, articles, comments boards?

You really don’t have tough guys and women, really, out there, who call themselves published writers, middling writers, someone with a few small press books and a tenure track job at the local U. Here, the chilling double-whammy of writers on the run:

In an effort to illuminate the NSA’s effect on free expression, PEN America Centre recently surveyed its US members on their feelings about the NSA’s unbounded reach. The resulting report, “Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives US Writers to Self-Censor,” reveals that 88% of the writers polled are troubled by the NSA’s surveillance programme, and that 24% have avoided certain topics in email and phone conversations. Most disturbingly, 16% of those answering the survey said they had abandoned a project given its sensitivity.

“A writer’s job is to look for trouble.” That line was uttered by a character in The Front, the 1976 film about the McCarthy blacklist era. In the film, Woody Allen plays Howard Prince, a small-time bookie who is asked by an old friend, a blacklisted screenwriter, to be a front, signing his name to scripts penned by writers suspected of communist sympathies. Prince agrees, and soon attracts the notice of the House Committee on Un-American Activities himself.

Watching the movie now, parallels between that era and our own are many – the generalised air of suspicion, the sinister feeling of being watched but not knowing when. The movie’s screenwriter, Walter Bernstein, himself was blacklisted and deprived of work. His phone was tapped, he was followed by FBI agents, his friends were harassed, and he was denied a passport.

I spoke to Bernstein, now 94 and still writing, by phone at his home in New York. When the Snowden revelations became public, he was surprised not that there was such ongoing surveillance, but by the stunning extent of it. “Then again,” he said, “if they’re able to do it, they will do it.” I asked him if he thought our current era of domestic spying was as dangerous as the one he lived through. “In some ways it’s worse now,” he said.”Now the surveillance extends to everyone. And it’s going to get worse. The crimes committed in the name of national security are very great, and there’s no answer to it.”

Bernstein got his say in The Front, though. At the end of the film, Howard Prince decides not to co-operate with McCarthy’s minions. In a private meeting in which he’s supposed to sign a loyalty oath and provide names of communist sympathisers, Prince, until then decidedly apolitical, finally has had enough. He turns on his interrogators and roars: “I don’t recognise the right of the committee to ask me these kinds of questions. And furthermore, you can all go fuck yourselves.” Then he goes to jail.

“Go fuck yourselves, uh”? Young Marines told to shoot ragheads in the head, when they have their hands up, the universal surrendering sign language. That’s another of Jacob’s PTSD moments. Thirty-six fire fights, urban combat, in Fallujah, grunt asshole sergeants telling young men to “suck it up, and if you see a wounded Allah Fuck-Face, even if that RagHead is quivering and pissing his pants with a non-mortal wound, then, make sure to mortalize him. Three quickie spurts of firepower to the brain, pussy boys …. No surrendering allowed, American Trash Who Will  Be Fucked at Home with the GI Bill, VA and Yankee System of Continuous Under/Un Employment. Kill and jump out of helicopters one day, go fuck yourself and serve burgers to pimply-faced nerds making $60 K right outta college when you, fuck face, were in country fighting Cheney’s and the One Percent’s and their Tribe of Eichmanns’ Wars.”

Yep, then all the steroids and uppers, and, well, how many PTSD moments should a guy or gal soldier have before he or she ends up in jail? Jacob also lost three buddies on Thanksgiving. That was 2007. The fucking Princeton Puke of a Captain, once Jacob returned to the Iraq base, with three body bags, ordered him to eat the meals ready to eat a la Yum Brands, to dig into the meal and make those prayers sessions over the greasy turkeys, all soldier-like and Christian-like, yes-yes, America … or ELSE. Ordered to sit down and make nice and listen to this or that Democrat or Republican DC Whore tell them how proud the country is of them, and how God, Guns, Genocide are the American way, and goddmanit, we will do what we deem right for the rest of the shitty world. One body bag or consumer at a TIME.

Yeah, Dec. 25.

I’m thinking of Dorothea Lange, those documentary shots, the pre- and New Deal years, the elaborate killing fields of The Man and the rich, Cold War, McCarthy. That was America, no – Dust Bowl, Out of Work, Strong and Able men and women, looking like great hoards of Ethiopians now, but that was back then, California, Oklahoma, Steinbeck and the new deal, communists, Marxists, plenty of people looking the Great American Hoax in the Eye and saying, shit, Capitalism is about monopoly, cartels, thugs, the cops for them and against US. Every rotten penny fought over as the great American masses rivet-bulldoze-plow-lift-weld-dig-hammer-srew-assemble-sow-reap-harvest-dam-pave-clearcut-strip-mine this country into a greatness that will in time (the future from 1935 to today, 2013, waning quickly) be fair to ALL.

Did they see that coming, blind obedience to tax man-banker-mortgage holder-boss man-cops-robbers-Zionists-transnational capitalist hoarders? Did they ever think the American (north) race would turn into beer-guzzling, Red Bull-loving, computer-coddling, fearful fat faced pukes that don’t have the backbone in their bodies and souls to stand up and fight city hall, political pimps and the abusive fathers of guns, government, corporation? One pinky worth’s of backbone for those forefathers and foremothers in the 1930s and even 1950s, the entire American “race” can’t even muster against the mush of media, mulch of politics, and the putrid propaganda menacing home, school, backyard, and civic duty.

We are the selfie generation, one upload after another of our Starbucks creamy foamy topping trembling don’t talk politics-religion-god-abortion-anything-but-shopping society. One more selfie next to the dying car accident victim. Selfie after selfie of the zombie souls of American screen addiction and iPatriotism. “I am iReady to be the soldier of fortune for the one percent.” That’s the little voice coming out each and every time we tap-tap-tap and zoom-zoom-zoom on our little technological cortexes into shallow depth of field.

Dorothea Lange – “A Camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”

Riffing there – “An education is a tool for learning … how to learn and see and analyze without a god or government or giant corporation telling you what and how to think.”

“Migrant Mother,” camera for and about democracy.

Migrant Mother

These are brain erasing times, in USA, where, consumerism reigns, where pundits are worthless souls, where TV and really-really vapid Hollywood and the ever-expanding virtual reality living supremely reigns the mindset of this factory of molten lives.

We love to fetishize buns of steel, abs of titanium, hair made for Gale Force 5 walks along the Fear Factor Boardwalk.

We forget and erase and spend countless human lives to the 10,000th power working the magic of public relations to nowhere. Dollars thrown at humanity to tell a story, or make some trick shot so another 100 million are fleeced. More and more zillions thrown into Madison Avenue’s feckless bank accounts to tell the story of what ever big-gigabyte lies has to be told to enhance the corporate brand.

We are branded at birth and leave this planetary pulse owing millions, owing something, even dead-as-door-nail homeless, we owe the world an explanation.

As if it doesn’t make sense homeless guy, AKA, pan-handler, might give shit to some Sally leaving Macy’s after a buying spree. Countless lifted stories, mashed into the pulverizer that is free-market-Capitalism with a giant C for CORRUPTION.

We outlaw panhandling, handcuff anyone anywhere displaying handmade signs on the side of the road, “Will work for food,” and we throw homeless into the ice winds, watch as dozens freeze in the shadow of Google in dead San Francisco, while, oh, yes, while we watch them manipulate every blaring, glowing, pulsating moment in every action we do. Read-read the junk. Watch-watch the crack cocaine. Listen-listen to the melodies of madness and mush.

The world swirls and has its own axis for the one-percent, while we 80 percent wait like cows for more hay and growth enhancers before we are slaughtered.

Christmas CHEER my ass.

Reading-watching-seeing-hearing-viewing-sensing-feeling-scratching. What is it that makes this society spin and ping?

One of the most famous photographs, besides Iwo Jima and the 9/11 shot? Those Okies, that woman, and her (some of her) children. Back in the days when the government was for, by and because of the people, a la Lincoln. Here, from a story on a new book (2009) of Dorothea Lange:

Then, in 1978, 13 years after Lange’s death, a reporter tracked down the 75-year-old Thompson. She was living in a mobile home in Modesto, California. “I wish she had never taken my picture,” she said of Lange. “I can’t get a penny out of it. She didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the picture.”

Florence Owens Thompson who, it transpires, was not a white American but a Cherokee. She had lived on the margins of American society while Lange’s portrait of her was reproduced around the globe, becoming an icon of American suffering and stoicism. “Its reputation grew,” writes Gordon, “because it symbolised white motherhood and white dustbowl refugees… Would the photograph have had such popularity if viewers had known its subject was a woman of colour?”

“Lange was shaken – frightened and miserable that her photograph had caused grief.”

She was also powerless to do anything about it.

Again, blog post started to discuss the new book, on the death of education, by Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error, which is the subtitle of almost everything this country has done, from busting unions, busting heads, internment, Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation, class divides, urban devolvement, mechanized and chemicalized farming, military-cyber-education-prison-consumption complex.

Gutting everything for the public, by the public, because of the public. So, while I despise almost everything Diane covers in her book in terms of how the privatizers have destroyed it ALL, well, here are some highlights to begin the new year! From her book. Points to the entire mess created by the Google-Microsoft-Dell-Bezos-Yahoo-Facebook family, who have literally pushed to get all computers out of their fine little kiddos’ Waldorf schools because they know factually and intuitively that kids need art, crafts, physical ed, outdoor and indoor gardening, gathering circles, time to talk, play, count, jump and read-read-act-act-be-humans-detatched from silicon bursts.

More recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation dedicated its considerable energies to persuading the public and policy makers that the nation’s public schools are failing. In 2005, Bill Gates told the nation’s governors that the nation’s high schools were “obsolete” and “broken.” At that time, he wanted to redesign the American high school by making schools smaller, with the goal that every student would be prepared to enter college. Three years later, his foundation abandoned its small-school initiative, having spent $2 billion to persuade districts to replace their comprehensive high schools with schools too small to offer a balanced curriculum. Despite this setback, Gates remained certain that the public school system was obsolete and broken. The solution, his foundation now believed, was to develop new evaluation systems that could identify ineffective teachers so that there would be an effective teacher in every classroom.

In 2012, Melinda Gates was interviewed on the PBS “NewsHour.” When the interviewer asked her what was “working and what can scale up,” she responded:

“If you look back a decade ago, when we started into this work, there wasn’t even a conversation across the nation about the fact that our schools were broken, fundamentally broken. And I think that dialogue has changed. I think the American public has woken up to the fact now that schools are broken. We’re not serving our kids well.

They’re not being educated for the — for technology society.”

The Gates Foundation and others financed a lavish, well-coordinated media campaign to spread the word about our broken public schools; its leading edge was a documentary film called “Waiting for Superman.” The film, which included interviews with Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and the economist Eric Hanushek, among others, made the central points that public education was failing, that resources don’t matter, and that the best ways to fix the national crisis of low test scores were to expand the number of privately managed charters, fire ineffective teachers, and weaken the unions that protected them. It was released in September 2010 with an unprecedented publicity campaign, funded in large part by the Gates Foundation, and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. The film was also the centerpiece of a week of programming on NBC, which the network called “Education Nation,” as well as the subject of two programs on Oprah Winfrey’s popular television show.

The film told the story of five children who were desperate to enroll in privately managed charter schools and whose hopes depended on winning the lottery to gain admission. Each child was adorable, and the viewers’ emotions became engaged with their plights and their dreams of escaping from awful public schools (and in one case a Catholic school). The film painted public schools as failures whose teachers were self-centered, uncaring, and incompetent. The statistics in the film about poor educational performance were misleading and erroneous, as was its idyllic portrait of charter schools. Yet the producers and promoters of the film made sure it was viewed as widely as possible, giving free screenings throughout the country to parent groups, state legislatures, even to the national conference of the PTA.

“Waiting for Superman” provided the charter school movement with a degree of public visibility it had never had. It also gave the movement a populist patina, making it seem that if you were concerned about the plight of poor inner-city children, you would certainly support the creation of many more charter schools. The film burnished the claim by charter advocates that they were involved in “the civil rights issue of our time,” because they were leading the battle to provide more choice to poor and disadvantaged children trapped in low-performing public schools.

The film’s narrative, as well as the larger public discussion, was directed away from the controversial issue of privatization to the ideologically appealing concept of choice. Reformers don’t like to mention the word “privatization,” although this is indeed the driving ideological force behind the movement. “Choice” remains the preferred word, since it suggests that parents should be seen as consumers with the ability to exercise their freedom to leave one school and select another. The new movement for privatization has enabled school choice to transcend its tarnished history as an escape route for southern whites who sought to avoid court-ordered desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s.

To advance the privatization agenda, it was necessary never to mention the P word and to keep repeating the C word. After all, the public had no reason to be enthusiastic about the takeover of one of its essential public institutions by private financiers and entrepreneurs. Privatization of libraries, hospitals, prisons, and other basic services had long been hailed by those on the political right, but how could one persuade entire communities to hand over their children and their public schools to private sector corporations, some of which hoped to turn a profit off their children, in order to reward their shareholders? The only way to accomplish this sleight of hand was to pursue a skillful public relations campaign that drummed in the message, over and over, that our public schools are failures, that these failures harm our children and threaten our nation’s future prosperity. Repeat it often enough, and people would come to believe that any alternative would be better than the current system.

Once that message sank in, Americans would be ready for the antidote: eliminating the public schools they had long known and cherished as the centers of their communities.

The prestigious Council on Foreign Relations issued a report in 2012 intended to provoke fears that the public schools not only were failing but endangered the future survival of our nation. Joel I. Klein, former chancellor of the New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush, were co-chairs of the task force that produced the report. The report warned that the nation’s public schools were a very grave threat to national security. It recited doleful statistics showing that students in the United States were not leading the world on international assessments but scoring only in the middle (but not mentioning that this was the same complaint that had been expressed in “A Nation at Risk” thirty years earlier). It asserted that employers could not find qualified workers and that the schools were not preparing people to serve in the military, the intelligence service, or other jobs critical to national defense.

On and on went the bill of indictment against the public schools. The task force offered three recommendations. One was that the states should adopt the Common Core standards in mathematics and reading, already endorsed by forty-six states. Since the Common Core standards have never been field-tested, no one knows whether they will raise test scores or cause the achievement gap among different racial, ethnic, and income groups to narrow or to widen. One study, by Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, predicted that the standards would have little or no effect on academic achievement; he noted that “from 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.” Loveless reported that there was as much variation within states, even those with excellent standards, as between states.

The task force’s second recommendation was that the schools of the nation should have a “national security readiness audit” to see if they were doing their job in preparing students to meet the nation’s economic and military needs. This seemed like a hollow attempt to revive Cold War fears, given that there was no military adversary comparable to the Soviet Union. The report did not suggest what agency should conduct this audit, what it would cost, and what would happen to those schools that failed it.

The key recommendation of the task force, whose members included leading figures in the corporate reform movement, was that more school choice was needed, specifically the expansion of privately managed charter schools and vouchers.

If it were true that the nation faced a very grave security threat, this was not much of a call to arms to combat it, since most states had already adopted the Common Core standards and were increasing school choice in response to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.

Perhaps the most curious development over the three decades from “A Nation at Risk” to the 2012 report of the Council on Foreign Relations was this: what was originally seen in 1983 as the agenda of the most libertarian Republicans — school choice — had now become the agenda of the establishment, both Republicans and Democrats. Though there was no new evidence to support this agenda and a growing body of evidence against it, the realignment of political forces on the right and the left presented the most serious challenge to the legitimacy and future of public education in our nation’s history.

Excerpted from “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” Copyright © 2013 by Diane Ravitch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

More Diane Ravitch.

It’s foregone conclusion, cyber punks like Ebola virus eating at the cortexes of humankind. You just want to hunt them down and make their lives miserable, or foist a new way toward emancipation for humankind through some great Molotov pact with the few in this day’s legion of folk who can finally recognize that everything the captains of industry conspire to do and create is dead against humanity. They need to be pushed out of our society. Immolated? Hmm.

You see, we live in a time where the captains of Google, Dell, Microsoft, Apple, Boeing, Intel want schools without computers for their little loved ones while they jigger up the new cyber rules for us, the commoners.

I’ve been reading Diane Ravtich’s Reign of Error, and while the news is not that new to me, the compilation of the smear on humanity, well, the historical relevance and journalistic ember are telling in one swoop of narrative she etches in this quick read on why everything (she doesn’t say that everything is tainted, though) the moguls of microchips and computerization of civilization does seems to hinge on fear mongering, the big-big lie after lie and a quick dismantling of public anything in the services of profits for the few who are eating the very souls now in our last slide toward bedlam and mayhem.

As long as anyone can remember, critics have been saying that the schools are in decline. They used to be the best in the world, they say, but no longer. They used to have real standards, but no longer. They used to have discipline, but no longer. What the critics seldom acknowledge is that our schools have changed as our society has changed. Some who look longingly to a golden age in the past remember a time when the schools educated only a small fraction of the population.

But the students in the college-bound track of fifty years ago did not get the high quality of education that is now typical in public schools with Advanced Placement courses or International Baccalaureate programs or even in the regular courses offered in our top city and suburban schools. There are more remedial classes today, but there are also more public school students with special needs, more students who don’t read English, more students from troubled families, and fewer students dropping out. As for discipline, it bears remembering a 1955 film called “Blackboard Jungle,” about an unruly, violent inner-city school where students bullied other students. The students in this school were all white. Today, public schools are often the safest places for children in tough neighborhoods.

The claim that the public schools are in decline is not new. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Anti-intellectualism in American Life,” Richard Hofstadter characterized writing on education in the United States as “a literature of acid criticism and bitter complaint … The educational jeremiad is as much a feature of our literature as the jeremiad in the Puritan sermons.” From the 1820s to our own time, reformers have complained about low standards, ignorant teachers, and incompetent school boards. He noted that anyone longing for the “good old days” would have difficulty finding a time when critics were not bemoaning the quality of the public schools.


Chapter Five: The Facts About Test Scores
Chapter Six: The Facts About the Achievement Gap
Chapter Seven: The Facts About the International Test Scores
Chapter Eight: The Facts About High School Graduation Rates
Chapter Nine: The Facts About College Graduation Rates
Chapter Ten: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

Chapter Eleven: The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

More from the book, quoting Ravitch:

Schools need freedom from burdensome and intrusive regulations that undermine professional autonomy. They need the resources to meet the needs of the children they enroll. But they cannot improve if they are judged by flawed measures and continually at risk of closing because they do not meet an artificial goal created and imposed by legislators.

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.

Schools and society are intertwined. The supporting research comes later in the book. Everyone of these solutions works to improve the lives and academic outcomes of young people.

Since Ravitch offers a brief exploration of her proposals up front, here are summaries:

 – access to medical care, nutrition for all pregnant women

– pre-kindergarten for all children, more to learn basic social skills, the opportunity to begin to develop background knowledge and vocabulary through the integration of joyful learning and play

– in early elementary grades, teachers setting age-appropriate goals

– in upper elementary and middle school, a balanced curriculum that includes science, literature, social sciences and foreign languages, with a rich arts program and access to physical education every day

– teachers who write their own tests, and limiting standardized tests primarily to diagnostic purposes

– a commitment to building a strong education profession

– schools having “the resources they need for the students they enroll” (p.8)

– as a society, committing through goals, strategies and programs to reducing poverty and racial segregation

Those who start life with the fewest advantages need even smaller classes, even more art, science, and music to engage them, to spark their creativity, and to fulfill their potential. (p. 8)

Now place that quote about education in the context of this broader statement about public good from the Massachusetts Constitution, Part the First, Article VII:

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.

Would they feel equally enthusiastic about encouraging the tenants in public housing to seize control and privatize their buildings? How would they react if riders on a public bus decided to seize control and give the bus to a private company? What about the patrons who use a public park and are organized by a private park-concession corporation to demand control so they can turn it over the concessionaire? Or the patrons of a public library? Would the mayors support them too?

Yes, we must improve our schools. Start now, start here, by building the bonds of trust among schools and communities. The essential mission of the public schools is not merely to prepare workers for the global workforce but to prepare citizens with the minds, hearts, and characters to sustain our democracy in the future.

Genuine school reform must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of punishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collaboration and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and local communities.

Despite its faults, the American system of democratically controlled schools has been the mainstay of our communities and the foundation for our nation’s success. We must work together to improve our public schools. We must extend the promise of equal educational opportunity to all the children of our nation. Protecting our public schools against privatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil rights issue of our time.

One of the teachers who commented on STEM on her blog, and to whom she dedicated a post lauding STEM, says to that he went into STEM training of teachers because it provides a broad, rich, hands-on curriculum. However, this very same teacher says he “loves” his state’s (Nevada) definition of STEM, which, after the perfunctory verbiage of “active learning” and “critical thinking,” states the purpose of STEM education is “to expand Nevada’s STEM-capable workforce in order to compete in a global society.”

As I note in my comments (above), this is demonstrably farcical. First, there is no STEM “crisis.” Second, the U.S. already IS globally competitive, and when it drops in competitive rankings its because of stupid economic and political decisions and policies, not public education.

STEM already has been taken over by the corporate “reformers;” it’s part of their whole schtick.

Ravitch should say so, and call it what it is.

And so should other educators.

Wilkinson and Pickett found when they compared developed societies in terms of how much inequality they had is this:

People in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and have better chances for a good education regardless of their background. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower, children do better at school and they are less likely to become teenage parents. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower.

If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. namvet67 said on December 27th, 2013 at 5:22am #

    Really enjoyed the parts about vets, and others, with PTSD. I was medivaced back to America in 1967 with physical trauma that was treated but mental trauma that went untreated. This was my fault as I couldn’t tell anyone that I was still fighting the war in my head. But what was worse than the war was the betrayal I felt. I went in blindly believing that we were right. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been lied to. This led to questioning all of my beliefs. It wasn’t easy with all these contradictions banging around in my head. But I was a white middle-class college graduate so I just had to go through the motions. I could pretend. It worked for twenty years. Then I made my first trip back to Viet Nam. It was 1988 and I was finally able to take control of the shit running around in my head. I had a lot of processing to do and I’m probably still not finished. But I’m at a place and time in my life where I can enjoy personal happiness. But I see no end to our desire to send our young off to stupid and illegal wars.
    Hoa binh,

  2. Paul Haeder said on December 27th, 2013 at 7:56am #

    Thanks, Greg. As a community activist and teacher, I am seeing zilch coming out of the administration class around PTSD, both war/violence related as well as the emotional trauma many of my young people have been through just living on the streets, living with poverty, living with rotting teeth and cussing citizens and pulverzing cops.

    The story about Jacob also includes his trip to the VA in Spokane, and he was given the bum’s rush, and at the bus stop, there was a 68 year old, in a wheelchair. They just pushed him to the road for his own devices on city busses.

    Nobody was helping him, but Jacob helped him on board, and the WWWII vet had no phone, and he needed a call made so someone at the end stop might pick him up.

    VA, cutthroats, young and old. Careerists, and broken as humans.

    They end up running the show.

    Cops cursing vets.

    The system is broken, and we can get teary eyed at the Oscars when those degenerates making disgusting movies about their great hero wars and violent acts, well, we can hear them “thanks to a vet.”

    Take care, Paul