Peter Greene writes that what makes America special is that we do things the hard way, not the easy way.

The hard way is democracy. The hard way is to discuss and debate and protect the voices of dissenters.

He writes:

“When it comes to running a country, the easiest way to do it is to put one guy in charge and let him tell everybody how to do everything. He can be picked by heredity or tradition or power or wealth; he can be installed by a committee of Important People, or by the roar of the crowd, or even a legitimate-ish election. But the important part– the easy part– is that once you have him installed, you just let him run everything. No debates. no discussions, no big arguments about What To Do Next– just let your Grand High Potentatial Poohbah decide it all…,

“We have always been annoyed by our own system. We’re irritated by the way it fosters unending debate on every little thing– even things that we thought were already decided. And good Lord in heaven– can’t the people who are Dead Wrong just shut up and go away? We waste time, energy, and money on processes that are inefficient and inconsistent. There’s hardly anything in this country that we don’t do the hard way, loaded with argument and controversy and inefficiency and ambiguity.

“On top of that, our peculiar brand of running a country ties all of our citizens together, so that people in one community have to worry about, be involved in, pay taxes to finance decisions in other communities. Gah! Can’t we just take care of our own and let those Others go hang? Having to be all tied together is just hard!

“And so we are always bedeviled by folks who want to get America to do things the easy way. And with the unleashing of Citizens United, many of our wealthy citizens are doing their best to move us to an easier system, a system where the people who are Better just go ahead and settle issues for the rest of us. Also, why shouldn’t I be able to just close the doors on my gated community, pay for my own police and fire company, and just not have to give a cent to those Other People?”

Our blog poet, who signs as SomeDam Poet, contributed these words of wisdom:

 

Hail Arne
Full of Gates
The Core is with thee
Mes-sed art thou among Reformers
And mes-sed is the fruit of thy room, RTTT

 

Our Coleman
Who aren’t an educator
Hollow be they claim
Thy King-dom come,
Thy will be dumb,
In NY as it is in Washington
Spare us this Core our daily bore,
and forgive us our testpasses,
as we forgive those who testpass in charters ;
and lead us not into DAM nation,
but deliver us from Common Core.

 

Amen

Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize in 1957. Days later, he thanked his childhood teacher.

 

19 November 1957

 

Dear Monsieur Germain,

 

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

 

Albert Camus

 

(Thanks to Bertis Downs for finding this lovely gem.)

Our regular contributor KrazyTA offers the following advice:

“It is easy to get tired and feel beaten down by the edubullies and edufrauds as they use their bludgeons of sneer, jeer and smear on all those for a “better education for all.”

“They say it is often darkest before the dawn.

“The beginning of a speech of 1854 by William Lloyd Garrison:

[start]

“I do not know how to espouse freedom and slavery together. I do not know how to worship God and Mammon at the same time. If other men choose to go upon all fours, I choose to stand erect, as God designed every man to stand. If, practically falsifying its heaven-attested principles, this nation denounces me for refusing to imitate its example, then, adhering all the more tenaciously to those principles, I will not cease to rebuke it for its guilty inconsistency. Numerically, the contest may be an unequal one, for the time being; but the author of liberty and the source of justice, the adorable God, is more than multitudinous, and he will defend the right. My crime is that I will not go with the multitude to do evil. My singularity is that when I say that freedom is of God and slavery is of the devil, I mean just what I say. My fanaticism is that I insist on the American people abolishing slavery or ceasing to prate of the rights of man ….

[end]

Link: http://www.blackpast.org/1854-william-lloyd-garrison-no-compromise-evil-slavery

Remember: not that many years before the start of the Civil War, things looked pretty bleak for the abolition of chattel slavery. And nowadays, not a day passes that some new development might make folks think that things look pretty bleak for ensuring a “better education for all.”

As the old saying going, it’s darkest before the dawn. If you feel you can’t go on, just remember:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Harriet Tubman. She didn’t say it would be easy. But she did say we could do it.

And the tide has been turning, albeit slowly and painfully, for a while.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” [Mahatma Gandhi]

As I see it, we are in stage 3.

Do not be discouraged as you struggle to restore common sense and rationality to education policy. The corporate reformers have money and the political power that money buys, but it has no popular support. It misleads the public by calling its program “reform,” when its true program is privatization. It uses catchy and misleading names like “students first,” “children first,” “education reform now,” “Democrats for education reform.” But the truth will eventually prevail. They want to divert public money to unaccountable, privately managed schools and replace professional teachers with computers and low-wage temps.

All they have is money. We, the defenders of democracy and public education, have numbers. They could not fill a high school auditorium with their hard-core supporters if their paid underlings were excluded.

We, on the other hand, speak for tens of millions of parents and teachers who value public education and value their community’s public schools.

None of their “reform” strategies works: not high-stakes testing, not test-based teacher evaluation, not merit pay, not charters, not vouchers. Axiom: you can’t fail your way to success.

We will prevail. Not just because of our numbers, but because of our fundamental belief in equal opportunity for ALL children. Not SOME children. Not the strivers. ALL children.

I usually devote days like July 4 to appropriate pieces, such as poems and songs celebrating our nation and its freedoms.

 

But I am not feeling especially celebratory today. In many respects, it appears that our politics is rushing headlong back to the 1920s or even the 1890s, when polite society diverted its eyes from unpleasant facts like hunger, homelessness, and other signs of human distress. Our politicians must worry constantly about raising enough money for the next election, so they listen more attentively to those who have the most to contribute to their campaign, rather than to voters. Voters can always be hoodwinked by a slick media buy.

 

We must not despair because despair is a certain path to defeat. We must rededicate ourselves on this day to saving our democracy, to restoring the belief that America is meant to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We can’t compete with the billionaires’ cash for votes, but we can build organizations to inform and mobilize public opinion to take our government away from the plutocrats. I, for one, do not want to sit idly by as income inequality and wealth inequality grows. I commend to you the book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. A short description on amazon.com, “Almost every modern social problem-poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness-is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.”

 

If you look back over American history, you will see swings of the pendulum, from eras where there was a strong sense of social responsibility to eras of selfish individualism. We are now at the far end of the pendulum swing, with our elites pushing hard to persuade the public that selfish individualism and consumerism is true Americanism: every person for him- or herself! Let the hungry fend for themselves, it is their own fault that they are hungry.

 

We can sit back and watch as the social safety net is shredded, or we can resist. We can sit back and allow our public schools to be taken over by entrepreneurs, religious groups, and privateers, or we can resist.

 

I say resist.

 

Here is a wonderful post by Edward F. Berger, a blogger in Arizona who is leading the charge against corporate reform in that benighted state, where the profit-making entrepreneurs have grown fat by taking over public schools and draining their funds for their own profit.

 

He asks the following questions and urges his fellow Arizonans to organize and resist the destruction of the public square and the corporate takeover of public education:

 

 

Edward R. Murrow once said: “I am in a financial morass from which I am unable to extricate myself.” Many States are in a political morass as a result of a planned assault on America. The question is, how do we extricate ourselves? In Arizona, one of the most corrupt states, leaders are emerging who know how. They use facts and data, and social media to bypass the in-pocket Press.

 

Is there anyone who believes that the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars of public taxpayer money in Arizona is an unexpected consequence of so-called education reform?

 

If so, they most likely profit at the expense of the children and families from whom this money is stolen.

 

If so, they are part of a radical and nation-killing movement based on feudal ideology and pure greed.

 

If so, they are part of a State Legislature that intentionally forbids charter school accountability and protects those who are given our tax dollars and use them for their own profits, kids-be-damned.

 

If so, they have written laws that allow pirates to create closed and unaccountable “schools” that rake in millions of public tax dollars via side-deals and Real Estate deals. They eliminate students that they can’t benefit from. They kick out children that don’t serve their needs and send them back into the public schools humiliated, damaged, and often broken.

 

If so, they are Legislators who do not believe in the separation of Church and State.

 

If so, they are part of political organizations that supports the privatizers and radical right-wing, and ignore the damages to their community and to children and families.

 

If so, they support privatization and profiteering from dollars citizens pay to educate children. They privatize any-and-all functions of government where there is profit to be gleaned. Prisons and schools for example.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who believes that the extreme right-wing, working for ALEC-Koch-Goldwater Institute-John Birch Society bosses has not intentionally, decade after decade, placed totally unqualified non-educators in the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, thus undermining public education from inside?

 

Those who wield these powers have used every opportunity to destroy the teaching profession, our community schools, and now our Universities.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who doesn’t know that a Right To Work State is a trick to extract more profit from battered workers and to curtail information the public needs by not letting workers organize and speak out?

 

Is there an educated citizen of Arizona who is not convinced that the Democratic process of Representative Government has been defeated through the control of primary elections and the selection of those who will get massive financial support: Those candidates they allow to run and win? That those who wield power have effectively discouraged people from voting?

 

Be sure to read his conclusion.

 

And when you are done, join The Network for Public Education, which is supporting resistance across the nation.

This article about the lack of evidence for VAM is open access for one week only.

It was written by VAM critic Audrey Amrein-Beardsley and Jessica Holloway-Libell.

Peter Greene brings us back to the halcyon days when central planners at the U.S. Department of Education dreamed of one big set of national standards–the Common Core–and two testing consortia, both dependent on the same set of standards. The Gates Foundation funded the Common Core and continues to fund various organizations to advocate for it and to “demand” annual testing mandates. The federal government funded the two testing groups–PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment–with $360 million of our taxpayer dollars.

 

It turns out not to have been a sound investment. PARCC started with 24 (or 25) states in its consortium, and more than half those states have abandoned the Pearson-made PARCC. With Ohio’s exit from PARCC, the number is down now to 10 states plus D.C. Some of those 10 are likely to drop PARCC. The technological problems have been extremely annoying, and the amount of time required for the testing (8 to 11 hours) is burdensome. Here is a question: Why is it that teachers can give a 45-minute test in reading and math and find out what their students know, but PARCC requires 8 to 11 hours to get the same information.

 

The market for PARCC has shrunk so dramatically that Peter Greene thinks it is only a matter of time until Pearson executives decide that the tests are not worth their time, the revenue stream is too small, and bye-bye PARCC.

Politico,com reports that the states are working to reduce testing. Do you believe it? Color me skeptical. As long S NCLB and Arne’s waivers threaten school closings and teacher evaluations based on test scores, how can any state cut down on testing?

STATES CONSIDER CUTTING TESTING: The Council of Chief State School Officers sent states a survey earlier this year and recently revealed [http://politico.pro/1NxwAQH] one of their findings: At least 39 states are working to reduce unnecessary testing in various ways. That might include establishing a task force, surveying existing tests, gathering feedback from educators and more. Last October, CCSSO and the Council of the Great City Schools announced an effort to review testing across states and districts.

– Which states aren’t among the 39? According to CCSSO’s survey results: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Texas. But doesn’t mean they’re doing nothing – CCSSO stresses that some additional states have taken action since the survey was administered earlier this year. For example, North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler launched a task force to review the state’s testing options after glitches with the state’s Smarter Balanced vendor, Measured Progress, interrupted exams this spring. Some states took action prior to the survey and some may not have responded to the survey.

– Speaking of testing, a group of Florida state lawmakers wants Republican Gov. Rick Scott to dump this year’s testing results on the Florida Standards Assessment. Tampa Bay Times: http://bit.ly/1JxPjxF.

– And the California high school exit exam may be suspended immediately. EdSource: http://bit.ly/1JyxqPb.

Carol Burris, veteran principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, Néw York, retired this week, to the tears of students, parents, and staff. In this article, part of a blog debate at The Hechinger Report, she explains her negative view of Common Core.

 

She opposes the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, and she cites what is known as Campbell’s Law:

 

“When test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

 

VAM is so unreliable that the Hillsborough Teacher of the Year in 2014 received a negative rating!

 

The Common Core is an integral part of a failed national strategy, she writes:

 

“Now back to the Common Core. I am not sure what you mean when you say that I “personified” the standards and that I believe the Common Core is “the root of the problems we are facing in education.” The Common Core is but one part of a failed reform strategy. The Common Core, teacher evaluation using student tests scores, Common Core tests, the expansion of charter schools and other disruptive change strategies were pushed by the $4.35 billion competitive grant known as Race to the Top. All are presented as interconnected parts of a school improvement plan.”

 

Burris gives examples of algebra questions that were based on concepts in advanced classes; most students had not been taught the concepts.

 

In her own school, the failure of the standards and the tests were obvious:

 

“Only 48% of Rockville Centre first-time test takers achieved that score. That excludes students who previously took and failed the test—if they were included the percentage would be lower still.

 

“This year South Side High School had no dropouts and our four-year graduation rate was 98%. Should we conclude that only about half of the graduates of my high school are college-ready, and that in the future, only 48% should graduate based on the results of this test?

 

“Every other indicator contradicts that conclusion. Every year, over 70% of our graduates pass an International Baccalaureate exam in mathematics. When I checked last fall, 92% of our entire Class of 2012 was successfully enrolled in college two years after graduation. My summer survey of whether students were required to take remediation resulted in only a handful of students. All were either English language learners or students with disabilities.

 

“So, Jayne, what should I believe? The Common Core test results, which say over half of our students are not prepared for college, or over a decade’s worth of evidence that tells me nearly all of them are? I understand that my school is well-resourced with only a 16% poverty rate. But surely the juxtaposition of Common Core scores with my school’s longstanding track record of producing college-ready students indicates that there is something wrong with the Common Core standards as measured by Common Core-aligned tests. It is time we move beyond the rhetoric and critically question the assumptions on which these reforms rest.”

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