Archives for the month of: September, 2017

Emboldened by the victory of extremist Bible-thumper Roy Moore in Alabama, followers of Bannon and Breitbart are preparing to challenge Republicans they don’t like in the 2018 elections. They want to find Roy Moore types in other states to knock off Senators who have supported Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan. Steve Bannon is now on the loose as the titular leader of this rebellion. He and Breitbard are funded by multibillionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. Bannon spoke to Moore supporters on election night:

“You are going to see, in state after state after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore, that do not have to raise money from the elites, the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington, D.C., New York City and Silicon Valley,” Bannon told Moore’s supporters on Tuesday.

What is the “model” of Judge Moore? Racist, homophobic, literal interpretation of the Bible, nationalist, xenophobic, gun-toting.

Who are the “crony capitalists” that Bannon abhors? Well, he might start with his own sponsor, Robert Mercer, who is a capitalist who lives in a mansion on the Gold Coast of Long Island. And where are Breitbart headquarters? D.C.

It is all so crazy.

Bannon said previously that he is a Leninist; that he wants to destroy the administrative state. He is all for getting rid of government health care and letting poor people die. This is not populism. It is anti-populism.

When Betsy DeVos was interviewed by the Senate Committee that was about to confirm her as Secretary of Education, she seemed never to have heard of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or anything connected to special education. Now that she has been Secretary for several months, Nancy Bailey is worried that she thinks IDEA is a burden and must be cut.

Watch her like a hawk watches his or her prey, she advises, because DeVos seems to want to deregulate special education and defund it.

Her conversation centers around “piled on regulations” in special education. Instead of paying for services, she wants to deregulate, thereby allowing for funding cuts.

This would also destroy IDEA and leave children with disabilities to fend for themselves. It’s stepping backwards to the time when children with disabilities had no rights.

What DeVos Deregulations Mean to Special Education

Policymakers should look at regulations, especially having to do with the enormous amount of paperwork and high-stakes test administration facing general and special education teachers.

But this is not what Betsy is talking about.

Her deregulations will open the door to privatization.

Currently, parents lose their child’s protections under IDEA if they accept voucher money. This makes parents pause when considering a voucher. Betsy DeVos wants to lessen requirements of those protections to push her loosey goosey choice plan.

By killing regulations, Nancy fears, DeVos is setting up special education to be killed.

Be alert. Compassion and responsibility for others are not her strong suits.

One of our readers called Threatened Out West told us that schools cannot force students to participate in patriotic exercises, based on a court case from the 1940s. He/she was right.

TOW wrote:

“I know that it’s not quite the same situation, but is this even legal?

“Legally, schools CANNOT force students to stand or pledge. See West Virginia v. Barnette:

“So would this be the same for the National Anthem?”

This item appeared in Politico.

“KNEELING UNDER FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: As President Donald Trump has escalated a war with the NFL during the past week, student athletes may be tempted to also take a knee in protest on the football field tonight – and they have a constitutionally protected right to do so. Despite that, at least one school district has attempted to curb protests by threatening punishments ranging from extra running during practice to being kicked off the team, drawing the attention of the ACLU (and many people on Twitter and Facebook).

“- All high school principals in Bossier Parish in Louisiana are sending letters to student athletes and their families “making their expectations known as it pertains to proper decorum when the National Anthem is played at sporting events,” Sonja Bailes, a district spokeswoman, told Morning Education. Superintendent Scott Smith said in a statement: “In Bossier Parish, we believe when a student chooses to join and participate on a team, the players and coaches should stand when our National Anthem is played in a show of respect.” He added, “It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans.”

“- The directive was sent “in light of the national conversation currently taking place,” Smith said. Trump has been at war with the NFL, where players have chosen to kneel during the anthem – first to protest police brutality and racial injustice, and increasingly as a response to the president’s calls for them to be fired. Trump has said team owners should force players to stand for the anthem, and fire them if they don’t. We have the full story here.

“- The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that students “do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate” – and that extends to the football field, Frank LoMonte told Morning Education. LoMonte is the director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the former director of the Student Press Law Center. School officials can only limit speech if it’s impeding the school’s ability to conduct business by causing a substantial disruption – something that would be very difficult to prove at a sporting event, he said.

“- “In a classroom, we expect everyone to stay silently in a seat, but in the stadium, there are people turning cartwheels and doing backflips on the sidelines, there are people waving banners and painting their faces, there are people getting up to buy hot dogs and talking on their cellphones,” LoMonte said. “In that atmosphere, it would be exceptionally challenging to say that a silent display of dissent is a substantial disruption.”

“- The principal of Parkway High School in Bossier Parish wrote in a letter that the school “requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner” during the anthem, and that those who don’t comply could be kicked off the team. A picture of the letter was posted to Twitter by Shaun King of the Intercept and was retweeted thousands of times. Another district official told the Shreveport Times that potential punishments range from “extra running to a one-game suspension.” The school’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, as well.

“- The ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement calling the Bossier Parish school officials’ threats to punish students who protest “antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.” Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told Morning Education in an interview that “the Supreme Court has been very clear that schools, government officials, cannot suppress a student’s right to protest – even on a team, even during a game. To refuse to salute the flag, say the pledge, all of those thing – they are protected by the United States Constitution.”

Question: do students in schools have rights that athletes in pre-game ceremonies do not have?

In this article, journalist Kathi Valeii interviews author Katherine Stewart about the Evangelical attack on public schools. Stewart is the author of a powerful book, “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children.”

Stewart has shown how Evangelicals insert the “Good News Clubs” into public schools to proselytize.

Here is a quote from the interview:

“KV: In your book, you use the word “Christian Nationalist” to describe the people working to infiltrate the public school system with conversion-style programs. In the current political climate, this language feels particularly relevant. Why do you think this language choice is important?

“KS: Christian nationalism has been around for a couple centuries. But starting in the 1970s it took on a new and much more virulent form. Many people saw it coming. I think of Michelle Goldberg’s 2006, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, a prescient look at the development of politicized evangelical religion. Other writers before her, such as Frederick Clarkson, who wrote Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, have been on the case even longer.

“But many others have until recently downplayed the rise of Christian Nationalism as merely a “cultural” phenomenon, or a manifestation of certain social attitudes. I believe that this is in part because the discussion of religion and politics is, frankly, awkward. It would be a much nicer world if we could simply allow one another to carry on in our personal beliefs and approach policy questions without regard to that private world.

“Today, however, a certain variety of politicized religion in America wants to rewrite our history, upend our constitutional principles, and take us “back” to a time that never actually existed. We can no longer afford to ignore it. With the rise of Trump, I think we can say definitively that Christian Nationalism is first and foremost a political ideology. It is deeply authoritarian, it is determined, and it has put the future of democracy in peril.

“When Christian Nationalists say they wish to “take our country back,” they are not being hyperbolic; they are being honest. They have told us that they abhor our public schools, and that they pray for the day such schools cease to exist. Leaders of Christian Nationalists’ judicial strategy have told us that they want to eradicate the “so-called’ wall of separation between church and state, and that the time has come to return our schools to the Lord. They are telling us what they really think, and we should listen to them now, before it is too late.

“KV: The last chapter of your book is titled, “If you can’t own it break it.” You explain the paradox of of the Christian Right’s desires to be actively involved in the public schools and simultaneously dismantle them, which basically also sums up the position of Education Secretary Betsy Devos. How do you see her leadership role affecting the further erosion of the practical separation of church and state in our public schools?

“KS: Betsy DeVos has historically funded two things with equal generosity: the religious right on the one hand, and the privatization efforts of public education on the other. The reason for that is straightforward: she, like many members of the extreme end of the conservative movement, believes in both economic libertarianism and religious fundamentalism, and she sees them as being grounded in each other and mutually reinforcing. The idea is that if you turn schools over to to the genuinely “free market,” they will inculcate the “correct” religious values in students. And there won’t be a need to worry about the separation of church and state, because they will be the same thing.

“The astonishing thing about DeVos is just how much contempt she exudes for the public schools that she is charged with overseeing. When Trump insulted “our failing government schools,” you can be sure that the sentiment chimed with her own beliefs. She rarely loses an opportunity to say that the system isn’t working, that the schools are failing, that they are losing ground, and so on. She seems to make a point of minimizing contact with the people most closely connected with traditional public schools. On a recent visit to Florida, she was criticized for visiting a private school, a charter school, and a voucher school, but no traditional public schools. This attitude is a clear prelude to destructive policy moves.”

Tom Ultican left a career in Silicon Valley to become a high school teacher of physics and mathematics. He is one of our most perceptive critics of the role of technology in schools, having lived in both worlds: high-tech and high-school.

In this important post, he lays waste some of the most pernicious frauds of our times.

There is a great deal of optimism about the tech market in schools, but none of it is about making schools better. It is about making money for investors.

He begins:

Last year, IBIS Capital produced a report for EdTechXGlobal stating, “Education technology is becoming a global phenomenon, … the market is projected to grow at 17.0% per annum, to $252bn by 2020.” Governments in Europe and Asia have joined the US in promoting what Dr. Nicholas Kardaras called a “$60 billion hoax.” He was referring specifically to the one to one initiatives.

An amazing paper from New Zealand, “Sell, sell, sell or learn, learn, learn? The EdTech market in New Zealand’s education system – privatisation by stealth?” exposes the promoters of EdTech there as being even more bullish on EdTech. “The New Zealand business organisation (they spell funny) EDTechNZ, indicates on its website that educational technology is the fastest growing sector of a global smart education market worth US$100 billion, forecast to grow to US$394 by 2019.”

These initiatives are fraud based agendas because they focus on advancing an industry but are sold as improving schools. Unfortunately, good education is not the driver; money is.

He writes:

The trumpeting of a “STEM shortage crisis in America” is and always was a hoax. This same con is deforming public education. The new Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards were motivated respectively by Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Louis Gerstner (IBM). As a result they devalue humanities and glorify science and engineering based on this same fraudulent STEM claim. There must be a thousand charter schools that advertise themselves as STEM academies.

Here in California this same lie is being used to promote yet another attack on local control of public schools. In July, Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando) announced new legislation that would create a State authorized STEM school for 800 students. It would be privately managed and sited in Los Angeles county.

The news organization Capital and Main stated, “For a district that is already the largest charter school authorizer in the nation and is still gun-shy after recently fending off a takeover attempt by billionaire school choice philanthropist Eli Broad, any scheme that promises further stratification is an existential threat.”

Eli Broad wanted a STEM school to call his own but paid for with public money, and the state’s two major newspapers thought it was a grand idea to let a billionaire get a school just because…he is a billionaire:

It seems the fourth estate no longer ferrets out fraud and corruption but is instead complicit in these nefarious plots.

In the age of Trump, investigative reporting doesn’t matter. Nor does principle. Money matters.

Of course, technology can be well used, but what is happening today is that technology is being used to replace human contact. That is a mistake and a fraud.

Hi-Tech and digital initiatives are careening down a dark road. Because of the extreme power of hi-tech corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others, the development of education technology is being driven by their needs and not the needs of students. Students have become their guinea pigs as they release one untested technology after another into America’s classrooms.

Technology has a potential to enhance education but it also has the potential to cause great damage.

A century ago, there were people taking correspondence courses and getting great value from them. Today, the modern equivalent of the correspondence course is the online class.

However, students at screens like correspondence students will never achieve equal benefit to students with a teacher, because the teacher-student relationship is the most important aspect in education.

Teacher-student relationships are different than those with friends, parents or siblings. My personal experience was that I felt a genuine selfless lover for my students and we communicated about many things; often personal but mostly academic. I also felt a need to protect them. In America’s public schools, a student might have that kind of close relationship with more than 40 adults during their 12 years in school. This is where the great spark of creativity and learning leaps from teacher to student.

I have put students at screens in my career, but I never found great benefit in the exercise. On the hand, I have found technologies like graphing utilities to be highly beneficial, but it was the interaction with my students that was of most value for deep learning, enhancing creativity and developing a love for learning. If technologies destroy these relationships then they become a net evil.

Here is his ominous conclusion. We ignore it at our peril, and the peril of our youth:

A faculty colleague of mine said, “the last thing 21st century students need is more screen time.” I believe Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen would enthusiastically agree. She recently wrote an article for Atlantic magazine describing the dangers of screen time to the current teen generation she calls the iGen. Based on her research she said,

“Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.)”

“The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”

“There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.”

“In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.”

Obviously, many of our institutions have been corrupted by the immense power of concentrated wealth and especially by hi-tech industries. The money being chased is enormous, but there are more of us. If we educate ourselves, our families and our neighbors we can reform these greed driven forces into forces for good, but we need to pay attention.

Betsy DeVos keeps searching for an analogy that will convert non-believers to her love of school choice.

Choosing a school is like choosing Uber. Or a cellphone. Or anything.

At her Harvard address, she compared schools to making a choice between a restaurant and a food truck. Do you think Billionaire Betsy buys lunch from a food truck? I will donate $300 to the campaign of Mark Weber’s (blogger-teacher Jersey Jazzman) wife, Linda, who is running for Congress in New Jersey, to the first person who can produce a photo of Betsy DeVos buying lunch from a food truck in front of the ED in D.C. Linda is trying to flip a Republican seat to Democratic. She will be a friend and ally to public education.

Peter Greene explains that schools are NOT food trucks.

“Note that DeVos continues to drift further and further away from any interest in accountability for quality– in this analogy we pick the choice that tastes good, and if it happens to be unhealthy or toxic or laced with fried dog meat, none of that matters. Taste is not a bad guide for matters of food, but with schools, what “tastes good” today is not necessarily what will best serve the student, the family, the community and the nation over the coming decades. “Tastes good this moment” and “provides a solid education for a lifetime” are two entirely different metrics

“Like every other commercial enterprise, the food trucks of DC are not geared to handle all customers. There are many reasons that comparing schools to businesses is a huge fail, but this is one of the hugest– there is no business sector in this country built on the idea of serving every single person in the country. Each food truck operates on the idea that some people will eat there and other people won’t, and as long as enough people eat there, the food truck is good. But if there are people who don’t eat at any of the food trucks, some people who don’t eat at all– well, that is not the food truck operators problem.

“And as a customer, you can’t get whatever you want– you can only get what the trucks are serving.

“The modern charter industry is a business model, and just like any other business model, it is built on serving some customers. Making sure that every student in America gets a good education is not the goal, the purpose or even the concern of the charter industry. But it has to be the concern of a public school system.

“Schools are not businesses. Students are not customers. And education is not a side of fries.”

Find another analogy, Betsy.

During the weeken that Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico and flattened much of the island, Trump played golf, traded insults with North Korea, and set off a tempest with the NFL.

He was very busy being Trump: indifferent to suffering, playing, mocking others.

When someone reminded him that an American territory was in dire straits, he went to his fallback position of complimenting himself on what a great job he was doing. He is testing the adage that you can’t fool all
The people all the time.

Now he is on to tax cuts, where the biggest cut of all is the elimination of the estate tax, which will benefit his family and other billionaires. The 1% is riding high, as usual, while Trump boasts that his tax cuts will benefit the middle class. That’s a laugh. Of. Purse, he won’t release his tax returns so we can’t be sure how many millions he will save. But the elimination of the estate tax is a honey for the Teump heirs.

Was there ever a more ineffectual and hapless president?

One of our readers is a great admirer of Trump, and she defended his response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, saying, even the governor of Puerto Rico praised him.

Methinks the governor knows that Trump needs praise. But this is what he really said, in full.

“Gov. Ricardo Rosselló took care to praise Mr. Trump for his concern and optimistic promises, saying, “He has been on top of it.” But the governor wisely emphasized a larger message for congressional leaders and fellow Americans. If aid is not forthcoming on the levels of that for Texas and Florida, Mr. Rosselló warned of “a massive exodus” of Puerto Ricans to the mainland as fully entitled citizens, hurting the island’s chances for a full recovery and — probably to the consternation of Republicans — bringing “deep demographic turmoil” to states like Florida.

“Members of Congress, anxious to visit and stress the need for emergency aid at the scene, complained that the administration had denied them use of military transports. But the White House said the top priority was the human emergency and Mr. Trump would therefore not visit Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands until Tuesday.

“In Puerto Rico, the power grid is devastated, 80 percent of agricultural crops have reportedly been wiped out, 40 percent of the people need drinkable water and communications are inoperable for most of its 3.4 million American citizens. The 103,000 residents of the Virgin Islands are in comparable straits and highly dependent on the choked ports of Puerto Rico for relief. Tourist hotels were reduced to rubble. Officials expect two main hospitals to be torn down and replaced. The islands’ debt-burdened government has been facing the same threat of bankruptcy that had already strapped Puerto Rico with sweeping austerity measures.

“In surveying the extraordinary recovery challenges, Mr. Rosselló made a point that Washington should heed. “We can’t be treated differently,” he said, referring to Texas and Florida. “You can’t build half a house.”

Why not send in the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the power grid? Why wait a week for emergency relief?

Joe Scarborough, talk show host and former GOP congressman, wrote a moving and powerful column about the southerners who booed Senator John McCain at a Trump rally.

Who are you? I’ve got to say that I really don’t know anymore. It’s kind of a strange turn of events since we went to the same public schools across the Deep South, then attended the same state colleges, cheering wildly on Saturdays for our favorite SEC teams, and spent Sunday mornings together in the same Southern Baptist pews. We even went to Training Union on Sunday nights.

Remember how our conversations always seemed to turn to politics? How we criticized Bill Clinton for playing so fast and loose with the truth? And how shamefully Democrats turned a blind eye to his fabrications and outright lies? Man, how could those Democrats sleep at night?

And what about how the guy we voted for, George W. Bush, running up the federal debt and launching ill-planned foreign adventures overseas? We swore that the next time Republicans got in power, we would pressure them to cut spending, attack the debt and put America’s foreign policy on a restrained and reasonable path. After Bush, we grew enraged by President Barack Obama’s efforts to reorder one-sixth of our economy on a straight party-line health-care vote. How reckless was that!

You and I always agreed that Washington Democrats and Republicans were cut from the same cloth, and that we needed to keep both sides honest. We were united by the shared belief that politicians must put country above party, right?


What happened to you?

The guys I came up with in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and northwest Florida for more than 40 years would never boo a former American prisoner of war — especially one who refused to return home until the enemy released every one of his buddies in the prison camp. Southern guys like us loved that “leave no man behind” ethos when John Wayne or Sylvester Stallone exhibited it on movie screens. So why would you even think of booing a man, now fighting for his life, who showed that true grit in real life?

But boo Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) you did, at the behest of President Trump during a rally in Alabama last week.

Mike Allen of Axios further reported this week that Trump has been “physically mocking” the thumbs-down gesture McCain used to deliver the deciding vote against the Republican health-care bill in July. Did that mocking involve an imitation of McCain’s stiff arm movements? In case you haven’t read a newspaper in the 45 years since we played on the same Dixie Youth Baseball team together, McCain got the hell beaten out of him by the communists who held him in the Hanoi Hilton for more than five years.

At that same time, Trump was dodging the draft by claiming that bone spurs stopped him from serving his country in uniform. And yet this crippling condition didn’t stop the spoiled Ivy League student from playing football, tennis and golf. After four draft deferments, Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 on the same day 40 U.S. servicemen were killed in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, McCain continued receiving the beatings that would forever leave him incapable of lifting his arms over his head. He kept enduring torture because he refused to leave his band of brothers behind.

Do you have that kind of character? If you booed McCain at last week’s rally, don’t bother answering. Someone has obviously failed you in your life; you probably need to spend some time figuring out who that was. And if you still go to church, you may also want to pray for all those around you who put tribal politics ahead of basic humanity.

Then maybe you should drive home and tell your children the story of John McCain’s sacrifice. If you can teach your children that lesson of heroism, there’s a chance they might grow up to have more character than the president you now praise.

And perhaps there just may be hope for our country.

Ohio legislators and the State Department of Education continue to fund the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, despite scandal after scandal.

Phantom students. The lowest graduation rate of any school in the nation.

And now auditors discover that ECOT overbilled the state by another $20 million last year, by inflating the number of students it claimed to enroll.

Read the article to see what an awful “school” this is. Only 2.9% of its graduates earn a college degree within six years.

What an amazing trick can be accomplished with campaign contributions! Ohio officials should be ashamed.