Archives for the month of: February, 2018


The Governor promised a wage increase of 5% and teachers agreed to end the statewide strike.

Teachers will return to work Thursday.

Governor agrees to pay raise ending West Virginia teacher strike


Huffington Post reports that teachers are on strike across the state for the first time in 28 years because teachers are fleeing the state for better pay, better healthcare, and better working conditions.

“In interviews, school employees who traveled from across the state to Charleston said the fight was about much more than their paychecks. West Virginia is one of the few U.S. states with a falling population. As the state grapples with a severe teacher shortage, many educators worry their younger peers will continue to flee for greener pastures, with long-term consequences for successive generations of students.

“A series of business tax cuts have left the state with little money to give public servants who’ve been waiting for meaningful raises. West Virginia now ranks 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in teacher pay, and it was one of just five states to see average teacher pay go down in 2016, according to the National Education Association. Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, more than half border a state with better teacher pay. And the state was trying to fill 700 vacant positions as of last spring.”

Evidently the state government doesn’t care enough about education to pay its teachers a decent wage.


Despite the pleas of anguished survivors of the Parkland massacre, the Florida House Appropriations  Committee voted against a ban on assault weapons and voted to arm teachers. 

The $67 million “school marshal” program is the most controversial aspect of a House bill that imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, raises the age to buy any gun from 18 to 21 and gives police more power to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others. Most of the money for the marshal program would be spent on training.

Oliva said the bill doesn’t address whether teachers would be provided guns or would have to buy them. He said that should be decided locally by school boards and superintendents.

The goal: 10 marshals (teachers trained to carry a gun) in every school, which would equate to 37,000 statewide. The state would cover the costs of background checks, drug testing, psychological exams and 132 hours of training. The bill does provide a one-time $500 stipend for those who volunteer to have a gun.

The bill also calls for spending $400 million to put a school resource officer in every school, improve mental health counseling and make public school buildings safer.


This message was sent to all AFT members today from President Randi Weingarten:


“I don’t write emails to our full membership and activist community often, but the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case warrants it.

“The case is challenging the 45-year-old precedent that 23 states have used to determine wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of public employees’ jobs. As the Illinois solicitor general eloquently argued at the Supreme Court yesterday, these 23 states decided that, for labor peace and the efficiency of services, public employees can be represented by a union, and, as long as the union represents everyone, those who do not want to join may instead pay a “fair share” fee. This fee is meant to compensate the union for bargaining contracts and other services; nonmembers are not required to pay anything toward any political activity by the union.

“Yesterday, I was at the Supreme Court listening to the oral arguments in the Janus case. I listened as the right wing launched attack after attack on unions and on what collective bargaining gains for working people, those they serve and their communities. Indeed, Justice Sotomayor nailed the right wing’s argument, pointing out, “You’re basically arguing, do away with unions.”

Stand with us and tell us why you’re “union proud.”

“This case isn’t about petitioner Mark Janus, it’s about defunding unions. It’s about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why it’s being funded by the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other wealthy and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to “defund and defang” unions. Then, the Kochs, after getting the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and “break” the teachers unions. And now, with the Janus case, they are pushing to prevent workers from having a union at all. Why? Because unions are our vehicle to fight for and win a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.

“Study after study shows that union workers have higher wages, better benefits, a more secure retirement and a voice in the workplace.

“Yesterday was about fighting in the Supreme Court, but we’ve been fighting on many other fronts as well—speaking out in the court of public opinion and, most important, making sure our members, families, friends and allies know what we are up against. That’s why, this weekend, workers held rallies in 30 cities and counties throughout the country to fight for our fundamental right to union representation on the job. And that’s why our locals have spent the last year engaging members in one-on-one conversations. This recommitment to one another has been catalytic and transformative, and overwhelmingly, our members want to be part of our union, and they know how important it is for them, their families and their communities.

“Tell us why you’re “union proud” and what it is you care about and fight for every day.

“This is a “which side are you on?” moment. Our country must not revert to a time when workers were systematically denied even the most fundamental rights—a voice and a better life.

“Now’s the time. Stand with us.”

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

P.S. Watch our video re-capping Janus actions over the last week.


Mercedes Schneider writes here about the most powerful NRA lobbyist in Florida. Florida is a state that loves guns. And the lobbyist who has directed the NRA lobby is a 78-year-old woman, Marian Hammer.

Hammer is paid $206,000 a year to work five hours a week. Nice work if you can get it.

Schneider quotes from an in-depth article about Hammer, which appears in The New Yorker.

She does her own research into the NRA’s tax records.



The National Rifle Association and gun fanatics would like us to believe that no gun has ever been banned or can ever be banned because of the Second Amendment.

What they won’t tell you is that AR-15 style assault weapons (the favorite of mass murderers) was banned by Congress from 1994-2004. 

Hmm. Did they forget about the Second Amendment? Apparently Congress decided that civilians should not own military weapons. But then all common sense was abandoned, and the murder weapon was called a “spotting” rifle. That is, if you think it takes 30 high-velocity shots to fell a deer.


My friend Andy Hargreaves said on Twitter that we should not allow Trump to distract us from the students’ righteous demand for gun control. Trump knows that he is changing the subject. When he gets into hot water, he always changes the subject. The White House is relieved to be talking up their solution for mass murder as a distraction from the survivors’ laser-like call to ban military weapons outright. They are also happy to talk about school shootings, not corrupt Paul Manafort and Jared’s failure to get a security clearance.

Stay focused. Organize against any member of Congress who takes NRA blood money. Vote for candidates who refuse NRA money. The NRA is a Pro-Death lobby. It is toxic.

Stay focused. The mass murders will continue until the U.S. bans weapons of mass murder.

Please go to Wikipedia and read about the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia and why it led to a national ban on assault weapons.

Christopher Cotton is a high school English teacher in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

He wrote this article for the school newspaper. 

He writes:

The pattern of responses to school shootings is maddeningly familiar: carnage, thoughts and prayers, too soon to talk, don’t politicize, stalling, relegating, forgetting. People who support some sort of common-sense gun restrictions —  the vast majority of Americans —  have been driven to near-insanity by the impotence of our legislators. We thought Columbine might force a change. We were sure that Sandy Hook, with its young victims, would be the tipping point. But America fell into the same pattern.

Now there is something new under the sun.

What’s new is: YOU.

We adults have utterly failed to budge Washington’s inertia. But you students have a unique moral authority on this issue. You are the ones who pay the price. You are the ones who have to live or die with the results of Congress’ prostration to the gun lobby. As we have seen with news footage and viral videos, when teenagers speak up on this issue they cannot be shouted down. They have a clarity and authority that utterly dissipates the smog that befouls our political discourse.

You are the ones who have to live or die with the results of Congress’ prostration to the gun lobby.”

I’ve seen legislators hamstrung by that mantra, “It’s too soon to talk about gun restrictions.” I’ve never heard an effective response; the argument has taken on the force of self-evident truth. But now I’ve seen a teenager pop that balloon with a single piece of common sense: “It’s not too soon. It’s too late.”

Teachers care, but the legislators ignore them. Oh, it’s just those unions, looking for smaller classes or other privileges.

Parents care, but they are not organized.

Administrators care, but they have to worry about their school’s public relations.

Students care, and they are not afraid. They are idealistic. They want fairness. They want justice. They have energy. They have not been beaten down by the system. No one can accuse them of being self-interested, unless self-interest means you hope to stay alive.


Douglas Rushkoff is a professor media studies and a public school parent in New York. This is an adaptation of a presentation that he made to his local school board.




I am father of a 7th grader.

I am also the author of 17 books and four television documentaries about life in the digital media environment, a professor of media and society at CUNY, founder of its Laboratory for Digital Humanism, research fellow at Institute for the Future, and a frequent consultant on computers, education, and digital health to school districts, the US congress, the White House, the United Nations and governments around the world.

I am still enthusiastic about the promise of digital technology to enhance education and human potential. But I am also aware of who constructed our social media platforms, and for what purpose. Social media makes money by encouraging engagement – or what they call “eyeball hours” – by any means necessary. They employ advanced psychological tactics in order to make people – young and old – feel bad if they don’t check in regularly and worse if they try to leave a platform altogether.

The “streak” feature on SnapChat, for example, was developed in the Captology lab of Stanford University. Captology, as the name suggests, is the study of how to “capture” and maintain attention. The streak is simply a number corresponding to how many days in a row you chatted with a particular person. It’s also a way to turn socializing and posting into a competitive sport.

It will make anyone – even teachers and school administrators – feel terrible about missing a day of posting. It is just one of hundreds of techniques used by social media to make people anxious and depressed, such as adding pictures of your “ex” having fun to your newsfeed. Some techniques were drawn from Las Vegas slot machine algorithms, themselves based on decades of practice addicting gamblers to self-destructive behaviors.

My friends – the people who developed Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms – are now regretting what they did, but they are feeling powerless to change things. This is because the companies they work for are run by shareholders who simply want more hours, more posts, more engagement from us – by any means necessary.

Sean Parker, the ex-founder of Napster who guided young Mark Zuckerberg through the early days of Facebook, says the platform was built by “consciously exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” focused on figuring out “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'” Now Parker says he’s a “conscientious objector” from social media and worries “what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

These are America’s most powerful businesses, seeking to infiltrate our awareness. They are not only psychologically damaging, but intellectually compromising.

We multitask, assuming that – like our computers – we can do more than one thing at the same time. Study after study has shown that multitasking humans invariably get less done, less accurately, with less depth, and less understanding. This is true even when we believe we have accomplished more.

Other studies have shown that:

   – we function poorly and remember less if our smart phone is in the same room, even if it is turned off.

   – we read slower and with less comprehension if our email program is open in the background – even if the program’s window is completely covered.

   – the algorithms of social media feeds can not only predict our future behavior, but change it. They intentionally discourage creative outcomes that defy their predictions or stray from our big data classifications. They actively and intentionally reduce innovative and non-conformist behavior.

   – social media makes us less able to separate fact from fiction, makes us feel worse about our lives, lowers our self-esteem, and increases tribal, racial, and nativist divisions. It profits off polarity, sensationalism, violence, and impulsiveness.

As my friend, the inventor of virtual reality Jaron Lanier puts it, “The popular platforms are designed for behavior modification. Why would you go sign up for an evil hypnotist who’s explicitly saying that his whole purpose is to get you to do things that people have paid him to get you to do, but he won’t tell you who they are?”

A school district may have real reasons for resorting social media, but if they do so, they should at least be conscious of the compromise they are making, and the specific goals they are pursuing.

For instance, a district with poor community relations may seek to improve them by posting pictures on social media feeds. If attendance at school events is low, or if the town is too big for people to be exposed to schoolchildren, social media can be used to promote more enthusiasm for events, or passage of a school budget or bond issue. But in communities where people have face-to-face contact, social media does not improve relationships or institutional affiliations; research shows that it degrades them.

A famously bad school district can use social media to chronicle and publicize its turnaround to the world at large. This can help attract new families to the district, increase property values, and, in turn, increase the tax base. Again, most districts are not in need of such rehabilitation, and do better at fixing their problems when they’re not under a spotlight. 

Social media can help school administrators and employees promote their perspectives and careers. An educator may implement a classroom approach and want to publicize it – both to share best practices with other educators or to position themself for a better job somewhere else or even just better book sales. That’s fine, but it makes the classroom secondary to some other agenda, and turns the students into unwitting promotional tools. Better to do this on a website or blog than a competitive and manipulative social media platform, anyway.

Finally, when teachers or administrators are using social media in the classroom or at school activities, it models the addictive, life-negating behavior that we don’t want our kids to emulate. If teachers are looking for social media opportunities during the school day, then they are being distracted from the face-to-face, in-person contact that defines classroom education. Taking a selfie with a student, however well-meaning, conveys that the moment is less significant than the Tweet. Sad. I want my kid to feel that what she’s accomplished in class matters in its own right, even if it is not posted to Facebook!

Social media should not be mistaken for the internet. These platforms are categorically different than a school’s website. They are private companies, using black-box technologies to sell data about us and use it against us in ways they themselves are appalled by. Steve Jobs did not let his kids use an iPad. The Facebook employees I know will not let their kids go to schools that use social media.

Social media companies have spent billions of dollars developing algorithmically charged, adaptive mind control methodologies – as well as propaganda and government lobbying on why these activities make us stronger, smarter, more popular, happier, richer, and more loved.   It’s very hard to fight this psychological manipulation, and the more we use social media, the more we accept its premies.

Right now, those of us in the digital trenches are dealing with a problem named “Elsagate” – hundreds of videos targeting children that have been designed to pass through YouTube’s safety filters so that they appear in the pre-approved YouTube Kids’ Channel. They depict stories such as baby Elsa (from Disney’s Frozen) stealing her parents liquor, drinking it, turning violent, and killing her sister; another shows baby Spiderman being raped by his father; and other scenes calculated by their makers to inflict psychological trauma on American children. It’s a pediatric form of the same memetic warfare used against American adults in the last presidential election cycle. We still don’t know who is behind them.

They get through YouTube’s algorithms because those algorithms are not really there to help kids. They are there to help advertisers reach kids, and to make humans more predictable, less coherent, more anxious, and less genuinely social. This space favors the trolls, the abusers, and the marketers. It’s hard enough raising kids; now theres’ a multi-trillion-dollar industry working overtime to make our kids less cooperative, more irritable, and hyper-reactive. And we’re already required to surrender our kids to these companies, because so much education is happening online.

Making money is not bad. But making money by abusing people through intentionally addictive technologies *is* bad. The Internet is fabulous public utility. Social media are privately owned platforms operated so maliciously that they constitute public health crisis.

In short, social media really has no place in school. Sure, we can use it as an example in our media literacy classes. We can teach how the business model works, the attention economy on which it is based, the algorithmic logic of its choices, and the behavioral manipulation embedded in its interfaces. But we mustn’t post our kids pictures, promote our school activities, or start important policy conversations on networks entirely unfit for the purpose.

This shouldn’t stop schools from running their own websites, posting announcements and pictures when appropriate, and giving parents the ability to opt-out on behalf of their children.  The same goes for running articles and photos in local papers, which are our true media partners serving community interests.

We must not let our own addiction to social media cloud our judgment about how to educate our children and represent our schools or districts. Keep this stuff out of the classroom until you understand who’s behind it, how it works, and how it is influencing your choices. 




Douglas Rushkoff is the host of TeamHuman a professor of media studies, and the author of books including Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and Program or Be Programmed.



Plutocrats have been trying to strangle unions since they began. They now have their best shot with the Janus case, which the Supreme Court is deciding now. The addition of far-right Justice Neil Gorsuch may provide the decisive vote to gut the unions by allowing people like Janus to withhold dues even as they collect the benefits won by Gorsuch.

Arthur Goldstein explains here why unions matter. Although he often criticizes his own union, he recognizes its importance to him and other working people.

Goldstein writes:

“The Supreme Court of the United States will shortly rule on the Janus v. AFSCME case. Janus contends that any and all union activity is inherently political, that no one should have to contribute anything to union activity, and that we should therefore become a “right to work” nation. That’s an interesting concept.

“My union, the United Federation of Teachers, has a political fund called COPE, and I contribute. I frequently disagree with UFT candidate endorsements and decisions, but I believe it’s important to empower our union. Not all of my friends believe that, but contributions to the political fund are strictly voluntary.

“Union does, however, help press for things like higher pay, better working conditions, and increased benefits. We teachers and our union are frequently criticized for those demands. I see our working conditions as student learning conditions. I see our profession as a pathway to the middle class. At least two of my former students are now my colleagues, something I’m proud of. I think it’s our responsibility to leave our profession better for future generations. Of course, others may disagree with what we strive for.

”It’s entirely possible there may be a class of teachers who want more work, less pay, and fewer benefits. A ruling for Janus, which would certainly weaken unions, could help achieve that. I’m UFT chapter leader at the largest school in Queens, and I represent Democrats, Republicans, and independents. I’ve never met a single member who wanted more work, less pay, and fewer benefits, but I don’t doubt they may exist. There are over 200,000 UFT members, and I don’t know them all.

“Nonetheless, I’m fascinated by the concept that Americans ought not to be compelled to contribute toward political activity that, at least in theory, benefits them. If SCOTUS rules for Janus (and smart money says it will), then this “freedom” ought not to be limited to union activity. For example, like many Americans, I don’t want to pay for Donald Trump’s golf outings. Why, then, is my money covering those trips?”