Archives for the month of: January, 2022

Robert Kuttner, editor of The American Prospect, predicts that Biden will turn around public opinion before the mid-term elections. Biden has been the target of endless media speculation about his failures. Kuttner thinks this will change.

Here is how Kuttner thinks he will do it.

He writes:

How Things Will Get Better for Biden and the Dems
We can count on Trump to seize defeat out of the jaws of victory. 
It is just sickening to watch the media pile on Biden. OK, Manchin and Sinema are holding the administration hostage. The signals from the CDC on COVID have been mixed, and Biden stepped on some of his lines at his recent press conference. The man doesn’t walk on water. But compared to … what?

Here is a scenario for a Democratic comeback.

Within the next month or two, my sources indicate that Biden will get about $1.5 trillion of his Build Back Better program. The reconciliation process cannot be filibustered, and Manchin will eventually support a lot more than zero.

At that point, Democrats-in-Disarray stops being the slow-drip, day-after-day headline. And the herd-instinct, echo-chamber press has to find a new story.

One leading candidate is Republican cannibalism, which has been proceeding right on schedule.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis broke the unwritten norm that nobody challenges Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination, by suggesting that Trump is a wuss for urging people to get vaccinated. This in turn made Trump predictably apoplectic.

If DeSantis can hint at a presidential run, others will follow. Trump will do more damage to his party by running lunatic unelectable MAGA candidates in primaries. And then the story becomes Republicans in disarray.

Just in case the public needs another reminder of just how deranged the Trump and congressional Republicans are, in February and March the January 6 Committee investigation of the attempted coup will reveal more and more details. All of that will also dominate the headlines.

And a massive election-year grassroots mobilization of Democrats will take shape this spring. Pundits, seeking a new morning line, will start remembering the larger stakes for our democracy and start writing about Biden as the comeback kid.

Needless to say, I can’t guarantee that this will happen. But don’t rule it out either.

Jesse Hagopian is an activist teacher in the Seattle Public Schools, a leader in Black Lives Matter at School and editor of the book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. This article appeared in the Seattle Times:

State Republican Rep. Jim Walsh recently introduced HB 1807 and Republican Rep. Brad Klippert introduced HB 1886 for this legislative session — two bills designed to mandate educators lie to Washington’s students about structural racism and sexism.

This copycat legislation is lifted from a growing number of bills around the country that seek to ban an honest account of history in K-12 education, including many of the long struggles against oppression. These bills especially target the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, the Zinn Education Project and Black Lives Matter at School.

It’s fitting that Rep. Klippert’s bill is numbered “1886,” as that was the year a mob of white people in Seattle rounded up more than 200 Chinese people, forced them into wagons, and hauled them to Seattle docks where they were placed on a ships and deported. Though 15 people were tried in court in relation to the riot — including Chief of Police William Murphywho helped the mob round up Chinese people illegally — not a single one was ever convicted of a crime.

It’s similarly appropriate that Rep. Walsh’s bill is numbered “1807” because this bill seeks to return us to the early 19th century — a time when the nation was accelerating the attack on Black people’s rights in the North and colonizing the land of Native Americans. In 1807, New Jersey took away the right to vote for Black people. On April 1, 1807, Ohio outlawedBlack people from testifying in cases with white people. For the next 40 years, white people could act with impunity in filing baseless lawsuits and commit crimes — even violent attacks — against Black people who could not testify to defend themselves or give any evidence against them…

HB 1886 states that educators would be banned from teaching that, “The United States is fundamentally or structurally racist or sexist.” But consider these facts: The average white family has 10 times the amount of wealth of the average Black family.

∙ A Black woman is three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than a white woman.

∙ Black students are more than three times more likely to be suspended from school than white students.

· The median household income for Native Americans was 60% of median white household income. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent estimates reveal inequities have worsened, especially for Native American women.

· At least 44 transgender and gender nonconforming people were violently killed in 2020, with Black transgender women accounting for two-thirds of total recorded deaths since 2013.

· Anti-Asian hate crimes surged over 169% last year.

For teachers who believe in accurate history, there is no real choice here — we will always teach students about the reality of structural racism and other intersecting oppressions. Revealing these facts in the classroom is not about shaming white students — in fact, it is those who deny structural racism who end up leading white children to suspect that they are personally responsible for the racial disparities they see, rather than understanding the way systems can work to perpetuate inequities sometimes regardless of the intentions of the individuals who work in these systems.

Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale and an author. He wrote the following post in 2018, when the horrors of the Trump regime were fresh. It is still relevant.

Donald J. Trump isn’t a Nazi, although his father came close. It’s true that historical analogies between Trump’s policies and Hitler’s are often facile, and sometimes dangerously misleading. But here’s one that I’m not inclined to shrug off.

During a long stay in Berlin in 2009, I went often to the Grunewald railway station to have my coffee. It’s a picturesque little station, built in the 1899, fronted by a cobblestone square and surrounded by splendid, well-preserved villas of that period.

It’s also the point from which more than 50,000 Berlin Jews were shipped to concentration camps, a few hundred a week, from 1942 to 1945. At the station’s Track 17, a steel strip along the platform edge records, in raised letters, each week’s shipment of several hundred “Juden” to Theresienstadt, Minsk, Riga, Kaunas, Łódź and, later, directly to Auschwitz and other death camps.

It’s hard for most Americans, especially those of us whose parents fought in World War II, to imagine that people who boarded the trains had no idea of what lay ahead. Yet, although Jews had been vilified and some attacked on the streets since 1938, some things remained unthinkable to Berlin Jews, most of whom had been middle-class, law-abiding citizens since birth. They showed up at station on the appointed dates, children and luggage in tow, for what they’d been told would be deportation to resettlement and work centers. At worst, they expected something like what Japanese-Americans experienced in internment camps on our own West Coast during the same war.

Under the watchful eyes of German police, they took their seats in ordinary passenger coaches for many of these departures. Only later, far beyond Berlin, were they transferred to box cars. Some time after that, postcards they hadn’t written were sent to relatives or acquaintances whom they’d listed with the authorities, assuring them that all was well in their new locations.

One day in April of 2009, as I sipped my coffee at the Grunewald station alongside retirees in their 70s and near a beer-garden where younger Germans also overlooked the square, three police cars swept in and officers leapt out, commanding us, “Don’t Move.” Then approximately 45 young military officers in formal parade dress descended from a tourist bus. Their uniforms were attractive, but alien—clearly not German. As they milled about, one of the men seated near me asked a police officer, “Was is das?”

“Israelischen,” he answered. They were Israeli army officers.

A silence descended upon the square like nothing I’d ever felt, so thick you could have cut it with a knife. Not another word was spoken, but I thought that I sensed three dimensions in the quiet all around me. The first was straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind: “They’re here. They’ve come.” The second was of admiration, or at least respect, for these vibrant young officers, stunning negations of the image of “Juden” that some of these older men must have remembered from their infancy. The third dimension, I sensed from the tightened body language around me, carried a flicker of resentment at having to be reminded, instead of being left to sip one’s coffee in peace.

A black car with tinted windows ascended a ramp toward Track 17. The Israeli officers fell into formation and followed. They’d come to lay a wreath on Track 17 on Yom Ha’Shoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ironically, I hadn’t remembered the day myself.

I recount this now because some Americans remind me of Berlin Jews who didn’t think the unthinkable when they should have. After watching the Trump administration tear apart weeping parents and children—on the initiative of its senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, who’s Jewish—I’m thinking that although Trump has now found it politically expedient to halt the practice, more than a few of my fellow Americans were thinking, “Well, they deserve it, unlike me, a law-abiding citizen, and a veteran.”

Those Berlin Jews had been law-abiding citizens, too, at least until 1935, and more than a few were military veterans: Some 12,000 of the Jews who had served in the German military had fallen in World War I. In an irony beyond ironies, it was a Jewish lieutenant, Hugo Gutmann, who secured an Iron Cross, First Class, for a 29-year-old corporal under his command, Adolph Hitler.

We now know that German veterans of that war, Jews and non-Jews alike, were lied to and sent into harm’s way for no good reason. So were soldiers in the Nazi Wehrmacht 25 years later, whom my father, a corporal in the U.S. Army Combat Engineers, was ordered to supervise as prisoners as his 277th battalion clanked across northern Germany, because he spoke Yiddish, which is closely related to German.

He did it with mix of grief and revulsion. One day, when his battalion commandeered a Nazi-friendly baron’s estate in the town of Hohne, my father and others scouted a cottage behind the mansion and found a white-haired, well-spoken man who said he was a caretaker but whom the G.I.’s suspected was closer to the missing baron. As some of them prodded him down the hill toward the mansion, jabbing him roughly with their rifle barrels, my father said, suddenly, almost instinctively, “Cut that out.”

“Why? You should enjoy this Sleeper, you’re a Jew.”

“Cut it out, I said.” He had no illusions about Nazism. But he was a young American, emancipated from his ancestors’ European hell, and he thought he was fighting for a world better than one in which the tables of unjust power are merely turned, a world where justice—dare one say, “due process”?—is stronger than revenge.

Watching the fires that Trump is stoking week in, week out, I wonder when his supporters and enablers will see that the unthinkable could happen to them. I’m not inclined to alarmism, but what if, a couple of years from now, veterans who say they fought for an America where people are free to speak their minds decide to speak their own minds in ways Trump doesn’t like? How far might this admirer of Vladimir Putin go against Americans he thinks are his enemies? He’s already said that he wants to tighten libel laws; his ICE agents have developed arrest-and-detention tactics that a craven Congress would let him expand with the stroke of a pen; municipal police forces are more militarized than ever before.

Yes, historical analogies are risky. But, sipping coffee overlooking the Grunewald station’s charming cobblestone square, you’d never imagine what happened there if you hadn’t been told.

Paul Bonner, who recently retired as a principal in Alabama, wrote the following comment as part of a discussion of administering NAEP to kindergartners.

He wrote:

One of the experiences that made me aware that my time with public education was coming to an end was when our district began testing kindergartners. I would walk into kindergarten classrooms and watch students struggle and often cry over the inability to navigate iPads. I would leave those classrooms shaken to the core. The students who could work with the devices were not making decisions about correct answers but through simply getting the program to move from question to question. Almost none of these students could understand what the test was asking them to do. This angered me significantly because what we were focusing on ignored the activities that were needed to build an actual foundational developmental standard. No focus on gross and fine motor skill development or social and emotional growth. No test below third grade will give us meaningful understanding of what children actually know and that really is beside the point. The poor quality of most of the tests I have seen keep us from understanding what those form third grade through twelve understand! What we are doing to children, or being asked to do, is criminal and a denial of how the brain can get to a point of meaningful inquiry. The fact that people who have no experience with child development and have done no meaningful study of the early brain, provides further evidence that our society and polity has no appreciation for the professional approach required to raise children to become successful adults. It just seems to be getting worse. I am absolutely appalled to see another presidential administration and the plethora of state governments that refuse to see the damage they are doing. This predatory capitalism that has so infected education, and all of governance, just might result in the same effect led poisoning had on Rome.

Mercedes Schneider writes that it is literally impossible to ban a book that is easily available on the Internet. The school board of McMinn County, Tennessee, voted unanimously to ban a Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust called MAUS.

But, she points out, students can find it for free on the Internet.

Furthermore, banning a book is a sure fire way to motivate students to want to read it. They might want to see for themselves the awful words “God Damn” or see nude mice.

Schneider writes:

If parents want to control what their children read, they might consider refocusing their school-district, book-banning attention toward controlling content on their children’s iPhones, iPads, and other electronic devices. As of this writing, three of Art Speigelman’s Maus book series are rated, 2, 3, and 7 on Amazon’s best sellers

In response to the ban, a Knoxville, Tennessee, comic book store is giving away free copies of Maus to students who wish to read the book.

As it stands, readers can also do what my colleague’s son did with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four: Read it online for free. Here’s the first in the series: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1986).

(Note that the above text is available on Internet Archive, which is involved in a June 2020 lawsuit brought forth by several publishers. Internet Archive maintains it offers the books under “fair use.”)

Book bans backfire: they increase sales. And they encourage students to seek them out and read them. School boards should not embarrass themselves by acting as censors.

The Guardian in the U.K. reports on a study finding that parents in England are unhappy with the past three decades of “school choice.” By contrast, parents in Scotland are satisfied with their local public schools.

Three decades of school choice in England has left parents feeling more “cynical, fatalistic and disempowered” than their peers in other parts of the UK, according to new research.

A study comparing parents in England, where families can name up to six state schools for their children to attend, with those in Scotland, where children are generally assigned to local state schools, found Scottish families were still more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.

While 75% of parents in England said they had enough choice of schools, 76% of those in Scotland said the same, despite their lack of explicit choices within the admissions process.

Parents in England were more likely to express frustration and disempowerment, with several calling the current school choice policies an “illusion”, in surveys and interviews conducted for the research published in the Journal of Social Policy.

Aveek Bhattacharya, the chief economist at the Social Market Foundation and the author of the paper, said: “This research adds to the growing evidence that school choice policies have failed to bring the benefits they were supposed to.

“For all the emphasis that policymakers in England have put on increasing choice, parents south of the border are no happier with their lot than their Scottish counterparts. Indeed, many are disenchanted and dismayed.

“These findings show that parents offered a range of options for their children’s school are no happier than parents who have less choice about education.”

The current Republican Party has reverted to the ace card it held in the 1950s: its followers refer to every government program as socialism. SOCIALISM!! This one word is supposed to terrify everyone into fearing that government is about to take away their freedoms. Those politicians who do this should be asked if they are willing to abandon their own right to Social Security and Medicare. One of their favorite targets in recent years is public education. They are trying to persuade the public that their local public schools are socialism. This is nonsense. The following opinion piece by Janet Ward appeared in the Concord Monitor.

A few years ago at a gathering in my town, a fiery speaker said that our government is reaching into our pockets through taxation in order to steal our hard-earned money to pay for programs that are simply giveaways to growing numbers of the “undeserving.” This is not true.

This lie has been created because the former president, the moneyed interests who support him, and the inventors and funders of the “Big Lie” regarding our free and fair 2021 election are painfully aware that the people they wrongly label as the “undeserving” have the right and the power to vote.

Let us be clear. The former president and his supporters are convinced that our democracy itself poses an existential threat to their way of life. They would prefer a plutocracy, a government controlled by the wealthy.

In our democracy, we, you and I, govern ourselves through representation by legitimately elected legislators. Social programs exist because we the people believe that these programs are necessary and appropriate and that such programs, like our public schools, contribute to the common good, to the well-being of our entire society. But an insidious revolution, decades in the making, is bearing terrible fruit.

The long-standing belief that public schools benefit our entire society has been intentionally and successfully undermined through a decades-long strategy organized and executed by such entities as the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which provides templates of legislation to Republican lawmakers in every state to achieve such things as the dismantling of public education. But why target public schools?

Last year the Republican majority in our New Hampshire Legislature voted to approve a school voucher program. It is now legal for public tax dollars to be used to pay for private, religious or home-schooling programs over which we taxpayers have virtually no oversight. When asked why they supported school vouchers, Republican legislators, most of whom had been educated in public schools, said that they believed New Hampshire public school students were being brainwashed by teachers’ unions to believe in socialism. This is not true.

Good government is not socialism. Socialism is a system of government in which the government owns the means of production. Our country is not socialist. It is a capitalist country where individuals or corporations own the means of production and where decisions regarding prices, production and the distribution of goods are based on competition in a free market….

What will happen if Big Lies are allowed to prevail? Our democracy will be destroyed. The perpetrators of these lies will become the governors of our nation, and the dreams of Americans like Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln will die.

The death of our democracy will happen soon, on our watch, unless each of us uses the powerful weapon that our democracy has provided to us — our vote. Remove the liars and manipulators from office. Vote to restore our democracy.

The Network for Public Education posted this article by Mark Perna, which originally appeared in Forbes.

Mark C. Perna: Why Education Is About To Reach A Crisis Of Epic Proportions

If you missed this widely shared article the first time it was burning around the internet, here’s a chance to catch up. This piece by Mark C. Perna for Forbes lays out just how bad the current crisis is.

In order to reach and teach students effectively, teachers must forge a human connection with them. Today’s younger generations simply will not move forward in their education and career journey without that connection. This is a non-negotiable; it’s just who they are.

The vast majority of teachers truly want to forge that meaningful connection with students. In fact, for many it was the driving force behind their decision to enter the profession. But, understaffed and overworked as they are, many simply have no time to show students that they see, hear, and care about them. Survival mode—where many teachers have lived for the past two years—doesn’t allow much room for relationship building.

This creates a vicious cycle. Students aren’t performing, so more burdens are placed on teachers to help students hit the mark, thus decreasing teachers’ time and bandwidth to forge a human connection with students that is the basis for all learning. Teachers’ legs are cut out from under them, yet they’re still expected to carry their students across the finish line. It’s a gridlock.

What’s the fallout of all this burnout and lack of connection? We’ll see significant drops in three vital areas:

A drop in young people entering the profession, a drop in education quality, and a drop in graduation rates are three problems Perna predicts. Follow this link to read the whole piece.

You can view the post at this link :


Anthony Faiola writes in the Washington Post that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would cause global disruption of food and fuel supplies.

More than 100,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to defuse the prospect of conflict. Should peace not prevail, western-gazing Ukrainians would pay the highest price. But in a worst-case scenario, the cost of a major Russian invasion of Ukraine — one of the world’s largest grain exporters — could ripple across the globe, driving up already surging food prices and increasing the risk of social unrest well beyond Eastern Europe.

As tensions mount, one focus of economic concern is the global impact of extreme Western sanctions on Russia — a major exporter of agricultural goods, metals and fuel, particularly to Western Europe and China. Should the crisis escalate to the point of triggering staggering sanctions, the blow could spike prices and worsen global supply chain woes by tightening markets for commodities including natural gas and metals such as nickel, copper and platinum used in the manufacturing of everything from cars to spacecrafts.

Yet perhaps just as crucially, a major Russian incursion would also affect the flow of goods from Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest supplier of wheat and corn. A major disruption of Ukrainian exports — especially in conjunction with any interruption in even larger Russian grain exports — could pile onto a global inflationary cycle that in many countries is already the worst in decades.

Concern is especially focused on fuel and food. Last year, global food prices surged 28.1 percent to their highest level in a decade, according to the United Nation’s food agency. Worries of war have already driven U.S. corn futures to their highest levels since June and sent wheat futures to two-month highs before a recent easing.

Over the past 20 years, bountiful Ukrainian harvests boosted the country’s role as a global breadbasket. Some of its biggest clients are economically battered, war-torn or otherwise fragile states in the Middle East and Africa, including Yemen, Lebanon and Libya, where grain shortages or cost surges could not only deepen misery but churn up unpredictable social consequences.

The world waits to see what Putin wants and commands.

The Washington Post reports that more than half the school districts in Virginia are defying Governor Youngkin’s order to eliminate mask mandates.

Youngkin boasted on a conservative radio program that only a small percentage of districts were not complying with his belief that masks should be optional.

But a Washington Post analysis shows that the majority of Virginia public school districts — enrolling more than two-thirds of the state’s students — have opted to disobey Youngkin’s mask-optional order. As of Wednesday, two days after the order was supposed to take effect, 69 districts, or 53 percent, are still requiring masks for all students inside schools. Cumulatively, those districts enroll 846,483 students, or about 67 percent of the state’s public school student population. The divide falls along partisan lines, although not perfectly: Almost every district that opted to make masks optional is in a locality that voted for Youngkin in the 2021 gubernatorial election.

The widespread defiance suggests Youngkin will have enormous difficulty in enforcing his mask-optional mandate, which is already the subject of two lawsuits: one from parents in Chesapeake, and one from seven school boards that oversee some of the state’s largest, most prominent school districts. A hearing on the second suit is scheduled for next week. Youngkin has said he will use every tool at his disposal to carry out his order as those cases wind through the court system, and his spokeswoman did not rule out disciplining disobedient districts by yanking their state funding…

Frederick Hess, a senior fellow and director of education policy at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he thinks Youngkin should stay the course on his masking policies, while vigorously fighting back against the two lawsuits challenging the executive order.

If parents prioritize the health and safety of their children, they will tell them to wear a mask in school and wherever groups of people congregate.