Archives for category: Chicago

Fred Klonsky says there are many reasons to worry about postal service, including delivery of medicines.

Open the link and see the photograph of the discarded mailboxes.

Destroying federal property is a crime, isn’t it?

Fred Klonsky writes here about “cancel culture” and about opinion columnist John Kass, who lost his prominent spot in the Chicago Tribune after his references to George Soros as a bad guy. Kass did not get fired, but his column did lose its highly desirable spot on page 2 of the paper.

Here is what you need to know about George Soros. He was born in Hungary, survived the Holocaust, and became a billionaire. He has used his fortune to promote democracy and civil society in eastern Europe and elsewhere. He is Jewish. When rightwing fringe elements invoke his name, they are using his name, irrespective of facts, as an anti-Semitic slur, to imply that his money (Jewish money) is supporting whatever they oppose. This is a “dog whistle” in the new lingo of our day.

I have been interested in “political correctness” and censorship for many years. In 2006, I published a book called “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.” The book has a list of hundreds of words, phrases, and images that will never appear in a textbook or on a test because someone finds them objectionable. So, for example, students will never encounter references to owls or witches or Halloween or death on a test. They will never see an image of an elderly person using a cane or a walker. They will never see a rainbow or a picture of a man with his hands in his pockets. The list is hilarious and at the same time sad. The book contains many examples of books that were banned from school libraries and from classroom use, decades ago. It also goes back in history to demonstrate that censors bowdlerized Shakespeare to remove references to sex that the censors found objectionable.

“Cancel culture” (another new term, but not a new practice) has a long history, rooted in Puritanism and prudishness.

I only recently became aware of “dog whistle” and figured out its meaning from the context.

Here is the online definition:

dog whis·tle
noun
noun: dog whistle; plural noun: dog whistles
a high-pitched whistle used to train dogs, typically having a sound inaudible to humans.
a subtly aimed political message which is intended for, and can only be understood by, a particular group.
“dog-whistle issues such as immigration and crime”

Merriam-Webster added the word to its dictionary in April 2017:

The earliest, and still most common, meaning of dog whistle is the obvious one: it is a whistle for dogs. Dog ears can detect much higher frequencies than our puny human ears can, so a dog whistle is nothing more than an exceedingly high-pitched whistle that canines can hear, but that we cannot.

dog whistle
Figuratively, a ‘dog whistle’ is a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.

Yet there’s another dog whistle we’ve been hearing about lately: a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.

Given that the term dog whistle has been around for over 200 years, it seems odd that it only developed a figurative sense recently. After all, it’s the perfect word to use to describe something that some people can hear, but others cannot. Yet it is only within the past 20 years or so that it has seen this figurative sense take hold. And it is primarily used to describe political speech.

If you want to cast him as just a nativist, his slogan “Make America Great Again” can be read as a dog-whistle to some whiter and more Anglo-Saxon past.
—Ross Douthat, The New York Times, 10 August 2015

Saul introduces the concept of the “figleaf,” which differs from the more familiar dog whistle: while the dog whistle targets specific listeners with coded messages that bypass the broader population, the figleaf adds a moderating element of decency to cover the worst of what’s on display, but nevertheless changes the boundaries of acceptability.
—Ray Drainville, Hyperallergic, 12 July 2016

Dog whistle appears to have taken on this political sense in the mid-1990s; the Oxford English Dictionary currently has a citation from a Canadian newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen, in October of 1995, as their earliest recorded figurative use: “It’s an all-purpose dog-whistle that those fed up with feminists, minorities, the undeserving poor hear loud and clear.”

The recent appearance of the figurative use does not mean that dog whistle has not been used previously to describe the habit that politicians occasionally have of sending coded messages to a certain group of constituents. In 1947, a book titled American Economic History referred to a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as being “designed to be like a modern dog-whistle, with a note so high that the sensitive farm ear would catch it perfectly while the unsympathetic East would hear nothing.” However, saying that speech is like a dog-whistle (which is a simile) is not quite the same as saying that it is a dog whistle (which is a metaphor), and this subtle distinction is what causes us to judge the phrase as having originated in the 1990s, rather than the 1940s.

Trump is the master of the dog whistle. Every time he talks about his reverence for Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag as “our heritage” and “our history,” that’s a dog whistle, which racists hear clearly. It is such a loud dog whistle that even non-racists and anti-racists can hear it.

In this post, Mercedes Schneider interviews Annie Tan, who joined Teach for America in 2011, and, with inadequate training, was assigned be a teacher of special education in Chicago. Her experience was, she says, a disaster.

One of Tan’s responses:

Tan: I will never forget the first day when we had our celebration, and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools came and made a speech to us. It felt very strange for him to be there for some reason. Yes, we were going to be 250 new teachers in Chicago, so logically it may have made sense to introduce us and do a welcome, but I also couldn’t imagine him doing that at a regular university that had education majors graduating. I couldn’t imagine him going to one of those graduations and making a speech.

There were a few moments that I still remember that were odd, as well. I remember the first day of professional development through Teach for America, when we got no talk around how segregated Chicago was, just people alluding to it, like Teach for America was not even going to approach that schools were unequal because of race and income, especially in Chicago, which really stands out since I worked in Chicago Public Schools for five years and taught there for four.

And then, the speech from some Teach for America staff members, that we might be the first teachers in some of these kids’ lives that had high expectations for them. I first thought to myself, “How can I have high expectations for my students when I don’t even know them yet? All I’ve done was graduate from a fancy college, so how am I better than someone else?” That really rubbed me the wrong way.

Schneider called this attitude “the savior complex.”

Who thought it was good to place an unprepared young teacher in a classroom of children with special needs?

It is a revealing interview.

The Network for Public Education has sponsored a series of weekly ZOOM conversations in which I interview someone who has important things to say.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Jitu Brown, a prominent community organizer in Chicago and leader of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has organizations in thirty cities.

When we set up the discussion, we thought we would talk mostly about privatization and Jitu Brown’s successful fight to save the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago. Jitu Brown is one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, for his success in stopping Rahm Emanuel from closing Dyett.

These topics were discussed but the main focus was on the murder of George Floyd and racism in America. Jitu Brown has quite a lot to say about racism, in large part because of his experiences. We also talked about a Rahm Emanuel, and his disastrous role in running the public schools as mayor of Chicago.

Listeners said it was a “riveting” conversation.

Listen and see for yourself.

Next week, I will talk with Amy Frogge, a great leader of the resistance to privatization in Metro Nashville. She is a member of the Metro Nashville public school board, as well as a parent of public school students and a lawyer.

She too is a hero of SLAYING GOLIATH for her leadership in defending public schools.

We will talk about “The Fight for Better Public Schools in Tennessee.” The billionaires and their puppet organizations have poured many millions into school board races in an effort to capture control of the district. Amy has fought valiantly against proponents of charters and vouchers.

This is a battle that is being played out in urban districts across the nation.

Join us on Zoom on June 10 at 7:30 pm, EST.

Community organizer Jitu Brown and I will be in conversation on Wednesday June 3 at 7:30 pm EST.

Please sign up and join us.

Jitu Brown is the leader of Journey for Justice, a civil rights organization with chapters in 25 cities.

We will talk about the murder of George Floyd, about racism in America today, about the legacy of Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, about Jitu’s fight to prevent the closing of the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago, and much more.

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. Here he writes that Biden has asked Rahm Emanuel to advise him. What Kuttner fails to mention is Rahm’s disastrous control of the Chicago public schools. He should be forever stigmatized by his decision to close 50 public schools in a single day. He was continually at war with the Chicago Teachers Union. To know him, if you value public schools, is to loathe him.

Kuttner writes:

MAY 29, 2020

Kuttner on TAP

Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Rahm Emanuel?? Just when you thought that Team Biden couldn’t get any worse than Larry Summers, we now learn courtesy of the Chicago Tribune that Clinton and Obama alum Rahm Emanuel is a Biden adviser.

A quick refresher (or maybe emetic) on Emanuel. He began as a staffer in the Clinton White House where he helped push through NAFTA, then went to Wall Street to make his fortune (he made $16 million in less than three years). From there, he got elected to Congress where he epitomized everything bad about the revolving door.

As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he arranged to load up the House Financial Services Committee with Wall Street Democrats who sought the prized seat to raise lots of Wall Street money and protect Wall Street’s financial interests. This made the job of Chairman Barney Frank much harder when Congress was working on what became the Dodd-Frank Act.

Obama, looking for someone who knew Congress, selected Emanuel as his White House chief of staff, where he was a force for lowballing recovery outlays. He tried to talk Obama out of proposing the Affordable Care Act.

After exiting the White House, he got elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, where his approval ratings dropped to 18 percent following the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the city’s bungled attempt to withhold evidence. Emanuel initially announced for a third term, but pulled out. He then joined the private equity firm Centerview Partners.

Just the guy to advise Biden. Though events are conspiring to push Biden to the left, his default setting is to reach out to the old boys of the Obama years.

Meanwhile, polls show that Elizabeth Warren is the possible running mate most likely to help Biden get elected. The two have been doing a public mating ritual, but the Wall Street Democrats close to Biden will do everything possible to keep her from being named.

If by some miracle Warren is selected, it will be trench warfare, with Wall Street Dems demanding one of their kind for the power posts of Fed Chair, Treasury Secretary, and head of the National Economic Council to balance Warren.

Rahm Emanuel! A good thing that Andrew Mellon is dead and Bernie Madoff is indisposed.

The Chicago Board of Education voted to end their relationships with two private companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars for custodial services but did a lousy job. The companies got a one-year renewal while the school system prepares to restore their own custodians.

Chicago Public Schools plans to end its maligned relationship worth hundreds of millions of dollars with two facility management companies, one of which for years has maintained filthy schools, in an effort to regain control over the cleaning and maintenance of its hundreds of buildings.

CPS officials are renewing contracts with Aramark and Sodexo for one more year to give themselves time to come up with an alternative, then they’re calling it quits after a turbulent stretch of outsourced work that includes oversight of janitorial, landscaping, snow removal and pest control services.

CPS first tried that model, called integrated facilities management, in 2014 as a pilot program at a few dozen schools. More buildings were then added to Aramark’s and Sodexo’s control each year through 2018 until management of all CPS facilities fell under the two companies’ control. Prior to 2014, school engineers and principals managed their own facilities.

The change comes as schools remain closed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and teachers have long lamented CPS’ ability to keep its buildings sanitized, concerns that are heightened while there is no cure or vaccine for the highly-contagious novel coronavirus.

A Chicago Sun-Times series in 2018 revealed disgusting, pest-filled conditions at dozens of schools managed by Aramark that failed surprise inspections, even as the district signed rich contracts to expand the company’s work.

Last week, I had a whirlwind visit to Chicago to talk about my new book. Fortunately before my flight to Charleston, West Virginia, I had time in the morning to visit Karen Lewis at an assisted living facility where the care is excellent.

Karen is a brilliant charismatic woman who taught science in the Chicago public schools for more than 20 years. In 2010, Karen led a faction of the Chicago Teachers Union called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which swept to victory in the union elections. She became president of the CTU. She was a strategic organizer who worked to build alliances with parent and community groups. In 2012, the CTU voted to strike. The legislature, egged on by Gates-funded Stand for Children, passed a law that they thought would make a strike impossible by requiring a vote of 75% of the membership. Karen and her team won the approval of about 90% of the members and led a successful strike that had the support of parents and communities because they understood that teachers were striking for their children.

Karen was an articulate and greatly admired visionary. She planned to run for mayor against Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and her own polling suggested that she would beat him handily.

Tragically, Karen was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2014. Since then, she has had a series of setbacks, including a stroke. Life is so unfair. Karen is only 66.

When I saw her, she was happy that I visited. As I expected, she is disabled and has limited mobility. But despite the terrible blows that life has dealt her, she is spirited, still has a sense of humor, and is interested in what’s happening in the world. I told her that wherever I go, people remember her as the Mother of the Resistance. They remember that she stood up to a bully and won. I showed her the photo of her in my book and told her that her legacy is there whenever teachers stand together and demand better conditions for teaching and learning. I told her she was the spark that lit the fire by her example and the powerful union she created. I told her she will never be forgotten.

She was a strong labor leader, a saucy woman who was fearless, wise, and funny.

I was glad I saw her but sad to see the tragedy she endured when she was at the peak of her promise. Her beloved husband John sees her every day and has been by her side through the best of times and the worst of times.

I wrote a note in the book I gave her. Simply, “Karen, I love you. Diane.”

While in Chicago, I was interviewed about SLAYING GOLIATH by Justin Kaufman of WGN Radio, who is one of the best interviewers I have met. We had enough time to go into depth and he asked smart questions.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch: “What you are basically measuring with standardized tests is family income and family education”

This is a really great podcast that I enjoyed taping with brothers Mike and Fred Klonsky on their podcast “Hitting Left” while I was in Chicago. We borrowed time from our host Mario Smith, because the show occurred while Mario was on the air. Start with the photograph of the four of us holding baseball bats, the better to hit left with. Mike and Fred are veteran activists. While Mike was a leader of Students for a Democratic Society decades ago, I was a budding neoconservative. I remember reading about this fiery radical and never imagined that one day we would be friends. Fred and Mike asked some interesting questions, and it’s a wide-ranging discussion. Mario, a former art teacher in the Chicago Public Schools joined in. He referred to the”illustrious” Klonsky brothers, and so they shall remain.  We had fun.