Archives for category: Ethics

Arthur Camins has had a fruitful career as a teacher, science educator, and technology expert. He writes here about the kind of education he hopes his grandchildren will have.

He begins:

Persistent inequity and underfunding, especially after decades of emphasis on test-based accountability and privatization, largely unopposed increases in racial and socioeconomic segregation, and four years of leadership by an active opponent of public education bring us to a moment of choice for K-12 public education in the United States: Change or give up on the needs of most of America’s children.

I usually write what I hope are persuasive essays about education policy and other social justice issues. However, the divisiveness of the last election demonstrates that we can’t argue or campaign our way to lasting fundamental change through presidential elections.  The change we need begins with building relationships through shared multiracial conversation and struggle.  

Today, I offer my hopes for my two grandchildren and the rest of the children with whom they will grow up and live as adults. Maybe these can be conversation starters with others about their own hopes.  That is what I think we need to do so that we can work together to push for our hopes for America’s children in the coming years no matter who serves as America’s chief education officer.  

I hope they will go to schools where they and their classmates are cared for, known, valued, and respected.

I hope they will experience and learn empathy and respect and that their circleextends across our great diversity to encompass all people.

Please read the rest of the article.

What are your hopes and dreams for your children?

A federal investigation of Gulen charters in Illinois concluded with a large fine. Gulen charters are associated with the Turkish Imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania. Gulen charter schools can be recognized by the dominant presence of Turkish people in the board and the staff. In the past, they have been criticized for steering contracts to Turkish-owned firms, regardless of whether they are the low bidder.

The article, written by veteran reporters Dan Mihapoulos and Sarah Karp, describes the conclusion of a lengthy federal investigation.

A politically connected charter school chain based in the Chicago area has agreed to pay $4.5 million to end a long-running federal corruption investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Concept Schools Inc. — which has four publicly-financed campuses in Chicago and dozens of other charter schools in the Midwest — allegedly engaged in a bid-rigging scheme to steer federally funded technology contracts to insiders.

The costly, civil settlement with the government comes more than six years after federal agents raided the charter operator’s northwest suburban offices and other sites connected to Concept in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

In a statement this week, the Justice Department alleged Concept officials violated the federal False Claims Act “by engaging in non-competitive bidding practices” when they awarded contracts funded with taxpayer dollars from the government’s E-rate program. Through the program, the government subsidizes internet access at “needy public schools,” officials said.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the government do not engage in anticompetitive conduct,” said Jeffrey Bossert, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Government contractors and schools that seek to profit at the expense of taxpayers will face serious consequences.”

Concept has denied wrongdoing. The nonprofit organization is based in Schaumburg and runs 30 taxpayer-financed charter schools in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio.

Documents show all of Concept’s revenues come from managing taxpayer-funded schools.

Chicago Public Schools officials — who approved and oversee two Concept campuses in the city — are set to provide about $17 million for those schools this year. The two other Concept-run schools in Chicago are regulated by the state, which is giving them another $22 million for the current year.

The four schools in Chicago, in turn, pay a total of $3.8 million a year to Concept in management fees, records show...

The federal corruption probe came into public view in June 2014, when agents raided Concept’s headquarters at the time in Des Plaines and the Chicago Math and Science Academy, in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Court records show authorities launched the raids because they suspected a long-running “scheme to defraud a federal program.” The feds said at the time that Concept funneled about $5 million in federal grant funds to insiders and “away from the charter schools,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In announcing the settlement, the Justice Department accused Concept of giving its E-rate business to “chosen vendors without a meaningful, fair and open bidding process” and alleged the charter operator paid those vendors “higher prices than those approved by the [federal government] for equipment with the same functionality.”

And some of the equipment the federal government paid Concept for was “discovered missing,” the Justice Department said.

But in a statement last week, Concept officials sought to portray the settlement as an exoneration, because the probe did not result in criminal charges. They pointed out that in its press release on the settlement, the Justice Department said the “claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability…”

Concept officials also said they had been the subject of unfair allegations of wrongdoing from “foreign actors.” Although the statement from the charter operator did not specify what foreign critics they were referring to, the charter chain run by Turkish immigrants has faced criticism from the government of their homeland for several years.

In a civil case in federal court in Chicago in August, the Turkish government sought information about Concept and a long list of “relevant individuals and entities.”

Turkey says Concept and other charter school networks across the U.S. “were created to siphon public, taxpayer funds away from the education of children in order to finance the international political activities of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric residing in the State of Pennsylvania.”

Gulen once was a staunch supporter of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the two men have become bitter enemies, with Erdogan pressing the U.S. to extradite Gulen. Erdogan has accused Gulen of orchestrating a failed coup against him in 2016.

According to the court filing here, Turkey “has initiated an investigation within its own borders to determine whether the proceeds derived from these illegal activities in the United States are being unlawfully transported and transmitted to individuals in Turkey in violation of Turkish criminal law, including international money laundering and fraud…”

Concept also has connections to one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois — state House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan of Chicago…

The speaker, his wife Shirley and other Madigan allies repeatedly travelled in Turkey as guests of a Gulen-led foundation and other Turkish groups in Chicago.

According to economic-interest statements he filed with the state, Michael Madigan made four trips to Turkey from 2009 through 2012 — before Gulen fell out with Erdogan.

This is a longer version of same article with details about Missouri Gulen schools.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/11/6/21552520/concept-schools-charter-school-chain-investigation-settlement


Donald Trump, as everyone knows, got the best of socialized medicine when he was hospitalized at Walter Reed. He received drugs not available to the general public. One, in particular, was effective, apparently, and he called it a “miracle cure.” It is not currently available to the public; it has not yet been approved by the FDA. But if it is approved, the problems of availability, affordability, and distribution are immense, https://www.wired.com/story/trumps-miracle-cure-for-covid-is-a-logistical-nightmare/as described in this article in Wired.

It’s likely that the Food and Drug Administration will authorize these therapies for emergency use any day now. Before that happens, though, three simple questions must be answered if we’re to avoid turmoil and confusion: Who will be eligible to receive these treatments and have access to them? Where will the therapies be administered? And how muchwill they cost?

No one, certainly not Trump, has figured out the answers to these questions.

Arthur Camins, lifelong educators, knows that teachers can’t change what happens in the next few months, other than by casting their votes. But they can rebuild the foundation of our society by teaching these three things: empathy, ethics, and evidence.

He writes:

My driving force has always been a core assumption: What happens in classrooms has a significant influence on how students think and behave when they emerge into adulthood, and hence when they vote and interact with one another.

I hope students grow up to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I hope they develop the tools to make sense of the natural and social environments in which they live. I hope they develop confidence and passion to act to influence the personal, social, political circumstances around them based on human values.

I know I am not alone in these hopes. I know that most educators are trying. I know most Americans share these hopes. I know that many of us are frustrated and angry that our common dreams for students’ futures are being thwarted. School systems are being diverted from what matters most by persistent inequity and racism, high-stakes testing, efforts to privatize and monetize education, and most recently by pandemic disruption of in-person learning.

I know this: Despite and in response to the challenges, all of us– not just educators and parents– must demand that teaching should focus on what matters most: empathy, ethics, and evidence. Those essential foci cut across all subject areas, all grades, and whether students are engaged at home or in school. Students may lose facts, concepts may fade, and skills may wither but they, like the rest of us, remember how we were treated. In the short term, that influences how, whether, and what students learn. More important, it influences how they will see one another and act as humans for a lifetime.

Realistically there is no way to stop the confirmation of Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court unless four Republicans defect. So far, only two have shown willingness to dissent.


Sanders Statement on SCOTUS Nomination

BURLINGTON, September 26 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court:

“President Trump and Senate Republicans have badly mismanaged a deadly pandemic for months. Now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, they are willing to ram through a Supreme Court nominee—within days—who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions of Americans off their health care, and eliminate protections for millions more who have preexisting conditions. This is an absolute outrage.

“The American people will not stand for this cynical effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, just days before an election, with someone who will roll back basic protections for women, workers, voters, people of color, the LGBT community, and our environment. I strongly oppose this nomination and we must fight as hard as we can to ensure that this nominee is not confirmed.”

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

I just finished reading Michael Cohen’s new tell-all about his years as Donald Trump’s “fixer.” It is called Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. Quite a lot of the book consists of Cohen flaying himself for being a lackey who happily did Trump’s bidding, even when he knew that he was being asked to lie, cheat, or cover up for Trump’s misdeeds. He was a lawyer, and he showed no respect for the law. His job for Trump was to twist the law to benefit Trump and to silence those who claimed that Trump had wronged them.

There is a morbid fascination to the book. It confirms everything that Trump’s most rabid critics have said about him. He lies whenever it suits his purposes, and he expects his top executives to lie for him without hesitation. He is unscrupulous, amoral, cynical, and completely self-absorbed. Everyone else in the world is merely an instrument to advance his self-aggrandizement.

He despises the working people who constitute his base. He pretended to be a Christian to win over the evangelical leaders who met with him in Trump Tower and who blessed him with a “laying on of hands” ceremony; as soon as they left his presence, he ridiculed them. He has no religious beliefs whatever. He is obsessed with hating Obama; he even hired someone to impersonate Obama so he could pour out his wrath on the actor. Trump’s ticket to entry into politics was birtherism; he concocted a tale about sending investigators to Hawaii to determine whether Obama was an American citizen. He promised to release the findings. He never did. He claimed that Obama’s success in life was due solely to affirmative action, and hinted that Obama was a mediocre student. Meanwhile, he assigned Cohen the job of making sure that his own academic records from high school, college, and graduate school were never released.

When asked why he didn’t condemn the Saudi government for the murder of journalist Jamaal Khashoggi, Trump would say, “What the f— do I care? He shouldn’t have written what he did. He should have shut the f— up.” So much for freedom of the press.

Cohen spends much of the book explaining his attraction to Trump, whom he knew was a fraud. Trump demanded absolute and complete loyalty, and Cohen gave it to him, like a puppy dog. Cohen admitted that he was drawn to Trump’s outrageousness, his money, his power, his celebrity, his flair, and the excitement of being in a daily circus of chaos and drama. 

Cohen’s fascination with Trump is foreshadowed by his description of his adolescence. He grew up in an affluent suburb on Long Island in New York. His father was a refugee who became a doctor. Young Michael had no interest in school, other than to get by. What he liked best was hanging out at his uncle’s club in Brooklyn, El Caribe, which was a favorite of Mafia figures. They were tough and brazen. They carried guns. He admired their cool, their wealth, their power. He writes about an incident where a wise guy took off his bathing suit in the middle of the club’s swimming pool, which was crowded with women and children. The tough guys told the miscreant to put his suit on; he didn’t. Then one of them pulled a gun and shot him in his butt. Blood streaked the water. When the police arrived, nodody knew anything, no one saw it happen. Cohen relished, as a Trump executive, being armed, with a gun on his belt, another in an ankle holster. He says Trump too was armed.

We learn that Trump regularly ridicules Don Jr. in front of other people. He thinks Don Jr. is a fool and a loser. Don Jr. takes his father’s insults and put-downs with silence; he is used to his scorn. Tiffany, the only child of Marla Maples, is treated by her half-siblings as an outsider. Jared is an arrogant snob. Cohen says that Trump’s first campaign manager in 2016, Corey Lewandowski, was a drunk and was having an affair with Hope Hicks. 

Trump is very boastful about his sexual prowess. He thinks that he can have any woman he wants. Cohen recalls a day when he took his family to swim at Trump’s New Jersey golf club. Trump spotted a young woman on one of his tennis courts and said, “Look at that piece of ass. I would love some of that.” Cohen was mortified. It was his 15-year-old daughter. Cohen was too supine to object. 

If you enjoy hearing tales of how Trump managed to trick others and stiff the little guys, you will find much to enjoy. For Trump, the “art of the deal” consisted of cleverly cheating people of millions of dollars. Contractors and subcontractors who worked on Trump properties were lucky to get 20% of what Trump owed them. Anyone who threatened to sue him was threatened with a countersuit that would bankrupt them. Who wants to be sued by a billionaire with deep pockets?

Michael Cohen is in prison. It is hard to feel sorry for him. He chose his fate. As a young man, he admired gangsters, and he loved being in the company of ruthless thugs. In Trump-world, he found the environment in which he flourished, providing the muscle and threats to compel people to back off when Trump cheated them.

He is less interesting than the mega-star in whose orbit he lived: a liar, a con man, a cheat, a narcissist, a man with no ethics or morality or conscience. Trump attracted moths to his flame, and Cohen got burned.

Veteran journalist John Merrow poses the ethical dilemma of the journalist: if you see a child drowning, do you save the child or take a great photo? He says, you act as a citizen and save the child.

Thus, he criticizes Bob Woodward for saving his tapes of Trump lying about the severity of COVID. Woodward saved them for his book, knowing that the book would make lots more money than an article that released the tapes. Telling the truth months ago might have saved lives, so Trump and Woodward are both complicit in the coverup.

Eleven years ago, an airline pilot named Captain Sully Sullenberger had to carry out an emergency landing with a flight filled with 155 passengers. He couldn’t make it to the airport, and he coolly landed his plane in the center of the Hudson River, smack dab in New York City. The craft was soon surrounded by small boats that ferried the stunned passengers to land. Not a life was lost. Captain Sully was an instant sensation, and a movie was made about his accomplishment.

Now Captain Sully is speaking out against Trump. He says what so many believe. Trump has neither courage nor character.

He tweeted:

“For the first time in American history, a president has repeatedly shown utter and vulgar contempt and disrespect for those who have served and died serving our country,” Sullenberger noted.

“While I am not surprised, I am disgusted by the current occupant of the Oval Office. He has repeatedly and consistently shown himself to be completely unfit for and to have no respect for the office he holds,” Sullenberger added.

“He cannot understand selflessness because he is selfish. He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward.”

One of Trump’s newest and most influential advisors on COVID has urged Trump to emulate the Swedish model, keeping the economy open while waiting for the population to develop “herd immunity.” The advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, denies that these are his views, but his advice mirrors them. Trump has said repeatedly that the pandemic will magically “disappear,” which might happen at some point. But how many lives will be needlessly lost while waiting for that magic moment? The United States has 4% of the world’s population, and nearly one-quarter of the world’s infections. Trump’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic has not slowed its spread. There is a human cost to putting the economy over health and safety.

One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial “herd immunity” strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

The approach’s chief proponent is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the White House earlier this month as a pandemic adviser. He has advocated that the United States adopt the model Sweden has used to respond to the virus outbreak, according to these officials, which relies on lifting restrictions so the healthy can build up immunity to the disease rather than limiting social and business interactions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sweden’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticized by public health officials and infectious-disease experts as reckless — the country has among the highest infection and death rates in the world. It also hasn’t escaped the deep economic problems resulting from the pandemic.

But Sweden’s approach has gained support among some conservatives who argue that social distancing restrictions are crushing the economy and infringing on people’s liberties.

How does immunity against coronavirus work? New research shows how antibodies can block infection.
That this approach is even being discussed inside the White House is drawing concern from experts inside and outside the government who note that a herd immunity strategy could lead to the country suffering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost lives.

“The administration faces some pretty serious hurdles in making this argument. One is a lot of people will die, even if you can protect people in nursing homes,” said Paul Romer, a professor at New York University who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2018. “Once it’s out in the community, we’ve seen over and over again, it ends up spreading everywhere.”

Atlas, who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has expanded his influence inside the White House by advocating policies that appeal to Trump’s desire to move past the pandemic and get the economy going, distressing health officials on the White House coronavirus task force and throughout the administration who worry that their advice is being followed less and less.

Atlas declined several interview requests in recent days. After the publication of this story, he released a statement through the White House: “There is no policy of the President or this administration of achieving herd immunity. There never has been any such policy recommended to the President or to anyone else from me.”

White House communications director Alyssa Farah said there is no change in the White House’s approach toward combatting the pandemic.

“President Trump is fully focused on defeating the virus through therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine. There is no discussion about changing our strategy,” she said in a statement. “We have initiated an unprecedented effort under Operation Warp Speed to safely bring a vaccine to market in record time — ending this virus through medicine is our top focus.”

White House officials said Trump has asked questions about herd immunity but has not formally embraced the strategy. The president, however, has made public comments that advocate a similar approach.

“We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and to school, and we want to see so many of those great states be open,” he said during his address to the Republican National Convention Thursday night. “We want them to be open. They have to be open. They have to get back to work.”

Atlas has fashioned himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci,” one senior administration official said, referring to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, who has repeatedly been at odds with the president over his public comments about the threat posed by the virus. He has clashed with Fauci as well as Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, over the administration’s pandemic response.

Atlas has argued both internally and in public that an increased case count will move the nation more quickly to herd immunity and won’t lead to more deaths if the vulnerable are protected. But infectious-disease experts strongly dispute that, noting that more than 25,000 people younger than 65 have died of the virus in the United States. In addition, the United States has a higher number of vulnerable people of all ages because of high rates of heart and lung disease and obesity, and millions of vulnerable people live outside nursing homes — many in the same households with children, whom Atlas believes should return to school.