Archives for category: Obama

Randy Rainbow explains Trump’s latest Tweet-storm.

It’s all about distraction. He doesn’t want you to think about the pandemic. He doesn’t want you to dwell on 100,000 deaths.

The biggest scandal of our era, he says, is Obamagate.

What does that mean? No one knows.

These are the worst of times.

Police brutality in Minneapolis murdered a black man who allegedly used a fake $20 bill. Petty crimes are adjudicated in a court of law. Police do not have the authority or right to use lethal force when confronting an unarmed person. After a long string of similar incidents where black people were unjustly murdered, the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the nation. Some of the protests turned violent, and fires were burning in widely scattered cities in the midst of confrontations between police and protestors.

Racism is America’s deepest, most intractable sin.

The explosion of protest is unlikely to lead to any productive change until the racists in the White House are ousted and replaced by people who are determined to fight racism. We currently have a government of old white men who have used their words and deeds to stoke the fires that are now burning. Trump has no credibility to calm the situation or to offer solace or to promise meaningful change. He has spent many years expressing the anger of racists, repeatedly claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S., demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five (who were ultimately found innocent), pretending never to have heard of David Duke when Duke offered his endorsement of Trump, referring to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” appealing again and again to the gun-toting, violent people who thronged to his rallies and praising them. No need to point out that Trump has stoked the fires that are now burning. We have all seen it with our own eyes. He is like a boy who plays with matches and eventually burns down his own house.

Last night on CNN, the Reverend William Barber referred to the protests as an expression of “national mourning.” The protestors are reacting, he said, not only to the death of George Floyd, but to poverty, joblessness, unequal treatment, hunger, injustice—to systematic racism and inequity that have been ignored for too long. For too long, our nation has been on a trajectory that creates and enriches billionaires while millions of people of all races, but especially black Americans, are expected to live a life of want and need and hopelessness without complaint.

Last night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center released the text of a speech that Dr. King gave in 1967 in which he said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He said, prophetically, “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out an “economic bill of rights” in 1944, which has since been forgotten as a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people rig the system to intensify economic inequality, abetted by willing allies like Mitch McConnell. Even a huge multi-trillion dollar bill to relieve those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus turned out to be a package of goodies for big corporations.

Trump did not create racism, but he has used it and exploited it for his political benefit. He has ignored it, belittled its consequences, and courted the support of racists. He has made plain his contempt for his predecessor, our nation’s first black president. When Obama was elected president, many commentators declared that America was finally a post-racial society. With a man of African descent in the presidency, with a racially integrated Cabinet, with a black man leading the Justice Department, the stain of racism would at last be abolished.

The commentators were wrong. Racism is thriving. It will destroy our nation until we assure equal justice to every citizen, until we guarantee that everyone has the same rights and privileges, until we provide every man, woman, and child with decent health care, housing, education, and a decent standard of living.

We can’t eliminate racism entirely, but we can remove its adherents from the seats of power, we can stigmatize it. We can choose leaders who fight for freedom, justice, and a decent standard of living for all people. Unless we do so, our tattered democracy will not survive. We can’t let that happen. We must be willing and able to pursue genuine change, a social democracy in which every one of us is protected equally by the law and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Jeff Bryant attended the Presidential Forum for Democratic candidates in Pittsburgh, and he watched to see how the candidates reacted to the Bush-Obama-Duncan agenda.

Michael Bennett was the only one to endorse it, and he got a tepid reception.

The others spoke of their love for public schools, their desire to raise funding, etc, but barely mentioned charters or testing unless pushed.

Duncan’s name was never mentioned.

Evaluating teachers by test scores never came up.

Everything that Bush and Obama had promoted was absent.

Of course, everything they promoted has failed, and the moderator kept referring to flat NAEP scores to challenge the candidates, without recognizing that the stagnant scores are the results of 20 years of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core.

But Jeff is not convinced that the change is more than cosmetic.

He thinks that the candidates will gravitate to where the money is: Wall Street; hedge fund managers; billionaires.

Warren and Sanders have not.

But he is right about this: Bad habits and bad ideas die slowly. If at all.

Not one candidate said simply and candidly, “everything that the federal government has imposed since passage of NCLB has failed. We need a fresh vision.”

 

 

The Center for American Progress has been the think tank of centrist Democrats and a refuge for veterans of the Obama administration and the would-have-been Clinton Administration. The media calls it “progressive,” but on education its agenda was aligned with the mainstream of the Republican Party. It never supported vouchers but it was all-in for charter schools. Now that Betsy DeVos is the new face of the Reform and Choice moment, it’s bizarre to call charters a progressive idea.

CAP’s new site “Think Progress” is folding. It could not find a patron. The problem may have been not just money but message. With Sanders and Warren vying for the progressive vote, CAP has lost its claim to be”progressive.”

Given its unrelenting defense of the privatization of public schools by entrepreneurs and corporate chains, it is clear that CAP was not in touch with the meaning of progressivism. It defended all the noxious tenets of Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top. High-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, closing schools with low scores, and charter schools. In D.C, these were the common threads in the Bush-Obama era. In state after state, these principles are being repudiated. They failed. They were corporatist, not progressive.

Are you longing for a return of Race to the Top and its principles of high-stakes testing, competition, and charter schools? Then Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado is your man. He released his plan today in Iowa and it won praise from Arne Duncan. Try to forget that Race to the Top and George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind were virtually the same. Try to forget that both failed, having inflicted disruption on American schools for 20 long and fruitless years.

Warren has thus far been silent on K-12 Education. Sanders has released a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal called the Thurgood Marshall plan, which pledges tripling the funding for Title 1, dedication to desegregation, and a moratorium on new charter schools.

Bennett’s announcement:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, September 6, 2019
CONTACT:
Shannon Beckham, 602-402-8051,
press@michaelbennet.com

ICYMI: Michael Bennet Joins Iowa Teachers, Parents, and Preschoolers to Unveil
Comprehensive Education
Agenda

DES MOINES, IA — Michael Bennet on Thursday joined teachers, parents, and preschoolers
in Iowa to unveil the most comprehensive education agenda of any candidate, declaring “equal must be equal” if America’s children are to reach their full potential. The plan was welcomed by education experts, including former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said Bennet “understands this work in a way few can, because he has lived it.”

Read more about Bennet’s events in Iowa and the reaction from education experts below.

Read the full plan at
MichaelBennet.com/Education.

Bennet started the day by dropping off school supplies at the Jesse Franklin Taylor Early
Childhood Education Center in Des Moines before hosting a roundtable discussion with educators and touring preschool classrooms.

Later, Bennet met with a group of Iowa teachers and school board members to hear about the challenges they are facing in their classrooms.

He then joined 2017 Iowa Teacher of the Year Shelly Vroegh to host a town hall forum at Central Campus in Des Moines, where students are receiving the career and technical training that is a core element of Bennet’s education plan. He answered questions from parents, teachers, and advocates about how his experience has informed his agenda.

WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: “I was lucky enough to lead CPS when Michael Bennet was doing the same in Denver—I learned a lot from him. Maybe more importantly, I have seen his heart for the children and communities that need the most help. He understands this work in a way few can, because he has lived it.”

Executive Director of Next100 Emma Vadehra:
“Senator Bennet understands the connection between opportunity and education from
his time successfully running a major urban school district. He knows what works and what doesn’t, and I’m glad he continues to make educational equity a major focus of his campaign, from high-quality early learning to meaningful college and career opportunities, and everything in between.”

Former Senior Policy Advisor to the Under Secretary of Education Michael Dannenberg: “Whereas
Donald Trump strives and thrives on dividing America, Bennet is campaigning on a vision where folks come together at the local level, since Washington can’t seem to, on a goal everyone can support—ensuring that every child, every young person gets a real chance at living the American Dream. He’s putting forth an agenda that strives for unity, embraces decentralized pragmatic problem solving, and is directed at progressive goals with accountability attached—it’s quintessential Michael Bennet.”

Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Director Douglas Harris:
“It’s the best education plan I’ve seen so far.”

WHAT THE PRESS IS SAYING

Education Week:
“Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet criticized his opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination Wednesday, saying they’ve focused too much on ambitious proposals to forgive student debt and not enough on yawning inequality in the nation’s K-12 education system. Bennet…imagines a ‘new American Dream’ built on regional and state-federal partnerships to ensure children meet milestones of well-being and opportunity. Among those milestones: Children should be able to read by 3rd grade, and they should be able to enter college without needing remediation.”

Des Moines Register: “When asked about the issues facing American education, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet tends to stray from the popular college tuition discussion and instead focuses on a constituency that won’t earn him an Iowa caucus vote. Preschoolers. … ‘The burden…is carried most by the kids.’”

Associated Press:
“Besides free, universal preschool and free community college, Bennet says he wants to eventually have debt-free public colleges. In K-12 schools, Bennet wants to increase federal spending to reduce local education disparities that lead to wealthy areas getting more school dollars than poorer ones.”

The Hill: “[Bennet] unveiled a sweeping education plan that would offer ‘every child’
an opportunity to ‘flourish’ by 2028 and promises free preschool and community college. Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, said he’s introducing the plan to rectify historic racial and wealth disparities in the public education system.”

Forbes:
“Bennet’s plan includes early childhood and K-12—which is notable given the silence on K-12 issues amongst most campaigns—but his higher education plan is in strong contrast to candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders…This plan could help Bennet stand out in the field with a detailed plan addressing education from early childhood all the way to higher education.”

Iowa Starting Line:
“Understanding the economic impact and problems with our education system highlight Bennet’s background, with time in the education and business sectors. It’s also what makes him not a single-issue candidate; he understands how this single, important issue interacts with other issues and circumstances.”

WHO TV:
“‘My sense traveling around Iowa is that you are suffering from the same thing we
are in Colorado which is just a complete under investment in the public education system,’
Bennet said, ‘We
are not investing the way that our parents and grandparents invested in us. It’s not even close.’”

CBS 2: “Bennet highlighted the importance of early childhood
education during his roundtable with educators in Des Moines, but he spent little time talking about about his education policy—instead insisting that he get input from those experiencing it first-hand.”

###

Laura Chapman has been doing research on the Center for American Progress, which the media views as the voice of the Democratic Party. This may be the most depressing thing you read today. It calls for a return to the principles of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Both failed. CAP wants to resuscitate the worst features of both. Maybe CAP can persuade Arne Duncan to return as Secretary of Education. Then the disaster would be complete.

 

And here we go with the new progressive agenda for schools.

Almost every week Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress (CAP) appears on television to opine about the presidential elections. Tanden is a former aide to Hillary Clinton. CAP is supposed to function as a think tank for Progressives, especially Democrats. On July 2, 2019, CAP published: A Quality Education for Every Child: A New Agenda for Education Policy.” The press release asserted: “The Next President’s Education Agenda Must Center Racial Disparities in Educational Opportunity.”

I have been studying this report. It is highly critical of K-12 education. It is also calculated to mislead casual readers. The authors claim the report is “a bold and comprehensive approach to K-12 education.” I think not. Many of CAP’s favored policies endorse two decades of federal demands for accountability. Think Arne Duncan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF).

CAP is on record as favoring teacher unions and higher pay for teachers, especially for those who work in low-income communities. However, CAP is also all-in for charter schools, known to be antiunion. This contradiction is one among others this report. The writers also bury important details in the endnotes. For example, CAP wants students to meet “challenging standards.” The endnote cites the Common Core. In addition, CAP’s website has over 50 articles pushing the Common Core, the latest in 2019. This affection can be explained by the $14 million CAP has received from the B&MGF, main financier of the Common Core, and specific grants: In 2013, $550,000 “for implementation of the Common Core,” and in 2016, a cool $2 million for “enactment of the College and Career/Common Core agenda, and to reduce opposition to it and associated high quality tests.”

CAP’s policy recommendations for the next President are bad news for public schools. The Introduction claims that a bipartisan consensus exists on key elements of education reform—standards-based accountability; teacher evaluations that include test scores of students; and school choice. The authors then say that these three reforms are not the problem. The real problem is that improvements have not been made “at the pace needed to give every student a fair shot at success in college and career.” CAP elaborates on all of these claims in five policy priorities for a new administration.

Applying An Explicit Race Equity Lens To Policy Development. “This means specifically looking at potential impacts on communities that do not identify as white or that have large concentrations of families with low incomes, without conflating the two.” This section is an argument on behalf of increasing opportunities for historically disadvantaged communities, schools, and students. CAP’s discussion of race ends in naming groups who are underserved: Students who are non-white, Black, Latinx, Native American, and some Asian American and Pacific Islander children, students from families with low incomes, students with disabilities, students who identify as LGBTQ, and students who are English language learners.

“A new administration must begin with a comprehensive strategy for addressing disparities in educational opportunity” (ideally) ”coupled with a comprehensive economic development strategy beyond the educational system.” CAP calls for $200 billion to modernize school buildings; a grant program to promote “culturally responsive pedagogy”; state audits of schools and districts for “disparate educational opportunity,” and USDE guidance to state legislatures on equitable funding.

Equitable funding seems to mean “filling the annual $23 billion gap in funding between predominantly white and predominantly nonwhite school districts.” I found the source of this estimate. It is EdBuild. EdBuild promotes “a weighted student funding formula” so that money goes to the school a student attends, aiding school choice, including vouchers. ALEC, the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange has also pushed this system of funding since 2010.

It turns out that CAP as a financial supporter of EdBuild. CAP and EdBuild also receive money from the same foundations: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Helmsley Charitable Trust; Walton Family Foundation; Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and W. K. Kellogg Foundation among others. CAP traffics in ideas and money devoted to undermining public education.

Preparing All Students For College And The Future Workforce. CAP dwells on the economic return on investment from college and high-value work credentials. The report calls for states with “college-and career-ready academic content standards” (aka the Common Core) to make sure a K-12 ladder prepares students for careers “in the new economy.” Districts should make sure that families with children in kindergarten know requirements “for the future of work.”

CAP also wants “a new federal-state-industry partnership” empowered to identify middle and high school models for accelerated college credit and a meaningful workforce credential. This partnership is also supposed to ensure that career and technical education (CTE) programs “reflect upcoming, well-paid, in-demand jobs” in regions where the programs are offered.

CAP’s thinking about CTE is not bold. It is not progressive. It assumes that labor markets are predictable and that schools should be responsible for job training desired by potential employers. CAP’s policy ideas are vintage 1990s workforce training proposals from the National Center for Education and the Economy. They ignore the civic mission of schools and what life may offer and require of students beyond getting a job. http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Americas-Choice-High-Skills-or-Low-Wages.pdf
.
3. Modernizing And Elevating The Teaching Profession. Here is the major claim: “If states and school districts raised teacher pay to match that of other professions, provided training to help teachers meet the needs of the changing student population, and increased the selectivity of the teaching profession, the national narrative about and respect for the teaching profession would shift. A comprehensive policy agenda to achieve this goal should be multifaceted and must ensure that teachers are given the necessary training and resources to meet a higher bar.”

CAP’s discussion of teacher strikes, low pay, and other discontents has little bearing on a “comprehensive agenda to raise the prestige of teaching and improve teachers’ working conditions.” For teacher education programs CAP says: Be more selective in accepting candidates for teaching and explicitly seek diversity among candidates, provide high-quality clinical training and more rigorous coursework of use in modern classrooms.
For states and districts, CAP says: Align requirements for licensure with candidates’ observable readiness to teach; invest in supports for new teachers, such as high-quality induction and mentorship programs; provide dedicated time and support for professional development that improves student outcomes; and identify career pathways so excellent teachers can expand their effectiveness.

There is nothing daring or innovative about these recommendations. The puffed-up “elevating” language comes from a Obama/Duncan 2012 RESPECT program conjured by McKinsey & Company https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-seeks-elevate-teaching-profession-duncan-launch-respect-proSome of the same points appear in CAP’s 2015 report “Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession.” Here is a scathing review of this warmed over Obama scheme from the National Education Policy Center. https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-tprep

4, Dramatically Increasing Investments And Improving The Equity Of Existing Investments In Public Schools. CAP writers note that about eight percent of public schools funds come from federal sources. Title I funding is dedicated to schools were many students are from families with low incomes. CAP wants Title I funding increased and full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

CAP’s big new policy idea is this: “The federal government should appoint a commission to determine a specific set of critical education resources that are typically present in privileged communities but missing from historically disadvantaged schools and districts. These resources could include guidance counselors, school nurses, mental health professionals, art and music classes, or extracurricular enrichment opportunities.” (I found no endnotes or details about who would appoint the commission, with what authority, or how their deliberations might be acted upon.)

CAP proposes federal “public education opportunity grants” as a way to address inequities. This is not a new idea. Such grants are available under Title I, Part A Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies. The grants are for schools with a high proportion of students from low-income families. In 2018, these grants were funded at $15,759,802,000. (CAP does not seem to have ideas on state and local funding other than money follows the student.)

Bringing A Balanced Approach To Charter School Policy. To its credit, CAP does not support for-profit on-line charter schools. It also urges the next administration to “include strong authorizing and accountability policies for charter schools as well as efforts to proactively address the shortfalls of the sector. These efforts should include solutions for pain points, such as issues related to backfilling enrollment during the school year, providing service to students with disabilities, and maintaining transparency in financial operations—to name a few.” (Pain points? Shortfalls? Not a single endnote refers to well-documented and rampant corruption in charter schools. Not one).

CAP is on record as favoring charter schools. CAP’s 2017 “The Progressive Case for Charter Schools,” offers praise for Teach for America and Relay Graduate School of Education. CAP’s 2018 “Charters and the Common Good: Spillover Effects of Charter Schools in New York City” includes this astonishing claim: ”There is suggestive evidence that spillover effects (from co-location) are larger if the charter school appears to be of high quality, (defined) as either having high average scores on annual 4th-grade math and reading exams or being operated by an established, respected charter management organization such as KIPP, Success Academy, or Uncommon Schools.” (Respected? Franchise cookie-cutter schools are great?)

According to CAP, charter schools represent a solution to racial and economic inequities in education. “In too many places across the country, there are not enough good seats in schools, especially for Black, Latinx, and Native American students, as well as students from families with low incomes. A strong charter sector is a critical component to expanding the number of good public school seats, and high-quality charter schools are a valuable strategy to address that problem.” (CAP refuses to acknowledge that charter schools are not legally equivalent to public schools. They are now and historically have been a means to further segregation. “Seats” is shorthand for a calculation used to market charter schools in any community where schools are ranked A-F or in league tables. The enrollments in all schools not rated A or B, or an equivalent system are counted as all of the “seats” that could be replaced by the imagined “high quality seats” in charter schools).

CAP wants the next administration to “apply a race equity lens to public school choice policies generally and charter schools specifically, with a focus on equitably expanding access to opportunities for underserved students. This means that decisions on where to locate schools and programs and how to make enrollment decisions—for example, boundaries, admissions requirements, and lottery rules—should be analyzed with a race equity lens.“ (CAP assumes that school choice is an uncontested and established policy. Notice the absence of any reference to elected school boards. Decisions are “just made” as if from some invisible decider).

“This approach should include a balanced assessment of potential charter growth and the impact on traditional districts. This assessment should always focus on how to increase the number of good seats for students but may imply different specific recommendations in different places and circumstances.”

CAP’s eagerness to endorse school choice and charter school growth is not just in accord with Trump/Betsy DeVos’ policies. It also responds to the wishes of key funders of CAP. For example, the Walton Family Foundation has sent CAP $1,228,705 in three grants for K-12 education, with a 2017 ”special projects” grant of $453,705 for work on “Supporting High-Quality Charter Schools” and “Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

CAP’s report is designed to promote charter school growth and double down on every misguided policy of the last two decades. I have left a ton of references and rants on the cutting floor. By the way, all five of the authors of this Report had staff positions on the Hill and four worked in Obama’s Department of Education. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2019/07/02/471511/quality-education-every-child/

 

 

This article by Nathan Robinson, editor of “Current Affairs,” brilliantly explains why Race to the Top was not only a failure but a disaster.  

Schools in Detroit were crumbling, but Detroit got not a penny of the windfall.

Here is a sample:

“There is something deeply objectionable about nearly every part of Race To The Top. First, the very idea of having states scramble to compete for federal funds means that children are given additional support based on how good their state legislatures are at pleasing the president, rather than how much those children need support. Michigan got no Race to the Top money, and Detroit’s schools didn’t see a penny of this $4.2 billion, because it didn’t win the “race.” This “fight to the death” approach (come to think of it, a better name for the program) was novel, since “historically, most federal education funds have been distributed through categorical grant programs that allocate money to districts on the basis of need-based formulas.” Here, though, one can see how Obama’s neoliberal politics differed in its approach from the New Deal liberalism of old: Once upon a time, liberals talking about how to fix schools would talk about making sure all teachers had the resources they needed to give students a quality education. Now, they were importing the competitive capitalist model into government: Show results or find yourself financially starved.

“The focus on “innovation,” data, and technology is misguided, too. Innovation is not necessarily improvement—it’s easy to make something new that isn’t actually any better. The poor learning outcomes of online courses are evidence that sometimes the old methods are best. An Obama administration report on how schools innovated in response to RTT is mostly waffle about “partnering with stakeholders” but also contains descriptions of “21st century” measures like the following:

The majority of Race to the Top states reported to the RSN that they are using or expanding their use of social media communication to keep stakeholders engaged and informed. Ohio, for example, embraced Twitter to communicate with teachers, principals and district leaders during its annual state conference in 2012. “One of the keys to success on Twitter is tweeting a lot — five to seven times a day — morning, noon and at night,” said Michael Sponhour, executive director of communications and outreach for the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Ohio measures its success on Twitter by the number of tweets that are “retweeted” by its followers; about 70 percent of ODE’s tweets are retweeted, he said.

“So people at state departments of education are being paid to tweet morning, noon, and night, with nearly ⅓ of the tweets not getting so much as a single retweet, while St. Louis’ beautiful old public school buildings are closed, abandoned, and auctioned off. Delaware “was able to use RTT funds to place data coaches in every school,” even as the steam pipe kept leaking onto that playground in Detroit.

“The pro-RTT literature promotes the education reform line of Bill Gates and charter advocates, stressing the need for “accountability” and “evaluation.” There is a mistrust of teachers: The premise here is that unless teachers have the right incentives, they will perform badly. There is an underlying acceptance here of the free market principle that government services do not perform well because they lack the kind of economic rewards and punishments that exist in the private sector. So we should introduce competitive marketplaces in schools (i.e., charterize the system) and do constant assessments of teacher job performance to weed out the Bad Teachers. Race To The Top literature talks about “turning around failing schools,” not “fixing inequality in schools,” and some civil rights activists criticized the program for failing to consider school segregation and inequality in its picture of the country’s educational woes. …

”RTT was wrong in a thousand ways. It prioritized data collection for its own sake, and in spite of its focus on “achievement” and evidence-based policy, didn’t actually boost achievement and wasn’t based on evidence. It was just free market ideology. Instead of talking about adding yet more assessments of teacher performance, we should be talking about the fact that teachers across the country have to buy their own school supplies, and the profession offers too much work for too little pay to attract good candidates who will stay for the long term. No more races to the top. What we need is a race to make sure every school has a music teacher, every building is safe and beautiful and well-maintained, every child is well-fed, every classroom is full of books and supplies, and every teacher has what they need in order to help children discover the world of knowledge.“

 

 

 

 

I listened to former President Barack Obama as he spoke at the University of Illinois yesterday. He was wonderful.

If you didn’t hear it or watch it, here it is.

Edward Johnson is an education activist in Atlanta and one of the sharpest critics of a school board and superintendent determined to privatize the public schools of that city.

He recently wrote an open letter to former President Obama, asking him to apologize for the failed Race to the Top competition, which built on the failed strategy of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

Via Email (info@ofa.us)

 

Open Letter to Barack Obama seeking apology for RttT Competition

 

22 May 2018 (revised 23 May 2018)

 

The Honorable Barack Obama

c/o Organizing for Action

1130 West Monroe Street, Suite 100

Chicago, Illinois 60607

 

Dear Mr. Obama:

 

“We are being ruined by competition; what we need is cooperation.”

—W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

 

Thank you for your interest in my voting.  Voting, of course, is a cornerstone of democratic practice.  However, education—public education—underlies democratic practice that aims to serve and sustain the common good and to continually advance on closing gaps with democratic ideals, as in “We the People ….”  Unfortunately, your Race to the Top Competition strongly suggests a very different paradigm, a competitive, anti-democracy sustaining paradigm.

 

Frankly, Barack—may I address you as Barack since you addressed me as Ed?  Frankly, it’s hard to figure why especially prominent Civil Rights leaders would forgo inviting you to a private conversation out behind the woodshed at the very moment you spoke the words “Race to the Top Competition.”  Did they not understand competition made the Civil Rights Movement necessary more so than did so-called racism?  That so-called racism is, in reality, but an insidiously malicious and hostile form of competition?

 

The point being, the aim of every form of competition has always been, and always will be, to produce as few winners as possible and as many losers as possible.  Fine for sport competitions, but why would one facilitate attacking and harming the nation’s democracy-sustaining public educational systems by any manner of competition?  Was cooperation between and among the states not an option?

 

All too often, the thinking is that winning means excellence, and losing means failure or “not good enough.”  And that “competition builds character.”

 

But here’s the rub, Barack.  In social systems, such as our public educational systems, people made losers by competition for no good reason invariably figure out how to win, if only in their own eyes.  The massively systemic cheating on standardized tests that Atlanta experienced exemplifies the matter: A great many teachers and schoolhouse leaders the superintendent incited to compete for their job and bonuses for high standardized test scores figured they could win by changing students’ wrong answers to right answers.

 

We also have plenty other examples, including, notoriously: Dimitrios Pagourtzis, at Santa Fe High School, Texas; Nikolas Cruz, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida; Adam Lanza, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut; and, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, at Columbine High School, Colorado.

 

And consider, too, some people made losers by competition for no good reason very likely figured they could win by becoming police officers, or wannabe police officers—in the case of George Zimmerman, for example.  Then to that extent, these winners turned policing into hostile competitions with the public that could not avoid producing notorious shootings of especially young “Black” males and other citizens for no good reason.

 

It really is quite easy to understand, in a word, why the U.S. pretty much leads the world in incarcerating its citizens and children.  And that word is competition, meaning deeply inculcated drives to win at the expense of others, by whatever means necessary, so as to rationalize one is superior or excellent and others are not.

 

  1. Edwards Deming also teaches the wisdom that “when a system is broken into competitive segments, the system is destroyed.”

 

Specifically, Dr. Deming teaches the wisdom that:

 

“We have grown up in a climate of competition between people, teams, departments, divisions, pupils, schools, universities.  We have been taught by economists that competition will solve our problems.  Actually, competition, we see now, is destructive.  It would be better if everyone would work together as a system, with the aim for everybody to win.  What we need is cooperation[.]”

 

Barack, can you see the very name “Race to the Top Competition” necessarily meant breaking our otherwise 50 United States into 50 competitive segments?  Can you see the Race to the Top Competition aim to expand the number of charter schools hence spread malicious school choice meant breaking local public educational systems into competitive segments?  And, therefore, can you see “Chief Facilitator of Destroy Public Education” just might be a fitting aspect of your legacy as a former President of the United States?  And that that would be an astonishing juxtaposition of paradigms?

 

Barack, if you can see these things, and because, as you say, “[t]here are no do-overs,” can you then at least apologize for having created the Race to the Top Competition and then for having foisted it upon the nation?

 

Kindly know until such apology comes, it will be hard to hear and appreciate any interest you express about my voting, or any matters.  Sustaining and improving public education as a common good in service to democracy is just that important.  And please, let’s have none of the nonsensical contention that charter schools are public schools.

 

Sincerely, I am

 

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

 

Bcc: List 1

Read what happened when high school valedictorian Ben Bowling gave his speech at graduation, and included an inspiring quote that he attributed to Trump. The crowd cheered heartily.

Then, he said, Sorry, that quote was Obama.

Ben Bowling’s graduation speech was one of the rare instances where electoral polling numbers can help us understand humor.

The 18-year-old is the valedictorian of the Bell County High School Class of 2018, about 80 miles north of Knoxville, Tenn.

The closest a 21st-century Democratic presidential candidate has come to winning the hearts and minds of the people of Bell County, Ky., was in 2004, when John F. Kerry got 39 percent of people there to punch a ticket for him.

Every other race has been (more of) a landslide by whoever happened to be on the Republican side of the ballot: nearly 71 percent for John McCain in 2008, according to the state’s board of elections. Mitt Romney got 76 percent in 2012, and Donald Trump received an overwhelming 82 percent of Bell County’s votes in 2016.

On Saturday, Bowling was slated to give a speech before his cap-and-gown-wearing peers and their families, as he noted in one fourth-wall breaking segment.

Read the inspiriting quote and the crowd’s response.