Archives for category: Shame

Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post about the unbridled, unprincipled ambition of Josh Hawley.

Many people have written that we were lucky that Trump was lazy and incompetent. They have warned that the next Trumpster might be far more dangerous if he or she is not only a racist, a xenophobic, and a charlatan, but also smart and disciplined. Hawley might be that person. A graduate of elite Stanford University and equally elite Yale Law School, Hawley is not an ignorant fool like Trump. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows he is damaging our society and undermining the Constitution, which he swore to uphold. He is cynical. His actions are shameful.

The announced intention of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to object to certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory is a particularly bad omen for the GOP’s future. Unlike, say, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who has an ideological commitment to public chaos and the humiliation of the U.S. government — Hawley has often tried to offer a constructive vision of conservative populism. As a former clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Hawley surely possesses a serious understanding of the constitutional order. He is, on personal acquaintance, a talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young man.


The problem with political decadence is not what it does to those who are already disordered. The primary problem is what it does to talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young leaders who can be warped toward a destructive influence.


Ambition is a human trait assumed by the nation’s founders and incorporated into their design of our system, which pits ambition against ambition to check and balance power. By implication, it is a neutral characteristic — a source of mischief or a spur to greatness. Ambition can lead men and women to say things they don’t believe, to the detriment of their character. The worse problem comes when it leads politicians outside the boundaries of democracy, which is where Hawley now finds himself.

In the cause of his own advancement, the senator from Missouri is willing to endorse the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans — particularly voters of color — and justify the attempted theft of an election. He is willing to credit malicious lies that will poison our democracy for generations. The fulfillment of Hawley’s intention — the ultimate overturning of the election — would be the collapse of U.S. self-government. The attempt should be a source of shame.


The ultimate responsibility lies with Hawley himself. But his temptation also represents the more general triumph of a dangerous type of politics — the politics of delegitimization. We have seen hints of this over the years. Jerry Falwell Sr. hawked videotapes on television accusing President Bill Clinton of murder. Some on the far left charged President George W. Bush with complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) objected to the certification of the 2004 presidential election based on conspiratorial lies about vote counting in Ohio. (Boxer’s effort came after John F. Kerry’s gracious concession, which distinguishes it from Hawley’s move.)


Yet the greatest practitioner and innovator of political cancel culture has been Donald J. Trump. This may be his largest influence on the practice of U.S. politics. He rose to prominence in the GOP by spreading racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. Now, he is making the acceptance of conspiratorial myths about Biden’s legitimacy into a test of GOP fidelity.

And Trump has made room in his party for even more extreme versions of his method, involving the accusations that Democratic leaders are pedophiles: “Stop the steal” and QAnon are on the same spectrum of vile lunacy.


This is the type of politics that Hawley is enabling — a form of politics that abolishes politics. A contest of policy visions can result in compromise. The attempt to delegitimize your opponent requires their political annihilation.

And a fight to the political death is always conducted in the shadow of possible violence.




Trump has brought these trends into a dangerous new phase. As president, he is attempting to deconstruct American institutions from the top down. He intuitively grasps — like many authoritarians before him — that the biggest lies motivate the most abject servility.

His message is carried like lightning on social media and is amplified by right-wing media personalities and grifters (but I repeat myself) who find profit and influence in the humiliation of their country.

It is truly the technological golden age for casual sedition.
What can be done? We can refuse to inhabit the lie. We can praise and support Republican politicians such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Govs. Larry Hogan (Maryland) and Brian Kemp (Georgia) who are standing in the gap. And we must ensure that the aspirations of people such as Hawley — who has made the madness more mainstream — come to nothing. This begins with a simple and sad recognition: The ambitions of this knowledgeable, talented young man are now a threat to the republic.

Someone wrote an executive order, dated December 28, and signed Donald Trump’s name to it, declaring that the emergency conditions created by the COVID make it vital to use federal funds for vouchers. Don’t waste a minute! Scoop up federal funds and put your child in a substandard voucher school!

We know that Trump didn’t write the executive order because he’s at Mar-a-Lago nursing his grievances.

It appears to have been written by Jim Blew, who works for her and used to work for the Walton Foundation. Even if Trump refuses to concede, DeVos knows it’s over and she will use her last days in office to throw money out the door to find vouchers for private and religious schools.

Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week tweeted that the program Trump wants to use for vouchers is part of HHS, the Community Services Block Grants, and it does NOT make individual grants. Shows how desperate Betsy is to funnel money to vouchers as the sun sets on her days in the Department of Education.

He wrote:

In a new executive order, Trump says he’s authorizing HHS to allow Community Services Block Grant money to fund private school scholarships, homeschooling, and other education services “for use by any child without access to in-person learning.”

Then, in follow-up tweets”

The Community Services Block Grants program “provides funds to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities.” Notably, the program doesn’t provide direct grants to individuals.

It’s not immediately clear to me that Trump can do this through an executive order.

The Trump administration tried but failed to get a school choice expansion into the COVID relief package Trump signed yesterday.

Again, I’d pump the brakes before assuming this executive order delivers a major (or any) K-12 choice boost. Plus, Biden is on the way, etc...

It’s worth remembering that folks were reportedly negotiating to get vouchers/some form of school choice into the COVID deal up until the last few hours. I’m not sure if the Trump administration laid any regulatory groundwork for this EO, or if this is a last-ditch gesture.

He concludes his thread by saying that Betsy has pushed hard to get vouchers into the COVID bill.


I recently received a letter from a teacher in Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania. I have written about this district many times, as a large charter company owned by a Philadelphia lawyer is draining it of resources and students for his low-performing charter school. The district is like a lamb led to slaughter, with rapacious wolves ready to gobble it up. See here and here and here and here. See Carol Burris on the takeover of the district here. See Peter Greene on the evisceration of the Chester-Upland schools here (also posted on the blog here).

In case you think that Chester Community Charter School is “helping save poor students from failing public schools,” consider that only 7% of the charter’s students were proficient in math, compared to a state average of 45%, and only 17% of its students were proficient in reading/language arts, compared to a state average of 63%.

Why would state and county officials permit a failing for-profit charter school to take over an entire public school district? Is it because the district is overwhelmingly low-income and black and no one cares?

The teacher asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

He wrote:

My name is XXXXXXXXXX, and I’m a teacher in the Chester Upland School District, which is located in Chester, Pa. Chester is a predominately black, low income, high crime area. We have had 3 students murdered this year, and several others shot. Even though it is a dangerous area, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else because I love the kids, and I want them to succeed. But our leaders are greedy, and our district is going to be sold off to charter schools if we don’t receive some sort of help.

Here is an overview of what has been taking place:

The city and school district are in a financial crisis. Because of the financial situation, the owner of a for-profit charter school in Chester asked a judge to give his charter, Chester Community Charter, permission to take over all of the elementary schools in the district. Here is the article: https://www.inquirer.com/education/chester-upland-charter-schools-expansion-community-gureghian-20191118.html   

The judge denied the request, but this past spring the Republican judge approved outside management for all grades in the district. Here is the article:  https://www.delcotimes.com/news/chester-upland-ordered-to-open-its-doors-to-charters/article_70e92906-9707-11ea-b5f8-3383e996854a.html

It seems that the entire district is going to be run by one or several different charter schools which would dissolve all public schools in the city. Besides New Orleans, this is almost unheard of in our country.

A few months ago, the district hired a new superintendent with a checkered past. She was recently fired from her position in New Haven, Conn., which you can read about here:

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/superintendent_birks_buyout/

It seems that it is quite a coincidence that Dr. Birks is also a supporter of charter schools. She also became one of the highest paid superintendents in the state which is surprising considering her history and the financial state of the district.

Our school board is being paid by charter schools; there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation. One school board member put out a flyer last December, recruiting community members to come to the courthouse to support the charter schools. Those community members that agreed to show up were provided dinner afterwards, and had their names put into a raffle to receive free TV’s and other devices. It’s hard to see this as anything other than a conflict of interest. 

On January 14th, 2021 RFP’s (Request for Proposals) will be held for charter schools to show why they should take over schools in the district. Unfortunately the review board for the RFs is filled with charter school supporters. The community hasn’t had any input about this process. Here are the board members:

Anthony Johnson the board president, receiver Dr. Juan BaughnFred Green (who is a board member that rarely attend meetings, and charter advocate for CCCS), Lamont Popley (during the board meeting on December 17th, Baughn said Mr. Lamont Popley was a member of the review board, he’s the principal at Toby Farms. His staff members asked him about this and he said this was the first he heard about being on the review board. He said he hadn’t spoken to Baughn since the spring), 2 other board members, plus Leroy Nunery (former consultant for the school district of Philadelphia’s charter school office), and Jack Pund (he sits on the board of several charter schools, including Agora.)

This would not happen in a white school district. This is racially motivated. This poor community is being taken advantage of, and being sold to the highest bidder, and no one cares. If this community wasn’t poor, and black, people would be outraged with what is going on. But no one is helping. We need help.  

Thank you.

John Ogozalek teaches in rural upstate New York. He wrote to tell me what’s happening during the pandemic:

You can’t make this stuff up….

Schools in Western New York are facing shut downs.

They’re in a “microcluster yellow zone” which requires 20% percent of the faculty and staff to be COVID tested each week.  Otherwise, in-person instruction is out the window.

The catch is: they don’t have the money to do the COVID tests!  And, no cavalry is riding over the hill to help them.

Earth to David Coleman, Arne Duncan, John B. King, and all the idiot school “reformers”.  We could sure use those billions of dollars you blew away on mountains of  fill-in-the-bubble, where’s your #2 pencil “common core” tests.

BTW….”microcluster yellow zones”?

Does anyone other than people making these rules even have a clue what the hell is going on at this point?

I try to explain the constantly shifting “plans” to my students. Fat chance.

Tom Ultican writes here about three major school board elections: Oakland, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. These are districts that are in the crosshairs of the billionaire privatizers. No one can explain why billionaires want to privatize the public schools in these three districts (as well as dozens more). We now have nearly 30 years of evidence that neither charters nor vouchers produce educational miracles. New Orleans is not a national model: Last year, half the charter schools in this all-charter district were identified by the state as D or F-rated schools. Assignment to anyone: Why do the billionaires keep funding failure?

Ultican reports that the pro-privatization candidates vastly outspent the pro-public education candidates. In Oakland, the pro-public education slate won all but one seat (in that race, the pro-public education groups were divided, or they would have had a clean sweep).

In Los Angeles, the billionaires won one seat, enough to give them a single-seat majority of the school board.

In Indianapolis, the billionaires swamped the pro-public education candidates with their vast spending power.

It is an attack on democracy when billionaires from out-of-state (or from in-state) can drop a few million into a local school board race and make it impossible for ordinary citizens to compete. The individuals and the groups funding this assault on democracy–Michael Bloomberg, William Bloomfield, Stacey Schusterman, Arthur Rock, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, Doris Fisher, and other billionaires should hang their heads in shame. So should Stand for Children (which funnels billionaire money into races against public school advocates) and The Mind Trust.

For their ceaseless efforts to dismantle public schools and replace them with privately managed charters, I hereby place the following billionaires on this blog’s “Wall of Shame”: Michael Bloomberg, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, William Bloomfield, Doris Fisher, Arthur Rock, and Stacy Schusterman.

The same richly deserved dishonor goes to the infamous servant of the billionaires, Stand for Children.

We won’t know the final results of our national election for days. The volume of mail-in ballots will slow the counting in several states. What we do know is that Trump was not repudiated, despite his lies, despite his crude behavior, despite his poor handling of the pandemic.

Reader GregB said this about the election:

Conventional wisdom has informed us that when high voter turnout occurs Democrats win. Conventional wisdom can now stick it up its ass. This country is a majority bigot, racist, xenophobe, and ignorant nation. Let’s come to term with this fact. As Kurt Tucholsky wrote in one of his final diary entries before he committed suicide, Sprechen (Speak), Schreiben (Write), Schweigen (Silence). It’s time for silence. The nation is no more. It’s a rigged game. And we lose. Even if, by some miracle, Biden gets 271 electoral votes, his administration will get nothing done, get all the blame, and is doomed because the American people are too stupid to comprehend reality. The Senate will continue to obstruct (or bend over and take it if the Idiot remains). The Supreme Court is a rubber stamp (and Louisiana and its “Democratic” governor will lead the way for its first coup). The House will be a shrill, useless entity. Gleichschaltung is here, get used to it. We will have no international allies except for Brazi, Israel, Poland, Hungary, the Philippines, North Korea, and our new masters, Russia. The so-called confederacy won the long game.

After the 2000 election, which George W. Bush won by a few hundred contested votes in Florida, I was appointed to the National Commission on Federal election Reform. It was completely bipartisan. The co-chairs were former President Gerald Ford and former President Jimmy Carter. It’s report was released in August 2001.

The overriding goals of the commission were to ensure that elections were free and fair, that every citizen had the right to vote without hindrance, that every vote was counted, and that the results were accurately and fully reported.

Today, it is worth your time to review the recommendations of the Commission.

Amomg other things, the Commission recommended that all properly filed absentee ballots should be counted if they were postmarked no later than Election Day, even if they were counted after the election.

Today, our society is witnessing efforts to suppress the vote. There ar3 states like Texas that limited the number of drop boxes for mail-in ballots to only one per county, meaning that the more than four million people in Harris County (Houston), a sprawling district, would have only one place to register their ballot. People casting early votes acros the country have had to wait in lines for hours.

These shameful tactics are encouraged by Republicans across the nation,to help their unpopular president. Shameful.

We know that Trump’s lackeys will do whatever they can to suppress the vote.

Vote as if your life depends on it. It does.

Vote as if the future of our democracy depends on it. It does.

Oppose those who tacitly support the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy.

Oppose those who think the Confederate flag is “our heritage.” It is not.

Vote for Biden and Harris.

Vote for anyone challenging Trump’s enablers in the Senate.

Everyone should vote, and every vote should be counted.

If you want to build a better future, vote.

Betsy DeVos spent her time as Secretary of Education attacking and demeaning public schools. Before she was selected as Secretary, she spent millions of dollars promoting privatization of public funds. As Secretary, she carried forward her lifelong goal to divert public funds to vouchers for religious schools.

This is how public parents, grandparents, and graduates will remember her.

Chris Mann sings a song from “Les Miserables” for Betsy DeVos, who wants kids in school no matter how much disease surrounds them and their teachers, principals, and school staff.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics in California, writes frequently about school “reform,” aka school choice, as a substitute for adequate funding.

In this post, he explains the fraud of school choice and why billionaires and rightwing zealots promote it. To read it in full,as well as his kinks, open the full post.

He begins:

Birthed in the bowels of the 1950’s segregationist south, school choice has never been about improving education. It is about white supremacy, profiting off taxpayers, cutting taxes, selling market based solutions and financing religion. School choice ideology has a long dark history of dealing significant harm to public education.

Market Based Ideology

Milton Friedman first recommended school vouchers in a 1955 essay. In 2006, he was asked by a conservative group of legislators what he envisioned back then. PRWatch reports that he said, “It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping ‘indigent’ children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about ‘abolishing the public school system.”’ [Emphasis added]

Market based ideologues are convinced that business is the superior model for school management. Starting with the infamous Regan era polemic, “A Nation at Risk,” the claim that “private business management is superior” has been a consistent theory of education reform promoted by corporate leaders like IBM’s Louis Gerstner, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Wal-Mart’s Walton family, Bloomberg LP’s founder, Michael Bloomberg and SunAmerica’s Eli Broad. It is a central tenet of both neoliberal and libertarian philosophy.

Charles Koch and his late brother David have spent lavishly promoting their libertarian beliefs. Inspired by Friedman’s doyen, Austrian Economist Friedrich Hayek, the brothers agreed that public education must be abolished.

To this and other ends like defeating climate change legislation, the Kochs created the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This lobbying organization has contributing members from throughout corporate America. ALEC writes model legislation and financially supports state politicians who promote their libertarian principles.

Like the Walton family and Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch promotes private school vouchers.