Clifford Thompson writes in the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal that that ostensible reason for the Insurrection on January 6 was anger that Biden “stole” the election from Trump; the mob “knew” because Trump said it was so. Of course, it was a lie. Trump decisively lost both the popular vote and the electoral college. He thought he could inspire the mob to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote and intimidate them into overturning the results and installing him for a second term. The strategy was as stupid as the man who incited the mob. Congress was not going to overturn the election. Period.

Thompson says that the true basis of the Insurrection was the fear that white supremacy was losing its dominance. This is our country, our culture, our heritage, and “they” (non-whites) are “taking it away.” So they thought.

Not long ago, I wrote an article for Commonweal about the benefits and dangers of what I call rootedness. I define the word as a sense of belonging in the world based on an identification with a particular thing, whether that is a religious faith, a geographical community, a shared activity, or a philosophy. The benefit of being rooted is that we feel less alone. The danger is that when made to choose between our rootedness—which provides our sense of who we are—and the truth sitting right in front of us, many of us, perhaps most, find a way to ignore the truth.

The negative extremes of rootedness were on full and frightening display on January 6 during the storming of the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead. What the rioters demonstrated nearly as well as the fact of their rootedness was its particular variety. I say “nearly” because while the idea that the rioters are actually rooted in, that is, white supremacy, was on full display too (witness the Confederate flag being paraded through the Capitol), it was not the ostensible reason for their collective criminal action. No, for that they took their cue from President Trump, who filled their heads with lies about the 2020 presidential election being “stolen” from them—lies that a clear-eyed look at the facts would refute—and then sent them, with all the justification they felt they needed, to wreak havoc on the world’s most important site of the business of democracy.

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

Ezra Klein, a new columnist for the New York Times, writes that Biden’s plan to curb the pandemic is so blindingly obvious that it demonstrates how reckless and indifferent the Trump administration was. Trump thought that producing the vaccine would end the pandemic; but what matters most is getting people vaccinated, and for that he had no plan at all. When you read this, you may feel–as I did–thank God that someone is in charge who has ideas and plans about how to get people vaccinated. Someone is in charge. That’s a huge change.

He writes:

I wish I could tell you that the incoming Biden administration had a genius plan for combating Covid-19, thick with ideas no one else had thought of and strategies no one else had tried. But it doesn’t.

What it does have is the obvious plan for combating Covid-19, full of ideas many others have thought of and strategies it is appalling we haven’t yet tried. That it is possible for Joe Biden and his team to release a plan this straightforward is the most damning indictment of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response imaginable.

The Trump administration seemed to believe a vaccine would solve the coronavirus problem, freeing President Trump and his advisers of the pesky work of governance. But vaccines don’t save people; vaccinations do. And vaccinating more than 300 million people, at breakneck speed, is a challenge that only the federal government has the resources to meet. The Trump administration, in other words, had it backward. The development of the vaccines meant merely that the most logistically daunting phase of the crisis, in terms of the federal government’s role, could finally begin.

In the absence of a coordinated federal campaign, the job has fallen to overstretched, underresourced state and local governments, with predictably wan results. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the roughly 31 million doses that have been sent out, about 12 million have been used.

The good news is that the incoming Biden administration sees the situation clearly. “This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country,” Biden said on Friday. “You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation.”

The person in charge of managing the hell out of the operation is Jeff Zients, who served as chief performance officer under President Barack Obama and led the rescue of HealthCare.gov. In a Saturday briefing with journalists, Zients broke the plan down into four buckets. Loosen the restrictions on who can get vaccinated (and when). Set up many more sites where vaccinations can take place. Mobilize more medical personnel to deliver the vaccinations. And use the might of the federal government to increase the vaccine supply by manufacturing whatever is needed, whenever it is needed, to accelerate the effort. “We’re going to throw the full resources and weight of the federal government behind this emergency,” Zients promised.

Most elements of the plan are surprising only because they are not already happening. Biden’s team members intend to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up thousands of vaccination sites in gyms, sports stadiums and community centers, and to deploy mobile vaccination options to reach those who can’t travel or who live in remote places. They want to mobilize the National Guard to staff the effort and ensure that strapped states don’t have to bear the cost. They want to expand who can deliver the vaccine and call up retired medical personnel to aid the campaign. They want to launch a massive public education blitz, aimed at communities skeptical of the vaccine. They’re evaluating how to eke out more doses from the existing supply — there is, for instance, a particular syringe that will get you six doses out of a given quantity of Pfizer’s vaccine rather than five, and they are looking at whether the Defense Production Act could accelerate production of that particular syringe and other, similarly useful goods.

This plan merits, at least for me, a sense of fury: All of this should’ve been done months ago. These are the obvious ideas. We should be considering the hard, but perhaps necessary, decisions that could radically increase supply: using half-doses, for instance, or joining Britain in rapidly approving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, even though the vaccine’s clinical trial was marred by shaky study design. I’m of the view that the situation is bad enough, and the costs of waiting large enough, that it might be worth moving forward on both counts, even with imperfect information. But those are difficult calls, with real downside risk. That there is so much low-hanging operational fruit for the Biden administration to focus on instead is a tragedy. It means people who could’ve been saved by simple competence and foresight will die instead.

Even now, the Trump administration’s poor planning and inconsistent communication fog the effort. In recent days, there have been reports that states aren’t receiving the vaccine allotments they’ve been promised. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon tweeted that the leaders of Operation Warp Speed had directly confirmed to her that “states will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.” The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, said, “the national supply simply isn’t coming.” When I asked Zients whether the federal government had less vaccine supply than has been promised, he wasn’t able to give an answer. “We’ll conduct a full evaluation when we’re in our seats on supply, but it’s hard for me to say more than that right now, given the lack of information sharing from the Trump administration.”

The incoming administration is also free from the delusion that the vaccines will solve the coronavirus crisis on their own. Even on the most optimistic timetable, it will take until well into the summer for America to reach herd immunity. In the meantime, new variants of the virus that spread even faster are taking hold. Ron Klain, Biden’s choice for chief of staff, warned that the coronavirus death toll in America will pass 500,000 by the end of February. And it will not end there. That is why if you look at the incoming administration’s coronavirus rescue package, most of the money is dedicated to the policies that will let us survive this next year.

Of this, $20 billion is directed at the vaccination effort. Another $50 billion is dedicated to standing up the national testing infrastructure that we should’ve had long ago, with an emphasis on deploying rapid testing for asymptomatic individuals who work in high-risk settings and setting up genomic surveillance so we can see when and how the virus is mutating. Then there’s $130 billion intended to retrofit schools so they can operate safely, even with the virus in circulation.

A year into this crisis, America still hasn’t built a national contact tracing apparatus to track and suppress outbreaks: Biden’s plan calls for hiring more than 100,000 public health workers for national contact tracing, local vaccine outreach and more. Congregant settings, like nursing homes and prisons, have been the sites of particularly vicious outbreaks, and Biden wants to create specialized forces that can be rapidly deployed to such sites to save lives. The list goes on.

None of this — none of it — is interesting or surprising. It’s obvious, and it should’ve been done long ago. Back in May, I wrotethat we were operating, in effect, without a president and without a national plan. It is January, and that remains true. But that will end on the day of Biden’s inauguration. And then the hard work can, finally, begin.

If you live in Missouri, get active to stop this dangerous effort to destroy your public schools!

Dear Friend,

If you love your public schools you need to drop what you are doing and get to work.

There is only one intent of Senate Bill 55–to destroy public education in Missouri. It was pushed through the Senate Education Committee early this morning and may go to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week. 

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate Bill 55. You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here

2. Click here and send an email in opposition to Senate Bill 55 NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the statehttps://actionnetwork.org/letters/oppose-senate-bill-55/

Below is the notice we just received from the Missouri School Boards Association information that provides background on the bill.

“The Senate Education Committee jammed through a mega bill on Thursday that will be heard on the Senate floor soon. Senate Bills 23 and 25 started out creating voucher schemes and expanding charter schools but were loaded up on SB 55 at the last minute with a long list of provisions hostile to public education that have never even had a public hearing. The bill now includes:

  • School Board Member Recall: Requires an election to recall a school board member if a petition is submitted signed by at least 25% of the number of voters in the last school board election.
  • Education Scholarship Account/Vouchers:Creates up to $100 million in tax credits for donations to an organization that gives out scholarships for students to attend a home school or private school – including for-profit virtual schools.
  • Charter School Expansion: Authorizes charter schools to be opened in an additional 61 school districts located in Jackson, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties or in cities of 30,000 or more and allows charters opened in provisionally and unaccredited districts to remain open even after the school district regains accreditation.
  • Turning MOCAP into Virtual Charter Schools: Allows students enrolling in MOCAP full time to apply directly to the vendor and cuts the resident school district and professional educators out of the process.
  • Home school students allowed to participate in MSHSAA activities. Districts are prohibited from belonging to MSHSAA unless home schooled students are allowed to participate in district athletics and activities governed by MSHSAA.
  • Limiting State Board of Education: Restricts members of the state board of education to serve only one full term.”

Read more on these issues here.

Please send your email, make your calls and thank you for all you do. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education

On the day before the election, Donald Trump signed an executive order establishing a “1776 Commission” to rewrite American history. This commission was intended to refute the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which told the story of American history from the view of African Americans. It was also, allegedly, an answer to “critical race theory,” which you can be sure Trump could not define. I thought this was a bad idea, since history should be written by historians, not by presidential commissions packed with cronies and ideologues.

On December 18, with 33 days left in his term in office, Trump announced the members of his commission, all predictably conservatives and reactionaries. The group was headed by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, a Trump ally. I called this “absurd.”

Many thought that the commission couldn’t possibly rewrite American history in the few days allowed to them, but miraculously they issued a report just a few days ago. Presumably, it was written before the commission ever met (if it ever met). The commission said that slavery was unfortunate but it was widespread and everyone did slavery. So there.

Talk about looking on the bright side!

Ironically, the not-long-awaited report was released on Martin Luther King Day. MSNBC host Chris Hayes said it read like a sophomore year term paper by Stephen Miller, Trump’s minister of hate. He interviewed Christina Greer, a professor at Fordham University, and said that Hayes was too generous. She said it read like the term paper of a sophomore in high school.

Peter Greene, who specializes in reading horrible reports so that others don’t have to, gave the report its due: It is awful. Beyond awful. It is rightwing drivel.

The 1776 Commission released their thing today, and pardon my French, Mom, but holy shit is it bad. You knew it was going to be bad. It’s really bad. You probably didn’t know that Progressivism is on the same Challenges to American Principles list with slavery and fascism. Slavery, by the way, is addressed primarily through a massive whataboutism. 45 pages, and every one of them is filled with horrific, racist, dumb, awful awfulness (okay, pages 2 and 4 are blank). 43 pages of awful (without any footnotes or endnotes or citations or bibliography in sight for this work of ultimate scholarship). I don’t have the time at the moment to pick apart all of it (I’ll link to it, but you really shouldn’t read it on a full stomach, and empty stomach, or at the end of a hard day)...

It’s like someone managed to take the 1950s version of squeaky clean white American life and mash it up with 1950s style Soviet Commie borg-style mind-melding. No critical thinking here. This is “education” that rejects pluralism, inquiry, actual thought and scholarship, while simultaneously nodding at and minimizing injustice, asserting that victims of such injustice should stay calm and love their country because it includes people who have the right values (and the right personal circumstances). 

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and may the Biden administration swiftly drop this damned thing into the deepest circular file in DC. 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last night wiping out Trump’s 1776 Commission.

Rebecca Klein, education editor of Huffington Post, reviewed the textbooks written for and used in Christian schools and found that they repeated the lies of Trump and the far-right. Because of vouchers, many of these Christian schools receive public funds.

Klein wrote:

Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well. 

Scholars say textbooks like these, with their alternate versions of history and emphasis on Christian national identity, represent one small part of the conditions that lead to events like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, an episode that was permeated with the symbols of Christian nationalism. Before storming the Capitol, some groups prayed in the name of Jesus and asked for divine protection. They flew Christian and “Jesus 2020” flags and pointed to Trump’s presidency as the will of God. The linkage between Christian beliefs and the violent attack on Congress has since pushed evangelical leaders to confront their own relationship with Trump and their support for the rioters...

Representatives from BJU Press and Abeka did not respond to inquiries about how many schools use their products. However, a 2017 HuffPost investigation found that about one-third of Christian schools participating in private school choice programs used a curriculum created by these two publishers or a similar company called Accelerated Christian Education, amounting to around 2,400 schools. The number of schools using these company’s products that do not participate in a voucher program likely amounts to thousands more. (Voucher programs allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend private schools.) 

HuffPost’s previous investigation of these textbooks found that they also dismiss evolution as junk science, characterize Nelson Mandela as a “marxist agitator” who helped drive South Africa to “radical affirmative action,” and suggest that Satan hatched the idea of modern psychology. Many of the schools that use these books also ban LGBTQ students and families, and the books repeatedly condemn homosexuality. At one point in an Abeka textbook, slavery is described in purely economic terms, saying that “slaves seemed to be better investments than indentured servants.”

“I absolutely thought of these textbooks when watching what played out last week,” Wellman said. “It’s the anti-science culture, anti-elite, the identification of Christianity with military culture.”


Tom Ultican has written extensively about the insidious goals of “reformers,” who move forward despite multiple failures because of their billionaire funding.

In this post, he reviews the Biden education team, which is not yet fleshed out. He wrote this post before the announcement that Cindy Marten, the Superintendent of Schools in San Diego, was selected to be Deputy Secretary. This will be the first time in history that the top two jobs in the Department of Education were held by people who were actual educators with classroom experience. He added a comment about Superintendent Marten.

Tom Ultican defines the unanswered questions:

Joe Biden has chosen a person with an education background to lead the department of education but his experience running large organizations is almost non-existent. He was assistant superintendent of a school district with less than 9,000 students from 2013 to 2019. He then became Education Commissioner of Connecticut. That system serves less than 530,000 students. His primary strength seems to be he has not engaged with the controversial education issues of the day like “school choice” and testing accountability.

Which begs the question, will the Biden-Harris administration support and revitalize public schools or will they bow to big moneyed interests who make campaign contributions? Will Biden-Harris continue the neoliberal ideology of “school choice” or will they revitalize public schools? Will they continue wasting money on standardized testing that only accurately correlates with family economic conditions or will they reign in this wasteful practice?

Tom Ultican added:

Update added 1/19/2021: Today, Cindy Marten was nominated by Joe Biden to be Deputy Secretary of Education. I have met Marten a few times and believe she is a special kind of leader committed to public education. This gives me great hope. For the first time, we have two educators with deep k-12 experience running the Department of Education. This article from the San Diego Union gives a good synopsis of her education career. In his announcement Biden noted, “Superintendent, principal, vice principal and literacy specialist are all job titles Marten has held in her 32-year career as an educator.” The appointment makes me think the Biden administration may become the best friend public education has had in Washington DC since the Department of Education was created. Of course, Marten does not walk on water but from my perspective she is the real deal.
– tom

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.

This is a great post by Mike Klonsky about the ignominious end of the Trump nightmare.

He planned a big military send-off for himself but was afraid no one would show up, so the invitations went out to people like John Bolton and Anthony Scaramucci, who long ago deserted him. Every invitee was asked to bring five friends to bulk up the audience. Someone said on CNN today that she had seen more people in an Apple store than showed up for Trump’s departure.

Not even Mike Pence showed up! Maybe he was annoyed that Trump told his mob to go after Pence when they vandalized the Capitol building, and they set up a scaffold and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” That’s not the way you reward four years of puppy-dog loyalty!

Mike also laughed, as I did, at the thought that Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land Is Your Land” was sung at the Inauguration. If only Woody knew!

Politico reports that Trump officials at the Pentagon refused to share information with the Biden transition team.

Shameful but typical of Trump, who lacks any sense of propriety, decency, duty, or patriotism.

The Pentagon blocked members of President Joe Biden’s incoming administration from gaining access to critical information about current operations, including the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, upcoming special operations missions in Africa and the Covid-19 vaccine distribution program, according to new details provided by transition and defense officials.

The effort to obstruct the Biden team, led by senior White House appointees at the Pentagon, is unprecedented in modern presidential transitions and will hobble the new administration on key national security matters as it takes over positions in the Defense Department on Wednesday, the officials said.

Typical Trump. Mean of spirit. Unconcerned with the well-being of the country. Lie a spoiled child, he screams, “All the toys are mine. If you try to take them away, I’ll break them. Mine, all mine.”