CURMUDGUCATION: Just Say It

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Just Say It

Just Say It

Fox News suggests that we might want to get rid of the food stamp program because fraud is at an “all time high.” Never mind that this amounts to 0.09% of the food stamp program, that there are far greater money-wasters in DC, or that this isn’t even close to an all-time high (or actually fraud). It’s at moments like this that I just want to holler at my screen, “For the love of God, just say it!”

Just say “We don’t want to spend our tax dollars on poor people. We don’t want to help the poor and unfortunate and downtrodden. We want to keep our money for ourselves, and we want to just let the less fortunate rot.”

If you don’t want to spend money on schools for non-white, non-wealthy children, just say so. If you would really be perfectly happy if school systems who serve poor minority students just collapsed, just say so. If your goal is to make sure that not one cent of your tax money ends up in neighborhoods filled with Those People.

Honestly, it would help in a lot of ways. For one thing, we could more easily sort of education reformers who are actually sincere or well-intentioned (yes, I believe there are such people) from those who are just trying to burn the system down. For another thing, we could be having a national discussion about the real issues in front of us instead of pretending that we are trying to fix a system that we are really trying to trash. Just be honest. Just say it.

It all takes me back to one of Stephen Colbert’s greatest quotes:

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it. 

Why aren’t folks just honest about these issues?

Of course, there’s the “PC” complaint– “If I just go ahead and say that poor black kids should starve because they deserve to, the PC police will pick on me!” Some folks have apparently been stewing for years that they don’t have a safe space where they can be free to demonstrate how much they lack empathy, understanding, or basic decency. Many of these folks have found the strength since the rise of Herr Trump to go ahead and be honest about who they are, and voila!– as a nation we get to have a conversation about all these issues that we’ve pretending we’d solved (“What!!? There are still racists in America!!??!!”)

But other folks are still holding their tongues and using their dog whistles. Why is that?

It could be a nod to PR realities– if we are going to sell this, we need something that’s widely acceptable. So instead of saying “We need to replace the public school system for everyone with a private education system for Christians” we say “Parents should have school vouchers and the freedom to choose.” Because that tests better with focus groups. Of course, if what you have to do is sneak past the sensibilities of the larger culture, you might ask yourself what part of society you are subverting and whether you’re right for doing so.

Which brings us to another possible reason that nobody wants to sit on Fox and Friends and say, “Poor people should just be cut off from all government support and left to survive or not on their own”– because you know you’re just wrong. Because the thought of hearing those words come out of your mouth makes you cringe, like imagining yourself calling your spouse the most terrible names, or imagining yourself bashing in the skull of a tiny fluffy bunny– just the very thought makes your conscience wake up screaming.

This, incidentally, is one of the problems with our increasingly awful political discourse– it normalizes the awful. After you’ve heard the unspeakable spoken enough times, it stops seeming so unspeakable.

But back to the point– if you know, on some level, that you’re wrong, why keep being wrong? On purpose? Because let me tell you– I went through a period of being Wrong On Purpose in my life, and that is some exhausting shit. The mental twisting and warping and just the sheer energy expended making the Wrong seem like Okay is tiresome, and it screws your head all up. But this is one more reason to speak honestly– because calling the Wrong Thing by its actual name is part of what will set you free and force you to deal with reality. Life is too short. Just say it.

And if you’re afraid to say what you really want because people will call you on it– well, then, I guess you don’t want it all that much. Stop trying to weasel your way to it.

Free the allies who aren’t really your allies. Stand up to your opponents openly and honestly. Live your life with enough integrity to speak your actual truth, even if it is vile and ugly and, yes, wrong. The first step in getting to a better place is to admit where you are.

Just say it.

CURMUDGUCATION: TX: Education Savings Accounts & Vouchers 2.0

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: TX: Education Savings Accounts & Vouchers 2.0

 

TX: Education Savings Accounts & Vouchers 2.0

Yesterday the Dallas News gave Mack Morris “Special Contributor” some space to plug Education Savings Accounts. ESAs are often called another way to do vouchers, but they are actually worse. Still, folks can be excused for misunderstanding– the Dallas News includes headline art of a cap-and-gowned woman holding a giant $100 bill, suggesting that even the Dallas News has confused vouchery ESAs with the other Education Savings Account meant as an instrument for collecting money for college.

Morris is actually the Texas deputy Director for Americans For Prosperity, one of the Koch brothers astroturf groups that has crusaded against Obama, Democrats, and government (you know– that big organization that takes your money and gives it to Those People when you know darn well that if God wanted them to have money they wouldn’t be poor). The AFP helped launch the Tea Party and was the single biggest spender on political advertising in 2014.

Morris’s pitch is the one currently preferred by privatizers of public education– families must have choices so that they can escape zip codes where their children are “trapped” in failing schools. As always, this does not lead us to consider what the state’s role is in the “failure” of those schools, or what the state could do to help. Instead, Morris wants you to know that there are these cool ESAs happening in other states like Florida and Nevada. Morris spends a whole paragraph talking about the failings of Texas education– low test scores, high drop-out rate– as if these things make a case for vouchers and not for a case that Texas should maybe fund and support its school system.

As proof that vouchery goodness would help, he cites University of Arkansas Distinguished Professor of Education Policy Patrick Wolf– oops! Somehow Morris omitted Wolf’s full title “Distinguished Professor and 21st Century Chair in School Choice in the Department of Education Reform.” So perhaps not an objective academic here (and if you want to be slightly more depressed, look at how much time Wolf has spent working in the USED). He’s a go-to guy for pro-voucher press.

He estimates that if Texas adopted an education savings account program that went into effect in the fall of 2017, a total of 11,809 additional students would graduate by 2022 — and that number would likely increase over time.

Man– that “11,809” is so awesomely specific that you just know it’s a product of True Science and not just a number he pulled out of his butt. Personally, I estimate that 643,311 students will have more trouble completing school because of the funding their school will lose through ESAs. See? I can estimate my way to science, too!

But Morris is ahead of me. ESAs would totally boost performance in the schools that students quit, because reasons. He also claims that there are twenty-nine studies that show traditional schools improve because of choice programs. He does not link to, name, or cite any of these studies. There are twenty-four national studies that show that Morris is making shit up.

“But hey,” you ask. “What are Education Savings Account and how are they both the same and different from vouchers? You said they were worse. What’s up with that, anyway?”

In a voucher system, families are given a… well, voucher, like a coupon good for (usually) around $7-10 at any state-approved school. But in an ESA, families are given a small stack of money and told, go spend this on education or, you know, whatever. You could go to a public school, or hire a tutor, or take educational field trips, or even just bank a bunch of it to help pay for college. Hell, buy a Playstation and play “educational” games all day.

ESAs typically take about 90% of the cost-per-pupil of the school district. In Texas that amounts to about $7,800 per student (special needs students usually get more money, but since Texas has made the bulk of its special needs students mysteriously disappear, that may present a special Texas challenge).

$7,800 is not a heck of a lot of money to send your kid to a private school. However, here’s a thing we know about how voucher systems tend to work– a bigger-than-half percentage of voucher students were never in public schools in the first place. With a voucher system, the school gets money from the state and depending on how much they were scraping to pay tuition, families get to keep money for other stuff. With ESAs, families get a stack of money which they can then just spend on whatever. It’s like a special taxpayer-paid bonus for sending your kid to private school.

So private schools (particularly religious ones) benefit. Families that could already afford to send their kids to private schools benefit hugely. People who wanted to wash their hands of any obligation to make sure that non-wealthy non-white kids got a decent education– well, they’d be able to say, “Look, we gave you your ESA money. If you still got a crappy education, that’s not our problem. We’ve done our part. The rest is on you.” It also creates a whole new ethical dilemma for the poor– you don’t have money for food, but you have your ESA money, so do you choose half-day school so you can put some food on the table? ESAs represent a whole new market for bottom-of-the-barrel education providers.

ESAs also dovetail nicely with next generation choice on steroids, a future envisioned by some in which families get their child’s education from a variety of specialized vendors. Team that up with “personalized” on-line education, and you can imagine ESAs as your on-line credit. For just ten tokens you can unlock the next level of your Calculus I training!

That’s because what ESAs do best is bust up the binding on education funding. The first problem for privatizers was to disrupt the pipeline than ran straight from taxpayers to public schools, to break that pipeline open so that all that sweet sweet tax money could go to other places. The second problem is to break the bundling– all that money tends to travel in large chunks, so that if you want to grab some of it, you need an enterprise large enough to attract one of the big bundles, like a national testing company or an entire school. But if privatizers could break those bundles of cash up, they could nickle and dime themselves into decent revenue streams.

That’s what ESAs promise– instead of voucher customers who have to spend all their money on just one thing, ESAs promise customers who can spend any amount of money on pretty much product. ESAs also promise to absolve the state of its obligation to actually educate its children, which could liberate wealthy Texans from having to suffer a tax bite to help Those People.

It’s a big win for everyone except, of course, students and poor families.

Texas has several other details to work out, and a lot of people to sell on this idea for gutting public education. Let’s hope that Texans get to hear from people other than Mack Morris, or else a whole generation will end up paying a huge price for this foolishness.

CURMUDGUCATION: The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

 

The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

All right. So some folks are pretty upset about 2016.

There was certainly lots to not love about the year on many scales. Some of that is real (Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds gone in two days??!!), and some of it is just heightened sensitivity to what is not really news (What?! America still has racism!?). There’s a veritable cornucopia of reasons for folks to be dissatisfied with the year. On the other hand, personally, my son got married, my daughter delivered her second child, my wife and I made a cross-country trip I’ve always dreamed about, and we are expecting twins next summer. Plus I still have one of the best jobs in the world.

So as we’ve all been trying to answer the question of how to move into 2017, I’ve been thinking about the space between the personal view and the larger picture. The larger picture can seem loaded with lots of frustration and despair and helplessness, but on the personal level…? On that level I get to choose what I do, how I react, what steps I take . It’s where my greatest power lies, and so, my greatest responsibility.

So here’s what I tell myself going into 2017.

1) Be present and pay attention. It is easy to get wrapped up in the To Do List of the classroom teacher. Well, easy for me, anyway. But our students need to be present and paying attention, to hear what they say and see who they are even when they aren’t explicitly trying to be seen and heard. Nothing that I do in a classroom is more important than finding the connection to each student.

2) Do not wait for someone else to stand up. Do not count on someone else to advocate for what I care about. Do not leave it to someone else to call a Congressperson or a state official about the issues that matter. Especially don’t say, “That’s what I pay union dues for. They can handle it.” Call. Write. Speak up. Stand up.

3) Don’t waste energy. Don’t waste energy getting worked up about things that haven’t actually happened yet. Pay attention, but don’t mistake your predictions and fear for true future history. React to what actually happens. You know you’ve lost the thread when you are angry at students, colleagues, friends, and elected officials for things they haven’t actually done.

4) Read up. Study up. Know what there is to know about the work of teaching, and keep trying to learn more.

5) When the door opens, say yes. If it’s the teachable moment, don’t reject it because it’s not in the plan. If it’s the moment someone needs you, don’t turn your back because you have other things to do. If it’s opportunity, don’t close the door because the timing is inconvenient. Mostly you don’t get to choose when the door opens, but you do get to choose whether or not to say yes. Say yes.

6) Be honest. There isn’t anything more important. Even if it bothers members of your own tribe. Even if it isn’t what was true to you yesterday. Even if you are afraid to be seen by those who may strike back.

7) Give the students more feedback more often more soon. I make this pledge every year. It’s possible I will not ever be satisfied with my results.

8) Remember that while you share fundamental human qualities with every other human being, you have vastly different experiences. Your normal is not everybody’s normal. In particular, remember that other people may be struggling on a hill that you never even had to climb. Do not confuse a difference in experience for a difference in basic humanity; if you imagine that the hill they are struggling on would never have stopped you for a second because you are stronger or grittier or better, you probably don’t understand either yourself or that hill as well as you should.

9) Value people. Value people. Value people. Money and power and privilege are only important insofar as they help you take care of other people. The circumstances of your life, particularly the circumstances of your profession, have put a whole bunch of people right in your path. Start by looking out for them.

10) Advocate for what you want, not what you don’t want. You already know this from the classroom– it is infinitely more useful to tell a student what you want him to do instead of what you want him not to do.

11) Always say what you mean, and say it like you really mean it. Never stop considering the possibility that you may need to change your mind.

12) Never let tradition, authority, systems, habit, or other people’s power substitute for using your best fresh judgment. Start the question from scratch; if you were in the right place before, you’ll be lead right there again. Don’t just grab last year’s unit plan– ask yourself how you, right now, would teach that unit. And always make sure your best fresh judgment includes consideration of the ideas and words of other smart people.

That’s my dozen for this year– which should be an exciting year indeed.

Dems Target DeVos for D.C. Grilling

by dianeravitch

The Washington Post reports that Senate Democrats will aggressively question 8 of Trump’s cabinet picks. One is the totally unqualified Betsy DeVos.

“Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

“Such delays would upend Republican hopes of quickly holding hearings and confirming most of Trump’s top picks on Inauguration Day. But Democrats, hamstrung by their minority status, are determined to slow-walk Trump’s picks unless they start disclosing reams of personal financial data they’ve withheld so far, according to senior aides.

“Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats will home in especially on Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), his pick for attorney general; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Betsy DeVos, selected to serve as education secretary.

“There’s also Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee changes to Obamacare, who is expected to be attacked by Democrats for his support for privatizing Medicare. Andrew Puzder, a restaurant executive set to serve as labor secretary, will face scrutiny for past comments on the minimum wage, among other policies. Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner set to serve as treasury secretary, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA, will also be the focus of Democratic attacks, aides said.”

Diane Ravitch's blog

The Washington Post reports that Senate Democrats will aggressively question 8 of Trump’s cabinet picks. One is the totally unqualified Betsy DeVos.

“Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

“Such delays would upend Republican hopes of quickly holding hearings and confirming most of Trump’s top picks on Inauguration Day. But Democrats, hamstrung by their minority status, are determined to slow-walk Trump’s picks unless they start disclosing reams of personal financial data they’ve withheld so far, according to senior aides.

“Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats will home in especially on Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), his pick for attorney general; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), tapped…

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Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.

Want To Make A Million In The Gun Business? Start With Two Million.
by mikethegunguy
Although it’s less than a month before the replacement of that notorious gun-grabbing President with a guy who really understands the need to carry a gun for self-defense, the real question is whether the next four years will be a milestone or a millstone for the gun industry, since gun sales have traditionally been a function of whether or not you can buy a gun. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to buy a gun, you run out and grab as many as you can. But if there’s no gun ban on the horizon, oh well, need a new set of tires for the car.

Mike The Gun Guy™

Although it’s less than a month before the replacement of that notorious gun-grabbing President with a guy who really understands the need to carry a gun for self-defense, the real question is whether the next four years will be a milestone or a millstone for the gun industry, since gun sales have traditionally been a function of whether or not you can buy a gun. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to buy a gun, you run out and grab as many as you can. But if there’s no gun ban on the horizon, oh well, need a new set of tires for the car.

trump5            The problem in trying to figure out whether the gun industry will continue strong under (ugh) Trump or begin to slow down is difficult to figure out because it’s next to impossible to get a real fix on exactly how many…

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A New Year, Resolved. – Boils Down to It

The house is covered in confetti and half filled glasses. Plates with the hardened remains of hors devours are crushed and piled into the garbage bag, which should have gone out hours before. The dog is the not the only mammal asleep on your floor. Hungover and bloated, you stumble towards the fridge, hoping there’s some Pedialyte left from the last time your kids had a stomach bug, and swear that this year, things will be different.

And thus is the birth of the New Year’s Resolution…

Read more here: A New Year, Resolved. – Boils Down to It

The Special Ed Students Deserve | BustED Pencils

 We continually say that in order to be heard, teachers must speak. Awesome to see Chicago teacher Katie Osgood doing exactly that. From this post in Jacobin: “In recent years, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has attempted to implement free-market reforms to its special-education program, closely following the strategy that then–Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid… Read more »

Source: The Special Ed Students Deserve | BustED Pencils

New Year’s resolutions.

Fred Klonsky

img_0610

We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He’s gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything. And Donald Trump, too, was swine enough during the campaign to publicly hope the Russians would disclose Hillary Clinton’s emails. So a lot of this is very believable.

But we’ve been burned before in stories like this, to disastrous effect. Which makes it surprising we’re not trying harder to avoid getting fooled again. Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone

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Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either »

Relax, no one else believes the media, either! Recent polls say most US adults distrust mass media (unless you’re an adult democrat, that is)

Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either

by John Laurits

In the strange wake of the electoral-circus, news-stations have idled along on the fumes of the post-game chit-chat between talking heads & their expert guests. The horse-race itself is over, of course, but the outcome has left the media plenty to discuss before returning to their usual celebrity gossip & faked concern for whichever Middle-Eastern country’s civilians our tax-dollars murdered that week. […]

Read more of this post

Source: Recent Polls Say Nobody Else Trusts the Media, Either »

Celebrating Development, Celebrating Gentrification: 2017 Projects in Grand Rapids

Celebrating Development, Celebrating Gentrification: 2017 Projects in Grand Rapids
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
rental-costs-up

It is hard to go a week in Grand Rapids without one of the news sources celebrating the latest development project around town. The news media are rushing to praise whatever new project that is being proposed, so long as it means more growth.

One recent example is a posting on the site GRNOW.COM , which ran a headline on December 27 that read, The Most Anticipated Projects of 2017 .

The piece in GRNOW is not so much a news piece as it is a listing of the development projects expected to come to fruition in 2017. Besides the cheerleading narrative for each project, the article does begin by saying:
https://griid.org/2017/01/02/celebrating-development-celebrating-gentrification-2017-projects-in-grand-rapids/

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

rental-costs-up

It is hard to go a week in Grand Rapids without one of the news sources celebrating the latest development project around town. The news media are rushing to praise whatever new project that is being proposed, so long as it means more growth.

One recent example is a posting on the site GRNOW.COM, which ran a headline on December 27 that read, The Most Anticipated Projects of 2017

The piece in GRNOW is not so much a news piece as it is a listing of the development projects expected to come to fruition in 2017. Besides the cheerleading narrative for each project, the article does begin by saying:

After years of planning, Grand Rapids city leaders and developers are gearing up for a big year in Grand Rapids, probably the biggest boom in the city in 10 years; maybe ever. Here are some of the projects that we’ve…

View original post 353 more words