CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Staying The Course

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

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Staying The Course

DeVos Staying The Course

Betsy DeVos granted her first interview as Secretary of Education, or even Secretary-nominee, to Ingrid Jacques at the Detroit News.

Jacques could be counted on to treat DeVos with warm, soft, friendly gloves. The deputy editorial page editor has previously told readers that DeVos is all about children, that the EAA is working, and that DeVos showed grit at her hearing. Jacques was a fine choice for a friendly interview.

The confirmation process, led Jacques, was “grueling” with DeVos facing “ferocious and largely personal attacks on her character” as well as attacks about her support of school choice. But in keeping with the sorry-not-sorry tone of the piece, Jacques suggests that it was mean to hammer DeVos for her comments about choice, but not that any of the hammering was unfair, inaccurate or anything other than a response to what DeVos actually believes and says. And while I actually agree that some attacks were not useful (piling on over “historical” and bears seems pointless, criticizing DeVos based on her experience in education was difficult because she has none, just as she has no experience working at a job, for a boss. Or starting out with little and working hard to get ahead. Or, despite the honorary “businesswoman” label that some media awarded her, the lack of running any organization or business of any size. Maybe it feels personal to bring up DeVos’s complete lack of educational experience, but her utter lack of even the thinnest qualification for the job was precisely the problem.

I am disappointed with how some people have behaved, yes. But I still remain very hopeful that if people can unite around doing what’s right for kids we can ultimately find common ground.

Well, goodness gracious. We’ll all try to behave better. But I do give her credit for mastering the kind of empty rhetoric favored by USED Secretaries. If we all agreed on what was right for kids, there’s be a lot less contention of course. But DeVos is already on record believing that government doesn’t know what’s right for anyone, and she’s also been clear that some folks (lookin’ at you, teacher unions) don’t really care about what’s right for kids anyway.

Jacques also wanted to know, given all the discussion and criticism in the media, well– how did that make her feel?? Which– really? Is anyone asking Jeff Sessions how he feels? Is anyone asking Bernie Sanders how he feels? Granted, President Snowflake lets us know about his feels all the time, so maybe things are changed, but I can’t help thinking that nobody would be asking DeVos about her feelings if she were a man. Anyway, how does she feel? Did this all make her feel mad?

“Yes, at times it certainly did,” she says. “It was frustrating. I was really discouraged, but I was told not to engage with the media. It was so one-sided and discouraging in that regard.”

And yet, somehow, we are going to get all the way through this interview without a single concrete suggestion about what her critics got wrong. There’s this:

Now that it’s over, DeVos sees a big part of her mission as convincing those she’ll be working with in the education establishment that she’s not out to destroy America’s public schools, but to make them better for all children.

But later in the interview:

All the work I’ve done has been to help kids for whom the schools they’re assigned don’t work, but with the hope that the schools that they would leave actually have an opportunity to get better as well and should challenge themselves to be better.

Which is another way of saying that she’s focused on getting kids out of public schools, scolding those schools on the way out. And despite her first statement, note that she’s not going to make those public schools better– she’s going to hope that they get their act together themselves. Later in the interview she re-asserts her full commitment to charters and choice and “is not backing down” on those policy priorities. There’s a “quiet and growing army” that wants change, and she’s there for them. So “better for all children” may be a bit of an overstatement. Or misstatement, or maybe alternative statement.

Or in response to the charge that she has ethical conflicts that haven’t been cleaned up–

…the allegation that I’m ethically conflicted — that I have conflicts that I’m not taking care of. That’s is very bothersome to me.

Not “I’ve totally taken care of those and made sure that all ethical conflicts are cleared up over and above the requirements of the law.” Just that it’s bothersome to be called on it.

DeVos tone polices her own hearing and admits that maybe she wasn’t super, but it wasn’t her fault.

“There were a few things I could have answered better or more articulately,” she says. “In my defense, the questioners had no interest in really hearing a full response, I don’t think. I did not want to be combative. I wanted to continue to be respectful and to try to reflect the kind of demeanor that I think we should have surrounding these conversations.”

So, “I could have answered better but they were mean and also I was behaving properly even if certain people were not.” And even though she could have done better, she still asserts that her preparation for the hearing was super-duper.

She also takes a moment to claim that Michigan charters are totally a hotbed of accountability, with so much accountability that no other state accountabilties like Michigan accountabilities. Michigan accountability is “much more stringent” than any other state which 1) is so not true that even other people in the charter industry recognize its not trueness and 2) to any extent there any accountability rules in Michigan, it’s no thanks to DeVos, who has fought them hard.

Jacques makes note of DeVos’s first day walking tour through USED to meet all the employees (and she did it in heels– seriously, would any man be subjected to this baloney), and she tries to wrap this puff pastry of a profile by showing how open and ready to go DeVos is– not like that mean Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA, who said there will be no working relationship with this ed secretary. Now any union president might conclude that based on how ferociously DeVos went after the teacher unions in Michigan, but again, Jacques seems to imagine that DeVos arrives tabla rasa with no previous history worth mentioning.

Betsy, bless her heart, is “ready and willing to move on from the bitterness of the confirmation,” but not by acknowledging that any one of her critics had a point worth responding to.

Seriously– how hard would it be to craft something along the lines of “I have plenty to learn because I’ve never held a position like this or worked with public education, but I promise to study hard” or something like “US education is torn by a hundred different viewpoints and as the country’s secretary of education it’s my job to listen to all of those folks so that I can best chart a course forward.”

But no– as with her boss, DeVos seems to see the world composed of two groups– people who support her and people who are attacking her. And she doesn’t need any input, has no need to learn anything. We already know this– the most telling question I heard her fluff at he hearing was her response to Michael Bennett, who asked her what she had learned from her experience with charters and public schools in Detroit. She had no answer.

Her priorities are already set.  Here’s DeVos on finding Congressional allies:

I’m very optimistic that I will be able to strike up a relationship with a number of members of the Senate who on paper are more closely aligned with giving parents more choices than much of the rhetoric we’ve heard to date.

Here’s DeVos on what she hopes for a legacy

I would hope by the time I leave to have allowed students across this country, particularly those who are today struggling most, to find and go to a school where they are going to thrive in and grow and become everything they hope to be.

DeVos is hear to replace public education with a charter-choice system. She’s not even here to argue for it– not once does she mention making a case for her policy– she’s just here to do it. She’s not here to listen to the varying points of view on public education. And like President Snowflake, she really doesn’t want to hear mean people disagreeing with her.

In short, while this interview (like the bear joke and her “find a pencil” tweet) may have been intended to soften her image, the bottom line is that Betsy DeVos is in DC to do exactly what she’s given every indication she would– ignore critics, push public education aside with charter-choice-voucher systems, and continue to move forward resolutely disregarding anyone who is not on her team and any information that doesn’t fit her ideology. It looks like what we’re getting is exactly what we thought we were getting.

A Newsweek reporter is suing the federal government to learn how it vetted Trump’s advisers for security clearances — Quartz

As a national security correspondent for Newsweek, reporter Jeffrey Stein knows he can’t see classified US government documents and doesn’t want to. He is, however, interested in how some of US president Donald Trump’s closest advisors—including Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson, and Trump’s own family members—got the necessary clearances to begin receiving security briefings, despite allegations and connections that he argues should have raised red flags in the reviewing process.

On Jan. 31, Stein sued multiple agencies of the federal government demanding to know the process used to vet and approve 15 of Trump’s picks. Stein argues, for example, that three of Trump’s children and Tillerson, the new US secretary of state, have had extensive business ties to foreign nations that normally would raise clearance alarms.

He argues that Bannon, the White House senior strategist who will sit on the National Security Council, was criminally charged with domestic violence and has ties to white supremacist organizations, two strikes that would have made him an unlikely candidate for the highest levels of clearance. (Politico reported in August that Bannon, a former banker and Breitbart News executive, was charged with abuse by his now-ex-wife in 1996, and the police report noted red marks on her neck, but she didn’t show up in court and the case was dropped.)

Based on statements made by intelligence officers in the press in May expressing doubt about the Trump team’s suitability for clearance, Stein filed Freedom of Information Act requests asking about the clearance process its members were undergoing. The requests were denied. His lawsuit, reported by Courthouse News, seeks “all records, including emails, about any steps taken to investigate or authorize (or discussions about potentially investigating or authorizing) [15 individuals] for access to classified information.”

READ THE WHOLE STORY HERE: A Newsweek reporter is suing the federal government to learn how it vetted Trump’s advisers for security clearances — Quartz

616 Lofts Profile: The Art of Gentrification and Racism

616 Lofts Profile: The Art of Gentrification and Racism
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)
616 Lofts is just one part of 616 Development . Founded in 2009 by Derek Coppess, the 616 Lofts mission offers the following narrative:

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

616 Lofts is just one part of 616 Development. Founded in 2009 by Derek Coppess, the 616 Lofts mission offers the following narrative:screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-12-17-59-pm

We build unique, urban spaces where people can work, play and just … live. 616 Lofts are residential communities built to do better for the city of Grand Rapids and its people. Our properties are in the midst of some of downtown’s most popular locations. Modern apartments (most of them upcycled from old structures) fuse historic and contemporary features, offering some of the most unique interiors in the city.

This seemingly upbeat and attractive take on what 616 Lofts does, fails to mention that the kinds of “urban spaces” they create is not for the thousands of working class families and communities of color who could never afford the monthly cost of rent required by the company.

Can you say Gentrification?

Of the seven locations the company…

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Talk to the Police: New zine provides solid information

Whatever You Do, Don’t Talk to the Police: New zine provides solid information
by Jeff Smith (GRIID)

There is a new zine that people in Michigan have put together and are distributing at protests that have been organized since the election in November.

The zine is entitled, Whatever You Do, Don’t Talk to the Police . Sprout Distro is making the zine available on their site, in PDF form . Here is what Sprout Distro has to say about the zine:

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy


There is a new zine that people in Michigan have put together and are distributing at protests that have been organized since the election in November.

The zine is entitled, Whatever You Do, Don’t Talk to the Police. Sprout Distro is making the zine available on their site, in PDF form. Here is what Sprout Distro has to say about the zine:

It’s a basic introduction for folks coming into contact with police and other law enforcement officials in the context of political demonstrations. It focuses on the importance of avoiding interactions with the police, looking out for each other, and taking care of each other. The zine explains how police often sew the seeds of division within resistance movements and instead articulates the importance of building a “culture of resistance” wherein folks respect a diversity of approaches by agreeing not to cooperate with the police.

Last year…

View original post 43 more words

CURMUDGUCATION: DeVosian Threat Inventory

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

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: DeVosian Threat Inventory

DeVosian Threat Inventory

So now Betsy DeVos has her very first big girl job, and we live in a Trump-DeVos education era. Time to take an inventory of what education issues to watch for. Here’s my set of best semi-educated guesses.

Common Core

Pshaw. Common Core continues to be a zombie policy, existing in various mangled forms both under its old name and its new one. This administration will claim to have gotten rid of it while having not done much of anything. It’s like building the Wall; people keep saying Trump can’t do it, but they forget his most potent policy tool– lying.

So we will claim that CCSS is dead and gone and applaud states for adopting strong college and career ready standards, which will continue to be the Core oinking through one more layer of lipstick. None of it will be the source of much fuss.

Charters and Choice

Technically, Secretary DeVos can’t really do anything much to get states to go all in on charters, vouchers, and choice. But then, technically Secretary Duncan couldn’t do anything much to get states to adopt the Common Core.

The tools available to USED just happen to be tools that DeVos is familiar with– bribes and extortion. Jump through this hoop and get a big fat check! Displease me and I will cut off your Title I funding.

Expect to see every possible tool used to throw money at charters and push for some version of vouchers. Watch for skirmishes between former allies, as charter-loving accountability hawks face off against a USED that doesn’t want to restrict “innovation” or hurt “flexibility” by making charter schools follow actual rules. Cyber-school operators can now breathe a sigh of relief; for a while it looked like someone might actually hold them accountable for their crappy results, but that ship has, well, not so much sailed as been blown up in the harbor.

Watch for the references to parental choice, the idea that parents are more important or better than the government at choosing for the child. This is the foundation for a voucher system– it’s also the foundation for disenfranchising every taxpayer who is not a parent. And (see below) it’s a rationale for abandoning those children whose parents are not good stewards of their children’s interests.

And be prepared to fight on the state level to keep pubic schools from being sucked dry in order to fund choicey stuff. Remember– throwing money at public schools is a huge pointless waste, but throwing money at charters is super-awesome.

The Most Vulnerable Students

What I guess we can now call old school reformsters liked to keep poor students, disadvantaged students, students with special needs center stage as part of their argument that we were doing all of this For The Children. Mind you, much of that rhetoric was baloney, but at least it kept vulnerable students in the conversation.

As hinted by the DeVosian ignorance of IDEA, we’re probably done with all that. Oh, we’ll talk about students in need from time to time, but students who are costly and not very profitable are going to treated like a hot potato. The feds will insist that taking care of Those Students is a state responsibility and the states will protest that they are meeting the letter of federal law and the emboldened charter-choice industry will declare that those students are totally free to choose any school that wants to invest the time and money to serve them if any such noon-public schools can be found.

And civil rights? Civil rights are for corporations. Non-wealthy black and brown folks, on the other hand, should smear some powdered grit on their hands so that they can get a better grip on their bootstraps.

This will be a cause for vigilance, because my guess is that in many cases these students aren’t so much going to fall through the cracks as they are going to be stuffed through them.

College Finances

It has been clear all along that DeVos has neither knowledge of nor interest in the federal role in managing college loans and grants. I expect some statement along the lines of

I don’t really know what’s going on, exactly, but there’s a whole lot of money involved which means some corporation should be making profit off of handling this stuff, so let’s find a company to run the college loan/grant biz, hand them the money, and wash our federal hands of the whole business (though I think maybe I have some investments in a company of two that might be good for this). You ask me if we will check to make sure that the whole college finance thing is going well, and we absolutely will, though by “going well” we mean “making a good profit for the company running it.”

Attacks on Unions

Already under way. Look for a big push for a Right To Work nation. And don’t look for DeVos to schedule a meeting with Lily Eskelsen Garcia or Randi Weingarten any time soon. Do look for explanations of how teachers unions have ruined education in this country, and how the teachers unions are robbing teachers of the freedom to work for low wages with no job security.

Attacks on the Teaching Profession

Ditto. Teachers are supposed to be the fry cooks of the school industry, and all these regulations that require them to have training just interfere withe the flexibility of school operators, which is ridiculous because, after all, any mook can teach. Prepare to be nostalgic for the days when Arne Duncan would blow all that smoke up our skirts. And watch for an explosion of “alternative” approaches to licensure, so that anybody can jump over a broom and holler “teacher teacher teacher” and that will be good enough. Because making sure people are qualified is just reducing flexibility and taking away everybody’s freedom to be a teacher.

Local Control

We’ve seen in the past years that the GOP has abandoned its ideas about small government and interfering with local control. Like many on the left, the right now believes that the purpose of government is to force people to behave they way you think they should. We will see how long the DeVos USED can holds onto a prime directive for non-interference. We’ll also see if the GOP can really work up the nerve to kill the department entirely.

In the meantime, watch your state, where legislatures are feeling free to do whatever-the-hell-they-want to the education system. Many of the most important policy debates will be on the local level, right up until the moment the feds decide that certain state decisions are not okay. So, just like the old days.

Big Data (and small)

I’m honestly curious to see which way this wind blows. The ability to run a cradle-to-career stuffed with every piece of data on students (including what kind of character and personality they have) is not an obvious area of interest for DeVos, and conservatives have been known to get kind of testy when the feds get all Big Brothery. On the other hand, there’s a ton of money to be made here, and what the free market wants, the free market ought to get. My bet is that money will win and the push to digitize all human life forms will continue.

At the same time, DeVos is an ideologue. If data conflicts with her view of How The World Works, then it’s bad data and can be dismissed. Data and facts are, in this administration, malleable things, not based in reality and only useful for scoring points in the larger argument. This will change the nature of the debate. I imagine that we will see versions of this conversation:

Resistance: Look at these pictures. Look at this data. Can’t you see the damage your poicy is doing?
DeVos: It doesn’t matter. My policy is Right.

DeVos may be, as some have claimed, pragmatic. But she is still a perfect appointee for a post-fact administration. And it’s okay to lie to the rabble.

Personalized Competency Based Computer Learning Micr0-Credential Education Stuff

This will not be going away, and if you haven’t been paying a lot of attention, it’s time to start.

For one thing, the personalized/competency based education stuff lends itself easily to fitting choice on crack-laced steroids. Give every kid a education debit card, and let them take whatever course they want from whatever vendor is on the market. The deserving rich kids can get all the education they want, and the undeserving poor (which is the only kind of poor there are because if you deserved to be not-poor, you wouldn’t be poor) can make do with the bare minimum that noblesse oblige throws their way.

For another thing, the best market/audience for this type of education has always been people who don’t know anything about education. Which is what we have in charge now. Vendors are going to have a field day pitching this shit.

This will be the new growth industry. It will be the hot new investment. It is going to be huge. Hyuuuugge!

The New Priorities

It’s important to remember that Betsy DeVos didn’t have to come to this office ignorant of public education. With her giant stacks of money, her political clout, her bulldog-playing-hockey charm, she could have spent the last twenty years becoming a first-hand expert on public schools. She didn’t, because she didn’t want to, because the issues of public school are not important because public schools are not important beyond the fact that they’re an obstacle to how things should be.

Students, the worthy ones from the right homes, should be in Jesus schools, learning to understand how God made the free market as a way to sort out His beloved chosen few from the rabble. The rabble should also be in Jesus schools, learning how to follow rules and behave themselves and fit comfortably and happily in their proper places.

Everything else is a waste of time and money, and we’re only having to bother with it because too many of the Godless rabble have been allowed to run loose in our country, and if we can’t put them back in their place overnight, well, we can at least start to undo some of the damage they’ve done and blunt some of the systems they’ve put in place to do more damage and start bringing children up properly.

And the best way to manage all of this complex operation is as a business. Wherever something can be taken over by a business, that is in and of itself a Good Thing. Business is always better– that’s part of the ideology in play here, a foundational value of the new regime. Put another way– if nobody is making a buck off it, it’s probably no good.

If we don’t understand the new set of priorities,  we’re going to find ourselves trapped in looped versions of the same conversation

Resistance: If you pursue this policy, you will do irreparable damage to X!
DeVos: And your point is….?

Don’t Bet the Farm

This is my early read on what the threat levels are for these various issues. I could turn out to be wrong on any or all of them. Bottom line– we are all going to have to pay close attention ajnd remain vigilant, because the new normal is not going to be all that normal at all.

We’ve held off repeal of the ACA — but the millionaires are getting restless | Eclectablog


‘We’ve held off repeal of the ACA — but the millionaires are getting restless’, at Eclectablog.

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