Headline Says Don’t Protect Worst Teachers


Another editorial in the San Diego Union attacks teachers and the California public education system. The author has a personal work history of harming California’s public schools by scheming to privatize them. The editorial was written by Rae Belisle. She is identified as a former member of California’s State Board of Education, but she is so much more than that.

Ms. Belise opened her attack,

“Competition for success in the 21st-century economy is increasingly tied to an educated workforce with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills.

“Parents, community and business leaders, and policy makers trying to keep and grow jobs in California should be shocked that in just a few short years California has won the race to the bottom.”

It is true that education is important to the future of any society, however, it is also important that education policy not be driven by a false narrative.

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The honest Legacy of Congressman Vern Ehlers

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Tuesday, former US Congressman Vern Ehlers passed away at the age of 83.

In the past few days there has been a number of news stories reflecting on the life of the former Congressman, with virtually every story communicating nothing but respect and admiration for Vern Ehlers.

One article on MLive just listed the comments from local politicians, both current and former, such as Senator Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Bill Huizenga, current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. 

A WOOD TV 8 story provides significant time to Ehler’s former press secretary Chris Barbee, but also included commentary from additional politicians like Rep. Justin Amash, Gov. Rick Snyder and Rep. Fred Upton. 

An earlier story on MLive provided some background on Ehlers’ political career from Kent County Commissioner to Congressman. In addition, some of the news coverage highlighted certain policies that the former Congressman had “championed,”…

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WOOD TV8 allows local leader of White Supremacist group to lie

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, WOOD TV8 ran a story headlined,Leader denies group is neo-Nazi: ‘Witch hunt’

Taking advantage of the national media attention from the White Nationalist/White Supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the channel 8 story used a Southern Poverty Law Center hate map to identify hate groups in West Michigan and chose to speak with the leader of a White Supremacist group.

However, the channel 8 piece, ultimately provided a platform for Mike Peterson, also known as Ragnar, to say that his group, the Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance, is nothing more than a religious group. The WOOD TV 8 reporter can only respond by showing one picture of Mike Peterson to challenge his identity with White Supremacy. This kind of weak and lazy journalism is not what people need, especially in light of the White Supremacist violence in Charlottesville last weekend. One more indication that commercial media outlets are more interested…

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Sold to the Highest Bidder: Lack of Protections Puts the Privacy of Students and their Families at Risk

BOULDER, CO (August 15, 2017) – Digital technologies used in schools are increasingly being harnessed to amplify corporate marketing and profit-making and extend the reach of commercializing activities into every aspect of students’ school lives.

In addition to the long-standing goal of providing brand exposure, marketing through education technology now routinely engages students in activities that facilitate the collection of valuable personal data and that socialize students to accept relentless monitoring and surveillance as normal, according to a new report released by the National Education Policy Center.

In Asleep at the Switch: Schoolhouse Commercialism, Student Privacy, and the Failure of Policymaking, the NEPC’s 19th annual report on schoolhouse commercialism trends, University of Colorado Boulder researchers Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar and Kevin Murray examine how technological advances, the lure of “personalization,” and lax regulation foster the collection of personal data and have overwhelmed efforts to protect children’s privacy.

They find that for-profit entities are driving an escalation of reliance on education technology with the goal of transforming public education into an ever-larger profit center—by selling technology hardware, software, and services to schools; by turning student data into a marketable product; and by creating brand-loyal customers.Boninger points out that “policymaking to protect children’s privacy or to evaluate the quality of the educational technology they use currently ranges from inadequate to nonexistent.”

“Schools and districts are paying huge sums of money to private vendors and creating systems to transfer vast amounts of children’s personal information to education technology companies,” explains Molnar.

“Education applications, especially applications that ‘personalize’ student learning, are powered by proprietary algorithms, without anyone monitoring how student data are being collected or used.”Asleep at the Switch documents the inadequacy of industry self-regulation and argues that to protect children’s privacy and the quality of their education, legislators and policymakers need to craft clear policies backed by strong, enforceable sanctions.

Such policies should:

Prohibit schools from collecting student personal data unless rigorous, easily understood safeguards for the appropriate use, protection, and final disposition of those data are in place.

Hold schools, districts, and companies with access to student data accountable for violations of student privacy.

Require algorithms powering education software to be openly available for examination by educators and researchers.

Prohibit adoption of educational software applications that rely on algorithms unless a disinterested third party has examined the algorithms for bias and error, and unless research has shown that the algorithms produce intended results.

Require independent third-party assessments of the validity and utility of technologies, and the potential threats they pose to students’ well-being, to be conducted and addressed prior to adoption.

Additionally, the report authors encourage parents, teachers, and administrators to publicize the threats that unregulated educational technologies pose to children and the importance of allowing disinterested monitors access to the algorithms powering educational software.

Find Asleep at the Switch: Schoolhouse Commercialism, Student Privacy, and the Failure of Policymaking, by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Kevin Murray, on the web at:http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/schoolhouse-commercialism-2017

Source: Sold to the Highest Bidder: Lack of Protections Puts the Privacy of Students and their Families at Risk | National Education Policy Center

Why are immigrants from some countries more successful than others? 

Some immigrant groups in the U.S. seem to be more successful than others. A new paper looks at how country of origin correlates with measures of personal success.

Source: Why are immigrants from some countries more successful than others? – Journalist’s Resource

Tabling for Rapid Response to ICE means confronting white supremacist attitudes

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Last night I attended a neighborhood church festival to table for the Rapid Response to ICE grassroots organizing group.

The church festival was hosted by Lee Street Christian Reformed Church in the southwest part of Grand Rapids. Those of us working with Rapid Response to ICE were contacted by one of the pastors at Lee Street CRC during the recent ICE raids, because a member of his congregation had been picked up by ICE and put into detention. 

The church festival was typical of many festivals, with lots of good food, music, a large play area for kids and information tables. I sat for about 2 hours and talked with mostly Cuban, Dominican, Mexican and Guatemalan people from the neighborhood. I had cards out with information on What to Do if ICE comes to your door and signage in Spanish about an upcoming training that the Rapid Response to…

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CURMUDGUCATION: Whose Children Are These?

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

Whose Children Are These?

Saturday and Sunday we were working our way back from Maine to Western PA (drive– feed babies– drive- curse Mass turnpike– drive– etc etc). That meant that unlike other folks who watched events in Charlottesville unspool in real time, we got them in every-many-hours blasts. It was heartbreaking and horrifying and completely predictable, yet far more awful in reality than in anticipation. There are lots of thins to be said about events (though I think we’re also operating in Onionesque headline “White People Once Again Surprised To Discover That Racism Exists” territory), but I want to talk about what jumped out at me from the disjointed blasts of news.

Twenty years old.

The white supremacist who murdered one woman with his car (while trying to murder others)– twenty years old. The torch guy who was later shocked that his picture, face pulled back in open raw hatred, was identified and shared far and wide– twenty years old.

Twenty years old.

So these racists are not grown men, battered and beaten by the long, hard haul of trying to make a living, trying to raise and support a family, trying to make their way in a world that beat them up so badly that they have finally retreated in a huddled posture of hatred. These are not that particular caricature of a nazi, a white supremacist, a fascist racist.

These are boys. These are nearly children.

Their lives have not been long and difficult. They haven’t lived long enough to lose big or lose hard. Their life experience is short. Their life experience is not years of rattling around in the big, wide world. We cannot blame the hard edges of the world for making them this way.

Their life experience is school.

They are barely high school graduates. They walked through some teachers’ classrooms, across a stage, grabbed a diploma, strode into the heart of this evil movement.

And that means that those of us who teach in those classrooms cannot escape our responsibility in all this.

Teenage boys can be jerks. Some love Ayn Rand’s call to selfishness, to abuse of the weak, because it fits so nicely with their inclinations. Some have been soaked in the stew of toxic manhood, told since infancy that the only manly feelings are anger and violence. And some like to say things like “Hitler was really a great guy” not because they have any coherent belief system, but because it shocks their elders in the same satisfying way that “F@#! the government– I’m burning my draft card” once set aged hackles up.

And those of us who see them in our classrooms are often the last people to get a shot at getting them to understand you can’t go moving through the world like that.

So as I face the return to school in a few weeks, I have to ask the question– what can I do to change that trajectory? How do I convince students who are that way inclined that there are better ways to be in the world?

There are resources out there. Xian Franzinger Barret offers a good set of recommendations on Alternet. There are several good reading lists out there– this is just one. And Audrey Watters echoes what I have always pursued in the classroom– teach history. The white supremacist stance feeds on hate and anger, but its foundation is ignorance. And as authorities, knowledgeable in history, it’s part of our job to say “This happened. That did not.”

As an 11th grade English teacher, I teach a lot of history, and I teach to it overwhelmingly white classes. I suppose it’s easy for us who teach in similar situations to focus on the “white” parts of our history because that’s “our” culture. But the truth has always been that while the face of American history has often been presented as white, the blood and guts and heart has always been black and brown and red and every damn shade. White students need to learn slave narratives, because that is “our” history, too. They need to know it all. And in times like these, they need to know that just because they would never have walked with those racists in Charlottesville, never said the awful things they said there– well, racism doesn’t always have such an obvious face, no matter how comforting it is to think so.

But I digress, probably because I have no good, clear answer to this. I know we can’t always make an impression on our students.I know that you don’t make evil go away by refusing to let students say it out loud, and I know you can’t deal with uncomfortable things if you aren’t willing to have uncomfortable conversations, and that means somehow making a classroom a safe place for everyone, even as you put the pressure on to stand against evil. I know that any company suggesting that we might use a battery of standardized tests to both evaluate and address such issues is a ludicrous scam. I know this is not easily faced or changed.

But twenty years old.

Maybe a mere two years from graduation– maybe less. Meaning that the only non-related adults who may have ever had a chance to push these children in a better direction were their school teachers. I know none of us want to hear about one more thing we’re responsible for, a God knows we cannot work miracles on the hardened skulls of white teenaged boys. We are certainly not the last line or only line of defense.

But the truth is inescapable. There are more of these children out there, waiting to become  raging face of anger or even a murderer, and this fall, they are sitting in our classrooms, and we will have to deal with that mindfully and purposefully. And I also know that it needs most of all to come from grown-ass white men like me, that we are the ones best positioned to talk about the choices a grown-ass white man makes about how to be in the world as either a force for good or for evil. And I know most of all that in this time and place, we cannot be silent about it.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Whose Children Are These?