Ruben Bolling Explains Emoluments

This graphic strip needs no explanation, I dare say.

Tom the Dancing Bug

Betsy DeVos on buying politicians

“In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos explained: “[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party… I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point… We expect a return on our investment.””
— from Steven Singer

Published in: on January 18, 2017 at 11:34 am  Comments (2)  

Do you remember how MOOCs changed education forever? Neither do I.

Peter Greene -as usual – does one of his incomparably witty and wise take-downs of edupreneurship, this time taking in the miracle-that-wasn’t of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

I’m doing this from my smartphone, which makes it hard to do any editing at all. So I’m just pasting his entire column:


MLK & Another Christmas

Posted: 16 Jan 2017 11:19 AM PST

Every year around December 25, a whole bunch of people who aren’t actually Christians get all misty about a watered-down version of the original faith, make some generic noise about peace and good will while ignoring all the parts of the message that might be, well, more uncomfortable (“But wouldn’t the moneylenders get upset if we threw them out of the temple? That just seems so rude and uncomfortable. Maybe we should do something less confrontational.”), and follow it up with some noise about how, really, we should make every day Christmas.
Then on December 26th, they just scrub all of it out of their memory hole and go back to their usual lives.
Martin Luther King Jr Day has become kind of Christmassy. A whole bunch of people who aren’t ordinarily black or much concerned about social justice and all the rest of it spend some time conjuring up some warm and misty images of a man who was called a troublemaker, who criticized liberals and moderates for their uninvolved silence, and who did not give his life, but had it stolen by some angry white guy with a gun.
We’ll have posts and tweets about how great a man he was, how folks of all colors should just get along, illustrated with photos of King looking noble and stock photos of ethnically diverse hand clutching. And then on January 17th, we’ll go back to arguing that Colin Kaepernick should protest injustice in some less destructive and disruptive manner than kneeling during the anthem.
Perhaps this is marginally better than trying to erase the day entirely so that King’s name isn’t even spoken, or is tied to a name like Robert E. Lee.
But I know this– talk is cheap (and stock photos are free). And all this talk about King and the Civil Rights movement as if it was just a bunch of African-Americans sitting politely and lovingly waiting to be recognized so that America would be slightly less rude– this is fake history, which is even worse than fake news. My students have grown up in a mostly rural, mostly white corner of the world as part of a generation that as grown up to think that the blatant injustice, prejudice and mistreatment of blacks is inconceivable– and so most of them cannot conceive of it, can’t imagine that things were all that bad, really. 
The soft fuzzy view of King fosters a soft fuzzy view of the ongoing struggles around race and injustice. The soft fuzzy King also fosters an unrealistic view of him as a man, a person, which in turns allows us to let ourselves off the hook (“I could never do anything important like that. I’m just a regular person, and I will just sit here quietly until the next Superman comes along to show us the way”)
But if we look at King as a person, and our nation as a society that struggles to do the right thing, that struggle turning on the actions of ordinary human beings, many of them, far more than just one– well, then, there’s no excuse to let ourselves off the hook.
We do our students no service by giving them one more dusty figure in the pantheon of Extraordinary Humans Who Are Responsible for Who We Are As a Country. Nor do we serve them by reinforcing the notion that this is a nation that somehow drifts toward Right by some mystical, non-human agency for which none of us are really responsible.
There will be lots of posts and tweets and stories pulled up from the archives today, and many of them will be a corrective to the fuzzy holiday picture. Do not read them today, or share them with your students tomorrow. Bookmark them. Keep them handy, and pull them up and read them over the weeks and months ahead. Share them with your students on days that are NOT specifically set aside for Reflecting on the Dream or Contemplating the Issues of Race. The concerns we raise on this day really should be everyday and every day concerns. We have no excuse to stop paying attention just because the calendar turns over to the 17th. 

MOOCs and the Failure of Innovators

Posted: 16 Jan 2017 10:06 AM PST

Today at IEEE Spectrum, Robert Ubell has a rough and telling explanation of “How the Pioneers of the MOOC Got It Wrong.” It includes some important lessons for many of the “innovators” in the education world today.

Massive Open Online Courses took off five years ago, when Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig decided to stream the computer lectures from Stanford out across the internet to the world. It seemed like such a winner of an idea that Thrun co-founded Udacity, one of the leading providers of interwebbified education. Thrun was so sure of this idea that he predicted in a 2012 interview at Wired that in fifty years, only ten higher education institutions would still be standing. He and other MOOC launchers were certain that they “had inspired a revolution.”
They did not know what the hell they were talking about.
In the beginning, MOOC completion rate was a whopping 7%. Nowadays that has inched up to almost 13% average. These are not impressive numbers. Nor are MOOCs putting universities out of business. As Ubell reports, research shows that people just graze or glance or bounce in for a minute. Those “who did finish a MOOC were accomplished learners, many with advanced degrees.” In other words, people who are more than capable of teaching themselves from whatever resource, whether it be a MOOC or, say, a book.
What happened? A common reformster problem– MOOC-ophiles were trying to disrupt practices that were no longer the norm in education. They figured that a MOOC would be more engaging than a traditional lecture (even if early MOOCs were just lectures on line, because computer technology!); they didn’t realize that educators were already ditching and replacing lectures.
The three principal MOOC providers—Coursera, Udacity, and edX—wandered into a territory they thought was uninhabited. Yet it was a place that was already well occupied by accomplished practitioners who had thought deeply and productively over the last couple of decades about how students learn online. Like poor, baffled Columbus, MOOC makers believed they had “discovered” a new world. 
How many times have we seen this played out in ed reform circles. Edbiz McSellsalot comes running up, hollering, “Quick! I have just chiseled this circle out of stone. I call it a ‘wheel,’ and if you will all start using it, your transportation will be revolutionized.” Experienced educators, riding on automobiles mounted on inflatable tires and sophisticated suspension systems, fail to respond with the proper level of awe and wonder. Unfortunately, too often the next step is for Edbiz to run off and convince some policy-makers to mandate the use of the “new” stone wheel.
And so vendors tell us that a multiple choice test (the kind of test that forty years ago we figured out is a poor assessment tool) will be totally awesome if we administer it on a computer. Charter operators announce proudly that they’ve discovered that personalized attention in a resource-rich environment will help students learn, particularly if you make sure that only the right students are in the room. Occasionally reformsters will grudgingly admit that some innovation doesn’t actually work, just as we told them it wouldn’t years ago. Who knew that having high stakes testing would warp and narrow instruction in schools? Every single teacher in the country– but nobody would listen to us.
One of the assumptions of reformsterism (carried over from the business world) is that you don’t need to be a trained experienced educator to be a great education leader. That assumption is disproven on a regular basis. That is why the teacher reaction to a reformster idea isn’t always “You have got to be kidding me”– sometimes it,s “No shit, Sherlock.”
Sometimes outsiders see bold new angles because they’re outsiders, but sometimes outsiders just don’t know what they’re talking about. Not every reformster is tripped up by ignorance of the territory or the arrogant belief that they don’t even need to look at a map. But MOOC creators are not the only befuddled Columbi on the scene. If folks can’t learn from the actual MOOCs, they can at least learn the lesson from MOOC creators. 

Published in: on January 16, 2017 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

EduShyster Reveals the Awful Record of Betsy DeVos

You really owe it to yourself to read about the horrible mess that the DeVos family is making of education in Michigan, precisely in order to hamstring all of us ordinary folks for the benefit of the rich and wealthy. EduShyster has a brilliant, long column as a result of her in-depth investigation. Here is the link.

If you can demonstrate against her, all the better.

Even the NYT Editorial Board Has Doubts About Betsy DeVos

I don’t normally agree with the editorial board of the New York Times on education, but even they have a hard time stomaching Betsy DeVos:

Big Worries About Betsy DeVos


JAN. 10, 2017

The director of the Office of Government Ethics, the nonpartisan agency charged with vetting the financial disclosures of cabinet nominees for potential conflicts of interest, sent an extraordinary letter to Senate Democratic leaders late last week. Never in the four-decade history of the agency, he wrote, have ethics officials felt such “undue pressure … to rush through these important reviews,” leaving “some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”


As the Senate races forward with confirmation hearings this week, the spottiest disclosures have come from wealthy private-sector nominees with no governing experience and many potential conflicts. In other words, the people most in need of a complete ethics review.


Exhibit A is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and education lobbyist who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. Ms. DeVos’s finances are a tangle that could take weeks to investigate. Despite that, Republicans had set her confirmation hearing for Wednesday. But late Monday night, they pushed it back to next Tuesday.


People who have seen her financial disclosures so far say that Ms. DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, have investments in some 250 companies registered to a single Grand Rapids, Mich., address, entities whose investments could take weeks for the ethics office to research. Already, though, there are reports that the DeVoses are indirect investors in Social Finance Inc., a private company that refinances student loans. Private lenders like Social Finance are banned from most of the direct student lending market; their lobbyists have already written to the Trump transition team pitching to change that. That’s only one potential conflict. What if her family has holdings in educational technology or for-profit colleges? Given time, the ethics office will learn this, and reach an agreement with Ms. DeVos to sell off assets that could pose a conflict.


Beyond erasing concerns about her many possible financial conflicts, Ms. DeVos also faces a big challenge in explaining the damage she’s done to public education in her home state, Michigan. She has poured money into charter schools advocacy, winning legislative changes that have reduced oversight and accountability. About 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are operated by for-profit companies, far higher than anywhere else. She has also argued for shutting down Detroit public schools, with the system turned over to charters or taxpayer money given out as vouchers for private schools. In that city, charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.


Mr. Trump has at times displayed breathtaking ignorance about the powers and basic function of government. Many on his transition team are new to government service as well. But the Senate, and people advising him, including Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, have no excuse.


Mr. Trump’s nominees will need only a simple majority vote to be confirmed. So what’s the hurry? Republicans seem worried that the more time the Senate has to examine some of these nominees’ backgrounds, the more chance a Republican or three could break ranks. Maybe they’re afraid of Mr. Trump’s ire, should any of his picks generate red flags. That’s backward thinking, of course: The potential for conflicts is more reason, not less, to take the time needed for thorough vetting, and the only route to a responsible vote.

Tom the Dancing Bug on the Electoral College


No comment needed.

Accountability and Following the Law in DC Education

Valerie Jablow has yet another well-researched column on how the laws on accountability and transparency are NOT enforced in the education sphere in DC, especially for charter schools. I highly recommend reading and digesting it, and then figuring out how to act on her recommendations.


Who are the ‘Illegals’, and why we should be concerned for their welfare

Published in: on December 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Compare ‘Education Reform’ to Ineffective but Profitable Quick-Weight-Loss Schemes

John Viall compares the past 15 years of education ‘reform’ to the past 30 or 40 years of completely counterproductive weight-loss schemes — in both cases, the results are exactly contrary to what they were promised to be. In one case, we can see that America’s obesity rates are some of the worst in the world. In the other, we have certainly not ‘raced to the top’ on TIMMS, PISA, or any other international test, despite all of promises by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He concludes (I added some color):

“For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U. S. students fare?
The envelope please.
In reading U. S. students scored 497. In other words, after fifteen years of school reform and tens of billions wasted, reading scores were still down seven points.
Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and U. S. students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.
Surely, all that meddling must have done some good? No. Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.
Fifteen years of diet plans that couldn’t possibly fail and, metaphorically, we were all just a little more fat.
PISA scores had been the foundation on which all school reform was built; and after all these years, America’s 15-year-olds were scoring 33 points worse.

If Dr Seuss Were Alive Today …

Would he have written this? I don’t know, nor do I know the actual author, but it’s pretty good:

In a land where the states are united, they claim,
in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,
lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,
the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.
This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,
with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,
and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,
and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.
He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,
and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!
It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,
I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!
Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,
and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.
And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,
but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.
I’ll speak random platitudes, phrases, and such,
They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!
They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,
I will make their America great once again!”
The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,
“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.
You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,
every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”
And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,
He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.
And celebrity preachers they crowned him as king,
Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.
And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,
Until they believed all of those lies were true too.
He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,
And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.
And the media laughed but they printed each line,
thinking “He’ll never win, in the end we’ll be fine.”
So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,
‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.
And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,
Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,
petrified that their freedom was under attack,
trusting Trump he would take their America back.
from the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,
Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.
And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,
all his lies about making America great.
Now the Pantsuited One she was smart and prepared,
she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,
no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,
or the fact that the Trump had not yet done thing one.
They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,
because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout.
And the Pantsuited One she was slandered no end,
and a lie became truth she could never defend.
And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—
a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.
And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,
like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.
And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,
And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,
With millions of non-voters still in their beds,
Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.
And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,
All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,
they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell,
they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.
With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,
with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street.
And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,
while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.
But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,
And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,
and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,
thinking this is what Presidents actually did,
thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,
terrified to learn he had to actually work,
work for every American, not just for a few,
not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.
He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,
for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.
They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,
and those nasty pantsuited ones were here to stay.
And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,
He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.
And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,
for America was already more than quite great,
not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,
It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,
It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,
It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.
It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,
The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,
It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,
It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.
And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,
and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.
And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,
be the greatness that makes our America great.
And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,
over two million more of us—voted for her.
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