Why is it that we keep on testing?

The only actual impact it’s had has been to distort education in a top-down manner, and that’s not exactly a good thing, as Peter Greene points out at Curmudgucation.

A few excerpts, concerning the reasons we were given for all this testing, and how that excuse turned out:

Address Inequity

We would find where non-wealthy non-white student populations were being ill-served. Anyone who can’t figure that out without the BS Test is a dope. And as with the last point, the problem has been that the data hasn’t so much been used to find schools that need help as it has been used to find schools that are vulnerable and ready to be turned into somebody’s business opportunity. Instead of focusing our will to address educational inequity, test-based accountability has highlighted our lack of will (and wasted the good intentions of some folks).

Informing Instruction

Teachers were going to get their data spreadsheets and figure out, with laser-like precision, who they needed to change their instruction. But right off the bat it became clear that data about students in your class would only arrive long after the students had departed for their next classroom. Then the security issue reared its stupid head– I can see student scores, but I am forbidden to see the test itself. (For that matter, students who are so inclined are unable to see their specific results to ask “What exactly did I get wrong here?”) This means I can tell that Pat only got an okayish score, based on some questions that might have asked about something about reading that Pat apparently answered incorrectly. How can that inform my instruction? It can’t. It doesn’t. The BS Tests “inform instruction” mostly by encouraging teachers to spend more time on test prep. That’s not a good thing.

Letting Parents Know How Their Children Are Doing

Under this theory, parents have no idea how their children are doing in school until the BS Test results appear. Assuming for the moment that the parents are that disconnected, the information provided is minimal, scoring a few categories on a 1-3 or 1-4 scale. A BS Test provides very non-granular data, less nuanced than a report card– and based on just one test. There is nothing for parents to learn here.”

 

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The Example of West Virginia Teachers Should Inspire Us All

The recent state-wide strike by the school teachers of West Virginia, and their victory on the behalf of ALL West Virginia state workers, should inspire teachers and other workers all over the country, as Jan Resseger writes so eloquently here.

I read one article elsewhere, written by a right-wing journalist of some sort, criticizing teachers as whining, overpaid crybabies. That person did not, however, criticize any of the billionaires or millionaires for extracting maximum profits for the shoddy profits or apps they sell, nor the unlivably low wages they pay to retail, service, or manufacturing workers all over the country. How on earth can you pay rent and utilities and transportation and health care and everything else even for a single person, working full time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or even double that? You can’t, is the short answer.

While a handful of billionaires own more than half the population combined, it is beyond time for the rest of us to organize and demand a better life. This can only be done in large numbers, with workers (and consumers) sticking together. All by yourself, you can’t do much. However, if you can persuade others to stick together, on a massive scale, and not to allow ourselves to be divided by race, gender, national origin, religion, or anything else, then the sky’s the limit! Divided we fall, united we stand!

 

Vision of a Dystopian Education Future, Coming to Kids Near You

Not sure who wrote this, but if this is where education is going, it’s not a future I want anybody to grow up in. Not my kids, not my grand-kids, nobody.

Computerized education can really suck.

{Update: “Wrench in the Gears” is Alison McDowell; the section I referenced is the third of a series}

Automated Education: Building Sanctuary Part 5

A radical look at the Vietnam War

I am of the generation that resisted the unjust American war in Vietnam, and am quite proud of the little that we did. I agree with the author quoted below that the Vietnam War, which killed two or three MILLION Asians in  order to prop up the Western world-wide colonial empire, was a crime, rather than a mistake. The heroism of the Vietnamese (and others) in fighting imperialism for over 30 years should never be forgotten.

I felt sorry for my friends, classmates and neighbors who got drafted to fight over there against their wishes – some of those who finished their two-year stint in Vietnam or elsewhere during that era were eager to join and help lead our anti-war chapter of Students for a Democratic Society at my college (Dartmouth).

If the military had in fact been able to draft me, I am not sure whether I would have fled to Canada, or else gone in and simply have been a most unwilling, uncooperative soldier (like so many others), or else been involved in a big protest of some sort, or else have either ended up in the stockade for my pains (along with many others). Maybe all of the above?

Here is part of an essay by Bruce Dixon in today’s Black Agenda Report‘:

Convinced that Uncle Ho — as the Vietnamese called him — and his party would win the 1956 elections, the US created a brutal puppet government in the southern half of Vietnam to cancel the election and “request” US military aid against so-called invaders from so-called North Vietnam. In the final decade of the long Vietnamese war more than half a million US troops were deployed, more bombs were dropped than in all of World War 2, and millions of civilians mostly Vietnamese perished. It’s the final decade of the 30 year bloodbath that most now think of as the American war in Vietnam, Vietnam the mistake, Vietnam the tragic misunderstanding.

Only it wasn’t a mistake, and certainly not a misunderstanding. The Vietnamese and other colonial subjects had been insisting on their independence for decades. Ho Chi Minh showed up at Versailles back in 1919 when the terms of the treaty ending World War 1 were being drafted. Ho demanded independence for the African and Asian colonies of France, Britain and other European powers. The Vietnamese knew from the very beginning what they wanted to do with their lives and resources in their country. The so-called misunderstanding was that the US political and military establishment, and 5 US presidents over 30 years imagined they could torture, bomb, invade and slaughter their way to some other outcome.

Ultimately they could not. 58 thousand Americans and 3 million Asians perished. 3 million dead is not a mere mistake. It’s a gigantic crime, after the world wars, one of the 20th century’s greatest. Crimes ought at least to be acknowledged and owned up to, if not punished. Pretty sure Ken Burns is not at all about that. At best Burns seems to be about a species of healing and reconciliation that limits itself to Americans agreeing with and forgiving their trespasses against each other, and dutiful acknowledgements of the valor of fighters on both sides.

The series has not yet concluded, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Ken Burns ignores or buys into the discredited lie propagated by our country’s war propaganda industry that unaccounted for Americans prisoners were somehow left behind and missing at the end of the Vietnam war. They were not. But the little black flag and ceremonies for the imagined “missing” in Vietnam are standard now four decades after the war’s end.

I didn’t go to Vietnam. Vietnam came to me, or tried to. I was lucky enough to live in a big city, Chicago, and to connect with the antiwar movement, which included black soldiers and marines returning from Vietnam. Some of them frankly confessed to taking part in all sorts of atrocities and war crimes and we took them from high school to high school in the fall and early winter of 1967 to repeat those confessions, and to tell other young black people like us it was an unjust war we had a duty to resist.

I thought I was risking prison when I sold Black Panther newspapers at the armed forces induction center on Van Buren Street and refusing to be drafted like Muhammad Ali. But by then so many young people were resisting the war that Uncle Sam’s draftee army became useless. In that era there were not enough cells to lock us all up, and many white Americans were declaring themselves ready for revolution, or something like it. US policymakers learned that part of their lesson well. They ended the draft and most white antiwar protesters went home.

Noam Chomsky has it exactly right when he declares that Vietnam was not a mistake or tragic error. It was an example that said to the world – THIS is what you get when you defy the wishes of the US ruling elite. You get bombs, you get rivers of blood and you get your country’s economic potential set back half a century. Seen that way, Vietnam wasn’t some tragedy the US blundered into by mistake. It was an example. And a crime.

Were George Washington and Robert E Lee Equivalent?

Here is an exchange on something called Quora. The question below was (IMHO) quite stupid, but the answer was excellent. I’m quoting the whole thing becuase I don’t know how to just put in a link.

=============

Ross Cohen
Ross Cohen, B.A. in History & Political Science

Nazis Kill — Again

And our current Grifter-in-Chief is just fine with that. And the Nazis are fine with his support, as you see here:

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And not just MesoAmerica!

This is important stuff! The roots of democracy run deep, and wide — ancient history was not all ruled by pharoahs, emperors, and gilded billionaires.

An article describes research I never heard of that shows that there was in fact quite a continuum from pure democracy to pure autarchy in past history — and if we look carefully at clues left behind in the archaelogical record, we can get an idea of how democratic (0r not) various ancient societies actually were.

I quote:

They come up with a scale of popular participation in government that runs from autocratic regimes to more collective or democratic regimes. In their causal model the internal or external origin of state revenues causes or determines the scores on the governance scale (see the diagram). In short, reliance on internal revenue sources leads to greater bureaucratization, greater popular control over rulers, and more provisioning of public goods. Rulers rely on their subjects for taxation, so they must treat them better. External revenue leads to the opposite pattern. Rulers get their revenue from elsewhere, so they have no incentive to treat their subjects well by providing public goods or giving them any say in governance.

Blanton & Fargher 2008: 254

Blanton and Fargher’s scale of rulership, which runs from autocratic to democratic or collective, is a major advance in understanding ancient states. Not all states were the same. Some rulers were despotic and seriously exploited their subjects, but other states had more collective forms of rule, which means that commoner subjects had some say in governance. They analyze the thirty polities in their sample on a host of variables, which are scored in various ways to produce three numerical scales: public goods provision; bureaucratization; and control of the ruler. The scores for these scales are summed to produce their governance scale, which runs from a low of 23.5 (Bakitara; Aceh, Nupe, and 12th century England are near the bottom) to a high of 52 (Classical Athens; also near the top: Republican Rome, Ming China and Lozi in Africa).

What have those godless anti-American libtards done for me anyway?

(Copied from elsewhere; author unknown but reprinted with thanks to whoever it was. Also thanks to my friend Kathryn Wadsworth who put this out on FB!)

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOE REPUBLICAN AMERICAN

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joes employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

Full Text of NYT article on Neo-Nazi Bannon’s National Security Council Coup

WASHINGTON — The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.

It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.

But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

Continue reading the main story

But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. Mr. Flynn welcomed his participation, Mr. Spicer said, but the general “led the reorganization of the N.S.C.” in order to streamline an antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.

Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move.

“The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security,” said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations.

“I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.”

That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush’s last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president’s decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”

Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s last national security adviser, called the arrangement “stone cold crazy” in a tweet posted Sunday.

Mr. Spicer said the language the Trump White House used in its N.S.C. executive order is, with the exception of Mr. Bannon’s position — which was created during the transition — almost identical in content to one the Bush administration drafted in 2001. And Mr. Obama’s top political operative, David Axelrod, sat in on some N.S.C. meetings, he added.

There were key differences. Mr. Axelrod never served as a permanent member as Mr. Bannon will now, though he sat in on some critical meetings, especially as Mr. Obama debated strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “It’s a profound shift,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t know what his bona fides are to be the principal foreign policy adviser to the president.”

But Mr. Bannon’s elevation does not merely reflect his growing influence on national security. It is emblematic of Mr. Trump’s trust on a range of political and ideological issues.

During the campaign, the sly and provocative Mr. Bannon played a paradoxical role — calming the easily agitated candidate during his frequent rough patches and egging him on when he felt Mr. Trump needed to fire up the white working-class base. The president respects Mr. Bannon because he is independently wealthy and therefore does not need the job, and both men ascribe to a shoot-the-prisoners credo when put on the defensive, according to the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mr. Bannon is a deft operator within the White House, and he has been praised by Republicans who view him skeptically as the most knowledgeable on policy around the president. But his stated preference for blowing things up — as opposed to putting them back together — may not translate to his new role.

The hasty drafting of the immigration order, and its scattershot execution, brought a measure of Mr. Bannon’s chaotic and hyperaggressive political style to the more predictable administration of the federal government. Within hours of the edict, airport customs and border agents were detaining or blocking dozens of migrant families, some of whom had permanent resident status, until John F. Kelly, the new homeland security secretary, intervened.

Mr. Kelly’s department had suggested green card holders be exempted from the order, but Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, a hard-liner on immigration, overruled him, according to two American officials.

Mr. Priebus, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, indicated a softening of the stance, saying the order would not block “green card holders moving forward” — but said anyone seeking to enter the country from the listed countries would be subjected to tighter scrutiny.

People close to Mr. Bannon said he is not accumulating power for power’s sake, but is instead helping to fill a staff leadership vacuum created, in part, by Mr. Flynn’s stumbling performance as national security adviser.

Mr. Flynn still communicates with Mr. Trump frequently, and his staff has been assembling a version of the Presidential Daily Briefing for Mr. Trump, truncated but comprehensive, to be the president’s main source of national security information. During the campaign, he often had unfettered access to the candidate, who appreciated his brash style and contempt for Hillary Clinton, but during the transition, Mr. Flynn privately complained about having to share face time with others.

Mr. Flynn “has the full confidence of the president and his team,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said in an email. Emails and phone calls to Mr. Flynn and his top aide were not returned.

A president who likes generals and abhors political correctness, Mr. Trump found in Mr. Flynn — who joined Trump backers in an anti-Clinton “lock her up!” chant during the campaign — perhaps the most politically incorrect general this side of his hero, Gen. George S. Patton.

But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.

Mr. Flynn’s penchant for talking too much was on display on Friday in a meeting with Theresa May, the British prime minister, according to two people with direct knowledge of the events.

When Mrs. May said that she understood wanting a dialogue with Mr. Putin but stressed the need to be careful, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Flynn when the two were scheduled to speak.

Mr. Flynn replied it was Saturday — he had delayed it to fit in Mrs. May’s meeting for “protocol” as a United States ally, adding at length that Mr. Putin was impatient to chat.

Mr. Trump, the person said, appeared irritated by the response.

Still, the episode that did the most damage to the Trump-Flynn relationship occurred in early December when Mr. Flynn’s son, also named Michael, unleashed a series of tweets pushing a discredited conspiracy theory that Clinton associates had run a child sex-slave ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Mr. Trump told his staff to get rid of the younger Mr. Flynn, who had been hired by his father to help during the transition. But Mr. Trump did so reluctantly because of his loyalty during the campaign, when dozens of former military officials were dismissing Mr. Trump as too unstable to command.

“I want him fired immediately,” Mr. Trump said in a muted rendition of his “You’re fired!” line in “The Apprentice,” according to two people with knowledge of the interaction.

That has not stopped the general’s son from spouting off: On Saturday, at a time when Trump surrogates were pushing back on the idea that the executive order did not discriminate against any religion, the younger Mr. Flynn tweeted his approval of the policy, adding “#MuslimBan.” The tweet was subsequently deleted; his entire account disappeared later in the day.

Still, the national security adviser has also continued to dabble in the kind of bomb-throwing behavior that concerns Mr. Trump’s allies, such as planning to attend an anti-Clinton “Deploraball” event at the time of the inauguration. He was urged to skip it by Trump allies, and ultimately agreed.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon still regard Mr. Flynn as an asset. “In the room and out of the room, Steve Bannon is General Flynn’s biggest defender,” said Kellyanne Conway, another top adviser to the president.

But it is unclear when the maneuvers to reduce Mr. Flynn’s role began. Two Obama administration officials said Trump transition officials inquired about expanded national security roles for Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner at the earliest stages of the transition in November — before the younger Mr. Flynn became a liability — but after Mr. Flynn had begun to chafe on the nerves of his colleagues on the team.

Mr. Flynn’s reputation has raised questions among some in the cabinet. Two weeks ago, both men held a meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the State Department, Mr. Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, to discuss coordination — Mr. Flynn was invited but did not attend.

Part of the meeting was devoted to discussing concerns about Mr. Flynn, according to an official with knowledge of it.

A list of HELP senators’ fax numbers

This is so you can bug them with faxes, telling them not to vote in favor of Bigoted, Billionaire Betsy.

Al Franken                          MN        (202) 224-0044

Bill Cassidy                          LA            (225) 929-7688

Christopher S. Murphy  CT           (202) 224-9750

Elizabeth Warren             MA         no faxes

Johnny Isakson                 GA          202-228-0724

Lamar Alexander              TN          (202) 228-3398

Lisa Murkowski                 AK          202-224-5302

Maggie  Hassan                 NH          no faxes

Michael F. Bennet            CO          303-455-3358

Pat Roberts                         KS           202-224-3514

Rand Paul                            KY           (202) 228-6917

Richard Burr                       NC          (202) 228-2981

Robert P. Casey, Jr           PA          (202) 228-0604

Sheldon Whitehouse       RI            (401) 453-5085

Susan Collins                      ME         (202) 224-2693

Tim Scott                             SC           (855) 802-9355

Todd Young                        IN           no faxes

Patty Murray                     WA          (202) 224-0238

And here is my letter to them (I’ve visited, or lived in, 46 of the states so far):

Dear Senator:

I have visited your great state in the past, but since I was born and raised in the District of Columbia and still live there, I have no senator. So I’m calling on you.

I would like to put myself on the record as vigorously opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Not only does she have ZERO personal experience with public education in any form, she in fact is on record as favoring turning ALL education over to private businessmen and religious groups, including the weird form of messianic Christian fundamentalism her billionaire family favors. Her billions of dollars of personal wealth, mostly gained by a pyramid scheme that should have put her family in jail long ago, have been used to purchase politicians to promote her useless ideas, because she was never able to get voters to approve them.

During her confirmation hearings, she demonstrated that she has NO understanding of ANY of the most important issues concerning students and their parents today.

As a result of her machinations, local control has been removed from Black and Brown communities all over Michigan, and educational funds are flowing to all sorts of unethical, unregulated, for-profit charter school operators and religious fundamentalists running unregulated, storefront voucher schools. As a result, the scores of Michigan students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have, over the past 20 years, tumbled from being significantly above the national averages to being significantly below the national averages, both in reading and in math. And Detroit now has the very worst scores of any city in the nation. Thanks to Betsy Devos. And let us not forget that her policies also brought us the national shame of polluted water in the entire city of Flint.

You must vote AGAINST DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Thank you.

 

Guy Brandenburg

DC Resident, DC Native, Parent of two DC public school grads

 

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