The hard-to-kill lie that low-fat diets are good for you

In 1980, health authorities in the US and the UK issued food guidelines that urged people to eat less fat, less protein, less cholesterol, and more grains and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

People in general (including me) followed that advice, even though in hindsight it has become clear that there was absolutely no evidence that it would work. If you’ve been paying attention, 1980 was about the year that the problem of obesity became an epidemic in the US and in Great Britain. Proponents of a low-carb, higher-protein, low-sugar diet like John Yudkin or Robert Atkins were called all sorts of names by powerful figures in the American and British health establishments, in particular by Ancel Keys and his many acolytes. Yudkin in particular had is reputation besmirched, and Atkins was called a fraud.

Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, and Robert Lustig are some of the researchers and writers who have recently pointed out that the familiar low-fat hypothesis has no evidence whatsoever backing it up, and that there is lots of evidence contradicting it.

A few paragraphs from a recent article on this in the Guardian, which I urge you to read in its entirety:

Only in the last few years has it become acceptable to study the effects of Atkins-type diets. In 2014, in a trial funded by the US National Institutes of Health, 150 men and women were assigned a diet for one year which limited either the amount of fat or carbs they could eat, but not the calories. By the end of the year, the people on the low carbohydrate, high fat diet had lost about 8 lb more on average than the low-fat group. They were also more likely to lose weight from fat tissue; the low-fat group lost some weight too, but it came from the muscles. The NIH study is the latest of more than 50 similar studies, which together suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are better than low-fat diets for achieving weight loss and controlling type 2 diabetes. As a body of evidence, it is far from conclusive, but it is as consistent as any in the literature.


In 2008, researchers from Oxford University undertook a Europe-wide study of the causes of heart disease. Its data shows an inverse correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, across the continent. France, the country with the highest intake of saturated fat, has the lowest rate of heart disease; Ukraine, the country with the lowest intake of saturated fat, has the highest. When the British obesity researcher Zoë Harcombe performed an analysis of the data on cholesterol levels for 192 countries around the world, she found that lower cholesterol correlated with higher rates of death from heart disease.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a 2008 analysis of all studies of the low-fat diet, found “no probable or convincing evidence” that a high level of dietary fat causes heart disease or cancer. Another landmark review, published in 2010, in the American Society for Nutrition, and authored by, among others, Ronald Krauss, a highly respected researcher and physician at the University of California, stated “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD [coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease]”.

Many nutritionists refused to accept these conclusions. The journal that published Krauss’s review, wary of outrage among its readers, prefaced it with a rebuttal by a former right-hand man of Ancel Keys, which implied that since Krauss’s findings contradicted every national and international dietary recommendation, they must be flawed. The circular logic is symptomatic of a field with an unusually high propensity for ignoring evidence that does not fit its conventional wisdom.

Published in: on April 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Steven Singer on Testing, Eugenics, Racism and Big Business

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Standardized Tests Have Always Been About Keeping People in Their Place
There are some things that can’t be unseen.


America’s history of standardized testing is one of them.


Today, critics from all sides of the political spectrum decry the overuse of high stakes tests while paradoxically championing them for accountability purposes – especially for schools serving minority students.


Civil rights organizations that last year opposed testing have suddenly come to demand it – not because testing ensures racial equity but for fear of losing wealthy donors tied to the assessment industry.


Yet one look at where these tests come from and how they have been used in the past shows their essentially classist and racist natures.


Make no mistake – standardized testing has been a tool of social control for the last century. And it remains one today.


Twisted statistics, made up math, nonexistent or biased research – these are the “scientific” supports for standardized testing. It has never been demonstrated that these kinds of tests can accurately assess either intelligence or knowledge, especially as that knowledge gets more complex. But there is an unspoken agreement in political circles to pretend that testing is rock solid and produces scores that can be relied on to make decisions that will have tremendous effects on the lives of students, teachers, parents and communities.


Our modern assessments are holdovers from the 1910s and ‘20s, an age when psychologists thought they could isolate the racial markers for intelligence and then improve human beings through selective breeding like you might with dogs or cats.


I’m not kidding.


It was called eugenics.


Psychologists like Carl Brigham, Robert Yerkes, and Lewis Terman were trying to find a way to justify the social order. Why is it that certain people are at the top and others at the bottom? What is the best way to decide who belongs where?


To answer these questions they appealed to a radical misreading of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. They thought they had discovered something new about the human brain. Positive traits such as intelligence were widespread in Northwestern European races and almost nonexistent in others. Moreover, negative traits such as laziness and criminality were common in nonwhites and almost absent in those same Northwestern Europeans.


It was really just the same kind of racial prejudices that have been prevalent throughout Europe for centuries, but now American pseudoscientists had found a justification for believing them. In fact, they argued that these deductions weren’t prejudices at all. They were facts based on evidence. It was “science.”


To make such conclusions they had to blind themselves to the effects of wealth and social class. The rich tend to be more well-behaved and educated than the poor. These psychologists took this to mean that the rich were somehow genetically superior. And since the rich were mostly of Northwestern European ancestry, they concluded their genes produced a racially superior type of human. They ignored the fact that a privileged upbringing bestows certain benefits while an impoverished one inflicts life-altering wounds. Ultimately, their “science” was simply a justification for their prejudices.


Brigham later created a civilian test of intelligence that could be used to sort and rank students just as the Army Alpha and Beta tests had been used to sort soldiers. He called it the Scholastic Aptitude Test or S.A.T.




Though the test has been revised multiple times since Brigham created it, the purpose has remained the same – to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, to hold some students up as worthy of further educational investment and to keep others out. Moreover, the means by which the SAT makes this distinction was and remains culturally and economically biased. Researchers have been pointing out since Brigham’s day that the test favors students from wealthy, white backgrounds over those from poor minority homes. Yet today 2.1 million teenagers every year still must take the test to get into the college of their choice.


And so eugenics became education policy throughout the country from primary to post-secondary school.


Terman, who created the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test to identify “slow” children for special education programs, went on to champion rigid academic tracking for all students in public schools based on standardized testing. The idea was to give the racially pure students extra resources and keep the mixed or lower races in classes more suited to their lower intellects and eventual menial stations in life.


It is sad that many of these ideas persist in our present-day schools. Even today, economically disadvantaged and minority students still make up the majority of remedial and academic classes while the children of the middle class and the wealthy (most of whom incidentally are white) disproportionately populate the honors classes. Today we write that off as merely accidental if we think about it at all. However, a peek at history shows quite clearly that it is exactly how the system has been designed to work.

Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Injuries and “High intensity” exercise

My son runs a gym called True180 Fitness in Georgetown (DC), and shared this article with me.

He wrote:

“This article is a disturbing reminder of why safety is so important (and to a lesser extent why calling what we do “high intensity exercise” isn’t a great idea because that’s now associated with people doing stupid and irresponsible things):  ”

Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 1:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Having Two Separate School Systems Is Wasteful

Peter Greene keeps making the point that having a charter school system along side a public school system is wasteful. One reason is that each system would need its own set of administrators. In Washington, DC, where nearly half of the students now attend charter schools, we now have MORE school buildings than we did when I was in junior high school just over 50 years ago, but only about HALF as many students — thus, a lot of unused space.

Inventing two separate school systems has done essentially nothing to reduce the score gaps between children from white, affluent families (living mostly in upper Northwest) and children from minority, poor families (living elsewhere). The segregation is not quite as awful as it was in the 1960s, but it’s pretty close.

Here is an excellent article from Valerie Strauss’ blog where a DC parent decries the waste, segregation, and general bass-ackwardness of what passes for ‘reform’ in the nation’s capital.

An excerpt:

“Two years ago, when I moderatedthe mayoral education debate, I gave each candidate a math problem:

“–In 1965, the District had 147,000 students and 196 schools. That’s [an average of] 750 kids per school.

“–In 2014, we had 85,000 students and 213 DCPS [D.C. Public Schools] and charter school buildings. That’s [an average of] 399 kids per school.

“That means we have half the kids that we had in the 1960s, and more buildings, many of them gravely under-enrolled. Yet, we still authorize up to 20 new charters per year, and an unclear number of DCPS new schools. Enrollment is flat. At what point do we match school growth with enrollment needs, geographic balance, and transportation planning in mind? At one point do we focus on using data to invest in and manage the schools that we have?”

She also describes

“…the scene I watch from my house near North Capitol Street. It’s straight-up racial apartheid. If I see white children walking to the parks, I knew they are from Mundo Verde or Inspired Teaching schools. The lack of white faces in a group of children makes me know the kids are from Langley, Harmony, or KIPP.”

More data falsification in DCPS

My former colleague Erich Martel keeps uncovering and documenting evidence of DC education officials fabricating or falsifying data to make themselves look good without actually helping any students or parents or teachers. This letter from him deserves to be read, digested, disseminated, and acted on.
However, if the past is any guide – which it usually is – Erich’s letter will probably be ignored. Here it is:


[Attachment(s) from Erich Martel included below]

March 28, 2016 (margins: 7″ ; tabs 0.25″)

Ms. Hanseul Kang, D.C. State Superintendent of Education
Ms. Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, DC Public Schools
Ms. Jennie Niles, DC Deputy Mayor for Education
Mr. Scott Pearson, Executive Director, DC Public Charter School Board
Mr. David Grosso, Chair, Education Committee, DC Council

cc: Urban Institute 3/29 program facilitators; DC Mayor; DC Council;
bcc: media, DC public education supporters

Dear District of Columbia School Officials,

I am looking forward to your presentations at the Urban Institute’s public panel on DC’s Next Generation of Data and Research. This could truly be the start of a new day, if you commit to full data transparency within the reasonable limits of the FERPA and to true standards-based education research. I am writing this as an open letter, which, as public officials, you should welcome.

As a high school social studies teacher, my interest in data began with discoveries at Wilson H.S. of altered student grades and the high school diploma awarded to students despite missing or fabricated entries on official records and transcripts. In 2002, it led to an independent audit of all DCPS high schools that found the same mismanagement in each one. In 2006, the DC Inspector General confirmed new discoveries at Wilson HS. In 2010, the Thomas Fordham Institute distributed my report on credit recovery, describing how Chancellor Rhee’s so-called credit recovery program bypassed DC graduation requirements ( ).

As a member of the Washington Teachers’ Union Executive Board (2007-10), I served on the OSSE/OCTO SLED (State Longitudinal Education Data) adoption committee (2008) and, in 2010, testified before the NAS/NRC PERAA Evaluation Committee, whose final report noting the difficulty of getting accurate and complete data led to this Urban Institute event. In both cases, I submitted descriptions of data suppression or skewing and recommendations for data reporting.

Attached is a document that all parents and teachers would welcome from every DCPS and charter high school: The College Board’s “School Integrated Summary.” Attached in one from North Carolina, which I found posted on the web. It displays student performance results on the PSAT, SAT, SAT subject tests and AP, by test and scores. They are available annually by early September:
(full letter continued on attachment)
Erich Martel
Retired DCPS high school teacher

Attachment(s) from Erich Martel | View attachments on the web

3 of 3 File(s)

Friendship Collegiate 3 2011 Transcripts Analyzed 15 0101.doc

Coll Bd School Integrated Summary NC HS 2014-15.pdf

Letter to DC Officials re Urban Inst Panel Data&Rsch.doc

Posted by: “Erich Martel” <ehmartel@

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mike Martin on Lead Poisoning and Public Institutions

This is long but well worth reading in light of lead scandals in Flint and other places. I’m reposting from the EDDRA2 list serve.

I’m still here. You asked for my response, so here is my opinion.
There is nothing particularly controversial here. The connection between test scores and lead poisoning was known back in 2001 when I published my summary of the effect of lead poisoning on failing schools (A Strange Ignorance ). The research since then has made this even more concrete, for multiple reasons. First, lead interferes with the brain establishing long term memory, so lead poisoned students literally cannot learn (there is actually a quote from a pediatrician in my 2001 report to this point).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, lead poisoning symptoms include irritability, impulsivity, and aggression. This results in behavior similar to ADHD that interferes with learning. But the lead induced impulsive behavior means lead poisoned children cannot sit still in class and “behave.” This is the crucial reason charter schools thrive in lead poisoned areas: they stress “discipline” and expell impulsive kids, thus screening out the lower scoring lead poisoned children.
Third, lead poisoning completely disrupts the learning environment. Lead poisoned children who try to learn, work hard to learn, but their brains cannot learn creates enormous frustration. These frustrated children are also impulsive, aggressive and irritable because those are the common symptoms of lead poisoning. So they tend to disrupt classrooms and interfere with other students learning even if they are not lead poisoned.
As a consequence, schools in areas with high lead poisoning incidence will have both low test scores and disruptive environments purely consistent with the known symptoms of lead poisoning. Just for the record, I have research reports showing the inability of laboratory rats to learn if they are lead poisoned. I have research about the higher levels of aggression in cats that have been lead poisoned. There is research on monkeys and other animals showing that these lead poisoning symptoms occur in other mammals.
When Dubya was elected he received only ten percent of the Black vote. He was elected by a party known to have enormous animosity toward the Black population. That party was known for using “code words” for racism and use other behaviors against the Black popullation. They knew that using test scores to measure school success would label schools in Black neighborhoods as failures.NCLB wasn’t an accident.
I published articles showing that testing experts were almost uniformly against using test scores to label schools. They understood the mathematics of test scoring showed this to be an invalid process. Indeed one national expert said measuing education with test scores was equivalent to measuring temperature with a spoon. I also published a report demonstrating an extremely high correlation between NAEP scores and the percentage of students who were non-poor White ( ) which meant that rewarding high test scores primarily benefitted non-poor White schools.
Many of you may remember my essay “Waiting for Superfraud” in which I pointed out that the financial company Merrill Lynch had published a book on how companies could access billions of dollars in education funds by discrediting publich schools. This signaled a corporate effort to divert education funds to private pockets. The charter school effort was just the most obvious of this, but the testing demands were part and parcel. There were highly funded “think tanks” devoted to distorting statistics to show public schools were failing. Which was why my Superfraud essay began with “Public schools have to fail. There is no alternative. So give up trying to argue otherwise with facts and logic.” Facts and logic have nothing to do with failing schools.
When I began to look intently at the process involved in undermining public schools, I discovered that it wasn’t an isolated effort. There exists a major effort funded by billionaires to undermine all public institutions. The process is simple, create distorted circumstances and then spoon feed the media hysteria inducing ‘facts’. Then they call for privatization to divert public money to private pockets. The Veterans Administration is going through this process right now. There exists a political effort to discredit all government activity in order to reduce public protections and safety as well as to raid the public purse.
The BlackCommentator focuses on another of the scams used. Gentrification gets good press because it raises test scores. I previously noted that a Native American charter school in Oakland was nationally recognized for improving test scores, but the only reason the scores increased was because Native American students were displaced by Asian American students. Similarly in San Francisco a failing public school was taken over by a profit making administrator and scores increased, but on analysis they only increased because they quit allowing low-income Black students from attending the school. This latter drill is actually quite common.
High stakes test scores serve no purpose other than to discriminate against students in circumstances where low test scores are designed into the system. In fact, I even demonstrated mathematically that if schools raised the test scores of low-scoring students, then the process they use to standardize tests would lower the test scores of all the students (see: and plus ).
But the real issue is not about lead poisoning, or test scores. It is about discrediting public institutions. Look at the hearings about Flint: the Congress is entirely attacking the EPA (see: ) because the only acceptable conclusion is that the federal government failed.
I know this is long and difficult. That is what I do: analyze difficult issues. In November 2007 I posted an essay on this listserv noting that the country was on the verge of a global depression and that was the overwhelming issue that needed to be focused on. I received some grief on that and today I still read about how nobody could have known in 2008 that the Great Recession was underway. The facts are out there today just as they were in 2007. 
The real process we need to consider about low test scores and lead poisoning is that both serve the purpose of discrediting public institutions. That is the real issue. We are in the midst of powerfull people stealing our democracy.

Mike Martin

Phoenix, Az
On 3/19/2016 6:57 AM, Bob Valiant [EDDRA2] wrote:


Is Mike Martin still a subscriber? If so I would like to hear from him on this topic.
Bob Valiant
On Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 6:22 AM, ‘Dr. Wesley L. Boykin’ [EDDRA2] <> wrote:

“There are strong relationships between long-term 

lead poisoning (oftentimes unacknowledged and/or 

denied) and standardized testing outcomes in 

poverty-ridden school districts where the majority 

of students are African American and Hispanic or 

members of other racial minority groups.”
Click here for links to all parts of this series
Flint, Michigan’s problem with lead in its water system (promoted directly by Cartel member, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder) far exceeds the level considered acceptable according to the federal government’s national standard (15 parts per billion). The national attention to the dangers of lead poisoned water generated by this crisis has flushed out similar troubles with lead in a number of post-industrial cities: Milwaukee, Newark, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and others. The cities with the highest concentrations of lead in their water systems are also those with public school districts that have majority-minority student populations (mostly African American and Hispanic).


Return joy to our classrooms where exploration, creativity and innovation are prized along with academic programs that foster life-long learning by signing the letter 


Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Noam Chomsky on the 2016 Elections:

Chomsky is often right about things.

I reprint a couple of paragraphs from Chomsky’s recent interview which I found in Truthout, which says that Bernie Sanders’ positions on things like universal health care coverage and free public higher education are held by large majorities of the population, both right now and for many decades in the past.

On the remaining Republican candidates:

Q: Cruz and Rubio appear to me to be both far more dangerous than Trump. I see them as the real monsters, while Trump reminds me a bit of Silvio Berlusconi. Do you agree with any of these views?

A: (Chomsky) I agree – and as you know, the Trump-Berlusconi comparison is current in Europe. I would also add Paul Ryan to the list. He is portrayed as the deep thinker of the Republicans, the serious policy wonk, with spreadsheets and the other apparatus of the thoughtful analyst. The few attempts to analyze his programs, after dispensing with the magic that is regularly introduced, conclude that his actual policies are to virtually destroy every part of the federal government that serves the interests of the general population, while expanding the military and ensuring that the rich and the corporate sector will be well attended to – the core Republican ideology when the rhetorical trappings are drawn aside.

and on what we should do:

Q: Is America still a democracy and, if not, do elections really matter?

A: With all its flaws, America is still a very free and open society, by comparative standards. Elections surely matter. It would, in my opinion, be an utter disaster for the country, the world and future generations if any of the viable Republican candidates were to reach the White House, and if they continue to control Congress. Consideration of the overwhelmingly important questions we discussed earlier suffices to reach that conclusion, and it’s not all. For such reasons as those I alluded to earlier, American democracy, always limited, has been drifting substantially toward plutocracy. But these tendencies are not graven in stone. We enjoy an unusual legacy of freedom and rights left to us by predecessors who did not give up, often under far harsher conditions than we face now. And it provides ample opportunities for work that is badly needed, in many ways, in direct activism and pressures in support of significant policy choices, in building viable and effective community organizations, revitalizing the labor movement, and also in the political arena, from school boards to state legislatures and much more.

Published in: on March 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Horrifying …

I’m sure most of my former students will tell you I was too strict and gave too much homework, but the chapter I hope you read on apparent abuses by a KIPP CEO at a school in California is absolutely horrifying. It was posted at Steven Krashen’s blog, Schools Matter.

Or click on this link:

Why do we need charter schools?

Peter Greene, the Curmudgucator, hits the nail right on the head about why charter schools are necessary.

(Hint: it’s not for making schools better!)

A quote:

So, really– what do we need charters for?

Improvements in quality, choice, innovation, instruction, programs– all of it can be accomplished in a public school system. All of these ideas for improving education could be applied to public schools, which would have the additional advantage of bringing the improvements to ALL students instead of a small group.

Of course, part of the challenge would be that changes and reforms would have to be discussed, debated and deployed publicly. A person who wanted, say, to subject non-wealthy non-white students to boot camp style No Excuses education would have to convince the taxpayers that it was a good idea. It’s possible that only charters can provide an opportunity for one driven visionary to impose his or her ideas on a school without being answerable to anyone. But that would be less like a democratic institution and more like a small-scale dictatorship. It’s not a very admirable goal– and anyway, the invention of mayoral control has once again made it possible to establish small scholastic dictatorships without resorting to charters. This, too, we can accomplish without charter schools.

There isn’t anything on this list of goals that we actually need charter skills to accomplish.

Is there any other goal I’m forgetting to– oh, wait a minute.

Redirecting Tax Dollars

Charter schools do accomplish one goal that can’t be achieved by public schools– they manage to redirect public tax dollars into the pockets of private corporations, charter operating companies, corporate shareholders, and guys who just figured they’d make some money in the charter biz.

(my emphasis – gfb)

Hearings address surplus of STEM workers in USA

There are official Senate hearings going on right now on the ways that large multinational corporations like Disney are firing relatively well-paid American tech workers and replacing them with workers overseas at much lower rates of compensation. In some cases they use a special visa program designed to hire foreign tech workers if there are no American workers available.

But anybody who claims – as do the heads of Microsoft and ALCOA – that there is a lack of highly-skilled American workers is simply lying. There are lots of highly-trained US STEM grads who cannot find jobs in the fields they were trained in.

Partly that’s because such American STEM grads expect to get paid a living American wage, with benefits and that’s not something that large multinational corporations are fond of paying for any more, except for a privileged few at the very top (like CEOs who make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year…).

Here is a quote from the Science magazine article:

At the hearing, titled “The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers,” subcommittee chair Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) kept the discussion focused on the moves by a number of U.S. companies to replace long-serving American workers with workers on H-1B skilled guest worker visas and to force the laid-off Americans to train their replacements. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained, “Congress intended the H-1B program to allow an employer to hire a skilled foreign worker in a specialized occupation when the employer could not find an American worker with needed skills and abilities,” and for many years the debate has focused on employers’ claims of a STEM skills shortage. But, Sessions said, “the sad reality is that not only is there not a shortage of exceptionally qualified U.S. workers, but across the country thousands of U.S. workers are being replaced by foreign labor.” As H-1B expert Ron Hira of Howard University in Washington, D.C., testified, “over the past year, in addition to the Southern California Edison case, a number of other cases—including Disney, Northeast Utilities, the Fossil Group, Catalina Marketing, New York Life, Hertz, Toys R Us, and I could keep going on—were highlighted by the press. But these were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases out there.” Testimony by labor force expert Hal Salzman of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey added that “all evidence and events suggest [that] the substitution of guest workers for U.S. workers is accelerating.”


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