Oh, God, no!

Unfortunately (or not) neither Hell nor Karma really exist. And if there is any omnipotent God, he/she/it/they seem to do a great job at letting the oppressors to continue oppressing; earthquakes & natural disasters to repeatedly destroy the lives of the poor; and armies to keep on raping, maiming and killing, while taking food out of the mouths of the poor and vulnerable.

Untold millions (billions?) are forced by poverty and oppression to leave their families and homelands, risking their very lives to find work in foreign lands from Singapore & Saudi Arabia to southern Florida & California, only to arrive in a country where they are demonized and rendered invisible; where they have no rights at all — not even to be sure of being paid for their work.

If the Gods were so omnipotent and merciful, why couldn’t they just spell out their desires and instructions clearly on a sidewalk or other big open space somewhere, letting us all know in advance where & when to look, and simultaneously writing it in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic, so that there is NO possibility of being misunderstood? Why, instead, do we have all these bogus charlatans telling us what THEY think the latest natural disaster is punishment for?

Hmmm. I think I know the answer.

I’m afraid we will have to deal with nasty, racist exploiters and demagogues like Trump, Putin, the Koch brothers, and all the others around the world without any divine assistance whatsoever.

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Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 1:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Peter Greene on Arizona’s Teacher Shortage

“Curmudgucation” remains my favorite teacher-blogger. I have no idea how he manages to write so many excellent, insightful, hard-hitting columns each week while still teaching, directing plays and performing/directing the town band, AND being a new daddy of twins. Perhaps he can get by on 3 hours of sleep.

But in any case, here he analyzes why Arizona has a teacher shortage. The short answer is because the job of being a K-12 teacher there not only pays less than anywhere else in the US (except maybe Puerto Rico) but is also one where they are literally overworked and stressed out. As a result, they quit in droves, finding out that they are not ready for life in hell.

There are in fact plenty of qualified professionals already certified and able to teach in that state, but they literally can’t stand the low pay and execrable working conditions. Would YOU work 100 hours a week, with no autonomy, for less than a Costco employee makes in a 40-hour week?

Published in: on September 27, 2017 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yet Another DC Charter School Fraud Case Settlement

There have been a LOT of DC charter school frauds. This one was published in the Washington Post on-line yesterday, and had to do with Options Charter School, where the founders used it as a source of private funding for themselves, instead of providing for their high-needs, often disabled students. Note, however, that the founders themselves will NOT be jailed, and will NOT pay the fines themselves. Instead, the fines will be paid by an insurance company. Also note that one of the principal fraudsters held an important position on the DC ‘Public’ Charter School board itself! What’s more, these crooks also still maintain that they did nothing wrong. Ha!

Here is the entire article, with the HTML links, illustrations, and advertisements all removed:

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Former charter school leaders settle lawsuit that alleged self-dealing scheme

 

By Michael Alison Chandler September 23

The former leaders of a public charter school for disabled and at-risk teenagers have agreed to settle a District lawsuit alleging they sought to enrich themselves by diverting millions of dollars in taxpayer money meant for the school into private companies they created.

Donna Montgomery, David Cranford and Paul Dalton, all former managers at Options Public Charter School, agreed to a collective settlement of $575,000, which will be paid to the school that now operates under new leadership as Kingsman Academy. Jeremy Williams, a former chief financial officer of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, who allegedly aided the scheme, agreed to a settlement of $84,237 in a separate deal signed last week. The defendants agreed that they would not serve in a leadership role of any nonprofit corporation in the District until October 2020.

“This settlement ensures that more than $600,000 in misappropriated funds will now go to Kingsman Academy to serve disabled students in the District of Columbia, and will deter future wrongdoing,” said Robert Marus, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General. “As the referees for the District’s nonprofit laws, our office will continue to bring actions against any who would misuse funds meant for public or charitable purposes.”

A statement issued by attorney S.F. Pierson, who represents Dalton, said all three former managers “continue to contest the District’s claims and continue to maintain their position that they managed Options to the highest standards.” Pierson said the former school leaders are “not personally paying” anything to settle the District’s claims. It’s common that insurance plans cover litigation-related costs for nonprofit directors or corporate officers.

Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a civil case filed in 2013, the D.C. attorney general’s office alleged that the former leaders of the school, as well as the senior staff member at the charter school board, created a scheme to divert $3 million in tax dollars to themselves and two for-profit companies they founded. The companies provided services including transportation and Medicaid billing to the school at a markup, with profits pocketed by the defendants, according to the complaint.

Williams, who had been in charge of financial oversight of the city’s charter schools, allegedly helped facilitate the scheme, before he left his job at the charter school board to work at one of the for-profit companies.

After the lawsuit, the school went into court receivership. The two for-profit companies also went into court receivership and ultimately paid $200,000, most of which went to the school.

The city sued another charter school founder for a similar scheme in 2015. Court documents from that lawsuit, which was settled later that year, showed that Kent Amos, the founder of Community Academy Public Charter Schools, paid himself more than $1 million a year to lead the schools via a private management company he established.

Such allegations prompted the charter school board to strengthen its financial oversight procedures and its policy regarding disclosing conflicts of interest.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the board said in a statement that the board takes its oversight role “seriously” and that it has worked closely with the Office of the Attorney General throughout the Options litigation. “We thank the OAG for their persistence in seeing this to a resolution,” he said.

The U.S. attorney conducted a multiyear investigation of the case that ultimately did not result in criminal charges.

J.C. Hayward, a longtime television news anchor at WUSA and former chairwoman of the board at Options Public Charter School was initially named as a defendant, but she was dismissed from the civil case a few months after it was filed. The station placed Hayward on leave when the lawsuit was filed in October 2013, and she retired not long afterward.

Shannon Hodge, co-founder and executive director at Kingsman Academy, said she was “grateful” that the settlement dollars would go to the school that replaced Options. “We will certainly make sure that the students benefit from that settlement,” she said.

Kingsman opened in the summer of 2015. It operates in the same facility in Northeast Washington and serves a similar demographic that Options did, with a majority of students receiving special-education services. But it has its own leadership team and educational philosophy, Hodge said. “We are a very different school,” she said.

On historical accuracy in movies

Here is an interesting answer in the forum Quora about how accurately (or not) Hollywood movies about WW2 tend to be. (Disclosure: I have close relatives who work behind the scenes decorating movie sets; they take great pains to make the various objects as accurate as possible and also within the budget)

Thomas Sutherland

Answered Apr 30

“Movies Are not documentaries.

That means they are never accurate about anything they depict, not because they deliberate;ly want to lie, but because the very nature of any narrative art, be it a novel or a movie or a theatrical play, is to trigger an emotional response from the audience and maximize it.

“Thus there is conflict, tension, suspense, characters’ growth, and behind all that a story argument that moves the events forward towards a certain end. A movie doesn’t follow the rules of life, but the rules of fiction. It should have a beginning, a middle and an end, it should have an interesting pace and escalating conflict that starts with an inciting incidents, escalates to crisis and ends with a resolution for that crisis. All its characters must be interesting to watch. All its dialogue must be interesting to hear. Life is simply never like this.

“Therefore the good in a movie is summarized good (and maybe even exaggerated and glorified, made heroic), and the evil is summarized evil(concentrated and distilled). The whole thing is designed to trigger strong emotional responses, for that is the core of “entertainment”, not the bona fide presentation of events as they happened. Life, even in its most exciting or most horrible turns, is too boring to be depicted as it is. The historical accuracy is often restricted to the visuals, so that the spell of “suspension of disbelief” is not broken and the entertainment is not spoiled.

“So, if you want accurate knowledge, consult a book. If you want accurate “historical” knowledge, consult several books and documentaries, written by different people with different opinions, and from the points at which they intersect, you might discern a truth. If you want entertainment, you can watch a movie.”

Published in: on September 24, 2017 at 9:09 am  Comments (2)  

China Has a Major Education Problem for its Poor and Rural Population

Here in the US, most people think of Chinese students as being uniformly hard-working and awesomely brilliant, especially in science, technology, engineering and math. However, that is because the ones who make it here are the very best students China has to offer. As an article in Science points out,

“…only one-quarter of China’s children grow up in the relatively prosperous cities. Rural moms have high hopes for their children; Rozelle’s surveys have found that 75% say they want their newborns to go to college, and 17% hope their child gets a Ph.D. The statistics belie those hopes: Just 24% of China’s working population completes high school.”

Published in: on September 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm  Comments (1)  

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.

Charter Schools in Michigan Harm Students and Help Investors — and DeVos Deserves Much of the Credit

A long article in the NYTimes analyzes how the rise of almost completely unregulated charter schools in that state has not meant any benefits to the poor students attending their privatized schools. In fact, the authorizing agencies for these mostly for-profit charter schools actually seem to be doing it mostly because they get a cut of 3% of the entire budget for the schools that they supposedly supervise!

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In addition, the charter management companies make huge profits by buying under-utilized land and buildings for a school and then selling that property to the school for many times what they themselves pay!

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If that’s confusing, rest assured that that is on purpose.

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Not that this has helped the children of Michigan. By the very yardsticks that corporate edu-“reformers” like to use, since Michigan has undergone this wholesale charterization of its formerly public school system, their test scores have dropped from near the middle of all 50 states to very close to the bottom.

And our current federal education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been leading the way, advocating more school choice.

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A quote:

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“…banks and hedge funds, Miron told me, profit greatly from the charter sector, thanks to large tax breaks dating back to the Clinton presidency that benefit investors in schools located in struggling “renewal communities.” And with so many eager lenders and bond underwriters lined up, E.M.O.s realized they, in turn, could make money from one of the largest expenses charter schools face. “A bunch of them thought, Wow, I can start a real estate division!” VanderWerp said. “We’ve run into this all over the place”: E.M.O.s buy buildings “for a couple hundred thousand bucks, lease them to the school for a couple of years and then sell them” to the school “for a few million.” In Michigan, 80 percent of charters are currently operated by for-profit E.M.O.s. The state’s largest E.M.O., the Grand Rapids-based National Heritage Academies, operates 84 charters in nine states and has been criticized for charging wildly above-market annual rents to its schools: A Detroit Free Press investigation found that 14 National Heritage schools in Michigan pay the company $1 million or more.”

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Very sad, depressing, wholesale theft. When will we stop it?

Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 10:24 am  Comments (5)  

John Merrow’s Takedown of the Gates-Jobs Takedown of America’s Public Schools

I don’t know if you watched it (I didn’t), but apparently there was a major TV extravaganza last night about how America’s high schools are obsolete and need to be re-invented. John Merrow did watch it, and was rather disgusted. Here is a bit of his commentary:

Last night’s program was high energy and cute without being daring.  For example, it had a clever ‘red carpet’ segment but with teachers as the stars.  Lots of cheering, but that was it.  That’s sadly timid.  Imagine if Melissa Rivers, the host on the red carpet, had asked teachers the question she always asks the Hollywood stars: “You look marvelous. What are you wearing tonight?’  

And picture a male teacher responding:  “These old things?  I bought these khakis 12 or 13 years ago. I was going to buy a new pair for tonight, but I just spent $380 on basic supplies for my classroom.  Oh, and would it be rude of me to ask how much your outfit cost?”

Imagine a female teacher responding, “What am I wearing?  Actually, I’d rather talk about tomorrow’s field trip….I’m taking my kids to the Getty Museum, where they will….. see provocative art and meet contemporary artists.  And the next day my students will be on Skype, talking with students in a high school in Paris about climate change. We’ve been measuring the air quality here and sharing the data with them for purposes of comparison and analysis.  But I have to charge the kids for the bus to the Museum and I had to ask some wealthy parents to pay for the scientific equipment because the school district has been cutting our instructional budget.”

And another teacher could have said, “To be honest, I’m happy for this attention, but I can’t help but thinking about the fact that you make 17 or 18 times more money per year than I do.”

Assessment of Rhee/Henderson/Mayoral control in DC public schools

Here is a very long article on the legacy of the mayoral takeover of DC public schools back in 2007, which brought in Chancellors Rhee and Henderson, among other things. Having been a teacher, a mentor, and a volunteer in and visiting DC public schools for that period of time, I’m not particularly impressed with the changes I’ve seen. The article, which I still haven’t finished reading, has criticism of what hasn’t worked, by Mary Levy and  John Merrow, and also features a reply by Thomas Toch (who is very much a cheerleader for the “reforms”).

Here’s the link. Please read the article and comment, and take some action as well.

http://washingtonmonthly.com/people/john-merrow-and-mary-levy-with-a-reply-by-tom-toch/

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.

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