How the Plutocrats Undermine Democracy With Mega-“Charities”

Article in Dissent magazine explains how today’s billionaires are succeeding in corrupting public policy by setting up tax-exempt foundations that do what the 0.001% believes is best.

A century ago, when the first ‘charitable’ foundations were set up by Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others, there was a lot more scrutiny and distrust of the very rich. As a result, there were some very serious regulations that were enacted to keep them in line. Not all of the results of those foundations were good: one Carnegie branch advocated racist ideas like eugenics and sterilization of those deemed ‘inferior’, and racist immigration quotas.  (On the other hand, the Carnegie Institution of Washington funded a tremendous amount of basic scientific research — by getting out of the way of the scientists themselves.)

These days, foundations set up by people like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and the Walton family are doing their best to destroy public education, and the media — which is owned by the same class of people — fawns all over their ideas. The billionaires think they know how to solve everything, and they pay ‘experts’ to produce bogus studies that parrot the billionaire’s party line, and then they subsidize the media to promote what they believe.

Of course, in the field of education, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of the billionaire-led initiatives are producing any positive results at all, even using their own yardsticks. Unless the real purpose of those initiatives is to destroy the American public school system and resegregate it as it used to be prior to Brown v Board of Education, or worse.

An excerpt:

From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):

In spite of his close ties to big business, Progressive presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt opposed the effort, claiming that “no amount of charity in spending such fortunes [as Rockefeller’s] can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” The conservative Republican candidate, William Howard Taft denounced the effort as “a bill to incorporate Mr. Rockefeller.” Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, sneered that “the one thing that the world would gratefully accept from Mr. Rockefeller now would be the establishment of a great endowment of research and education to help other people see in time how they can keep from being like him.”*

Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Report from EdCORE to DC Auditor’s Office Gives More Evidence that the Emperor (the EduDeformers) wear no clothes

I began looking at the  EdCORE report {GWU, Mathematica, A.I.R. et al} to the DC Auditor’s Office on the DCPS system from 2006 up until 2011 on my iphone while I was riding the subway late last night, and found evidence that if a teacher is unfortunate enough to teach in a high-poverty school, they are much, much more likely to get low IMPACT and IVA scores, get fired, transfer out, and/or quit.

Couldn’t get much more than a peek, however.

I also noticed that brand-new teachers generally get lower IMPACT scores and so on, no matter where they teach.  And that huge numbers of DC teachers and administrators now have 3 years or less of actual teaching experience.

While scores are pretty much flat.

But remember the Educational Deformista’s own argument: after all, it’s not poverty or distressed family life or anything else that is causing record chronic unemployment and the de-industrialization of America along with those pesky record profits and wealth increases for the rich.

No, it was supposedly us veteran teachers who had all conspired to go into teaching precisely so we could be lazy, get cushy no-work jobs, get rich with our extravagant pension funds and health benefits, though in fact we supposedly do our best to hold poor kids back. {according to the Deformistas and their allies in the media}

{Actually, that’s what bank presidents and such do, innit? While they claim they are hard at work, they are sitting around in splendid offices either playing with a computer or schmoozing with others in their stratum or out having fabulously expensive vacations — which of course are written off as business expenses, because they continue to play around on their computers and schmooze with other wealthy types, planning on how to bend or make the rules so they become even richer… And when they quit one company to go to another one, they bget tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and stock options and so on as a ‘platinum parachute’…. The ratio of income and wealth in the world and in the US between the captains of finance and the common people is higher now than ever before — Third World standards.

But supposedly, Gates and Jobs were worth every penny, right? We must certainly agree that none of the rest of us have any creativity. Only a handful of people had the smarts to build successful bandwagons by guessing which way they could steer public opinion towards their inventions… (sarcasm implied) While there are lots and lots of people inventing stuff and trying to keep poor kids and widows and orphans out of misery by either educating them or making sure they get social services or medical services — we don’t count. If we have poor clients, it’s because we made them poor. Right? (sarcasm again)}

And according to that brave billionaire’s saga, if we veteran teachers and social workers were all were replaced by Teach For America and its clones (dc teaching fellows, NTP, “Broad jump academy” etc) with absolutely no training or experience, and if sufficiently many DC and other urban public schools are closed down, denigrated, starved, and disorganized rapidly enough to force most of the kids into the [almost-equally-unsuccessful-by-their-own-measuring-srick charter schools [remember, the ones that are supposedly successful have absolutely astronomical pushout or dropout or attrition rates, as has been abundantly documented)] …. well, if the Deformistas like Henderson, Rhee, Kopp, the Koch Brothers, various hedge fund managers like DFER, the Waltons, and Bill Gates got their way like that, the prediction by Erik Hanushek and others was that all of the scores for poor urban kids of color would go up like crazy. Why, don’t you know, since they had at least three years in a row of brand-new, inexperienced but ‘excellent’ teachers (since their previous veteran, un-excellent teachers generally retired, quit, or got fired based on a random-number-generating scheme, then poor black and hispanic kids would completely crush that achievement gap between then and the kids attending St. Albans or Sidwell or Maret or Groton or Phillips Exeter or TJ Science Academy in Arlington or the Bronx HS of Science, and we would see enormous numbers of poor urban HS grads would now entering the Ivy Leagues on full scholarships in record numbers.

Isn’t that right?


It ain’t happening?

Yes, but scores for black and hispanic kids are increasing, in general!!

— True, they’ve been generally going up since the mid-1970s, when the government first started measuring this. The gaps have grown a LOT smaller in that time, especially right up to the year when “A Nation At Risk” was published — 1983. At that point, the gaps between poor kids and the non-poor stopped narrowing, pretty much. At some grade levels and subjects, black and hispanic kids are now scoring higher than non-poor white kids back in the 1970 or 80s, which is a signicant amount of progress.

BUT all the good trends happened WAY before the billionaires started trying to control public education in an utterly undemocratic manner, completely bypassing any public input.

These days, as the report noted, the only way for the public to change education policy is to vote out a mayor or a president.

Unfortunately for that argument, both parties, once they get into power, follow almost exactly the same policies on education. Show me how Gray and Henderson have differed in anything except abrasive rhetoric from Fenty and Rhee when it comes to education. Hated NCLB under Bush and that education fraud from Texas? Vote them out, and you get even morer of the same, four times as badly, under Obama and Duncan!

Percentages of poor urban kids at first-tier universities continues to slide, you say? It’s more of the kids of the wealthy there, partly because of certain financial changes …. while college loan debt is actually now LARGER than ordinary credit card debt? And it can essentially NEVER be written off, even if you file for bankruptcy? (said in a fake-naive voice)

Say it ain’t so, Joe! (fake-naive, sarcasm)

But none of those rosy predictions by the Deformista that has come true. Scores are flat. And profits and wealth for the 1% of 1% are way, way up. And so are futures in EduBusiness shares and funds in general…

When the DCAuditor site comes back up I’ll have more to say.

So much for freedom of speech…

…  if it goes against the agenda of the ultra-rich and their acolytes, one might somehow suspect.

There I was, in a neatly pressed and clean suit and tie, having registered early on-line. I had still had my registration documents (not much) and was holding some pieces of paper, just like many others there. The problem is that I was giving some of those papers out.

At a conference on data quality.

What is this world coming to?

I was giving out a leaflet discussing — data quality and information about some of the speakers. Not positive towards a couple of the speakers, to be accurate. Someone in the conference administration asked me to give up the leaflets, which I declined to do. Soon I was talking to security officers, who told me that I was not allowed to be in the hotel, at the specific request of the tenant — that is, the “Data Quality Campaign” management.

Guess that someone over there reads my blog pretty carefully? Just wonderful … wish I didn’t have readers like that.

Let me also point out that DCQ is a Gates-funded group. Arne Duncan, and Michelle Rhee are both on the agenda of this conference today as speakers… I have been highly critical of them and have given the press and the public access to a lot of data that I could only find by pretty hard searching myself, and that most likely, most other people wouldn’t have found out on their own. Data which shows that the goals and methods and conclusions of this Gates/Duncan/Rhee group are all mistaken at best or perhaps malign.

Nobody beat me up or anything, but I was only able to give out a dozen or so leaflets while I was standing near the front of the auditorium, just outside the Kinko’s where I had my leaflets copied. (Most expensive Kinko’s I’ve ever been to! DAAG! 20 cents per page, per side!) So these things I was giving away were worth forty cents each, plus tax. Man, I was being generous! (Or that’s what I should have said, but didn’t think of saying at the time.)

I wasn’t interested in getting into a shoving match or being picked up or arrested.

So I walked outside and gave out a few there and went home and then wrote this.


Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm  Comments (19)  
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A few comments about education in DC & elsewhere

(1) The US tax code gives extremely wealthy people the opportunity (at the expense of other taxpayers) to intervene in public policy in all kinds of ways. It is not an exaggeration to say that many obnoxious, predatory (criminal?) businessmen have been able to purchase the good will of the public by putting their wealth into things that appear to benefit the public. When we think these days of the names Rockefeller, Frick, Morgan, Carnegie, Yerkes, and Ford, we tend to think of the nice foundations, museums, telescopes, and research that their monies funded. Of course, that was OUR money that these robbers stole. No-one remembers today, for example, what an evil anti-semite and racist Henry Ford was, or how Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay suppressed steel workers’ totally legitimate desire for safer and less brutal working conditions, the right to collective bargaining, and much more. When these wealth individuals donate to charities or set up trusts, it is precisely because the tax code gives them huge benefits for doing so. Either they can pay this money to the federal or state treasuries, or they can spend it on anything they want – almost. In the case of Gates and Broad and the rest of the current handful of billionaires, they may think that they know what to do about public education, but the most charitable thing one can say, so far, is that they are consistently wrong. (If you want to accuse me of favoring some sort of socialism, that’s fine – I plead guilty.)

(2) As a 3rd-generation Washingtonian, a 30-year veteran teacher in DCPS, a former DCPS student myself (starting 50 years ago this fall), a child of a former DCPS art teacher, and the parent of two young recently-married adults who went K-12 through DCPS, I have never been impressed by the superintendents and school boards we have had. (Janey and McKenzie weren’t too bad; the rest were appallingly dreadful. Vance reminded me of old, tottering, semi-fossilized Soviet leaders like Brezhnev, who were periodically propped up to give a TV broadcast about how everything was just hunky-dory.) I only had one principal who was any good (in my opinion). But of all of these DCPS leaders, I would have to say that Michelle Rhee takes the cake for being the most dishonest and mean-spirited, as well as the most clueless about what constitutes good teaching and learning. Which is precisely why I started this blog and retired earlier than I might have.

(3) I agree that teachers are not saints, and that our two main unions (AFT and NEA) often make mistakes or just do the wrong thing. Some teachers (like some of those employed in *any* profession or line of work) need to be in a different job altogether. (And, contrary to the lies of Michelle Rhee, it’s never been all that hard for a principal who cares about education to get rid of a really bad teacher.) The interests of teachers in the public schools, those of the children in their care, and those of the parents of those students, should basically be at least on the same page. The (evil) genius of people like Rhee and Gates is that they have done an outstanding job in demonizing public school teachers and making the case that we deserve no due process, no pensions, and no respect. They have been quite successful in driving a wedge between teachers and parents. It’s really too bad.

(4) I’ve been getting more and more disillusioned by Obama, too. But unlike you, one of my reasons is that I think he’s just about 100% wrong on how to improve public education.


Not Waiting for Superman

A couple of excellent articles on how we should NOT be waiting for Superman, and how the Broads, Gateses, Waltons, and so on really do NOT have our interests at heart, and also about the whole ‘Superman’ garbage.

Here is one of them: or click here.

Here is another one: or click here.

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 1:40 am  Comments (1)  
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