About the Civil War …

I’m copying and pasting this from Quora:

 

Scott Johnson
Published in: on November 29, 2019 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.”

Individual Teachers, Parents, and Students Need to Speak Up

I am reprinting a column from Diane Ravitch that consists of a letter from single, anonymous teacher detailing what is wrong with the charter chain that he/she works for, and why that chain should not be allowed to expand.

Very simple: it’s not good for students, and it’s hell for teachers, but it’s very profitable for the chain’s management.

There need to be more such letters.

Here’s the column:

New post on Diane Ravitch’s blog

A Rocketship Teacher Warns: Stop the Expansion

by dianerav

Rocketship charter schools have a goal of expanding to enroll one million children. Their model relies heavily on technology and inexpensive, inexperienced teachers who work long hours and have no union. Their schools are focused on test scores and leave out the arts and other “non-essentials.” The San Jose, California, board of education will decide tomorrowabout whether to send more children and more public dollars to this poor substitute for a real school.

This letter came to me from a Rocketship teacher:

“Dear Diane,

I have been reading the coverage on your blog on the lawsuit against Rocketship in its quest to build Rocketship Tamien in San Jose. I appreciate your attention to this issue. I am a current Rocketship teacher who is also concerned about Rocketship’s expansion. With a vote by the San Jose City Council coming this Tuesday, I decided I could not longer remain silent. Below you will find an anonymous letter I sent to the San Jose City Council, as well as the parent group against Tamien you featured on your blog. I wanted to send this letter to you as well. I’m not sure if it is something you would be interested in posting on your blog, but even so I wanted you to know you helped encourage me to write it.

Thank you!
A Rocketship Teacher

To all those concerned and involved with the Rocketship Tamien dispute,

I am a Rocketship Teacher who has become increasingly concerned and frustrated while silently watching the dispute over Rocketship Tamien. In this letter, I hope to bring a perspective of a current Rocketship teacher. I am just one perspective and do not claim to speak for other Rocketship teachers. However, I do think my point of view, without a union for protection, is silenced and hidden in this debate. By raising my voice, I am fearful my job could be in danger. Therefore, I have chosen to write this letter anonymously and leave out many details of my own personal experience.

I have structured the letter under a few key points of my feelings about Rocketship as an organization and the direction we are headed. I hope this perspective might raise new questions in the ongoing debate over opening Rocketship Tamien. I have tremendous respect for many of the teachers I work with at Rocketship and by no means wish to attack the incredible effort and energy they put into this difficult job.

Rapid Expansion Without a Clear Model:

Just a few months into the last school year, Rocketship announced to teachers the start of “redesign.” I say announced, because it was not offered as a conversation, but as a mandate. We would be changing many of our schools to an “open-space” model. This model’s vision would have placed 100 students in a room with two credentialed teachers and one learning specialist (including in Kindergarten and first grade). Without research or proof that this was a good idea for our students, redesign was launched at several Rocketship campuses. Teachers, without a union, had no choice but to follow blindly into the “redesign” path, many teachers staying nightly until 9pm trying to figure out what in the world they were going to do in a new space with that many students.

Unfortunately, the experiment Rocketship embarked on with their students and communities proved to be rash. This year, they have slowed down and redesign is happening, for most schools, only in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. I think my biggest concern when thinking about redesign, which left many teachers bitter and caused many to leave Rocketship, is that even though Rocketship is experimenting with its model and unsure of its future direction, it still seeks to rapidly expand across San Jose and across America. It is irresponsible and egotistical to believe that a model that you have not figured out is superior to established public schools in the neighborhoods you are interrupting. This is especially true in light of last year’s CST scores which showed a decline at every Rocketship campus.

No Teacher Sustainability, Little Experience at All Levels:

Working at Rocketship is not sustainable. I personally have never had a colleague tell me, “I could work as a Rocketship teacher for the next 10 years.” I haven’t even heard a colleague say they could work as a Rocketship teacher for 5 years. Rocketship relies heavily on Teach for America corps members. Many TFA teachers come into the classroom with no experience and no perspective on what a traditional school is like. Without experience of a traditional model, I think many TFA teachers come into Rocketship blindly and follow the unreasonable expectations blindly. They grind through their two year commitment of late hours, ridiculous test score pressure, and tumultuous school and organizational environment. At the end of those two years, or even before it, many will leave Rocketship. Some will go into traditional public schools; some will run away from teaching, or what they believe from Rocketship to be teaching, forever. This turnover and burnout robs the San Jose community of veteran teachers that have worked in and understand the community.

It is not just inexperience on the teacher end, it is also inexperience on the administrative end. If you teach for three years at Rocketship, you may have just as much or more teaching experience as some administrators at Rocketship. Rocketship claims to have a robust teacher training and development program, but unfortunately that training comes from inexperienced educators, which I think highly questions the value of such training. When I have heard this concern brought up, usually the value of veteran teachers and experience is scoffed at as unnecessary. This, I think, is part of a larger issue at Rocketship. In my opinion, Rocketship believes itself superior without the experience or results to support it.

Instability of Student’s Day:

Rocketship, to save money by hiring fewer teachers, has a rotational model. Students move throughout the day between different classrooms and spaces, largely three: 1) Literacy, 2) Math, 3) Learning Lab. Literacy teachers have two classes during the day, while math teachers have four, which I think greatly contributes to lack of teacher sustainability. Building relationships with 60 or 120 elementary students and their families, as well as maintaining classroom culture throughout the day, is difficult, emotionally draining, and exhausting.

I truly believe that this middle school model of rotation is not appropriate for elementary school students and creates a culture of instability that breeds behavioral issues. When students are rotating through multiple spaces throughout the day, they do not have consistent behavior expectations, consistent authority figures, or often enough eyes monitoring the transitions. I do not believe this model suits every child, particularly those with special needs. I believe many of our students crave a more stable environment, especially for our students who may experience instability at home.

Students also spend about one hour a day on computers which, as Rocketship has admitted in the PBS special, is not currently effective in pushing student learning. However, because we have a higher student to teacher ratio than traditional schools, students continue to be “held” in the learning lab until their math and literacy classes open up. I do believe that online learning has incredible potential, but Rocketship is using it for too long every day which breeds a lack of investment and boredom in our student’s experience in the learning lab.

Anti-Union Anti-Traditional Public School Rhetoric:

Rocketship claims unions will block their ability to expand and innovate. What that means practically for teachers in the case of the “redesign” experiment last year and day to day decisions of the organization, is that we effectively have no voice or tangible power in this organization.

The PBS special had two Rocketship teachers who claimed that they did not need a union, that they were valuable to Rocketship and safe. Both of those teachers were slated and have now become administrators at Rocketship. PBS didn’t dig, but if they had done some digging, they would have found plenty of disillusioned teachers for their interviews. Or perhaps, they wouldn’t have since we have no union protection. Rocketship also pushes its anti-union, anti-traditional public school rhetoric on our families. I have had many interactions with parents where claims are made about unions or public schools in the area, that have been garnered from Rocketship, that are wrong or over-generalized.

Rocketship, I believe, is not here to provide pressure and competition to traditional public schools. They, with their goals of expansion to reach 1 million students, are here to take over. It is essential to that goal then, to discredit traditional public schools and the teachers at those schools. Students, because of state funding per child, become dollars Rocketship takes from a traditional public school with every child it recruits. This in turn puts more pressure on established districts to lay off teachers and will, eventually, lead to school closures.

Test Scores as the Ultimate Goal:

Rocketship is obsessed with its tests scores. As a charter, they live or die by those test scores. We are now asking our students to learn how to bubble multiple choice questions as early as kindergarten. Teachers are constantly in cycles of testing (which again, is to 60 or 120 students which contributes to the unsustainability).

I believe that knowing where our students are and working to address knowledge gaps is important, but test scores have taken over the culture of Rocketship schools. The stress put on teachers I believe translates directly to the students who are constantly being assessed. Last year, my and other teachers’ salaries were based largely on one computer examination that is given to the students three times during the year. Science, social studies, art and general play time have all become victim to the testing grind. I do not believe Rocketship is cultivating creative, innovative, challenging, minds.

In closing, I do not believe that Rocketship is an organization to be given blind trust. The parents at Rocketship are just like the parents protesting against Rocketship Tamien. They want the best educational experience for their students. I send this letter in the hopes of raising more pause towards Rocketship, its lobbyists, and the tighter hold it is trying to establish over San Jose’s elementary schools.

Chicago Teachers Lead The Way

Anybody who is interested in promoting the welfare of the 99% of the population who don’t have offshore bank accounts or manage hedge funds should be ecstatic over the apparent success of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union in beating back most of Rahm Emanuel’s educational DEform policies.

A lot has been written about this strike. I am thrilled that over 90% of the teachers voted in favor of the strike, that they stuck together, and that they “stuck it” to arrogant Rahm.

Let us remember that EVERYWHERE that the billionaires’ educational DEforms have been tried, they have failed utterly. I salute the Chicago rank-and-file who stood up.

A few good recent columns by bettwer writers than myself here,  here and here. Or for the full URL, try these:

http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/107294/can-the-chicago-teachers%E2%80%99-strike-fix-democratic-education-reform#

and

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/201291774248929713.html

and

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-standing-up-for-teachers/2012/09/17/ad3ee650-00fd-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_story.html

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Two Types of Educational Reform: Montgomery County MD versus Washington DC

Excellent short article. Here is an excerpt:

Anyone who has followed reform efforts in D.C. knows that student achievement over the past five years, as measured by test scores, has been unimpressive under strategies begun by Rhee and continued by her successor, Kaya Henderson. There have been slight ups and downs in test scores, but little that’s statistically significant. The achievement gap based on race and poverty has actually widened significantly. Additionally, a system-wide cheating scandal in 2009 under Rhee, that has yet to be investigated, has thrown a pall on all the data.

In D.C., however, what has been stunning and undisputed is the change in the teacher turnover rate. For a district that used to have a relatively low turnover rate compared with the national average, now 50 percent of teachers don’t make it beyond two years, 80 percent don’t make it beyond six years. For principals, approximately 25 percent lose their jobs every year. It’s not unusual for schools to have a new principal every year. So in the name of “reform,” we now have churn. It can be said that teaching is no longer a career in D.C. What has been accomplished as a result of the conscious policies of the current and immediate past chancellor is the creation of a teaching force of short timers. Gordon MacInnes summarized Rhee’s mistakes for The Century Foundation here.

A recent Washington Post article about the rift between Democratic mayors and teachers’ unions pointed to Montgomery County’s teachers union as the exception, nationwide. The Post was half right. The union’s shoulder to the wheel, collaboration with the district to make schools better has been exemplary. But this is not exceptional. There are lots of examples of attempts at that kind of collaboration all across the country. What makes Montgomery County an exception is that the politicians and school administration have not blindly adopted the corporate reform ideology. They haven’t adopted mayoral control. They don’t worship at the altar of student test scores. They recognize that reform led by educators will be more likely to succeed. The union is made a partner. Teacher longevity and commitment to the school and its community is valued. And respecting the complexity of the craft of teaching is considered a better approach than trying to improve education by making war on educators.

Spirited Demonstration In Favor of Public Schools, Against Vouchers

About 100 to 150 folks from the DC area, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere demonstrated at the Marriott Hotel at 22nd and M Street NW today, because of a convention of the pro-voucher, anti-union, anti-public-education group “American Federation for Children” paid for and sponsored by the billionaire DeVos family. (also Govrnors Walker and Corbett were there – neither of them nice guys, as well as Michelle Rhee — not a nice woman.)

Our crowd included parents, teachers, and others. There were way more folks than I expected, since this demonstration was only announced last week!

However, we need to do an even better job at organizing and getting folks out on the street, so that we can begin to turn around the political momentum in this country. Right now, there is a dangerous right-wing trend of abolishing public schools, worker pensions, and basic civil rights. These Educational Deformers also are the folks who are currently well on their way towards making all public schools, especially those that educate the poor and our minorities, into nothing but test prep factories. If they are successful, school will be nothing but a mindless, rote-infested, data-drivel place where kids hate to go because it’s so mindless and stupid and all of the interesting and fun things about education have been left out. (The words “rote” and “drivel” in the last sentence were NOT typos.) What’s more, under our defacto right-wing regime, while workers are losing their pensions and their life savings and their jobs and their health care plans, and have to pay more and more money for pretty much EVERYTHING they buy, at the same time, the billionaires who run this country are making MORE money than they ever have; the incompetent, greedy plutocrats who empty out American factories and send the work to be done overseas by workers who have no choice but to work for much lower wages, and under much worse conditions – why, these corporate thieves are making out like bandits. If they are caught red-handed looting the entire company or the nation, they get not a golden parachute, but a platinum one, plus many tens of millions in severance pay, plus perhaps billions in stock options, and then get invited back into the government as a regulator.

So, while this was a good step, it should only redouble our resolve to act further.

I watched Rachel Maddow on TV for the first time a few weeks ago at my daughter’s place, and RM was claiming (and it appeared, proving) in that show that the anti-Tea-Party, pro-democracy, pro-public-school, pro-union, progressive demonstrators all over the US **right now** – just like us -are actually more numerous than the Tea Party crowds were AT THEIR PEAK — but get no press coverage. I seem to remember RM showing clips of a tiny gathering of half a dozen Tea Party types that was attended by so many media folks that the TPers were outnumbered, while nearly simultaneous, large demonstrations against folks like Rhee, Fenty, and so on get ignored.

I think I counted six to ten pro-voucher folks demonstrating against us pro-public school types. At first I was a bit upset that we had any opposition at all. After all, aren’t we the good guys?

But then again, this was THEIR anti-voucher meeting at the Marriott that we were opposing. We were sort of going into THEIR lair. Kinda sad (for them) that they could only muster six to ten voucher supporters from this ‘enormous’ convention. I think you will have a hard time finding these pro-voucher types in my photos, except for the fact that they were all white and fat and had identical red signs.

I didn’t think to go in to ask some of the employees at the hotel how many of these DeVossers showed up. Since I don’t watch TV news at all, some of you will need to tell me what you see — if anything.

I didn’t make any actual attempt at a crowd size estimate, because I had my hands full with a sign around my neck, a bag at my side, taking a few photos, giving out leaflets, and attempting to talk to passersby and explain briefly what we were doing and see what they thought. Responses were mostly favorable, but not all. Our crowd was strung out so far along the  sidewalk, and on both sides of the street, and across alleys, that no single photo that I took could get them all. I need to figure out what I did wrong with the focus on some of these.

Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

 

Troubling Signs at the WTU

I saw a serious sign of what I think ails the Washington Teachers’ Union when I walked briefly over to the Franciscan Center at 14th and Quincy Streets, NE, not far from my house, where a combined general WTU membership meeting/reception/comedian entertainment/holiday party was taking place this evening.

I think that this sign explains, in part, why the percentage of teachers voting during both rounds of the recent WTU leadership was so low.

The problem?

I saw almost no young white or Asian or Hispanic teachers. And, to be frank, I didn’t even see very many young African-American teachers. Nor much in the way of older white, Asian, or Hispanic teachers, either.

After a not-very-careful look at the heads and faces, I got the feeling that if I had actually stuck around and sat down, the number of white teachers in attendance would have gone up by somewhere between 20% and 100%. (Do a little bit of mental math: if one person comes in, and that makes the number of people in group W increase by 100%, then how many people were in group W before that person arrived?)

I fear that this means that those in attendance at this meeting were not very representative of the rank-and-file teacher corps in DC Public Schools. Younger teachers, be they white, black, Hispanic, or Asian, don’t seem to be stepping up to take leadership roles in the WTU, at least not in Saunders’ slate, which I guess was probably more represented at this meeting (though I don’t know that for a certainty). Perhaps they don’t have the tradition of activism and militancy that a lot of future teachers acquired who grew up and attended college in the 1960’s and 1970s, during the Vietnam and Civil Rights eras? Do they feel that the WTU leadership is out of touch with what they need?

At a lot of DC public and charter schools that I visit, there aren’t very many older black teachers left at all. They have generally retired, and have been replaced by young teachers (and a good fraction of those are TFAers, many of whom have no intention at all of staying in education, and 89% of whom are gone after 3 years). They find, of course, that almost all of the vaunted ‘reforms’ and ‘accountability’ that Michelle Rhee and her acolytes have imposed, simply mean lots of additional demands to perform the impossible, with less and less support. And, once they fail to achieve the impossible, they are then blamed, and are labeled in the media as being part of the problem, just like the veteran teachers that they are replacing. So they burn out… but could really use a union that advocated sanity and didn’t sell out and beg for more whippings in exchange for possibly imaginary pay increases.

It’s clear to me that if the WTU is actually going to be able to represent teachers in a positive and forceful way, so that it can help lead public education away from the clutches of the billionaires who want to take it over, then it needs to start working on its own composition.

Unions in the past that have failed to do this, have generally lost.

Dividing and conquering is a useful tool for a tiny ruling class: look what the British Empire was able to do for a couple of centuries. But it doesn’t work if you are the working mass of the population. United we stand, divided we fall.

A transcription of Michelle Rhee’s interview with Steven Colbert

How many lies and evasions can you find in Michelle Rhee’s performance on the Steven Colbert show? I did my level best to transcribe the interview.

STEVEN COLBERT: My guest tonight is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools. So my security team’s pat downs and metal detectors will be familiar to her. Please welcome Michelle Rhee!

[APPLAUSE]

Hey, Ms. Rhee, thanks so much coming on. Now, uh, young lady, you’ve got quite a… a storied history when it comes to reforming education. You were, uh, let’s see, this is a photo we have a, we got a shot of that maybe here on [camera] two. That’s a photo of you on the cover, uh, that’s Time magazine, uh, about two years ago.

MICHELLE RHEE: Yes.

SC: This time it says, “How to fix America’s Schools”.

MR: Yeah.

SC: You, you were the king of Reform School Mountain, and, and now you’ve just lost your job…

MR: Yes.

SC: … as the head of DC’s schools.

MR: I did.

SC: What gives? Who did you cross?

MR: Well, my boss, Adrian Fenty (laughs) …

SC: Yes.

MR: … who was the mayor of DC, uh, lost his election, so that means that I lost my job.

SC: So you lost your job and now the kids get left behind?

MR: Uh, well no, hopefully they don’t…

SC: Are you a fan of [the] No Child Left Behind [act] by the way?

MR: Actually, I am uh, a fan of No Child Left Behind.

SC: Thank you for saying that George Bush was our greatest president!

[LAUGHTER]

SC: That’s kind of what you are saying, then, because that was his thing, right?

MR: It was his thing and I actually think that you should give credit where credit is due, and this is one area that President Bush actually did a very good job in because he brought, he brought accountability to the public schools.

SC: Now as, as an educator, or as someone who was reforming education, what was the biggest challenge that you have faced?

MR: I think the biggest challenge was, was changing the culture of the school districts. I think that people were not used to being held responsible for, for what our jobs were, which was educating children.

SC: You talking [indistinct], you talking teachers’ union?

MR: I’m, I’m talking about the teachers’ union.

SC: Unions? You know we had a strike around here, you should do what I did. You know I sent out hooligans armed with truncheons, and I beat my writers until they came back here and they started to tippety-tappety again. Why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you crack a few skulls?

MR: Well, we thought that, that, that we should use, you know, a carrot instead of a stick. And so what we wanted to do was, actually, set up a, a system where we  could pay the best teachers a six-figure salary and give them what they deserve, and also ensure that we, you know, hold them responsible for doing a good job that if they were ineffective we could quickly remove them from their duties.

SC: So let me take you to task for a second here. What is the big deal on education? Sell me on educating children. Why?

[LAUGHTER]

SC: Right? Because, because, why should I care? Let me put this delicately. Why should I care about the kids at George Washington Carver High School when my kids are doing fine at Ed Begley Junior Prep?

[LAUGHTER]

MR. Well, actually, a lot of people think that their kids are doing well at Begley Junior [indistinct] …

SC: My children are the smartest kids in the world!

MR: … however …

SC: My children are the most brilliant, beautiful, perfect children in the world!

MR: You may think so, but what the data says is that if you look at the top five per cent of American students they are actually 25th ouf of 30 developed nations in terms of the, the global …

SC Yes, but if I refuse to learn math, then I wont know that

[Indistinct, competing voices talking at the same time]

SC: You say, you say you want us to be number one again?

MR: Yes, that’s right.

SC: When were we number one? Is this not a myth? Were we ever ahead of Germany?

MR: Nyahs. [I think she was trying to say “yes’ – GFB]

SCL Really? They had jets in World War Two!

MR: America was number one in the 1950s. America, we were number one in graduation rates, we were number one in rates of going to college, and our proficiency rates were a lot higher than most developed nations.

SC: What happened? What happened? What has happened to our schools that you are trying to reverse?

MR: So I think that what happened is that we have a lot of special interests who are driving the agenda in public schools. You have, you know, textbook manufacturers, you have teacher unions, you have, you know, food service people, and the problem is that there is no organized interest group that represents children.

SC: What about the kids? Did you ask the kids how they think schools should be changed? Did you try 7-Up in the water fountains?

[LAUGHTER]

SC: Donut day?

MR: You know it’s interesting because I actually did talk to the kids all the time and I asked them if I could do one thing that would really improve your experience in school what would it be. And they didn’t ask for Sprite in the water fountain. They asked for great teachers. They said, if you bring us great teachers, that makes everything worthwhile.

SC: Well, what, now that you’re no longer the head of the DC public Schools, what is next for you? What job will you be forced out of next?

[LAUGHTER]

MR: Well, hopefully I won’t be, be forced out of any job, but I’m trying to figure out right now what makes sense of a, of a, a, next job.

SC: You ever thought of being a correspondent?

MR: Well, I’d be interested in joining the team.

SC: Do you have a resumé?

MR: Uh, no, I don’t.

SC: Ah, well, then we’ll need to see some references.

Well, thank you so much.

Michelle Rhee, former head of the DC Public Schools!

We’ll be right back!

[BREAK FOR COMMERCIAL]

How do we organize in FAVOR of improved public education?

All those in favor of promoting and improving free, public, integrated, comprehensive, universal public education are fighting against a very well-organized, heavily funded, and powerful opposition.

We have all of the right-wing think tanks and major media editorial boards against us. (Don’t believe me? See an article by the late Milton Friedman, in the Washington Post, from 15 years ago. )  NCLB was planned and implemented precisely to destroy the public schools, and is working quite well. We have both the national Republican and Democratic parties vilifying teachers and trying to eliminate free, comprehensive, universal, public education. Public schools appear to be more and more racially segregated, and the charter schools are even worse. We have “philanthopists” representing untold billions in private wealth (essentially stolen from the public) who are trying to privatize public education, and to eliminate some of the few remaining areas of union organization left in the US.

But what are WE going to do about it?

Well, we can do some research to point out the lies and distortions put out by the pro-privatization side. My blogs have mostly been research articles, in which I have been attempting to use facts and statistics to refute the lies peddled by the pro-privatization, anti-public-education, anti-union crowd that is exemplified by Rhee. I have used data from the websites of NAEP, OSSE/DCPS/NCLB,  S.H.A.P.P.E. and the 21st Century School Fund among others. The American Federation of Teachers employs some well-intentioned professional researchers and statisticians who have come up with some very interesting and useful data over the last decade or so.

But don’t expect any union leadership these days to actually be on the side of the rank-and-file. The term “sellout” is still a correct description of the vast majority of union leaders. For example, the current and past leadership of the Washington Teachers Union  have been a pretty sorry lot. Some of them have been too busy lining their own pockets (and hiding this from the teachers) to fight for reform, no matter what they proclaimed publicly.

(Of course, the theft of a few million dollars by Bullock and company didn’t bring down the entire economy, unlike the thefts by CEOs at ENRON, AIG, Bank of America, and so on.  But it did severely weaken the labor movement by showing how corrupt our leadership can be, giving ammunition to the right-wing anti-union crowd.)

George Parker was so far inside Rhee’s corner, for quite a long time, and had drunk so much of her Kool-Aid, that he actually thought that teachers would buy the Red-Green plan, until he found out, probably much to his surprise, that the vast majority of them wanted no part of it. At which point he had to change his tune and his ostensible direction by almost 180 degrees. But don’t depend on him to actually DO anything about it. Notice that Parker has apparently had no executive board meetings or membership meetings for several months – and this at a time when teachers (and the public) should be very actively organizing to oppose the plans of Rhee, of the WaPo editorial board, and all of the billionaires who want to eliminate comprehensive, universal, free, rational public education.

The skills needed to research and analyze that material, to comb the public record for lies by the educational privatization crowd, and to write coherent articles about that, are quite different from the skills needed to actually organize large numbers of people into a cohesive, well-organized, progressive, social movement that achieves positive gains. Having both types of skills is useful, but they are rare in the same person.

(Don’t look at me. I like to think I write OK,  I have experience doing research, and I know a little math, but I know from bitter experience that I suck at organizing, am pessimistic by nature, can’t plan a successful course of public action, am not a good public speaker, and can’t think on my feet.)

Plus, time spent in library stacks or on-line looking up data is time that is NOT spent telephoning or meeting with people to make plans for demonstrations or whatever other type of effective public action is needed. There are only so many hours in a day; and there are very few hours available for any of that stuff if you happen to be employed. And if you are a teacher in the DCPS, why, then, virtually every single one of your waking hours needs to be devoted to the mostly useless rigamarole and BS that is required of you under IMPACT, if you hope to keep your job. (I only have time to do this column because I retired last June!)

We really need to be an active organization in FAVOR of improving public education that has the potential to organize masses of peple. I wish there was one, but I am not aware of any. The Democratic Party, nationally and locally, seems to spout the same line as the privatizers (look at Adrian Fenty and Arne Duncan, for example). Barack Obama has got to be a severe disappointment to anybody who actually believed he was going to make a difference. The various microscopic left-wing splinter groups haven’t amounted to anything for about three decades.

The saying: “The people, united, will never be defeated” is still true. But the “united” part is very hard to attain. If anybody has solid suggestions or plans, or knows of an effective, real-life organization that has potential, I am all ears. We need to find a way out of this crisis.
%d bloggers like this: