Archive for the 'Language/ Politics' Category

New York Post Conjures Up New Common Core Villain: Driven, Snobbish Yet Cowardly Parents

April 10, 2016

Its always a good sign when shills for those who are systemically attempting to undermine public education, the better to privatize it, are reduced to making public arguments that read like they are written by a person on a six day drunk. Such is the study in utter incoherence found in today’s New York Post under the headline, Common Core opt-out movement is parents who can’t handle their kids failing by Naomi Schaefer Riley.

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Providing no evidence for her conclusions, mixing in a not so subtle accusation of snobbery,(” upper-middle class white parents “) adding a dose of gross civic negligence (“depriving parents, schools and taxpayers of valuable information about how well (or badly) we are educating our kids”) citing articles and systems that mock the very tests she is so desperately defending, Riley adds a new twist to Arne Duncan’s insulting statement of a few years back about “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were ” who were therefore opting out.

Riley’s takes Duncan’s insulting idiocy even further. Riley’s Opt Out parents are “helicopter parents ” who are simultaneously almost psychotic about the academic progress and success of their children and at the same time “don’t want to risk the fact that they might fail.”

Hence, these moral cowards have their children opting out.
That’s it. That’s her argument.

I am the parent of a child who is opting out and will opt out just as long as the campaign to privatize education continues. The Common Core aligned tests, funded largely by the despicable and insidious Gates Foundation and designed to insure most children would fail and in failing provide a rationale for the corporate takeover of public schools, are the central nervous system of that campaign.

As such, it is my belief that it is my moral and ethical duty and the moral and ethical duty of all parents to opt out of this corporate imposition.

As a parent I would love to speak with Ms. Riley about her convictions and how she arrived at them. I would love to have her accuse me and other opt out parents of cowardice.

Somehow I don’t see that happening.

I know it’s the Post and, as such, a low bar but still I believe such a public display of outright incoherence is a small but good sign that we are winning even as I know this war will continue for a long, long time. Such is one of the logical outcomes of allowing less than 1% of a nation to own over 40% of the nation’s wealth.

Battle of the Base and Vulgar: Trump’s Immigrants Are Christie’s Teachers

August 3, 2015


If there is any up side to the cynical media orgy surrounding Donald Trump’s entry into the Republican presidential race, it is that Trump threatens to take the wind out of the sails of fellow vulgarian, blowhard and presidential hopeful Chris Christie. Indeed, this is already in process.
Both Trump and the corpulent governor of New Jersey are heroes for the same demographic, appealing to the same level of baseness, ignorance, pain, desperation and resulting nastiness. Christie, unquestionably crude, but not stupid, is no doubt aware of this. No doubt, too, he is running scared. In what can be seen as a desperate attempt to regain his mantle as the king of straight talking, tough guys, (Christie enjoys the public spectacle of telling anyone who dare disagree with him to shut up, much to the delight of his fans) Christie delivered what may well be his most vulgar and base statement to date. And with Christie that’s quite a feat.

To wit: “ In an interview that aired on Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reminded the New Jersey governor that he had advised people to punch bullies “in the face” during his first term as governor.
“At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” Tapper wondered.
“Oh, the national teachers union,” Christie replied without hesitation. “They’re not for education for our children, they’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”
“And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America,” he added. “I’ve been saying that since 2009. I’ve got the scars to show it, but I’m never going to stop saying it because they never change their stripes.”

To repeat: Teacher unions, according to Christie “are the single most destructive force in public education in America.”

A few facts: In the past decade teachers unions, of which I am a member, to their shame and possible self destruction, have made concession after concession to the billionaire and corporate “education reform “ nexus bent on privatizing public education as a major step in privatizing all aspects of American public life. So successful have they been in imposing their endless failed policies on teacher unions across the country, that the job I began a mere decade ago bares almost no resemblance to the job I will resume in September. Indeed, as teacher shortages around the country attest, I would never have entered it had I known the outright degradation that was coming. Moreover, in terms of benefits and pay, teacher unions have been back pedaling for years.

Christie knows this — even as he knows that most Americans, fed a steady diet of anti teacher propaganda for over a decade, do not. Christie also knows that, outside of blighted, grossly impoverished near Third World cites like Camden and Newark, by any standards unionized New Jersey teachers have consistently maintained a public school system that can rival any in the world. But no matter. Christie is keenly aware that there is an enormous and ever increasing number of justifiably enraged if politically ignorant Americans who are desperately seeking some one or something ( other than the forces that are at fault ) to blame for their manifest immiseration, wage stagnation, ever increasing work hours and absolute absence of anything remotely resembling job security. In short, for all the logical results of a neo liberal economy. Christie also knows that many such people dwell in a state intellectual and spiritual degradation that they understand equality as the place where all working people are as debased as they are. What they have been stripped of, they reason, all must be stripped of. It’s only fair. Why should you have what I don’t ?
It is to these people that Christie is appealing to with crude and violent desires to “punch the national teachers’ union in the face.”

Demagogues like Trump and Christie have nothing to offer but national bogeymen. For Trump, it is immigrants; for Christie, teachers. Such is their political lifeblood. Where a man like Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” men like Trump and Christie appeal to the darkness that waits dormant in all of us. Just as their economic policies create a race to the bottom for American workers, so do their rhetoric create a race to the bottom for American politics.
Trump’s media saturated arrival — based exclusively on the outrageousness and ugliness of his statements — has upped the ante for Christie.
I can’t imagine, even a man with as little self control as Chis Christie, making as ugly and idiotic a statement as he did yesterday if Trump, however ephemerally, were not in the increasingly shameful picture.

Good. Let them engage in their battle of the tough guys hoping to be nothing less than the president of the United States. In the process may their supporters awaken and come to see how truly and deeply both men despise them.


Perception Management 101: While Thousands Gather to Reject Cuomo’s Proposals, the New York Post Babbles on About a Retired Radical

March 29, 2015

Since its inception, “education reform” has been almost entirely a product, not of public debates, but of public relations and perception management campaigns. Fueled by billionaires and corporations, propagated by a compliant corporate media often owned by the same billionaires, the premises of “education reform” have entered into the skulls of millions of Americans who are barely aware of how they even got there. This, of course, is precisely how such premises are intended to be received. The process is akin to osmosis. Something or someone is targeted. Stories that make the target look bad are planted. Stories that allow the target to look good are wholly ignored. Exceptions are painted as the rule. Lies and exaggerations are repeated in different forms endlessly over. The animation of envy and fear is constantly attempted. In these campaigns, the lines between public relations – a dubious enough field in itself — and perception management, it’s more sinister and militaristic cousin, often gets blurred.

In the area of education, America has been treated to one long, well oiled, professionally enacted, deliberately induced poisoning of the well, along such lines as above. One goal is to deflect the attention of the average citizen away from forces and institutions that are systemically stripping us of our rights and plundering the commonwealth, and — think Wall Street and K Street – blaming the incontrovertible degeneration of the United States into a oligarchic farce on something or someone other than the forces or institutions that are actually causing it.

For the past decade this something has been the public school system, this
someone has been a public school teacher.

America, according to the “education reformers” and their allies or employees in the media and all levels of government, would once again blossom into a Ronald Reaganesque Eden if only we privatized the public school system, rid ourselves of the pestilence of unions and fired hundreds of thousands of teachers, many of them outright incompetents, deviants or unrepentant radicals, as reported in the newspapers and portrayed in major motion pictures.

This, or some version of this, has been poisoning Americans via the airwaves, TV screens, newspapers and movies for years now. In terms of demonizing a profession, the ferocity of the sustained campaign has no precedent in American history.

What’s important in such campaigns, of course, is not whether a story is true or false or even relevant. All that is important is that emotions are stirred and attention is deflected from real issues and focused instead on the targeted enemy. Think for one moment of the horrific fact that some 85% of Americans allowed themselves to be tricked into believing Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that the invasion and consequent destruction of Iraq and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis was necessary for our national security.

Such was a diabolical accomplishment, that much the more in a nation that considers itself a bastion of freedom.
Such is also a triumph of perception management.

In that light, consider today’s New York Post.
Yesterday, despite the unseasonably chilly weather, thousands and thousands of parents, teachers, students, members of the clergy, union leaders, and elected officials from all over New York state, gathered in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 41st St. office to denounce in no uncertain terms the entirety of Cuomo’s reckless assault upon the public school system, public school teachers, and public life itself.

According to the New York Post, these people are not news worthy.

According to the New York Post, these people are not news worthy.

As far as I can see, the New York Post, even as it worshipfully reports on the billionaire based charter campaign, devoted not a single word to this event, this despite the fact that Cuomo’s proposals will, if enacted, adversely affect the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

Neither are these.

Neither are these.

Instead, Post readers were treated to a lesson in perception management 101. Under the hysterical and misleading headline, Weather Underground Bomber Unmasked –as City School Teacher, the Post spent over 1700 words on an absurdly irrelevant article about one Ronald Fliegelman, a former member of the idiotic Weather Underground who, following his days as a would be revolutionary decades ago, worked for many years as a New York City schoolteacher before earning his retirement in 2006. At no point in the article was there any indication that Fliegelman was somehow “masked.”

Nor is there any indication whatsoever of Fliegelman’s talent or lack of talent as a teacher. Such discussions would run the risk of distracting the reader from the article’s main ( and only) point: Ronald Fliegelman was a radical who worked as a teacher. What is important in perception management is the planting of particular seeds in a person’s head, the more insidiously the better. The seed here is that New York City teachers, and by extension the New York City Public school system, are not to be trusted.

But somehow this guy is.

But somehow this guy is.

Rest assured, if Ronald Fliegelman had gone on to be a dentist or a postman or a plumber, Post readers would not have been treated to this article. To be sure, whatever idiotically violent acts or plans this man was involved in some 40 years ago are completely secondary to the fact that he retired as a schoolteacher, for it is the image of a school teacher, and not a dentist, or a postman, or a plumber that has to be relentlessly tainted if the “education reform” campaign is to succeed.

A massive amount of time and energy and money has been dedicated to such success.

Consider how The Post insinuates that the fact that Fliegelman appears to be enjoying his retirement is somehow shady if not outright criminal.

“His life now appears to have taken on all the trappings of the leisure class. On Thursday, he was seen walking a small white dog in idyllic Park Slope before climbing into a Subaru Forester SUV.”

The “exclusive” was ostensibly based on a finding in a new book entitled Days of Rage. But rest assured that this completely irrelevant non-news has been saved for precisely just this kind of moment.

So, readers of the New York Post would know nothing of the thousands who gathered to denounce the radical right wing agenda of Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, but would have learned a great deal about the life of a retired teacher whose politics would be anathema to just about every one of them.

This is one of the ways perception management works.

It would be funny if it were not so dangerous and effective, but it is.

Addendum: Doing my bit at the rally.

Patrick Walsh – Teacher

Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy Produces Yet Another Contemptuous Wretch

February 7, 2015


Any time a New York City teacher who has been working a few years hears or reads of some outrageous behavior by a principal, ten to one a single question wells up within his or her head: Is this person a product of the Leadership Academy?

There is excellent reason for this. They almost always are. I know. I had my own Leadership Academy monster to deal with. Mine thought it was a good idea to have the cops come into the school and arrest the PTA president and secretary in the middle of the school day for stealing funds that were never stolen. Drag out two innocent parents in handcuffs while their kids are in class? No problem. And somehow no charges are filed against the principal. She wound up U rating a fourth of the teaching staff, and causing untold and unjust damage to the lives of three fine untenured teachers by discontinuing them, before finally being removed and warehoused in school after school on what can be called the Leadership Academy dole. And who can forget the notorious Iris
Bilge, among many others in the Leadership Academy Hall of Shame. And the list goes on and one.

Yes, Leadership Academy grads have been degrading education, debasing the lives of students and teachers and finding creative ways to disgrace themselves for years now, and Principal Jazmine Santiago, who according to The New York Post “used school funds to install her own private gym with a bench press, pull-up bar, treadmill, elliptical machine and thigh exerciser on the third floor of PS 269 in Flatbush,” is no exception.
Kids have no pencils or paper ? A pity. But check out these abs!

Still, because The Post is The Post I wanted to reserve judgment on the woman until I heard confirmation from a credible source – which is to say, something other than The Post.
Sure and soon enough, I did. An old friend who has the misfortune of working for Santiago confirmed the account. I asked her if Santiago was Leadership Academy.

“Of course,” said she.

Tycoon-turned-mayor Mike Bloomberg and federal prosecutor-turned-chancellor of-education-turned education entrepreneur Joel Klein both thought the Leadership Academy was a swell idea. Why wouldn’t they? Neither had any idea what constitutes education nor any interest in finding out. Both of them thought that teaching was as easy as running a business. Take anyone, they reasoned, sausage them through nine months of ideological, union busting, “leadership building “ boot camp and presto! An instant principal!

New York City schools are still filled with these people, meaning in a very real sense that Bloomberg is still present, still poisoning, still here. I suspect we will be hearing stories of Leadership Academy principals degrading the sacred trust that is public education for years to come.

Addendum: Yesterday was a big news day for NYC principals. Could not find out for sure if Principal Annie Schmutz Seifullah was Leadership Academy as well, but I’d happily lay odds that she is. Note well that both of these persons were elevated to these positions during the ( endless ) reign of “reformer” M. Bloomberg. Note too that Seifullah is one of the very few principals that are actually fired, rather than hidden somewhere continuing to collect their substantial salaries. Message: Ruining schools and the lives of students and teachers is acceptable, but sex…

Andrew Cuomo’s Idea of Democracy is Fascism

January 31, 2015


As one who believes in the primacy of language, I try my best to use words as responsibly and precisely as I can. With that in mind, as a person of the Left, few things have annoyed me more than the promiscuous use of the word “fascism” by a certain kind of would-be -Leftist who uses the word not as a description of identifiable political policies, but as a verbal bludgeon to bash in the skull of anyone with whom they disagree. Like all words and more so, fascism is a word to be used judiciously.

That said, anyone with knowledge of political systems who has perused Andrew Cuomo’s proposals on education, and especially his proposals on teacher evaluations for the state of New York, would have to conclude that Cuomo has stepped out of the bounds of known democratic policy and into the realm of fascism. Well into the realm of fascism.
The ideology of fascism has certain very identifiable characteristics, none more so than the consistent invocation of the primacy of the state over both the local and the individual. Bearing that in mind, consider Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for statewide teacher evaluation.
50 % of the evaluation will come from state test scores.
35% will come from an observation from an “independent “ evaluator hired by the state.
15% will come from the principal of the school in which the teacher works.

I do not wish to discuss here the research that completely discredits the idea of standardized tests scores as anything approaching a fair and adequate criteria for evaluating a teacher’s ability to teach. Nor do I wish to discuss the enormous sums of taxpayer money that will be needed for the state to hire “an independent evaluator “ to evaluate the hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York state.

What I wish to do here is merely point out the immense amount of professional autonomy Andrew Cuomo is attempting to usurp in one fell swoop from all principals in all communities in all of New York state, and that such massive and contemptuous usurpation of authority has no place in any meaningful democratic policies or traditions.

It does, however, fit perfectly into the fascist belief of the primacy of the state over all things and all people.

It is a profound indictment of the naked degeneracy of our contemporary political climate that such policies have been posed not by some nut job fringe candidate of a white supremacy group like David Duke but from the sitting Democratic governor of New York in his state of the state address, and there was not immediate and massive resistance.
It is breathtaking and terrifying that, absent a major and sustained resistance of the kind we have not seen in generations anywhere in America, such fascistic policies could well become state law.

The usurpation of local and individual control in the issue of teacher evaluation is, however, merely one example of identifiable fascist ideology in Cuomo’s education policy. Under fascism, for example, labor unions are suppressed or eliminated altogether. Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to suppress or eviscerate the power of all unions but he has shown a particular animus toward teacher unions.

Under fascism, certain groups or people are identified by the powerful as enemies, and campaigns are created via any and all forms of media to convince a populace to unite against them as a common foe. Due to limitless funding of billionaires, the concentration of media by a handful of ideologically driven mega-corporations, and the utter spinelessness of most politicians, precisely such a campaign against teachers has been underway and massively financed for over a decade.
Cuomo has profited from this campaign and consistently and cleverly echoed it. The disdain Cuomo has showered on public school teachers is palpable and growing more so all the time.

Fascism seeks to degrade or completely remove the human element. Cuomo’s proposals seek to achieve this disgusting goal both by the inter-position and domination of bureaucracy ( the outside state hired “expert evaluator”) or, better still, by interposition and domination by techno- bureaucracy ( a standardized state test ) as the latter provides the veneer of “progress” that is used by the wily to fool and trap the uneducated.

The conflation of corporation and state as well as contempt for the intellectual and the arts, both of which can be found in Cuomo’s’ incredibly vulgar test based notion of education, are also principles of fascism.

I am under no illusions that a man as powerfully ensconced, immensely financed, impervious to truth and monstrously ambitious as is Andrew Cuomo can be moved to alter his grotesque perception of teachers and principals across the state. Nothing will stop Cuomo from attempting to bully New York state legislators into supporting policies built on the tacit belief that New York State’s teachers and principals are so utterly incompetent and untrustworthy that they need the ever present eye of the ever growing and all powerful state led by Andrew Cuomo.

I do believe, however, that the overwhelming majority of people are beings of good will and good faith who seek, above all things, a life of dignity and decency, not merely for themselves and their children but for all people, including their children’s teachers and principals.
Dignity and decency for teachers and principals are impossible under Cuomo’s plan.
Slow motion, daily degradation, perpetual demoralization and, in a year or two, mass firings are a virtual certainty.

I do not believe, that is, that the overwhelming percentage of people are in anyway in favor of what Andrew Cuomo is really intending to do to our teachers, to our principals, our schools, our communities, and to our government.
But nor do I believe that many are truly aware of the gravity and long term effects of what Cuomo is proposing. Many, perhaps most, will need to be educated.
It is our job and duty to educate them. In whatever way we can.
Somewhere, many years ago, I recall reading the following words: Good government will come when all things are called by their right name.
I believe there is great truth in those words.

Andrew Cuomo’s education policies are way past even the radical right wing and nothing less than fascistic. We need to call them by their right name and do so repeatedly and loudly until this is understood.

Addendum: Herein is a kinder, gentler version of Cuomo’s policies. See the section on school boards.