Posts Tagged ‘Education Nation’

NBC News: How Can You Trust A News Agency To Get its Facts Straight When It Can’t Even Get Your Name Straight?

February 28, 2014

NBC

Granted, at this point in time anyone who gets their nightly news from television is a damned fool and deserves whatever slop is dished out to them. And you can rest assured, whatever the subject, it will be slop. Still, one expects a modicum of something that somewhat resembles real journalism, even from NBC, producer of the risible weeklong billionaire backed infomercial for public school privatization called “Education Nation, ” featuring Goldie Hawn.

This afternoon, following in the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s welcome announcement that NYC charter schools would no longer automatically receive whatever they asked for, as was the case under the endless reign of Mike Bloomberg, I was asked by my union to speak to the press, in this case, NBC News. This I did, trying to articulate as best I could the miserable and degrading experience of “co-locating “ in a building with Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy. Indeed, my school has the unfortunate distinction of being the host in which Success Academy first began to metastasize. Soon, of course, Eva’s chain was spreading all over the city even as it slowly devoured our building, taking at first a few rooms here and there and then swallowing up an entire floor. In this painful process we lost our music room and with our music program. (It’s impossible to gauge such a loss in the life of a child but know it is immense. ) Gone soon was our computor room. Occupational therapy and physical therapy were now delivered in hallways, stairways or rooms formerly known as closets. Whatever. Storage rooms were suddenly designated classrooms. I know. I had one. Lunch schedules were reconfigured so kids were forced to eat lunch soon after they arrived. Without a word to the parents and community of our school, the school yard was rendered largely useless by the imposition of a strange, completely impractical astroturf section.

An entire school and community was distorted and contorted almost beyond recognition to satisfy Eva’s rapacious hunger for ever more space as well as Mike Bloomberg’s mad delight in delivering it, whatever the cost to the dignity of the students of our school. The atmosphere was instantly poisonous and, despite the good will and good intentions of a couple of Harlem Success business managers (who seem to run the show) , remains so. From the beginning, we were treated like unwelcome guests if not out right intruders in our own building, an attitude that was not lost on the children of either camp.

This did not come of thin air but from the top.

Year after year there was more and more encroachment; more and more often would the students of Harlem Success Academy be eerily marched by the children of my school without as much as looking at them, as if the act of making eye contact with such riff raff would somehow contaminate the charter school “scholars.” (Note: Eva ignorantly insists her teachers address their students as “scholars”, apparently not realizing that the two words mean very different things. ) Far more often than not, the refusal to recognize the common humanity of another was also shared by Eva’s ever-transient teaching brigade. It is unnerving, I assure you, to be treated as if you are invisible.
And soon enough began the annual ritual of receiving those students who Harlem Success Academy deemed not up to snuff. Out their door they went, in our door they came.
As a truly public school laboring under the ethical obligation of educating every student, regardless of how difficult, troubled or torn, such is our duty.
Not so charter schools which have the luxury of bouncing whom they will when they.

And bounce they do.

One can go on and on but I trust you get the point.

None of this would you have any chance of knowing from NBC’s report/ad for Harlem Success Academy which portrays the chain, not as the spoiled child that can afford to pay Moskowitz almost half a million dollars a year in salary, or spend more than a million dollars a year on super slick recruitment propaganda, but as a suddenly “homeless” orphan punished by a thoughtless and cruel mayor, bent on punishing them for their success. Note: Like thousands and thousands of New York parents, my daughter received in the mail a slick, professionally produced glossy postcard enticing her to enter into a brand new Success Academy that was to open in my downtown neighborhood. (It didn’t.) My daughter was five years old at the time. The Department of Education thought it a fine idea to give her address and the addresses of thousands of children out to help build Ms. Moskowitz’s burgeoning empire.

Anything for Eva.

From the beginning, a public relations campaign plowed on in several fronts, one slicker than the next. There was the full-length documentary, The Lottery. Then there was the egregious book Class Warfare in which author Steven Brill, pitting one school against another, praised Harlem Success Academy to the heavens as the same time he disgraced himself by writing of a teacher no teacher in my school had ever known. No problem!

But O, those tests scores, you may say! Do they not make up for everything ? Of that consider this timely piece.

Back to NBC News. With a few annual exceptions or in emergencies, it has been many years since I have watched “the news” on TV on a regular basis. Still, I am very aware of its effects, mostly horrific, on many of my fellow citizens. We are, after, the nation that twice elected Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (kind of) and Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, a feat of political imbecility unimaginable without the influence of TV.) Because of its insidious Education Nation, NBC seems especially contemptible to me.
Still, tonight’s “reporting” on De blasio’s decision — “The War on Charter Schools “ — was so preposterously lopsided as to be absurd, even by the absurd standards of the corporate media’s reportage on corporate education reform campaigns. The only word for it is “propaganda.” Here is my always-prescient friend and colleague NYC Educator’s take on the “report. ”

My twenty second cameo under a name not mine was meant to serve, apparently, as proof of giving both sides of the co-location story, regardless of the fact that the charter school advocates were given many, more times the time I or any other public school advocate was given.

What it really serves to prove, however, is the utter shoddiness of NBC News. Consider this: My name is Patrick Walsh, a name I clearly stated and even spelled out for the NBC reporter. In the report I am called Patrick Murphy, a fine name, to be sure, but one that does not belong to me nor I to it.
My question: how is it possible to trust a news agency to get their facts right when they not only produce slick, poisonous garbage like Education Nation, but when they can’t even get someone’s name straight ?

On “Left Wing Paranoia” and the Conspiracy to Privatize Public Education

November 26, 2013

On the very same day the New York Times saw fit to publish an opinion piece in which Frank Bruni snidely and condescendingly dismissed the factually based claims of those who are paying close attention to who and what is fueling education reform as the “welling hysteria” of “left wing paranoiacs,” the Times Union published an article confirming the worst fears of those who have been monitoring the stealth campaign – or, if you will, conspiracy — to privatize the American public school system as rapidly, surreptitiously and insidiously as possible. The process is well under way and proceeds, as often as not, extra legislatively, undermining the remnant of our enfeebled democracy at every turn.

The Times Union article, titled “Wealth Backs Reform,” describes nothing less than a privately paid shadow agency of “advisors” to the New York State Regents. The backers of the group are virtually the same mega rich individuals and the same mega rich foundations that bankroll virtually every angle of “education reform” from massive semi-secret projects like the Common Core to phony teacher groups like Educators4Excellence, phony parent groups like Parent Revolution or public relations events like Education Nation. Again and again and again you find Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton’s of Wal-Mart infamy, and an array of neo-liberal foundations. These are not, as Bruni would have it, the hallucinations of “left-wing paranoiacs, who imagine some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats.”
They really are money-mad plutocrats and the campaign or conspiracy to privatize our education system is as real as the eyes in our heads for those who choose not to be blind.

The revelation of the shadow regents, like all the information surrounding “education reform” should shock and disgust all who believe in accountable, representative government. It should also sober up those who, like Bruni, seem to be drunk to the point of madness on the elixir of neo liberalism and plutocracy even as neo liberalism and plutocracy degrade and debase everything and everyone they touch.

Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.

Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.

The Lie and Disgrace that is NBC’s Education Nation

September 22, 2013

iNBC

The yearly corporate sponsored corporate education reform propaganda extravaganza Education Nation sinks lower and lower and as it does so it showers the American people with greater and greater corporate contempt. Here is an event that is billed as a “summit” of educational leaders that, as far as I can see, includes not a single teacher in a position of prominence or authority. (Sorry Weingarten and Walcott, you don’t count.)
Here is an event beamed out across America that includes not a single dissenting voice from the “reformers “ increasingly reckless experiments on American children such as the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards.
Here is an event in which the promoters are not satisfied with merely elevating non-educator hucksters like Joel Klein, (billed as the CEO of education techno firm Amplify) or David Coleman (no longer known as “the architect “ of the Common Core but rather as President and Chief Educative Officer of the College Board ) to the level of expertise but also adds the educational wisdom of non-educator Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and non-educator politicians like Mike Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan, and Bobby Jindal.

For a final spit in the face of American parents there is the inexplicable inclusion of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, singer Tony Bennett, and actress/comedienne Goldie Hawn.

Well, why not? If Joel Klein can use the “summit” on education to shill for Rupert Murdoch and Jeb Bush use it as an avenue to the presidency, why shouldn’t poor Goldie Hawn use it to get herself back into the public eye?
In short, here is a lineup for an event that is so ridiculous that it is impossible to parody.
And it would be funny if the stakes were not so high.
But they are.
A “summit” on education that is not merely not based on the experience and knowledge of teachers like Susan Ohanian but actively exclude teachers such as Ohanian is beyond a farce.

A “summit” on education that pretends to discuss “active parenting” and does not include the likes of Leonie Haimson and Class Size Matters is a sin.

A “summit” on education that does not include the political insights of Lois Weiner is a disgrace. A “ summit” on education that does not include the voice and vision of CORE’s Karen Lewis is a sham.

A “summit” on any aspect of education today that systemically excludes the moral and intellectual authority of Diane Ravitch is simply a lie and it should be identified as such.

And this should be done again and again and again and in any way, shape, or form that people who are meant to be brainwashed by this egregious show of money and influence will understand. NBC and the forces that created this thing are counting on our silence. We must not be so.

Charter Schools: A Blueprint for the Corporate Universe

September 14, 2013
Happiness is a two year teaching "career."

Happiness is a two year teaching “career.”

Motoko Rich of the NY Times may have set out to write a pro-charter school puff piece, but what the Times wound up publishing is actually something far more interesting and, in a disturbing way, far more revealing. Indeed, her article might end up as some kind of classic in pro-corporate education reform propaganda passed off as journalism. I don’t think I’ve ever read an ostensibly serious news article that so perfectly matched the presumptuousness and oceanic arrogance of corporate education reform ideas with the actual breathing human beings possessed by an equal abundance of presumptuousness and arrogance necessary to bring such foolishness to life. And what this marriage of reckless ideas and willing executors are bringing to life is nothing short of the blue print for a corporate work model for the schools of the future.

It goes roughly like this: in that down time between graduating from college ( preferably an Ivy League college ) and beginning your real career (in finance, law or high level management ) you altruistically devote two or three years of your life preaching (and living) the gospel of high expectations and no excuses to young brown and black kids in publicly funded charter schools and then — poof! – you’re off to something “ bigger and better.” Sometimes those bigger and better things are even within education; perhaps you’ll employ the vast knowledge you’ve accumulated in your two years of teaching and become a principal. Better yet, if you wish to have a career making educational policy, you can rest assured TFA is there to help. Indeed, it has established itself as a virtual fast track for pseudo-educator educational strivers. Former TFA teachers are now serving as superintendents and policy makers all over the country. Michelle Rhee, TFA’s most infamous pseudo-educator, has distinguished herself as a failed and fired chancellor of the D.C. school system as well as a highly paid professional corporate reform propaganda artist. At any rate, one thing is for sure: your time in the classroom actually teaching will almost certainly be extremely limited.

This model serves the increasingly corporate society in several crucial ways, particularly in public sector industries, the last strong hold of unionized workers in America. First, it relieves the industry and hence the taxpayers of the burdensome pensions and health care of “lifers,” and diverts their taxes to higher salaries for charter CEO’s, contracts with testing companies and the new exploding field of education technology, the latter designed to decrease the workforce that much the more. More importantly, on a more subconscious level, the model serves the essential role of inculcating American youth the with the corporate business model and its inherent values long before the students can begin to know what is happening to them. Indeed, it teaches them to make sense of the world through a corporate business model. From a purely business perspective and the long term lens of corporate colonization, what, pray tell, could be better?

Of course, the words” corporate” and “business model” never appear in the article. “Stability” and “student” and “community” are each used once.

What Rich describes is the ethos of the increasingly powerful and utterly insidious Teach For America. And all this is rendered between the lines by Rich so casually and with such enthusiasm you might think she was reporting a pep rally or that she picked up a bit of the TFA “can do spirit “ by osmosis!

Consider this sentence: “ As tens of millions of pupils across the country begin their school year, charter networks are developing what amounts to a youth cult in which teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable and, at times, even desirable. “

Forgive my naïve questions, but how is a public institution, particularly a school, mounting a “youth cult” a good thing? Exactly how is it “acceptable and, at times, even desirable? “ Are not cults, by definition prejudicial, based on blind obedience, and not something we would ever desire in a public institution, especially a school? Would Rich feel the same about a fundamentalist Christian cult or a cult of Hari Krishna, or perhaps about a geriatric cult? Would these too be “acceptable, and at times, even desirable?”
I think not.
And what is it that motivates the “youth cult? ” Is it the endlessly repeated mantra of “putting students first” and the like?
Not exactly.
“We have this highly motivated, highly driven work force who are now wondering, ‘O.K., I’ve got this, what’s the next thing?’ ” said Jennifer Hines, senior vice president of people and programs at YES Prep. “There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.”

Again, from a corporate perspective one can easily understand how such passerby teachers provide great comfort.

But we must also understand what else is being taught here. Tacitly. Implicitly. Very, very subtly and by example. Apart from any academics, every day such schools impart valuable lessons in corporate consciousness to impressionable souls merely by the way they operate and by the very values they extol. Few, if any of these values are traditionally associated with education. None would be found in the private schools attended by the fortunate children of all corporate education reformers. Just as Obama’s Race to the Top is a brilliant if reprehensible method to employ the public education system itself as a tool to institutionalize competition as the highest and noblest human impulse, so too do the Yes Academies and KIPP schools of the world tacitly impart similar corporate values to their students on an hourly basis.
None of them, of course, are spelled out.

In the same manner that my friend and colleague Michael Fiorillo has written that the test is itself the curriculum, without a word being spoken the students learn that since everything is transient, community is meaningless. Indeed, there is no such thing as community. There are only brands like Yes Academy or Success Academy or American Apparel or Coca Cola. There are no lasting relationships.
Students learn that, as opposed to the past where schools were often a bedrock of social cohesion or at the very least a stabilizing institution offering continuity in a world of chaos today’s schools with their ever shifting staff have no more stabilizing importance than say, a 7/ 11 or a Dunkin Donuts.

From those “pushing to redefine the arc of the teaching career “ to a couple of years, the “youth cult “ teaches students that teaching is not really a serious career but something you do until you figure out what you want to do.
Or they may learn that teaching is so easy to master that one can become a principal at age 28.

By the time students graduate from the Yes Academies and Success Academies and KIPP schools of the world, wholly aside from the corporate advertising that was designed to assault them from the moment of consciousness, their psyches are likely to have been completely colonized by Corporate Think.
Mission accomplished.
What is striking about the article is that neither Rich nor her subjects seem even remotely concerned about anything but themselves and the institutions they work for.
Rich appears to be so gaga over the young popinjays that she does not seem the slightest bit interested in musing over what happens to children in communities when schools, perhaps the only force of institutionalized stability in their neighborhoods, become brief stops on the journey of resume builders.
Neither, despite all the rhetoric about putting kids first, does Wendy Kopp.
“Strong schools can withstand the turnover of their teachers,” said Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America. “The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”
Forget for a moment, Kopp’s silly language and preposterous claims of how her somehow “tremendously developed” teachers are “great” almost out of the egg. Put aside for the moment, that Kopp has taken to using language not as something to use to approximate a striving for truth but rather, as in advertising, to manipulate the listener in order to sell a product: herself and TFA.
Where is Kopp’s recognition of school as a social and communal base?? Where is her understanding of school as an intrinsic element of a community in a world that, for numerous reasons, seems more fragmented by the hour?

Tyler Dowdy, one of Kopp’s newly minted “great teachers”, provides the answer to the question Kopp doesn’t ask: “ I feel like our generation is always moving onto the next thing, “he said, “ and always moving onto something bigger and better.”
Wow!
Such language is not the language of an educator but rather of advertising. I would not want anyone who parrots such nonsense near my child.

 “The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”


“The strongest schools develop their teachers tremendously so they become great in the classroom even in their first and second years.”

The more I look at it the more I believe that the corporate education reform campaign (I refuse to see this as a “movement”) is the first wave of an assault to utterly reconfigure, not merely labor relations, but the idea of the social contract itself.
Articles like this in publications as prestigious and influential as the New York Times are shameless but hardly harmless. Wittingly or not, both by tone and omission, they set the parameters as to what is and what is not acceptable. In this way they are essential components in the dark arts of perception management, the only field in which the corporate education reformers have displayed unambiguous brilliance, spending millions in every conceivable form of media to convince exhausted and frightened Americans of the righteousness of their cause. Think “Waiting for Superman.” Think NBC’s “Education Nation.” Think “Won’t Back Down.” Think dozens of billionaire backed front groups such as the repulsive Educators 4 Excellence or Parent Revolution created to to nothing less than deceive the most vulnerable among us.

Think for a moment of our barbaric invasion of Iraq based on nothing but lies and greed. Think for a moment how, in a matter of a few short years, the corporate education reformers have been able to deflect all of the cruel realities of contemporary American life, from the criminals of Wall Street and Washington and their economic policy from hell, away from themselves. Think for a moment how they have been able to convince an increasingly frightened, desperate fragmented and impoverished population of a fantasy
“Education crisis” and one caused solely by bad teachers protected by evil unions.

This should be risible. But many have swallowed it whole.

This is a remarkable if horrific achievement and one that comes with an enormous amount of conscious effort.
Intentionally or not, articles like Rich’s serve as the first volley in such efforts. The idea is to make what is unimaginable one year seem, not merely inevitable, but a vast improvement a few years later. Allow an example: if someone was to tell me ten years ago that standardized tests would become the central nervous system of the entire American public school system and that the fate of all who labor in it would now be dependent upon such a limited and unreliable measure, I’d have dismissed them as mad.
Today, I watch my colleagues and our students being driven mad by this very reckless, imbecilic and once unthinkable policy.
The education reformers are like nothing before in American history and they will stop and nothing to get their way. And they know exactly what they are doing and how to do it.
We must be as vigilant.

.