Posts Tagged ‘Educators4Excellence’

Vergara v. California Part One: Thoughts on Hannah Arendt, a New Totalitarianism and Completing The Circle of Domination

April 21, 2014
The Vergara Nine surrounded by handlers.

The Vergara Nine surrounded by handlers.

It is a peculiar, dark and unhinged world in which we dwell and it seems to grow more so all the time. Consider the extraordinary case of Vergara v. California, now winding down and awaiting a judgment. Here we have nine students, bankrolled by Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur David Welch, co-founder of Infinera, and founder of the advocate group StudentsMatter, suing the state of California. The suit claims that teacher tenure laws have denied them their civil rights.

Yes, for those who have not been following the case, you read that correctly.

The claim is that tenure laws — which merely insure that a teacher who has already passed through a probationary period of at least three years has the right to a hearing or due process before he or she is fired — are denying the nine students, a multicultural lot who range from high school seniors to fifth graders, nothing less than their civil rights.

The nine have been represented by the law firm of Dunn, Gibson & Crutcher which includes superstar attorneys Theodore Boutrous and Theodore B. Olson, the latter of whom won the case representing George W. Bush at the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore — not typically the kind of folk you would expect to be interested in civil rights. Given the specious argument of the case and considering who has orchestrated and funded it, teachers naturally believe the real purpose of the suit is to undermine the teachers’ union in California which would surely have a ripple effect across the country. At the start of the trial, Marcellus McCrae, a partner in the firm representing the plaintiffs, denied such a motive and stated that destroying the teachers’ unions is not the suit’s goal.
“Let’s be very clear,” McCrae declared at the beginning of the trial, “ We are not seeking to take away teachers’ rights – only five overly expensive and time-consuming statutes in the education code that prevent the removal of grossly ineffective teachers.”

Somehow the idea of grossly incompetent administrators allowing the continuance of grossly ineffective teachers does not enter into the picture. One of those “five overly expensive and time-consuming statutes” is due process, the removal of which would make the profession of teaching as secure and as dignified as that of a 17-year-old employee of McDonalds.

The students’ suit – if you are hallucinating that students actually initiated this action — demands that the court declare each of these statutory protections unconstitutional. Studentsmatter seems to exist for the sole purpose of something called “impact litigation.” “Impact litigation” seems to mean “union busting.”


It is a sign of our increasing historical amnesia, outright ignorance or savage disrespect for our language and our history that a figure like David Welch, like so many education privatizers can usurp the language and banner of civil rights and somehow use kids to position himself as an heir to figures like Martin Luther King, and pass off the privatization campaign as a continuation of that heroic and dangerous and spiritually charged battle. That said, Welch and his fellow privatizers are nothing if not media savvy (or can hire people who are ) and know exactly what they are doing and what buttons to push. (The Students Matter website features a Springsteen-esque soundtrack – think “Philadelphia” — to help along that emotional connection with the underdog school kids.)

David Welch He Shall Overcome

David Welch
He Shall Overcome

It is no accident that nine students were selected and coached in this case. The Vergara Nine seems deliberately calculated to echo the trial of the Little Rock Nine, the group of African American students who were denied entry into a racially segregated school by Arkansas governor Orval Faubas which led to the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision. The idea of the nine is to create an emotional connection drawn from an historical instance of grotesque institutional racism and somehow transfer it into a rationale to strip teachers of their rights and bust teacher unions without you even being aware of it.

After all, who but a moral monster is against civil rights?

Three of the Little Rock   Nine surrounded by  soldiers.

Three of the Little Rock Nine surrounded by soldiers.

But my understanding of Vergara v. California brings to mind not King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” but rather, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, one of the 20th century’s most prescient and intrepid writers. Even if the Nazism and Communism that Arendt analyzed have been replaced by gentler if more insidious and pernicious purveyors of absolute control – namely corporations and plutocrats — The Origins of Totalitarianism remains the prescriptive classic of that dark genre and there is still much to be learned from it today.

“Total domination,” writes Arendt” which strives to organize the infinite plurality and differenenciation of human beings as if all of humanity were just one individual, is possible only if each and every person can be reduced to a never changing identity of reactions, so that each of these bundles of reaction can be exchanged at random for another.”

And: “It is the very nature of totalitarian regimes to demand unlimited power. Such power can only be secured if literally all men, without a single exception are reliably dominated in every aspect of their life.”

Privatizers demand unlimited power. Privatizers speak constantly of choice and freedom while constantly attempting to reduce the freedom of teachers by stripping them of their union won protections and reduce them to at will employees. Privatizers, some of whom like Bill Gates are virtual monopolists, moan of the monopoly of “government schools” while attempting to impose a single all encompassing privately owned monstrosity called the Common Core on every school in America. Privatizers spend millions on propaganda films like Waiting For Superman and The Lottery and hire public relations firms to pass themselves off as legitimate organizations and erect billboards in Times Square filled with lies meant to do nothing less than dominate the minds of all who see them and turn them against all aspects of the school system that has educated the overwhelming percentage of Americans for almost 200 years.

The labor of the completely fraudulent "Center For Union Facts."

The labor of the completely fraudulent “Center For Union Facts.”

Arendt describes how such domination is formed by gaining power over individuals
( and then nations) by systemically undermining their individuality and hence their loyalties by a process of systemically deranging their identities and thus manufacturing an emotional connection to a leader or a cause. Broken down to it’s essentials it works like this: our identities are made up of components. Most of us are members of families, communities, political parties, ethic groups, churches, synagogues, mosques and more. Figure out how to target and undermine these components and you have created a void that is to be filled with what the totalitarian wants to fill it with . An attack on one’s identity is always and ever an attack on one’s sense of reality. One is atomized. All that was familiar is made to seem distant,strange, perhaps even sinister. I.e. That school you entrusted your child to – is it really invested in educating your kid ? Are those teachers really “world class?” Is it really your kid’s fault that he failed that class ? It goes without saying that the less educated, more impoverished and psychologically fragile one is, the more vulnerable one is to such attacks which is precisely why all privatizing fronts target the poor.

The endgame is that the atomized person is left with an emotional connection with “the leader ” or the cause, which in the end is, in fact, interchangeable. If done successfully, the emotional connection can find one blissfully helping in the destruction of a public system where at least one has a modicum of rights and a chain of accountability so as to build a publicly funded private enterprise where one has no more rights than a medieval peasant before a king or queen. I have seen this disturbing dance performed by parents in Harlem before the figure of Ms. Moskowitz.

Cults operate under very similar methods.

That’s how the totalitarian methodology worked with individuals under earlier and cruder systems meant for total domination. Something analogous, if far more subtle and sexy, has been going on for years within the campaign to privatize the US public school system: the creation of an extraordinary, indeed unprecedented number of phony grassroots non-profit fronts aimed at undermining all components of a school community in the same manner you would undermine all components of an individual. Such fronts produce the operatives and foot soldiers of the privatization campaign. How would such a method work in undermining a school system ? What is the “identity” of a school ?

What are the components?
First there is the community at large.
Then there are parents.
Then there are teachers.
Finally there are the students whose participation is such groups, until Students Matter, seemed to be considered outside the pale. No more.

Now consider the targets of just a handful of the tax deductible front groups created by and maintained by billionaires over the past ten years, each one created to undermine traditional beliefs and implode the system at large by dividing and conquering every single one of the above constituencies and turning them against each other – and, if possible, at each others’ throats.

Like so much of the campaign to privatize public education, this is a wholly unprecedented phenomenon in the American experience.
Consider the effect of charter schools and charter fronts on communities across the country. Have not the creation of publicly funded charter schools to some degree or another, rent asunder the communities they ostensibly serve ? Have not billionaire created groups like Families For Excellent Schools help sow discord and enmity between parents living on the same streets in the same neighborhoods who without such slick guidance might well be fighting in a common cause for good schools for all of their children ? Were such groups not designed to do exactly that ? Has not the entire idea of a community as geographically defined been ripped apart by the machinations of the charter lobby and their fronts? Have the creation of charter schools not turned one part of a community against another in an insane war for scarce resources and even scarcer public space? At PS 149 where I work in Harlem (where Harlem Success Academy first “co-located” and with Cuomo’s recent legislation may be “co-locating” that much the more ) I have seen this disturbing aspect realized on a daily basis.

Note: In response to newly elected Mayor Bill De Blasio’s extremely even handed charter school policy which were created to insure that New York’s most vulnerable students were not thrown out of their school to make way for charter empires, Families for Excellent Schools spent more than five million dollars on extremely sophisticated, heart tugging TV ads designed to paint charter school students as victims and Bill de Blasio as a heartless, racist monster. Days after Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature rewarded the charter lobby with laws that essentially stripped fellow Democrat De Blasio of power over part of his own school system and gave charter school operators complete dominion over the New York City public school system, Families for Excellent Schools sent out a slickly produced oversized glossy postcard to millions of New Yorkers urging them to call Cuomo and personally thank him for “championing public education.” This from a group that howled at the notion of paying rent.

For the parental constituency the privatization campaign has produced, among others, the risible front group called Parent Revolution, foot soldiers for the absurd Parent Trigger Law which states that if 51 % of a school’s parent body vote for it, they have the right to fire the staff and reopen the institution as a charter school and only as a charter school which will remain a charter school indefinitely. How this kind of idiocy is possible with people’s professions and public property is beyond my comprehension, but what any student of the privatization campaign learns in short time is that when you are backed by limitless wealth, all things, no matter how unethical or insane are possible and likely heading to a town like yours.

Parent Revolutionaries and handler.

Parent Revolutionaries and handler.

The Parent Trigger was celebrated in the execrable propaganda film, Don’t Back Down, which despite bombing at the box office was shown at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions and then featured at Chamber of Commerce events across the nation. The idea behind the group, the law and the film is to convince parents that the unionized teachers of the public school system have been failing their kids forever: conversely, that the publicly funded charter school entrepreneurs are their real friends.

The idea is to poison the well of public trust and turn parent against parent.

For teachers you have Educators 4 Excellence, allegedly formed spontaneously by two teachers in their early twenties under a bare light bulb in the South Bronx (or some such smaltz) who felt that they needed and richly deserved a direct line to power that was not through the teacher’s union and actually competed with it. Due entirely to massive contributions by hedge fund based Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the ubiquitous Gates Foundation, the two non entities were able to do just that. Almost instantly. And more: E4E were given endless and glowing media coverage in major media by “journalists” who showed no curiosity whatsoever as to how a couple of unremarkable new teachers — whose new ideas aligned perfectly with those of the privatizers — were able to raise hundreds of thousands and then millions of dollars, quit their excellent teaching jobs to devote themselves to educating educators on how to be excellent, and obtain an excellent office on excellent 5th Ave in less than three excellent years.

Their job, of course, is to poison the relationship between teacher and teacher, and teacher and union. To be sure, the Gates Foundation has long ago prepared for an E4E dues check off campaign set to cripple teachers unions and is merely awaiting the most propitious moment in which to launch it.

For the past decade, which is to say the period in which the privatizers’ campaign and their concomitant fronts began in earnest, children were apparently considered off limits. Or, perhaps, the privatizers were merely biding their time — one of the many benefits of being a billionaire or having billionaire backers.
At any rate, with Vergara v. Califorina the privitizers have at long last taken the step of setting students against teachers. And with that the circle of domination is complete. This strikes me as an enormous and egregious step and I suspect it is only the first of many from that direction. Whatever the result of the trial, so ruthless and self righteous are the privatizers, it would not surprise me at all to see the emergence of front groups comprised exclusively of kids like the Vergara Nine who, by nature of being kids, will have no idea of how they are being used and by whom but will be convinced they know better than anyone who disagrees with them.

And why not? As with Eva Moskowitz’s bussing of hundreds of nine and ten and eleven year old students to Albany to “lobby” for her charter school empire, we as a people have degenerated to the place where kids can be transparently used as political pawns and almost no one bats an eye. All that seems to matter in the America of today is that you get your way, as we all and all in our own way race to the top of nowhere.

And don’t think for a moment that our children aren’t absorbing this lesson.

Meet the new face of totalitarianism. They come at you wearing not jackboots and insignias but Nikes and a smile, offering you a frappuccino and maybe a job in their brand new non-profit organization created out of nothing but an undying love of children, your children especially.


A Busy Day for Billionaire Backed Front Groups

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was a busy beaver of a day for billionaire backed front Groups. Someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of the New York wing of the billionaire based campaign to privatize the public school system, must have recently given the order: Get out the word. Now! Some people are beginning to understand what’s really going on.

How else can one explain not one but two volleys from two billionaire financed front groups ( and one newly minted at that ! ) on a single day ?
Early yesterday afternoon I received word of the advent of Higher Achievement New York, yet another deceitfully created billionaire backed front group passing itself off as “grass roots ” and roping in just enough innocent faces to fool those who don’t know any better.

“Higher Achievement New York described itself as “an organized platform” dedicated to higher standards that will explain what the new standards mean for children, and how they offer better preparation for college and careers, through social media advertising and lobbying.
“Our goal is to foster positive conversation that hasn’t existed around these standards,” said the group’s executive director Frank Thomas, who previously worked in communications for the city’s Department of Education and Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign.”

In plain English, Higher Achievement New York is a public relations project disguised as an education advocacy group.

As the standards belong to the Common Core and the Common Core is an untested experiment in progress, there is no legitimate way to explain how the Common Core can prepare anyone for anything at all. No one has any idea what, if any, effect it will have on students. And explain to whom, by the way ? The parents who have reacted to the experiment on their kids with volcanic rage at what it is doing to their children? To the teachers and administrators who have twisted themselves into pretzels attempting to implement the unholy mess ?

Perhaps they’ll find an audience in the fish and other sea creatures dwelling in New York Harbor. After all, they’re paid and doubtless paid well, to “ foster positive conversation” and they have a better chance these days with sea life than they do with most people not on their pay roll.

As Higher Achievement New York is comprised of more established and experienced fronts such as the Gates Foundation’s Educators4Excellence and Mike Bloomberg’s Students First NY, one should expect an extraordinarily high level of obfuscation, distortion, and shill like behavior.

Many have, in fact, seen a preview of their act. The two aforementioned fronts did their best to dominate the two New York City hearings of Commissioner John King, the first in Brooklyn where Students FirstNew York members were allowed to enter the hall early and hog up no less than 44 of the 45 speaker slots so as to create an impression of wild enthusiasm for the loathed Common Core utterly unrelated to reality outside the world of public relations. At the same time they shamelessly injected the issue of race into the mix, somehow insinuating that the privately owned, secretly created product of the Gates Foundation called Common Core was nothing less than a civil right. The following night when King appeared in lower Manhattan the two fronts showed up in tandem and one heard silly testimonial after silly testimonial from one 24 year old “ex teacher” (currently employed to “raise expectations” by StudentsFirstNY ) after another about how Common Core is the answer to just about every problem in the known universe, bizarre statements by E4E teachers of the almost supernatural power of the Common Core, and, most cynically, insinuations that rejection of the Common Core was merely disguised racism.

Well, with the coming of Higher Achievement New York, you can bet you’ll hear a whole lot more of that kind of stuff.
By the way, does the name Higher Achievement New York portend a Higher Achievement New Jersey? A Higher Achievement Connecticut, and on and on until all fifty states are achieving higher ?

A few hours after reading about Higher Achievement I arrived home to find a foot long glossy post card, not dissimilar in style from the one my then five-year-old daughter received in her name from Success Academy some years back, festooned with smiling and beautiful African American children, so beloved by the titans of Wall Street. Yesterday’s card bore my name and address and a dramatic shot of Andrew Cuomo giving a speech in front of a ChartersWork sign and came from something called Families For Excellent Schools.
The Families kindly sent the card to implore me to call up “education champion” Andrew Cuomo and thank him for the wondrous job he was doing with our schools. Part of Cuomo’s wonderful work was helping to pass laws that gave charter schools rights that public schools don’t have, such as the right for charter school entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz not merely not to pay rent, but to dictate the terms of whatever she wants when it comes to expanding her publically funded empire into already existing schools. In essence, what Cuomo did in terms of education was to give Mike Bloomberg a forth term as mayor. And then some.


The card made me sick just to look at it. And needless to say, it must have cost a fortune to create and another to do a mass mailing of the thing. This from the folks who can’t afford to pay rent.


As a teacher in PS 149, one of the schools that Cuomo essentially gave to Eva Moskowitz, the homage to the Tough Guy governor’s giveaway goes right to the gut. The giant post card seemed like a sick joke: a sick joke played on the neediest and most disadvantaged school kids in all of New York; a joke played on those who would be jettisoned for the comfort of Ms. Moskowitz’s charter children.

Moreover, how did these creepy people get my name and address ? Who gave it to them ? They got it the same way, I suspect, that other creepy people got my daughter’s name and address a few years back. And that way points to the public trust called the Department of Education and the manipulation thereof.

Disturbing stuff.

I decided to look up Families For Excellent Schools curious, when most families I know are scrapping to get by, as to what manner of families have this kind of money to spend on such gratuitous gestures to such odious figures as Andrew Cuomo. This is how they described themselves on their website: “Founded in 2011 by public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools is a community organization that fights for every child’s
right to an excellent education. Through organizing and political
work, we work to amplify the voices of families over the din of
electioneering and special interest campaigning. Rather than speak on
behalf of public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools
empowers parents to speak for themselves.”

Parents speaking for themselves! How touching!

I looked a little further still and found one of the families for excellent schools was none other than Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, not widely known for being particularly fond of people speaking for themselves.

I looked further and found out that Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York division of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

A question: Weren’t front groups, for excellent reasons, once generally regarded as sleazy, unethical and even sinister enterprises?

What has been left almost entirely unexamined in the privatization campaign is, not only the extreme proliferation of billionaire-backed fronts, but their strange, silent metamorphosis from something to be shunned to something to be accepted and even celebrated.
Is not the purpose of a front to deceive? To trick? To pass yourself off as something you are not so as to scam credulous people of good will ? Are fronts not a con job?

Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, multiplying like malignant cells, the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with. Higher Achievement New York is merely the latest. And none seem to betray their utter amorality.

There will be more, to be sure. We are dealing with souls to whom millions are meaningless and whose ruthlessness, sense of entitlement, and narcissism knows no bounds. The only thing they know how to do is to dominate by any means they can. And they believe it is their right to do so.

They are, after all, unimaginably rich and like the charter schools they hold so dear, they have rights that people like you and I do not.

John King’s Flying Circus Lands in Lower Manhattan

December 12, 2013

Teacher Peter Lamphere speaking before a deeply engaged John King and Meryl Tisch

Teacher Peter Lamphere speaking before a deeply engaged John King and Meryl Tisch

Unlike the authentic and enraged voices of parents and teachers that Commissioner John King encountered in every corner of the state he dared show up in to peddle his wares on our dime, many of the voices King heard on the past two nights in Brooklyn and Manhattan respectively have been melodious indeed, if also largely synthetic and out right obsequious. For this King can give thanks to the machinations of billionaire funded corporate education fronts groups Students First NY and Educators4Excellence.

Even if they were thwarted from hogging almost every one of the 45 two minute speaking slots, as they had in Brooklyn on Tuesday, the confederacy of corporate shills and paid operatives ( many of whom spoke at both “forums”) did successfully put on a show of obeisance to the Common Core State Standards that was sure to please their masters even as it bore no relationship whatsoever to 99.9 % of working career teachers who loathe the thing and all that comes with it.

Unwittingly, the corporate advocates also provided not a little bit of entertainment, albeit in the form of black humor. Take for example the E4E guy who proclaimed to all and sundry that he was “a good teacher” before the implementation of Common Core but now, due to the miraculous intercession of Common Core he had become “a great teacher.”
Poof! Just like that!
This, mind you, was not presented as wicked, guerilla satire.
Then there was the teacher from John Adams High School who strode down to the mic with seven students in tow only to ask that all eight of them be allowed to speak, as somehow they constituted one entity. For some reason, this was allowed. And it was the defense of this break from protocol that merited the only words that Meryl Tisch spoke all night.

Hey! Nice work if you can get it!

The teacher then went on to tell the crowd that he taught a class in “critical thinking.”
By way of explanation he actually said, “We get together and critically think.” The insinuation was that “critical thinking “ did not exist or was wholly unknown in the public school system ( and perhaps to homosapiens in general) before the advent of the Common Core. This insulting and absurd sentiment, to one degree or the other, was echoed by the E4E contingent all evening, a bizarre position, indeed, for an organization that obliges new members to sign a what amounts to a pledge of allegiance to its corporate dictums.

At any rate, if the man’s students are any indication, the sorry guy does not even know what the words “critical thinking ” mean. One student after another strode to the mic only to recite words that sounded to all the world like nothing more than Common Core press releases.
Poor kids.
A crisis in education, indeed!
One wonders how such people ever got to be teachers. Or why.

In fact, listening to these folks, a stranger would be forgiven if you concluded that standards themselves were non-existent before the coming of the Common Core. As if, that is, before the Common Core and corporate fronts like E4E and StudentsfirstNY, teachers and students did little more in school than kind of hang around, looking out windows or watching game shows on TV.

But, for the moment at any rate, at least these speakers were, in fact, active working teachers. Not so the three twenty something know-it-all “ ex- teachers”, whose love for the Common Core Standards is exceeded only by their love for their former students — even as they forsook the teaching profession after two or three years to save schools from bad teachers and raise expectations as paid operatives of StudentsFirstNY. (One understands their affinity with King as, like them, it only took King three years of teaching to know everything there is to know about it.) Indeed, it seems the further removed one is from actually working under Common Core the more rhapsodic one grows about it. Consider “ex – teacher “ Miranda Cohen who rose to declare the she was behind CCSS not merely 100 % but “150%. ”

And who is this “ex teacher?” Nothing other than a staffer for Students First NY working tirelessly and selflessly to raise expectations, ferret out “bad teachers,” and instruct those remaining on how to do their job.
Herein her story from the StudentsfirstNY website: “As a 9th grade teacher at a failing school, Miranda was driven to provide her students with the same excellent instruction and guidance that she herself received in Massachusetts.
After teaching for two years, Miranda moved back to New York to begin a Community Organizing Fellowship with StudentsFirstNY, as she sought an opportunity to have a meaningful impact outside of the classroom. Miranda is deeply committed to raising the level of expectations that communities have for both their teachers and schools.”

“Meaningful” indeed! Well, it beats working!

There was even a speech by a young lady who presented herself as a member of E4E at the same time she was a chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT.)
This is a vomitous and incoherent combo if there ever was one but also one that has to be some kind of wet dream for E4E sugar daddies Whitney Tillson and Bill Gates!

Then, for good measure (and a bit of diversity) we heard from a lawyer couple from the Upper West Side — we know they were a lawyer couple from the Upper West Side because they made sure we knew they were a lawyer couple from the Upper West Side — who spoke separately to insure that their four year old and two year old children would be educated under the Common Core Standards.

I swear I’m not making this up.

One thing that was noticeably and gratefully absent, despite the fundamentalist fervor of the shills, was the obscene and horrific (if politically manipulative) notion that reportedly dominated Tuesday night’s forum in Brooklyn: the idea that, somehow, the implementation of Common Core was nothing less than a matter of civil rights and all who opposed it did so because they are racists who sadistically wish to condemn children of color to the ignorant underclass for perpetuity.

In between and after this exercise in self-righteousness and farce were many statements from parents and teachers that moved from the wise to the poignant to the heartbreaking.
One mother spoke of her child experiencing suicidal ideation that she attributed directly to the demands and stress of the Common Core.
An hour or so later, a similar statement was made by yet another mother.
King and Meryl Tisch answered both statements with silence.
Several experienced teachers spoke of dividing the Common Core, in which they found merit, from the high stakes testing, from which they found none.
This too was answered with silence.
Leonie (“ The Lioness”) Haimson of Class Size Matters challenged King directly to explain the legality and purpose of the data mining of InBloom, data mining which has already been rejected by many states due to parent pressure but not in New York.
King danced the watusi, the twist, and the bossa nova but never came anywhere near answering Haimson’s query.
Leonie was not surprised.
One mother offered the insight that the problem is that the “ state begins with the premise that kids don’t want to learn and teachers don’t want to teach.”
More silence.

Testing expert Fred Smith called for a moratorium on testing due to the shabbiness of their production offering example after example of the shoddiness of the work.

Parent activist Noah Gotbaum spoke passionately and personally about an entire array of DOE policy failings, including the fact that the Common Core barely even acknowledges the existence of, never mind the realties of, special needs children.

Not a word in reply.

Members of the MORE Caucus of the UFT, myself included, made their presence felt and heard through the long, weird night.

Perhaps the most challenging question of the evening was asked by a middle aged African American teacher who spoke poignantly of his upbringing in the South where he was raised by his grandmother and was an excellent high school student, only to discover that he was far behind his peers when he reached college. He declared himself a Common Core agnostic but asked a crucial question: if not Common Core, what?

It is a question that opponents of the Common Core must answer. Indeed, we ignore it at our peril.

For King who is somehow “completely convinced of the power the Common Core has for our students ” the Common Core is the solution not the problem.
For King and his subjects in StudentsFirstNY and E4E, we are the problem, not the Common Core.
The Common Core said King, offering no evidence whosoever, will “ create a “ citizenry ready for the 21st century.”

It was declarations such as this that led to my own question, the second to last of the night.
I told King and Tisch and all present that I am in awe of the Common Core, not as an educational tool, but as a political phenomenon. How a thing that was funded by Bill Gates and created by creepy entrepreneurs like David Coleman and Pearson Inc in a secrecy akin to that of the Manhattan Project could become signature educational policy of a Democratic president, applauded by both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, is mind boggling and without precedent in American history.

Furthermore, as the effusive praise and cult like mantras of the untested experiment gave evidence, I am equally in awe of Common Core as an exercise in mass perception management and public relations. But I wanted to know this: as the proponents of the Common Core were so unconscionably reckless as to impose the thing on a nation (spare me the “adopted in 45 states” line), where was the evidence to back up all these magical expectations? Or put another way: why was my child, as was every child in the nation, being used as a guinea pig in their experiment?

My question, like all questions of substance, was ignored. Very tactfully. Answering questions, after all, was not at all what the “forum” was about.

Addendum: Herein an uncommonly frank account in the main stream media of what transpired at King’s and Tisch’s New York “forums” and why.

Bill Gates Continues To Purchase Major Teacher Unions and At Discount Rates

July 3, 2013

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA,  brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA, brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates, a private citizen of obscene wealth obtained largely through his monopolistic cunning and ruthless hoarding of intellectual property rights, has spent the greater part of the last decade insidiously and extra-legislatively dictating public school policy. Mr. Gates has no experience whatsoever in education. This, however, has not stopped him from gaining infinitely more power over my child’s education than I have and infinitely more power over your child than you have. This power, given to him by spineless politicians across the country but especially by Barack Obama, has allowed Gates to perform foolish experiment after foolish experiment on America’s children and America’s educators. These experiments include but are by no means limited to the deceptively named and privately owned Common Core States Standards and Value Added Metrics for teacher evaluations. They also include Gate’s ideas of students wearing “Galvanic bracelets” to measure something or other and video cameras in every classroom all the time as if teachers, are in fact, criminals. And there are many more including the latest intrusion of the rights of children, the data mining, InBloom. Furthermore, Gates has funded every countless phony anti union “grassroots “ group, ( my favorite the despicable union busting Educators 4 Excellence ) major media public relations campaigns agsinst the public school system like “Waiting For Superman” and NBC’s “Education Nation”. and even “public” institutions such as PBS and NPR, the last two of which have followed his scripts as if they were Gate’s valet. To top it off, Obama’s reprehensible Race To the Top, currently wreaking havoc from sea to shining sea – exactly as it was designed to do — was developed in the bowels of the Gates Foundation.

Without his 6o billion dollars, all of Gate’s fascistic ideas would be greeted with silence or a horselaugh and Mr. Gates would be considered a clown in the unlikely case he would be considered at all. With his 60 billion, Mr. Gates is the unelected, unaccountable Emperor of American Education. That is to say, public education, as Mr. Gates, like virtually all the education reformers, would never dream of subjecting his children or their teachers to the degrading, idiotic and debasing schemes he demands for our kids and their teachers.

Mr. Gates has spent the last decade simultaneously undermining and purchasing teacher unions, particularly the two largest, the National Education Association led by Dennis Roekel and American Federation of Teachers led by Randi Weingarten. Teacher unions were created to fight the very kind of imposition and degrading demands that Gates is implementing and forever proposing. Gates has made no secret of his contempt for teachers, even to the place of roaming the county suggesting their modest pensions are far too high.

Despite all this, both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, instead of ceaselessly pointing out to their members the danger of Mr. Gates and his kind, not merely to their profession but to a semblance of democracy itself, have repeatedly pretended that they can work Gates and all will be fine. Alternatively, they say stuff like, things are changing and unions must change with them.
One hears lots of this sort of defeated without a fight rubbish.
Privately, they insist they have no choice but to work with this man.

Why ? What happens if you don’t ?

Randi and Bill: Weingarten personally invited Bill Gates to be the keynote speaker at a national AFT Convention in an effort to promote “dialogue.”   Bill wasn’t listening.

Randi and Bill: Weingarten personally invited Bill Gates to be the keynote speaker at a national AFT Convention in an effort to promote “dialogue.” Bill wasn’t listening.

It is difficult to gauge the idiocy of this thinking. It is nothing less than suicidal. It is the reasoning of minds that have no understanding of how unions came to be and what they are for. That much the more when there is the track record of reckless experimentation on students and heretofore unimaginable teacher degradation to draw from. But it is not difficult to gauge the results. Schemes developed by Gates have already eliminated due process (tenure) for countless teachers, have already subjected teachers to an evaluation plan that is riddled with error and obscenities such as the contention that poverty is not a factor in student performance on standardized tests. It should be clear to anyone who has followed the billionaire backed farce called “education reform” that Bill Gates never “gives” a thin dime without somehow extracting much, much more in return. At this point, one would have to be crazy or clueless to be dealing with man. To be doing anything, that is, other than exposing him as the narcissistic, democracy hating monster that he is.

Both the NEA and the AFT are willingly becoming adjuncts of the Gates Foundation.
(If you think I exaggerate observe the NEA website which reads like an ad for Common) Core among other Gate’s schemes )
It is time for members to do all that can be legally done to remove Mr. Dennis Van Roekel and Ms. Randi Weingarten from power. Indeed, long past time.

Their actions are beyond parody and beyond disgrace and lead only one way: complete and utter disempowerment for union members. I do not know how this can be done but I know it must before the very idea of a union – that which without there can be neither dignity nor rights for workers of any kind – is completely eviscerated from this land. Such evisceration is precisely the goal of Mr. Gates and his kind and they will succeed if we do not stop them.

“Grass Roots” Educators4Excellence Make $250,000 Commercial

February 19, 2013

You know there is something seriously wrong with any teacher evaluation plan that is pined for by the likes of the minuscule and despicable Educators 4 Excellence, a whole cloth creation of Bill Gates, Democrats for Education Reform and other union busting privatizers lusting to get their hands on our public school system and remake it in their own image.      You know there is something even more wrong with the thinking of the United Federation of Teachers who, with very minor differences, were willing to sign on to the same plan before Mayor Mike Bloomberg “torpedoed “ it at the 11th hour over the UFT’s insistence that this radical experiment in union suicide and  systematic destruction of teachers have a two year sunset clause. ( Like all ideas favored by Bloomberg, Bloomberg believed the experiment should  go on in perpetuity: a goal he is apparently seeking for all of the  insane ideas that blossom in his fertile head  in his final 10 months of power. )

Now here we are some six or so weeks later and Governor Andrew “I am the government”   “ Cuomo is poised, somehow, to pass legislation allowing  New York State Commissioner John King the right to  impose his own evaluation plan, union  contacts, and laws be damned, if the existing plan is  not ratified.

This is what passes for binding arbitration in our time.

Inexplicably, my union, the UFT,  seems to be quietly fine with that arrangement.  Much more loudly, E4E is demanding precisely that, and the New York Post, which can be seen as the house organ of E4E, is as ever happy to spread their word.  (Note: As Commissioner King taught for a mere three years before being handed power over education in New York State,  he may well feel an affinity for the leaders of E4E and they for him. )

A couple of  months ago, E4E held something purporting to be a rally at City Hall Park in favor of the wretched plan.   The affair was darkly amusing in its pathos, what with the E4Eer’s chanting idiocies in their billionaire bought green beanies and going on and on about how excellent they were.  “I am not satisfactory!  I am excellent” was a cringe inducing fave.

One after the other they barked on about how they craved feedback from their administrators, all but admitting to being as helpless as infants in their classrooms without an assistant principal telling them what to do and how to do it.

And  yet these were the very same adults who  were demanding the right to influence state educational policy and radically rewrite or outright remove the teacher protections that their predecessors  risked their careers to obtain for them.

A wee bit of a contradiction there, I’d say.  But what the hey!

There were ignorant if almost passionate lamentations  about using the 250 million dollars of Race to the Top extortion money to buy laptops for their students,  as if one dime of the tainted loot was ever going near a   class room and not going straight to consultants and test makers. I attended the rally (and wrote of it in an earlier post) and spoke to some of the beanie wearing crew, all of whom were clueless, some of whom were very pleasantly so.   This morning I  was mailed the on line version of E4E latest effort and — lo and be hold! — there are the same few faces in the video as at their tiny rally spouting the same lines, albeit  it, in  somewhat gentler and infinitely  more somber, even funereal tones.    Alas, what else can you do when your budget is in the millions but your membership is in the hundreds but trot out and re cycle the same people over and over. Indeed, one of them is the very lady who was handed a platform by the NY Daily News on January 3.

The Post does again what it has done since the creation of  E4E , even repeating the nonsense about E4E  forming spontaneously, like Athena out of Zeus’s head, from a couple of frustrated Bronx teachers — neither of whom of is still teaching, but rather living large on their corporate sponsor’s welfare  — in a in a lonely February kitchen under a dim bulb with a sad minor scale violin solo playing in the distance.

( OK, I made up the part about the dim light bulb and the violin but  they made up the bullshit about the kitchen.  You can rest assured, like so much of corporate education reform schemes,  the idea for  this repugnant organization was  vomited  up ages ago in a well lit boardroom. )

A mere two or three years later and here’s E4E with a snazzy midtown office, a branch in LA and   no less than a quarter of a million dollars to spend on a commercial!

My favorite line from the Post’s puff piece?  “The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.”

“In part.”   That’s a good one.

My bet is that there has not been a single dollar raised by teachers for this egregious organization.

And yet here again is E4E, possessors of zero credibility, with less than 1 % of NYC teacher as members again presented as if it is a legitimate organization and an “independent” voice of real educators.

I know of no other group that so completely embodies the fraudulence and deceit of corporate education reform and the willing complicity  of the media to aid in such fraud and deceit as E4E.  Think about it.  A quarter of a million dollars for an ad for a group that was “hatched in a kitchen” three years ago.  There is a story here.  It is the story of media complicity with insidious corporate reformers.  And how that story  goes on and on and on.

And there is another story here, one even darker in its way that the fraudulence of E4E.

And that story is this:  how did it happen that a group like E4E, that was created by billionaire  privatizers  for the sole purpose of   stripping  teachers of their rights,  and an organization like the UFT, that was created by teachers to  grant them rights and protect their rights wind up agreeing to essentially the same teacher evaluation plan ?


My question:  on what level of Dante’s hell are we trapped in and how the hell do we get out dignified and alive?

We have reached the hour when everything must change or we will enter decades of data based, billionaire orchestrated, illuminated darkness.

Independent teachers group demands Albany eval plan

  • By ERIK KRISS, Bureau Chief
  • Last Updated: 3:07 AM, February 19, 2013
  • Posted: 1:55 AM, February 19, 2013

ALBANY — A group of reform-minded city teachers is taking to the airwaves today to demand the state impose a teacher-evaluation system on the Big Apple soon, The Post has learned.

Educators 4 Excellence plans to flood network and cable TV stations in the city with a 30-second ad calling on Albany to impose an evaluation system as soon as possible in the face of an impasse between Mayor Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers.

Gov. Cuomo will introduce legislation this week for a state-imposed system — but the measure could give the city and UFT until Sept. 17 to agree on their own plan before it takes effect.

But that could push implementation of any teacher-evaluation plan into the 2014-15 school year, E4E says.

“It will be incredibly difficult to train teachers and principals on a teacher-evaluation system that isn’t finished until the beginning of the [next] school year,” E4E executive director Jonathan Schleifer told The Post yesterday.

“We need a system put in place soon,” he said, adding that there is “no local deal in sight.”

The ad buy is expected to exceed $250,000 and may run longer than a week, organizers said.

It’s aimed at Cuomo, who faces his own deadline this week to amend his state budget proposal by adding his mandatory teacher-evaluation plan.

State lawmakers are expected to approve the budget for the state fiscal year that begins April 1 by the end of March.

E4E says it wants evaluations to provide feedback to teachers based on multiple observations, “student growth data” and student surveys, among other factors.

With school out for winter break, E4E members also plan to fan out across the city today to collect petition signatures calling for a state evaluation system to take effect as soon as possible.

“A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what’s working — and help me be better for my students,” Queens seventh-grade mathematics teacher Jemal Graham says in the ad.

“With feedback and support, I will be a stronger teacher for my students,” adds Rafael Gondim, a math teacher in Queens.

The city already lost $250 million in state aid by missing a Jan. 17 deadline for an evaluation plan that must be agreed to by the UFT.

It stands to forfeit another $224 million if the sides miss the September deadline.

“We can’t afford any more empty promises and empty programs,” Gondim says, with Bronx special-education teacher Susan Keyock adding, “Our students deserve better.”

The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.

A UFT spokesman questioned how “a supposedly grass-roots teacher organization with limited membership and resources can afford an ad campaign — unless of course the campaign is being funded by outside sources,” adding that the union hopes the state facilitates “binding arbitration” in the absence of a negotiated settlement.

Cuomo’s office had no comment and a spokesman for Bloomberg did not return a request for comment.

E4E was hatched about three years ago by several Bronx teachers frustrated over the lack of teacher input on school reforms. It has also advocated for merit pay and stronger tenure requirements, and opened a Los Angeles chapter in late 2011.

The teacher-quality and school-choice advocacy group StudentsFirstNY ponied up over half a million dollars in December for a citywide TV and social-media ad campaign to pressure the city and UFT to reach an agreement before the January deadline.

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Educators 4 Excellence: An Independent Voice for Teachers

Dear Karl,Good morning.I wanted you to be the first to know. As millions of New Yorkers watch TV today they are going to see myself and two other E4E-NY teachers calling on Albany to act immediately and deliver a meaningful evaluation and support system for New York City’s teachers.You’ll probably see it during your favorite news and shows this week, but you can also watch the 30-second video here:

This message couldn’t come at a better time – yesterday the NY Post reported that the Governor would give the City and Union until September 17th to try to get a deal. Unfortunately, though we hoped they could work something out before, we’ve seen they haven’t been able to – even when a quarter of a billion dollars for our students was at stake. I remain optimistic, but we need Albany’s leadership to guarantee that we will get the feedback and support we need to help our students.

E4E teachers have been asking for meaningful evaluation and support for two years now and we can’t afford to wait until the start of another new school year. In order for an evaluation system to have a meaningful impact, we need time to implement it thoughtfully by training principals, setting up a feedback loop with teachers, and lining up high-quality professional development to support teachers. No more kicking the can down the road!

The video will be seen by millions of New Yorkers, but our voice is strongest when you join Susan, Rafael, and me. Here are two quick things you can do right now to help share this message:

•    Forward this email to your friends and colleagues.
•    Share the video on Facebook and Twitter


Jemal Graham
Seventh grade math teacher, Queens
E4E-NY School Captain


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333 West 39th Street, Suite 703, New York, NY 10018About E4E: For far too long,education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of reform-minded classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape their classrooms and careers. To learn more,

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