Posts Tagged ‘Race to the Top’

Obama Again Uses the Presidency to Shill for Yet Another Gates Eduscam

January 10, 2015

“The executioner’s face is always well hidden.”

Bob Dylan

Happy Bill

Happy Bill

More than any other individual in American history, monopolist, intellectual property rights predator and non-educator Bill Gates has used his immense fortune to insidiously remake the K-12 public school system in his image. He has done this for over a decade, largely by employing the Democratic Party to force unproven experiment after unproven and often mad ( see galvanic bracelets ) experiment down the throats of millions of students and teachers. (For a comprehensive exposure of what Gates has wrought see Mercedes Schneider’s edu blog at ) In the process, private citizen Gates , while improving nothing, has succeeded in causing chaos, demoralization and an even further shrinking of the American mind, in this case to data based idiocy, from sea to shining sea.

Gates is apparently not satisfied with experimenting with the lives and the livelihoods of millions of students and teachers. Like a true monopolist he is reaching for millions more: Gates now wants to remake higher education, this time via community colleges.

President Obama, who has shamelessly shilled for the Gates Foundation- funded Race to the Top and the deceitfully named Common Core States Standards, going as far as to promote the same as his signature education polices, personally and to much fanfare announced Gates’ new plan to the nation yesterday. Of course, as with Race to the Top and Common Core, there was no mention of Gates.

Like all well thought out cons, the scam sounds noble from afar and appeals to the best of the American impulses – fairness, opportunity, social mobility — only to utterly undermine them and pave the way for the privatization of community colleges and the incorporation of Common Core and tracking and data collecting , bringing them to a whole other level.

Here is Gates discussing the scam. Note his casual use of the word “tracking” again and again and again. Note the vulgar reduction of education to cost efficiency. Note the fact that this person would be talking to himself if he did not somehow accumulate the wealth of entire nations.

Each day, the reality that we are not merely well into an age of oligarchy, but an increasingly ruthless and rapacious oligarchy , becomes clearer and clearer. Each day our political system exposes itself as little more than the public relations department of the 1%. Each day the American people become more powerless and disenfranchised.

Each day the wisdom in the words of Justice Louis Brandeis have never been truer; “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Each day we near the place of no return.

The State of the Union: All you Need to Know About Obama’s Educational Plans in Two Sentences.

January 29, 2014


If there are any cognizant citizens remaining in the United States who do not yet understand that President Barack Obama is utterly incapable of honestly facing the catastrophic reality of his union busting educational policy, or that our president remains wholly beholden to plutocrats like Bill Gates and shysters like Jeb Bush who have been allowed to dictate the policies currently undermining our public school system, or that the man in the White House remains impervious to if not outright contemptuous of the cries of parents and teachers across the country as to the price of the above on their children and students, let such persons ponder for a moment the following two sentences from Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address.

“This year,” said Obama “we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.”

Let us put aside for the moment the grotesque image of a “race to the top for our youngest children.”

The “coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists” that Obama deceitfully promises to “pull together” has not only been together but have been in complete control of educational policy for at least a decade. What other nation would allow educational policy to be formed by politicians, business leaders and philanthropists is beyond me yet, it’s been done now here for so long the dreadful notion is taking intellectual squatters rights. In that time they have been busy privatizing the public school system, monitarizing and quantifying every aspect of education that can be reduced to such, and marginalizing everything else. Their latest project of the “coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists” is the creation an immense taxpayer funded data mining system designed to accumulate information on every student in America, the better, somehow, to serve their needs.

Note well that Obama’s “coalition” completely excludes both teachers and parents.

To dignify this collection of vandals and predators by linking them to the creation of and access to something as necessary and high minded, as high-quality pre-K is beyond cynical. It is a defiant promise that, under this administration, what has been will continue to be and it will be deepened and widened. Those who have ruled the roost will continue to do so, the people and democracy be damned.

Unless, that is, we stop them. But how to do so in a nation where traditional politics are broken and traditional political solutions are meaningless? Remember the man who spoke the above words is a liberal Democrat.
We face a power that is virtually unprecedented in American history, quite possibly in world history. Never before has such a concentration private wealth, and corporate power and political power been aligned together for the purpose of asphyxiating a vital public institution — the education system — in order to privatize it.

Unprecedented concentrations of power demand an unprecedented response. As I see it the only hope we have is to build a coalition of our own, the likes and breadth of which have never before been seen in this country. Something that transcends race, class, creed, all. Something like Occupy but nationwide and sustained. I don’t pretend to know how that is done but know in my bones it must be.
I pray we have the wisdom and the wherewithal to understand the forces arrayed against their designs for us and for our children. If not, we are condemning ourselves and our children to a future of a horrifyingly efficient soulless corporate techopoly.

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.”
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.


Awaiting the Word of the Corporate King

May 30, 2013

I have known the facts for weeks now but nonetheless there remains in my brain some voice that keeps telling me, this can’t really be true, my union, the once mighty United Federation of Teachers did not really sign off on an agreement allowing the cynically selected corporate crusader, New York State Education Commissioner John King, final say over the new teacher evaluation plan for all of New York City. Surely my union would never entrust this precious fan of Educators 4 Excellence (and other billionaire funded union busting lowlife organizations,) who taught a total of three years (one in a public school) and was just last week seen pathetically cheering on the corporate CEO’s he lined up to shill for Bill Gate’s Common Core. (‘cause, really, who knows more about education than CEO’s? ) to have the final say on the most radical change in teacher’s professional lives in decades.
Surely, this was some kind of bad dream or evil hallucination or elaborate cosmic joke that I’d, in time, awaken from, snap out of or catch on to.

John King who taught for three entire years.

John King who taught for three entire years.

But no. Like their signing on to Race to the Top, easily the most corrosive and insidious attack on American public education in its history ( of which Bill Gate’s Common Core and Commissioner King’s evaluation plan are part and parcel) the UFT, indeed, did sign on to this slow motion train wreck. Worse, my union wants me and my union brothers and sisters to believe that this is a moment for celebration, a victory of some kind.
Reading UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s letter on the matter made me cringe. (See below.) Several times. Then it did something worse. It lit in me the sensation I have known in certain dark hours in my life when I comforted myself with the thought, “it cannot get worse than this” until, a short time later, it was worse than that.

I suspect many teachers from coast to coast have felt something akin to that sickly sensation over the last decade of ceaseless attacks. I am tired of it. And more than tired of it. The corporate disease has over taken all including the only forces capable of withstanding it, namely unions and political parties. The choices of working people, never rosy, are now starker than they have been in a century and there seems there is nothing but darkness in the tunnel. We either find some way, as yet unimagined, to rebel against our own immiseration and degradation or we wind up with lives that are scarcely worthy of the word.

Herein Mulgrew’s letter.

Dear colleagues,
Late on Saturday, June 1, State Education Commissioner John King is expected to release an evaluation plan for K-12 teachers in New York City. It will be done through a binding arbitration process and take effect in September.
The mayor and the DOE will no doubt try to spin Commissioner King’s decision to their advantage. The UFT staff will be working through Sunday to get accurate information about the new system out to you by Monday morning in a form that is both clear and concise.
The process to create a new evaluation system has been long and contentious. The final decision came to rest with the commissioner because the city Department of Education proved incapable of negotiating in good faith with us.
The UFT and the DOE each submitted lengthy proposals to the State Education Department on May 8. Arbitration hearings are taking place in Albany today and tomorrow. Commissioner King will consider the proposals and decide on the final evaluation system on June 1.
We have the opportunity to use our collective-bargaining rights to modify aspects of the evaluation plan during future contract negotiations. Practically speaking, since we are in fact-finding now, if any changes were negotiated, they would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.
Because the commissioner’s plan must be in accordance with the 2010 state law on teacher evaluation that this union supported and helped shape, we expect it to be fair, professional and focused on teacher development to the benefit of our students. The new evaluation system as set out in state law is designed first and foremost to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers. Teachers who are struggling will get support tailored to their individual needs.
We have our work cut out for us in September, given this DOE’s terrible track record of translating policy to practice compounded with the fact that they will probably be gone come Jan. 1. We have started working on a professional development plan and we will use our rights to make sure that the new system is implemented fairly. It is a big help that we already have an appeals process for New York City teachers nailed down that will give our members stronger due process rights than they have ever had.
I hope this email clarifies where we are and what we can expect. Working together, we will make this transition. You can count on your union to continue to fight to get you the support you deserve. Thank you for all that you do for our city’s schoolchildren.

Michael Mulgrew

The Radical Obama

May 7, 2013
Obama and his lucky Penny

Obama and his lucky Penny

Yesterday when I read about Barack Obama’s nomination of union busting, school closing, fund raising billionaire Penney Pritzker for Secretary of Commerce, I was reminded of some words by Pete Hamill I read long ago concerning his take on the nature of politicians. Hamill was writing about former Queens Borough President Donald Manes just after Manes’s grisly suicide as the scandals that ended the Koch years moved closer and closer to Manes, promising to completely expose his public image as a public lie. Hamill, who had known Manes his entire adult life, noted that Manes had mastered the politician’s art of becoming whoever he thought you wanted him to be whenever you wanted him to be it. What Hamill wrote was this: he never knew which Manes to greet because he never knew which Manes he would be talking to. Hamill’s words have stuck in my memory ever since, perhaps because they so precisely encapsulate what seems to be the nature of so many politicians.

But not Obama. The same words welled up in my head yesterday precisely because the phenomenon known as Obama so deftly defies them.

Some process that is related to what Hamill wrote of but is at the same time strikingly different seems to guide many perceptions of Obama. Somehow, Obama doesn’t need to pretend to be whoever he thinks you want him to be. Somehow, no matter what Obama does, even if he does it for years, there are people who pretend that Obama remains what they want him to be. Accordingly, just as Hamill had no idea to which Manes he would be talking, many a time with many a person, I often have no idea which version of Obama people are talking about.
To an extraordinary extent, after more than four years in office, Obama remains to many — or at least to many I know or am somehow in contact with — a projection of their own desires, fears or hopes. This, after becoming the first Noble Peace Prize winner with a kill list; this, long after pointlessly and cruelly prolonging the agony of the innocent in Guantanamo; this, after refusing to prosecute both the Bush administration‘s blatant war criminals who plunged the U.S. into two needless wars or the Wall Street criminals who crashed the world economy, this, after his assault on civil liberties and so much more.

For many Obama continues to be a kind of ambulatory human Rorschach test. For these people, Obama is what they want him to be. No matter what Obama actually does, certain people, including those most hurt by his policies, still cling to the fantasy that Obama‘s words and Obama’s policies have something to do with each other. ( In a similar way, the same something that made intelligent people believe Bill Clinton was lying even when he was telling the truth persuades other intelligent people that Obama is telling the truth even when he’s lying. ) And the Rorschach factor holds as powerfully for those who love Obama as to those who despise him; holds, that is, for Republicans and well as for “Birthers” and Tea Partiers and those who see Obama as a secret Muslim socialist or Nazi or whatever.
But it is not those people of whom I speak.
I am speaking here rather of a group of people who continue to believe in Obama and refuse to define him in terms of his policies and actions, clinging instead to his soaring rhetoric and image. I am speaking of those to whom, as intrepid Black Agenda journalist Glen Ford writes “ Obama acts like a narcotic.” I am speaking of those who, in respect to Obama, have skillfully avoided reality.
Some of the lingering hopes, if dangerous, are understandable. Think of the strange helpless horror of the Bush years. There is no doubt in my mind that millions of Americans were traumatized by the eight year presidency of George W. Bush, eight years in which many, myself included, felt ashamed to be an American. Shame is too powerful and destructive an emotion to carry in you for long. The desire to exorcize the ghost of Bush, his macho idiocy, his endless needless wars, his lies and the fear brought on by the financial collapse that occurred under his watch was, I believe as primal and powerful a factor in embracing Obama as was Obama’s charisma and eloquence: the very charisma and elegance that led so many sensible people to believe in the myth of the one term US Senator with the paper thin resume whose most frequent vote in Congress was neither “yea” or “nay” but “present.”
Think too of the extraordinarily potent symbolism in the election of an African American to the presidency of a nation with a legacy of over 400 years of slavery. Symbolically, this was and remains an immeasurable step in the right direction. In some quarters the symbolism remains just as potent today as it did four years ago, even as African Americans slip further and further into poverty and are incarcerated at alarming rates.
There is a desire to believe in Obama that is almost religious in nature.

I understand this emotion. No one wants to believe this guy is as vapid or weak or treacherous or cunning as Obama proves to be again and again and again. No one wants to believe that the ship of state has been so thoroughly hijacked by the most rapacious and reckless forces on earth: corporations No one wants to know that things are as awful as they are. It is the fear of having no where to turn and no one to turn to. No one wants to feel abandoned or betrayed even, if by every objective criteria, you have been.

And yet this is where we are.

If only for the abomination known as Race to the Top, a policy designed to do nothing less than undermine both the public school system and teacher unions across the country,
Obama should be seen as one of the most corporate minded presidents in U.S. history. But somehow many — who knows how many — do not seem to be getting it. Something stands in the way.
I work in a school in Harlem, New York, where almost everywhere one looks one sees images of Obama looking back at you. The posters were placed there by teachers, even though Obama’s RTTT may force the school to be closed, even if half the teachers are fired as a result of the grossly unfair and unproven evaluation plans mandated by the Obama administration.
And there it is.
Obama is not the anti- American cartoon character his enemies in the Koch brothers’ funded Tea Party want to believe he is.
Obama is not the thwarted progressive his more naïve fans still insist he is.
Obama is not, in any meaningful way, a Democrat.
Obama is not a centrist, a moderate or a pragmatist.
Obama is not a conservative.
Obama is something that has never before risen to the presidency of the United States.
Obama is that which Wall Street and corporate CEOs have dreamed of for decades: Obama is a president of the “party of labor” who is wholly beholden to capital.
Obama is a working man’s worst nightmare.
Obama is a corporatist but not just a corporatist.
Obama is a radical corporatist intent on the complete evisceration of unionism and the eventual privatization of all public life.
And nothing proves than better than Race to the Top.