Posts Tagged ‘Students First NY’

King To Replace Duncan in DC Insuring that the Campaign to Privatize Public Schools Will Continue Unabated

October 2, 2015

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Today it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he who has used the awesome power of the federal Government to wreak layered and relentless havoc on the entire public school system, will resign in December.

Duncan said he was resigning to spend more time with his family and stated, in what appeared to be complete seriousness, that he expected to find work “expanding opportunity for children.”

Duncan was the longest serving education secretary in U.S. history and easily the most appalling.

Even as candidate Obama campaigned with Linda Darling-Hammond, in a bait and switch maneuver that can now be seen as characteristic of his presidency,
President–elect Obama named non-educator Duncan Secretary of Education. The appointment, made at the insistence of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group made up almost entirely of hedge fund managers, signaled that under Duncan the Department of Education would serve in essence as a conduit to the whims and wishes of private foundations, most prominently and disastrously, the Gates Foundation. These private interests,it must be said, Duncan has served with complete fidelity.

Tragically, Duncan will be replaced by former New York State Commissioner John King, whose obsequiousness in the face of wealth and power is equal to Duncan’s, likewise their shocking arrogance if not outright disdain for the public they nominally serve. Having taught three years in a classroom, two in a charter school, King has infinitely more teaching experience than Duncan who has zero. Not that this will make an iota of difference.

In essence, in terms of policy, Duncan will be replaced by Duncan or perhaps Duncan on steroids.

King was last seen on tour in New York condescending or dissembling to parents on stages in Poughkeepsie and New York City in a failed attempt to sell them the miserable and increasingly loathed Common Core. I caught his act in Manhattan where even shills from Students First and Educators For Excellence could not rescue King from his well-earned pathos.

Soon thereafter King resigned as Commissioner in New York only to emerge as an extremely well paid something-or-other in Duncan’s Department of Education where he has hung out ever since.
King’s appointment insures that the Obama administration’s signature education policies of high stakes testing linked to insane and immoral teacher evaluations, mandated charter schools, union busting and ultimate privatization of the public school system will continue until Obama leaves office. And that,in turn, insures not merely massive teacher shortages as teachers flee the profession, but student misery and parental outrage; above all it means billions of dollars in public money to testing companies and millions more to a multitude of other “education reform” parasites. Lastly, it also insures Barack Obama’s standing as the worst education president in the history of the public school system, far more effective in the destruction of public schools than Reagan, Clinton, and both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush combined.

Where “All About the Kids” Must Lead

April 4, 2015

Allow someone who is trying to hurt you to define the argument and you will be hurt. Allow the same to someone who is trying to trap you and you will be trapped.

This unwitting allowance, as much as the limitless funding of billionaires and the spinelessness of the corporate media, has been one of the reasons teachers from coast to coast have been backtracking, guilted into silence and paralyzed by their own rhetoric for years now. We have allowed ourselves to be both hurt and trapped.

I speak specifically of the endlessly repeated and utterly cynical declaration of the reformers, “it’s all about the kids.” I have heard or read this or some variation thereof ad nauseum for years now. I have read versions of it in the names of billionaire backed fronts like Students Matter and StudentsFirst, whose very appellations are themselves accusations against teachers.

I have heard it from ( yet another ) sociopathic principal who announced to the staff that conversation in the school be limited to “what’s good for the kids.” Worst of all, I have heard it from the mouths of teachers even as their students are more degraded by the day and their profession is being stolen from them by the hour by ed reformer mandates. This even as the demands on them grow exponentially; this from those who do not seem to realize that if you allow such words to define your profession, you will very soon be stripped of your professional status.

That process is well under way.

In a world full of weasels, no more-weasel worded trope exists in all of the Kingdom of the Reformers . And none is more effective. It is a rhetorical trick of the “when did you stop beating you’re wife” variety.

Once you are in you cannot get out.

Such declarations are designed to silence teachers by making them feel guilty and selfish anytime their concerns turn to feelings of self worth, of professional value, or concern for their non-professional lives such as the well being of their families. In other words, teachers are meant to feel selfish any time they concern themselves with what every other parent in the country deals with on a daily basis and what all must do to protect their own in an increasingly savage world.
In no other profession have I ever heard anything even remotely like the “ all about the kids” meme. Doctors are not repeatedly admonished, “It’s all about the patients”. Firefighters do not have an army of mercenaries screaming at them “It’s all about the people in the burning buildings.” No, the rhetoric is singular to the teaching profession.
The fact is that unless you’re talking about an education system staffed by devotees of a religious order or a cult, such a declaration is way beyond unreasonable. It is cruel and, unless you intend teaching staffs to be composed of childless 23 year olds who span a year or two before moving on to their real jobs, wholly unsustainable. A good school system must, without question, be primarily concerned with properly educating kids. But anyone who actually knows what they are talking about and is not engaged in teacher bashing or union busting, also knows that properly educating kids means insuring that the needs of the teachers who are educating them are respected and their profession honored. It requires balance.

The “all about kids” rhetoric reached its logical conclusion a few days ago in the following astonishing statement by Bronx Assembly person, Carmen Arroyo of the 84th District commenting on Governor’s Andrew Cuomo’s radical and savage new education bill.

Carmen Arroyo Unfit for public office.

Carmen Arroyo
Unfit for public office.

“Those teachers that are responsible and are doing their job, those teachers that sacrifice their families and themselves for the children they serve are going to be protected. Those that are not good, better get a job at McDonalds.”

I do not know if Arroyo is dumb, horrifically cynical or just desperately trying to please her masters in the new oligarchy in which we dwell. But I will say this: in no way do I find the kind of viciousness and absurdity bellowed by Arroyo coincidental to the rise and entrenchment of oligarchy. Every member of the New York State Assembly knows very well that they face the wrath of and loss of access to the limitless bank accounts of the super rich if they stray from the latter’s script calling for the privatization of the public school system.

Arroyo, in fact, does not seem to have even a fundamental understanding of the bill she has voted for — and in this, she is far from alone. She does not seem to understand, that is, that even if a teacher moved a cot into his or her classroom and saw their family only on weekends, in the bill she voted for nothing can “protect “ them from being fired because of their students’ test scores or a poor rating from a drive -by “independent evaluator.” Cuomo’s barbaric proposals, essentially a greatest hits of failed or unproven reformer schemes, were designed to insure maximum teacher firing.

Arroyo’s perverse and grossly insulting statement, however, does serve a purpose. It brings the reformer rhetoric to its logical conclusion. If teaching is “all about the kids”, it stands to reason that the teacher is there as a kind of an idiot’s version of a saint: an egoless creature without needs or cares or concerns of this world, willing and able to work endless hours and accept endless abuse for the good of their charges. That such an idiot saint would not be a member of a union goes without saying. It also highlights, to any one who hears it, how sick we have become as a people and a body politic and how urgently we need to unite and change the course of this horrific campaign now.

Any system that demands the sacrifice of a person’s family is deranged and any public official who demands such is unfit for public office. Any people who stand for such deserve what they get.

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Thanks to the ever vigilant and excellent Perdido Street School (perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com) for bringing Arroyo’s vulgar statement to light.

When is a “Grassroots” Organization a Front ?

February 18, 2015

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This morning I woke up to find an email from the tireless and venerable Norm Scott of EdNotes Online. Under the headline, The Public Education Beat Down Express Goes On, the ever vigilant Norm posted the following notices:
12 p.m.—Families for Excellent Schools holds a press conference with Senator Ruben Diaz Jr. and other Bronx elected officials to call for action on failing schools. Girls Prep Bronx Elementary, 681 Kelly Street, Bronx.
6 p.m.—StudentsFirstNY holds a town hall meeting in support of Cuomo’s education agenda, headlined by Assemblyman Karim Camara. Medgar Evers College, Founders Auditorium, 1650 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.

Both Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirst NY are, like all of the education reform campaign, pure products of the ever strengthening, ever consolidating, ever more triumphant American oligarchy and nothing more than disguised vehicles for their political agendas. This is to say, not one of the hundreds of such groups that have proliferated over the past decade, would exist for five minutes without constant and massive infusions of money, lots of it re-directed taxes, from their oligarchic creators and directors. We are dealing here with people so rich that millions are almost 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. Non-profits, they have discovered, are one of the many vehicles they utilize in their push for privatization. Hence, the steady rise of thenon profit education reform industrial complex. Or, as they like to call themselves, the “grassroots” movement.

Both Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY target poor and poorly educated families and aim to manipulate them, in the name of promoting better schools, into turning against the public schools system and, ultimately, against the remains of social contract itself . The end game is to find the poor embracing and promoting the privatization of all aspects of American life. As “non-profits,” Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirst NY exist partly by legally diverting taxes that would go to public coffers thereby draining vital funding from the very public institutions they are attempting to politically undermine.
Quite the two headed nickel.

This, needless to say, is not how they view themselves.
“Families for Excellent Schools, “ claims their website, “ (FES) is a grassroots movement of public school families. We advocate to create and sustain excellent schools.”
(Note: Mercedes Schneider’s excellent work on uncovering Families for Excellent Schools “non-profit “ weaselry.)

And:
“StudentsFirstNY is New York’s leading voice for students who depend on public education for the skills they need to succeed, but who are too often failed by a system that puts special interests, rather than the interests of children, first.”
Despite their billionaire and corporate backing and thinly disguised privatization agendas, such groups and their followers use the word “grassroots” to define themselves as often as possible. Meanwhile, the public at large, if they are aware of who is bankrolling such groups at all, hardly seem troubled by this.
The corporate press, ever eager to please their masters, has been especially derelict on their non-reporting on the genesis, bankrolling and propagation of such groups as Families for Excellent Schools as has the government in granting them non profit status willy nilly as if they actually are grassroots organizations.
That this farce goes on in broad daylight, aided and abetted by the US government, is but one of the many demoralizing aspects of being a teacher in an age of extreme political and intellectual degeneracy and expediency and yet another example of how the mega rich are being allowed to rewrite the narrative of this nation.

What does the tacit agreement to ignore the obvious charade about such increasingly powerful organization tell us about what has happened to the American soul in the past 30 or so years ?
In even a moderately honest culture, in fact, organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools would be seen for what they are and called what they are: not grass roots movements but fronts.

It’s not that Americans and the American government are not familiar with the concept of fronts. Read history and you will find that all throughout the Cold War, Americans were repeatedly warned by the government, by the press, by the clergy, of the insidious danger of what were generically called “communist fronts.” The words were used as a smear and an attack on any group that was not mindlessly patriotic. Nonetheless, there were, in fact, organizations that in some cases were funded by Moscow, and not unlike Families for Excellent Schools or StudentsFirstNY, hired young, smiling faces to pass themselves off as indigenous as the buffalo and as all American as the Georgia peach. During the endless reign of J. Edgar Hoover, many non–communist affiliated groups were also tossed into the same soup and many lives ruined. Of course, all civil rights organizations, even as they were firmly rooted in the church, were absurdly labeled so and ruthlessly hounded and harassed.
Politically and morally there was and there is good reason to expose fronts — all fronts, whatever the political affiliation. Whatever your political sympathies, there is something intrinsically sleazy, unethical and even sinister about a front.

fronts

Or there should be.

Is not the purpose of a front to deceive, to pass itself off as something it is not so as to scam credulous people of good will? Are fronts not a con-job riddled with hidden agendas? Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, even while multiplying like malignant cells, even as the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with, even though widely acknowledged as “astroturf”, all seem to have somehow escaped the moral condemnation and political scrutiny that was visited to no end on their predecessors in the front game. They just keep coming and coming and coming. And why shouldn’t they ? The people behind these scams have been allowed to amass the wealth of nations; an accumulation of capital that no democracy can long withstand before being utterly perverted.

Are billionaire and corporate based deception and bad faith somehow higher than their communist based counterparts of the past ? Even as billionaires and corporatism have done infinitely more to wreck and undermine our anemic democracy, deplete the earth, poison our food and debase our culture, than communists ever did? Even as they attempt to use non- profits and ‘grassroots “ groups to foment a kind of civil war intended, ultimately, to dismantle all progressive legislation of the past century? Even as they have made our political system a sick joke growing more anemic by the month? What can be said about this strange, silent metamorphosis of a mechanism like a front from something to be shunned and condemned to something to be celebrated by our elected officials who happily pose with these smiling shysters and con artists even as I write? Have we become so internally corporatized and ideologically colonized that we as a people can scarcely see the difference between a legitimate non-profit and a rank front, even as the ever multiplying fronts makes continued inroads into undermining a public trust as vital as the school system?

What, really, is the difference between a “grass root ” shams likes Families For Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY and a front ? What, that is, except our subservience to who is bankrolling them ?

Expect No Change: King Will Be Replaced by a Facsimile Thereof

December 11, 2014
John King:  Builder of airplanes in mid air

John King: Builder of airplanes in mid air

So I woke up this morning to the news that New York State Education Commissioner John King, who never met a reformer he didn’t grovel to or a reform idea, tested or not, that he didn’t want to impose on an entire system, has been booted out or moved up or both, depending on how you look at it or who you read.

At any rate, King is soon to be gone.

Here and there bloggers have written of feelings of joy and the like at King’s departure. For myself, as much as I find the man a complete fraud and utterly reprehensible, King’s departure makes me feel, well… nothing much at all.
Yes, I’ll be glad not to see his can’t -you –see- how –sincere- I am face so much or to hear his whiny arrogant voice but it is near impossible for me to believe that King will be replaced by another better, or even different, than himself.
The news brings to my mind the changing chancellorships in New York City under the wretched reign of Mike Bloomberg: the prosecutional era of former prosecutor Joel Klein, followed by the ephemeral and clueless moment of the preposterous Cathy Black, followed, in turn, by the return of the steady, deadening hand of professional Yes Man Dennis Walcott. Through them all, the only thing that changed was the name of the chancellors and, as the reformers are constantly coming up with new terrible ideas, the methods of undermining the schools, busting the union and stripping the teachers of autonomy and morale.

Nothing changed because, despite their titles, not one of these chancellors was actually in charge. (Under orders to destroy the teachers union by any means possible, Klein may have come up with a few of his own ideas, but Black and Walcott? No way. ) Principally they came from Bloomberg but also indirectly from people like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, to say nothing of the ever expanding Wall St and hedge contingent of education experts. All of these nominal chancellors were taking their orders from others in ways that mocked they very idea that these were civil servants, mocked even more the idea that they were beholden to the people they served.
Not one of those chancellors was in charge and neither was King.

King, who spent two or three years in a classroom before becoming a charter school entrepreneur, was catapulted to the status of state commissioner because those who catapulted him understood that herein was a man who could be trusted to obey orders.
And obey orders King did.
As far as I can see, no campaign ( it is NOT a movement ) has so cynically exploited the nightmare of America’s racism as has the billionaire based education reform campaign, so the fact that King was completely malleable and African American made him the perfect choice of the ed reformers who declared ( and declare and declare ) that “education is the civil rights issue of our time.” Accordingly, King was the perfect Manchurian Commissioner. Perfect, that is, for a year or two while King enjoyed the luxury of seldom having to actually face the public he ostensibly served and consistently betrayed.

All this changed in the wake of the Common Core debacle in which, as King predicted, some 70% of New York students failed the new whiz bang tests and parents were increasingly horrified and disgusted at what was happening to their kids and their kids’ teachers under the miraculous new Common Core regime.

Rebellion was in the air, and somebody somewhere thought it would be a good idea if the seemingly mild mannered King went to a few choice locations throughout the state to enlighten and lecture the huddled masses yearning to be free as to the miraculous powers of the Common Core, a power that King, like virtually all education reformers, mysteriously withholds from his own children.

But, to King’s surprise, the masses – which is to say, the parents of the children in King’ s charge and the teachers who were teaching them — were in no mood for a lecture. King’s towering arrogance and thinly disguised contempt toward both parents and teachers, his rote arguments based on nothing but stale crème puffs and his anger at being obliged to actually answer questions was not, as they say, well received.
The Traveling King show was abruptly cancelled to allow its star a prolonged pouting fit, only to be revived for two performances in New York City along with guest star Meryl Tisch. The Brooklyn show, disgracefully stage-managed by operatives of Michelle Rhee’s front StudentsFirst who were allowed into the venue an hour early, swined up all but a few speaking spots and, generally speaking, treated King’s appearance as if he was making a monumental sacrifice simply deigning to be there among them.

King’s act was wearing thin and King became a liability for the people who orchestrated his meteoric rise to power. Like Cathy Black, King’s problems were
not because of his policies which he steadfastly and robotically defended, but because of public relations, far and away the dominant force behind a decade of so called “education reform. ”

King never rebounded.

That may be one reason that King, whether through his own volition or not, is gone. Who knows?
To me, only three things are certain. The first is that, in return for his service to them, John King will continue to reside on Easy Street for the rest of his mortal life. His billionaire friends will see to that.
The second is that whoever is named to replace King will, in terms of policy, in no meaningful way differ from King. Like the chancellors under Bloomberg, only the face will change.

Such is the oligarchic way.

The third is that, barring a miracle or a catastrophe, the destruction of public education in the state of New York will continue unabated and, in light of Andrew Cuomo’s remarkable promise to “break the last monopoly,” likely even accelerate.

That too is the way of oligarchy.

John King’s End of the Year Message to New Yorkers: I Serve Another

December 31, 2013

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Through the fall and early winter of 2013, New York State Education Commissioner John King held twenty “forums” in various parts of the state to discuss and explain both the mysteries and the miraculous qualities of the Common Core States Standards. With two exceptions, in each and every “forum” King was met with fury and disgust from an outraged citizenry that included both parents and teachers. These encounters with actual people affected by the Common Core were, in fact, so universally negative and hostile that King initially attempted to cancel the entire project — essentially a public relations campaign designed to alternately sweet talk or buffalo the rubes into acquiescence — and skedaddle back to the safety of his cosy office in Albany where untested experiments on other people’s children are far better received. King’s reaction to the anger at the imposition of the Common Core only served to reveal how far removed he is from the policies he imposes. After one such event in Poughkeepsie where the crowd grew raucous after King’s interminable lecture on the Common Core, the commissioner made the astounding statement that the rebellion had been orchestrated by “special interests”, presumably parents.

The two exceptions to unmitigated hostility and rejection were the “forums” that were held in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan respectively, the former was allowed to be commandeered by Michelle Rhees’ StudentsFirstNewYork.org, who were let in early and signed up for 44 of the 45 speaking slots; the latter was attended by many of the same paid advocates of SFNY, allied with the Gates-funded Educators 4 Excellence. Both groups did their best to turn the events into creepy cult like love fests for the Common Core and who, for good measure, at times equated the experimental idea with nothing less than a civil right. In short, these two “forums” were a cynical farce bearing no relation whatsoever to the people’s reaction to the Common Core imposition and all that goes with it.

So what did King learn from his eighteen encounters with a furious public whom he ostensibly works for and who pays his considerable salary?
Judging from his December 30 epistle, after “reflecting and evaluating,” what King has learned is a whole lot of nothing at all. Not from us, in any case if, arguably a great deal from his fans in SFNY and E4E.
As has been the practice of its devotees from before the Common Core was even completed, King, employing the pronoun “we”, continues to speak of the untested experiment as if mountains of evidence supported its miraculous powers and the only bump in the road to a “college and career ready” army of youngsters is a faulty implementation, due in part to limited resources.
“We understand, writes King, ” that implementation of the Common Core and teacher/principal evaluation in a time of limited resources has come with significant challenges.”

As if speaking of the incontrovertible flatness of the earth or the inevitability of death, King pronounces with utter certainty the “ essential” importance of the CC only to go on mixing
corporate speak (“moving forward”) with the outright, if often repeated, lie that the CCSS is the work of teachers and education experts, and not education entrepreneurs such as David Coleman and testing companies backed by and propagated by the Gates Foundation. ( For information on who really is responsible for the Common Core see the excellent work of Mercedes Schneider. )

Declares the King : “We know that moving forward with the Common Core is essential: study after study shows that our students lag behind in the knowledge and skills required for their future. The Common Core standards, designed by teachers and education experts from across the country – and shaped by many New York State educators – will help us do better.”

The humble King does concede that the Core (as we like to affectionately call it ) “didn’t invent good teaching, ” only to then boast that the “ CC is the first set of learning standards back-mapped grade by grade from what students need to know and be able to do in college and the workforce,” weaseling past the fact that, as Carol Burris has noted, kids don’t learn backwards, and as others have noted, other than menial jobs, we have no idea what the “workforce” of the future requires or will even look like.

But “we” know, somehow, that said workforce needs the Common Core.

King goes on and on and on about said need using the usual language about “rigor” and challenge, ” his way to saying, let the public be damned, “we” are doing what we will. One might conclude from King’s letter following his recent experience that John King, a highly educated and intelligent man, is incapable of learning. But to reach that conclusion one would first have to believe that John King was appointed to his position so that, against all evidence, he might serve the people of New York State; that King as commissioner would genuinely listen to and humanely react to the pained complaints of millions of parents and thousands of teachers so harshly affected by the policies he, himself, has championed. Like many others, I have reached a different conclusion: that the powers that put King in the position he now holds have no intention whatsoever of changing anything at all about the Common Core and King will serve them, not us, until he can do so no more.
Let the heavens fall but they will get their way.
And that is the real meaning of King’s end of the year message.
We need to prepare ourselves.
This struggle has yet to even begin.