Friday, July 31, 2015

Petition to DePaul

DePaul Stadium Naming Rights - Sign Petition
Our sister Erika Wozniak, a teacher at Oriole Park Elementary, has started a petition asking for a portion of the money made the taxpayer-funded DePaul University stadium deal to be given back to Chicago Public Schools to help fund our students' education. Erika, a DePaul alum, writes: "As Chicago taxpayers are helping to fund this stadium, we ask, in the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul, that the university steps up and gives back to the deserving students of Chicago Public Schools."

DePaul Stadium Naming Rights

To be delivered to Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, EdD, President, DePaul University
We ask that DePaul University donate the proceeds of the naming rights of its future stadium back to Chicago Public Schools. As Chicago taxpayers are helping to fund this stadium, we ask, in the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul, that the university steps up and gives back to the deserving students of Chicago Public Schools.
There are currently 430 signatures. NEW goal - We need 500 signatures!


In light of the budget crisis in Chicago, we feel it is reasonable to ask for a portion of the money made on this stadium deal to be given back to Chicago Public Schools to help fund our students' education so that someday they will be able to get into a wonderful University, such as DePaul.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Teacher Stars!

‘Key & Peele’ Spoof ESPN’s SportsCenter with ‘Teaching Center’ Skit

The world of teaching is a lavish one.
Hundred-million dollar contracts, female-only parties, Goyard pocket protectors—sexy stuff all around.
So finally, after all these years of going uncovered, a network has dedicated itself to bringing us up-to-the-minute news on everything from the teacher draft to controversies at the teacher trade deadline.
Thank you for “Teaching Center,” Key & Peele. I’ve been bullish on Ruby Ruhf since she was reading Harry Potter to third-graders at Piedmont North. Good to see her finally getting the big-money contract she deserves.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bank of America Boycott

CTU to Boycott Bank of America?
By Jim Vail

I along with almost a thousand other people quickly signed onto the latest Chicago Teachers Union email blast to boycott the Bank of America for helping wreck havoc on the Chicago Public School system.

"I pledge to Boycott Bank of America until they renegotiate toxic swaps that have cost Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago more than $1 billion. I also ask that Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, begin public hearings to investigate the tremendous financial damage caused by toxic swaps on Chicago and our schools."

The CTU email further stated that Bank of America among others (how about JP Morgan - Chase?) manipulated the real estate market that caused the Federal Reserve to bring interest rates down to almost zero percent and then cities like Chicago lost millions having bet that interest rates would rise.

The Bank of America "knew that the market was headed for a 'meltdown,' (but) the bank did not warn CPS, which is in violation of the federal fair dealing rule," the flyer reads.

Chicago recently paid $200 million to terminate the "toxic" deals, about the same in cuts to school funding by the Emanuel administration, CTU further states.

I have written before in favor of boycotting the banks. They are responsible for screwing the city and its children as the CTU points out. But this requires a coordinated effort in the delegates meetings and schools to encourage teachers to take their hard-earned cash out of Bank of America. If the CTU can organize a strike, it certainly can organize a bank boycott.

But where should CTU members (almost 30,000) put their money? Into other too big to fail banks like Chase or Citibank who also negotiate toxic swaps with cities and screw the schools?

The bigger question then is will the union actually consider this.

Certainly this petition is a start. But it needs teeth to really work. 

Obviously our bureacrats who run the city are in cahoots with big business to screw the people. It is up to us to stop them.

Thanks to the CTU, the first step has been taken. But it is only the beginning!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Teacher Behavior

KIPP charter schools and the behavior modification of…teachers
“The No-Nonsense Nurturer Program has transformed the lives of thousands of students by transforming the practices of their teachers… It is simply a must-learn set of new skills for every teacher in America.”
Dave Levin
Co-Founder, KIPP Schools
Remember that quote while you read this edushyster post:
Why are urban teachers being trained to be robots?
By Amy Berard
*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did Tom Bradyas instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. *Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie. *Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*
Meet C3PO
Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.
No Nonsense Nurturing
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that no nonsenseurban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: *In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.* But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style.  *Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.*
Robot moves
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—*I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3*—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. *Drop the ‘I see’* came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. *Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.* *Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.* *Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4*
*Tell them you are like Tom Brady*
The students were also perplexed by my new earpiece accessory. *Um, Miss, what’s that in your ear?* they asked. I looked over to the three adults in the far bill-belichickback corner of the room for my scripted answer. *Tell them you are like Tom Brady. Tom Brady wears an earpiece to be coached remotely and so do you,* was the response. I never would have said that, and mumbled instead *But I’m not Tom Brady. No I’m Tom Brady.* The students, who could hear me, but not what I was hearing through my earpiece, were more confused than ever. At which point I explained to the students that I was being trained by the people in the corner who were telling me what to say via their walkie talkie. I’m all for transparency and simple answers to simple questions.
What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?
What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?
Joyless joy
I struggled to adopt the emotionless monotone that NNN required. I was told that my tone was wrong. My voice was too high, and that I came across as too happy—I smile a lot; I celebrate a lot, including every two weeks when the flowers on my cactus bloom, again. When I asked the NNN trainer to elaborate on what she meant by my tone being off, a critique she delivered just hours after meeting me for the first time, her response included a full blown, and exaggerated, impersonation of me delivered in front of my behavior intervention coach and assistant principal. When her performance was done, the NNN trainer winked at me. *But don’t lose your joy,* she said.
Mountain pose
I was told to stand in mountain pose and not to favor one leg over another. I C-3PO-3was told not to cross my legs. My body language must be in no way casual (or human). And I needed to stop conveying so much excitement at the students’ accomplishments. After one session of C3PO training, I was told that I was too happy that a student had legible writing. I shouldn’t praise basic things that should be expected. Another time I was chastised for pointing out to a child: *Woah, this is great. This is your best work so far this year!*
*Don’t turn*
I felt awful after that critique, like I had let my students down with my excessive enthusiasm. I went back and apologized to them. The student whose handwriting I’d praised said it had made him happy to be complimented. *I didn’t take what you said in a bad way.* *Just be yourself,* another student told me. *Don’t be who that want you to be. Don’t become like the rest.* You see, the students were old enough to see what the school and the trainers wanted the teachers to be and what their teachers were becoming.
They begged me not to turn.
Amy Berard grew up in Lawrence, a half a mile away from the Guilmette Middle School where she taught ELA last year. She was let go at the end of the school year after administrators determined that she was not the *right fit* for Lawrence.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Teacher Sex Crime?

Teacher Jennifer Fichter sentenced to 22 years for having sex.

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) -  'She is too pretty to spend 22 years behind bars', declares the Russian version of the popular male journal, Maxim. 'Legal depotism' , ' Petty tyranny', and 'United States legal tyranny,' state other journalists. The Russians were referring to the case of a 30 year old English teacher of Aerospace academy who received the draconian sentence of 22 years imprisonment for illicit sex with three of her own 17-year-old students.

           The American law enforcement officials describe her as a 'pedophile', a monster who preyed on her students and
practically molested them. The popular mass media have
demonised the poor women. Even recent articles of the
Moscow Times largely echoes the American official version of events. The title of one article is 'Russian Fans Support Sex Criminal Teacher' by Daria Litvinova, and another article condemns Russians for supporting the teacher. They state it is yet another example of Russians failing to make a distinction between 'justice' and 'legality'. The law is after all, the law!

           That is not the view of many outraged Russians who have not only drawn up a petition for her release but within a
space of a few days obtained a huge quantity of signatures.

           They have recently gathered 41,000 Russian signatures!

           The petition, drawn up by Russian Denis Shiryaev,
theatrically declares, ' Twenty two years for a woman
who helped three mature male students start their adult
lives. Twenty two years for a woman who wanted to be
happy and loved, even if it was by someone younger
than herself. Twenty two years for the fact that these
students wanted to be with her, longed for her tenderness
and attention.' The statement would suggest someone with
an intuitive understanding of human suffering rather than a
naive person who fails to understand the difference between
law and justice. On the contrary, some Russians display a
sharp intelligence where they question the unfair verdict of
the American system and don't accept that a 17 year old man
is  always 'a child'  but is on the contrary, a mature adult.

           For in many European counties, the age of 16 is regarded as adulthood. Therefore to uncritically describe Jennifer Fichter as some warped pedophile is not only way off the mark. In the eyes of many Russians and other cultures, it appears absurd. It is quite possible that Fichter may well just be a lonely teacher or simply a person attracted to young men. She is not a maniac, pervert or pedophile. She never raped, beat up or killed any children. Contrast this with
the case of a Norwegian Neo-Nazis who killed 77 young
people and received a lesser sentence of 21 years!

          The usual procedure for dealing with such offending
teachers is not to imprison them but simply dismiss them from their job.

          An American petition to release Jennifer Fichter had
less luck than the Russian one. While the Russians
gathered 41,000 signatures , the U.S. White-house Citizen Action received less than 2000!  It looks as if the Russians will soon acquire 100,000 signatures which is the number of signatures required for the case to obtain a review from Obama. The crucial problem is that those signatures are not from Americans but Russians ... It is unlikely whether this
petition will be legally accepted by the American Government. However, it might well make an impact and spur more Americans to take up her case!

          Whether the attractive and vulnerable Jennifer Fichter is aware she is a current celebrity case in Russia is largely unknown. If she is aware, she might well wish that Americans expressed as much understanding as her gallant supporters in Russia.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hillary & Charters

Hillary's Family Ties to School Privatizers, and Diane Ravitch's Review of Hoosier School Heist

By Doug Martin at Hoosier School Heist Blog, and Diane Ravitch

Last week the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, without consulting more than a token slice of the union's membership. It's hard not to know that AFT leaders have turned their backs on teachers and thrown in with the privatizing politicians and consultants. Hillary too has her own family ties to school privatizers.

Hillary's Family Ties to School Privatizers, and Diane Ravitch's Review of Hoosier School Heist

By Doug Martin at Hoosier School Heist Blogand Diane Ravitch

1. Hillary and the Privatizers

A while back, Hillary Clinton, speaking the talk of the working class as all Wall Street DC Democrats do, lashed out at top hedge fund managers for “making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined.”  Hillary’s statement was mere deception. Not because it wasn't the truth; but because Hillary happens to love hedge fund managers and banksters.
Hedge fund managers seek to privatize education and steal pensions from teachers, as I detail in my bookHoosier School Heist, and wipe out what is left of the middle class.  And Hillary is all about that. 
In fact, Hillary’s son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky, is a hedge fund manager.  His fund, Eaglevale Partners, recently lost a little money in Greece, a country which cannot pay back loans to billionaires, banksters, and hedge fund managers who have set in place legalized stealing in the form of disaster capitalism.  
One of the chief structures behind disaster capitalism across the planet is the World Bank, which Hillary once wanted to lead
As a New York Times piece noted, Eaglevale Partners is a “fund that makes trades based on global economic and political events.” Several investors in Hillary’s son-in-law’s hedge fund, as the New York Times alsopointed out, have ties to the Clintons and have even funded Hillary’s campaign chest. Goldman Sachs is one of these.  As of November 2010, Goldman Sachs, through its Charter School Loan Facility, was funding 130 charter schools across the US.  Hillary’s son-in-law was once a Goldman Sachs employee.
As for Bill?  Bill Clinton has been behind the for-profit charter school movement since its inception, as many now know. Last year, he even spoke at a Nashville charter school operated by one of Chelsea’s old college sweethearts. 
Recently an outfit spreading charter schools in India was honored at the Clinton Global Initiative, and MarcMezvinsky, Clinton’s hedge fund son-in-law, was there for the photo-op.
Disaster capitalism is the leading force behind the assault on public schools.  And be sure that Hillary, hedge fund managers, Goldman Sachs, and Randi Weingarten will help further its agenda.
DC is a lost cause.  And so are the teachers unions. Sleep good at night. Focus your energy on the state level and make plans for a real revolution, before global warming kills us all off. 

Doug Martin is the author of Hoosier School Heist : How Corporations and Theocrats Stole Democracy From Public Education, a book being read in over 130 cities and towns and 78 Indiana counties, 23 states, and the District of Columbia.  A regular guest on national and Indiana radio talk shows such as Justin Oakley’s Just Let Me Teach and Amos Brown’s Afternoons with Amos, Dr. Martin’s research has been or will soon be featured in the Washington Post Answer Sheet , ABC’sNightline, and the Associated Press

2. Diane Ravitch, review of Hoosier School Heist
Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.
To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.
Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.
A few examples of his snappy style:
“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”
He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”
He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”
Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”
The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”
Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.
One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:
“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”
Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.
Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.
Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.
Hoosier School Heist is listed on, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website
Diane Ravitch is a former education advisor to the Clinton administration, who eventually realized the folly of corporate-inspired school reform. Find her work online at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Privatize Education

Education: the Next Corporate Frontier

I’m no education expert. Having worked in the environmental and new economy fields for the last two decades, my main concern when it comes to schooling has been what children learn. Along with most activists I know, I’d like to see kids get outdoors more, learn about the intricacies of ecosystems, understand the urgency of climate change, experience growing their own food, and acquire the knowledge and understanding essential to becoming environmentally-conscious citizens. I’d like school reform to be a part of rebuilding vibrant local economies and sustainable communities. This is what I thought was at the heart of the struggle for better education. But there’s a battle being waged on a different front. One that will overwhelm and undo any improvements we’ve made if social and environmental activists don’t join in the fight.
Over the last thirty years or so, private corporations have been steadily taking over school systems all around the world. Going hand in hand with “free” trade and development, the privatization of education is simply another step towards corporate control of the entire economy. If you’re tuned in to education news in the US, you may be familiar with the public school closures in Chicago, the so-called Recovery School District in New Orleans, and the proposed budget cuts in Milwaukee that have brought parents, students and teachers into the streets. But few of us hear about how students in Chile have been protesting for nearly a decade against rampant privatization that has increased economic inequality. Or how the UK government recently passed an education act allowing the conversion of all state schools into privately run “academies”. Or how Structural Adjustment Programs and development aid have paved the way for privatization of schools acrossAfrica, which has resulted in reduced enrollment of girls and exclusion of the poorest children. Or how similar takeovers are happening in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, India, and many other countries.
Privatization exists in different forms, including vouchers, public private partnerships, low-fee private schools, and charter schools. Whatever it’s called, it amounts to the same thing: private corporations gaining control of and profiting from an essential public function. In every country, the identical argument is used: public schools are failing, reform is needed and big business will do it best, providing choice and efficiency. If the statistics don’t match the argument, they are concealed or doctored to fit.
Privatization in education is eerily reminiscent of every other sector that has come under corporate control; many of the justifications and methods are exactly the same. Just as in agriculture, technology is touted as creating “efficiency.” Just as in healthcare, we’re presented with the illusion of “consumer choice.” Just as in global trade, corporations are deregulated and given generous subsidies. Just as in manufacturing, skilled employees are displaced by underpaid workers with no job security. Just as in energy, the profit motive trumps the wellbeing of people and planet. Just as in politics, legislation is influenced by rich private interests. In none of these sectors has corporate control brought about increased wellbeing for any but the richest segment of society. Why will education be any different?
However, there is money to be made. A lot of it. A couple of years ago, estimates of the global education market topped $4 trillion. Currently, the US education market alone is worth over $700 billion. A large chunk of this is tax money, disbursed to schools by local and federal government, and the business world wants a piece of it. Last year, transactions in the K-12 sector totaled nearly $400 million. There’s clearly still a lot of money to be grabbed and privatizers are doubling down on their efforts.
“We see the education industry today as the healthcare industry of 30 years ago,” Michael Moe, who leads the investment and consultancy firm GSV, has said. Their website explains that “GSV stands for ‘Global Silicon Valley’—emphasizing our belief that Silicon Valley is no longer just a physical place, but also a mindset that has gone viral…. A key part of our mission is to re-imagine what education is—with a bias toward innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and others who look at learning differently.” The keynote speaker at their last summit was former Florida Governor (and current Presidential hopeful) Jeb Bush. In attendance were representatives from nearly 300 companies, including AT&T, Netflix, and media conglomerate Graham Holding Company.
GSV is not an exception. The emphasis wherever you look is on more and more technology in schools, what they’re calling “edtech.” As the TechCrunch website declares: “with better digital video solutions storming into every classroom, learning is actually becoming an enjoyable experience.” Privatization in this form may be less overt than a corporation running a whole school, but it’s an equally effective way for business to profit from education – all under the guise of benefiting students.
At least one charter school chain has taken this tech-reliant model and run with it. Rocketship operates eleven charter schools in California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, and just received a $2 million grant fromNetflix to continue their expansion. A report last year by political economist and professor Gordon Lafer found Rocketship to be “a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day.”
It’s important to point out that these kind of charter schools are not the sites of personalized, innovative education they were originally intended to be. As a former teacher from New Jersey put it, the charter school movement has been “transformed from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts designed to provide alternative approaches for a small number of students, into nationally funded efforts by foundations, investors, and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized school system.” Like so many initiatives started as local alternatives to global capitalism, the charter school has become the perfect mechanism for private companies to insert themselves between the government and the people, siphoning off tax money into their coffers.
However, schools must still compete with each other to gain government support and attract students – and they do both by achieving high test scores. That gets tricky when you’re increasing your profit margins by cutting teacher salaries and skimping on training, support, and other essential services. So how do you do it? You exclude poorly-performing students. One teacher in Ohio writes on his blog: “I teach plenty of students whom the market would consider losers. They take too long to learn. They have developmental obstacles to learning. They have disciplinary issues. They may be learning disabled. They have families of origin who create obstacles rather than providing support. What this means to a market-driven education system is that these loser students are too costly, offer too little profit margin, and, in their failures, hurt the numbers that are so critical to marketing the school.… [T]hat means that students who do not serve the interests of the free-market school must be dumped, tossed out, discarded.”
Even with this exclusionary practice in place, charter schools are not, on the whole, performing better than public schools. A Stanford University study showed that three-quarters of them actually had the same or significantly worse test results in reading when compared to public schools. 71% were no better in math scores. Taking Rocketship as an example, the organization saw its assets grow from $2.2 million to $15.8 million in just three years, all while test scores of students fell at every one of their schools.
Still, privatizers continue to use high-stakes testing as justification for taking over and shutting down public schools, as well as excluding students. There is currently a growing counter-movement, led by parents, to let their children “opt out” of standardized tests. But this movement goes beyond testing. Co-founder of the organization United Opt-outTim Slekar, says: “We are not an anti-testing movement, we are a revolutionary movement against the corporate takeover of education.”
As in every sector of the economy, this people’s revolution needs to take place at both the grassroots and policy levels. At Local Futures, we have a phrase that encapsulates how we see building the new economy. We call it “resistance and renewal.” On one hand, we need to resist further globalization, privatization, and related policies that transfer power from people to corporations. On the other, we need to renew the human-scale economic structures that support healthy communities, equitable societies, and genuine environmental sustainability.
Communities have made real strides in the area of renewal: alternative schools, such as Waldorf and forest schools, school gardens, and climate change curricula are all good examples. And we need more. But without resistance at the policy level, grassroots initiatives will remain isolated and likely flounder over time. Right now, education policy is changing rapidly and is disproportionately influenced by private interests, worldwide. In the US, corporate-backed ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), more commonly associated with “Stand your Ground” gun laws, has been pivotal in drafting education legislation across many states. TheDepartment for International Development (DFID) in the UK has consistently funneled tax moneys into expanding private control over education across Africa and Asia, including Ghana, Tanzania, Nepal and Pakistan. Global trade treaties, like the TPP, limit the regulatory capacity of governments, so that any restrictions or quality standards that prevent corporations from profiting in national education markets could be considered trade barriers and struck down.
Like in all sectors, resistance to these policies takes coordinated effort with a broad base of support. Yet, so far, the fight against privatization in education has been left mostly to teachers, parents, students, and other education activists. It’s also being fought on separate fronts—at the school district and state levels, or at best nationally.
In recent years, social and environmental movements have gotten better at bridging divides and going international. The historic alliances of “tree-huggers” and trade unionists forged at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle have blossomed into a new economy movement that is purposely inclusive, encompassing issues of inequality, race, environmental destruction, trade, democracy, conflict and so on. Last year’s People’s Climate March was another step forward, as nearly half a million citizens marched in the streets of New York City and many more thousands in solidarity marches around the world.
Yet, when it comes to education, we’re lucky if a few thousand show up.
Education has profound implications for the economy, for human wellbeing, and for the future of life on this planet. It is about both what and how we teach children. Do we want private investors and corporations to decide that? If not, then those of us in the new economy and environmental movements need to join our voices to those of the education activists and resist further privatization.
Originally published at the Local Futures blog.
Kristen Steele is Associate Programs Director at Local Futures (International Society for Ecology and Culture). She holds a BA in Environmental Studies and a Master’s degree in Wild Animal Biology from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Royal Veterinary College, University of London. She attended an alternative high school in upstate New York, and has always been interested in the intersection of education with the new economy movement.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Russian Graveyards

By Stephen Wilson

            In his charming short story, 'The Dead', James Joyce mentions how 'the dead' are always with us and are never completely banished from our minds. We can't forget them. And we should not forget them as snow falls on both the living and the dead.

            In Russia, frquently visiting graveyards is not always deemed morbid or eccentric but as maintaining a relationship with your dead friends and relatives. A week after Easter, on 'parents' day', many Russians continue the custom of visiting their dead relatives and laying flowers, tidying up around the grave saying a prayer, and even leaving drink and food for the dead.

            The living might even speak to the dead and wish them well.

            For example, Oksana Chebotareva, a teacher told me 'When I and my two daughters visited my father in law he took us all around those graveyards where all his relatives lay. He would take my daughters to his late wife's graveyard and say 'Oksana has brought her two granddaughters to visit you .. Andrei is doing quite well in his job..'  Anyone who is familiar with Russian customs won't be surprised to hear this. According to Yuri Ryabinin's new book, The History of Russian Graveyards 'Under the wings of eternal peace', Ripol, Moscow, 2015, only available in Russian at bookshops in Russia, the Russian word 'Kladbashchii,'( a place or stake in the earth given to the dead) is not synonymous with the Greek word Necropolis, which means 'city of the dead'. On the contrary, it is a resting place of the living in another world. Ryabinin claims 'Concerning the God of Russians, there are no dead'. On the contrary, the Christian dead are awaiting the future resurrection and a grave is an important stake or place where they can abide, dwell or be reached by other people. A graveyard represents a profound meeting place between the living and the dead. A gravestone is not just a slab of concrete of remembrance but a door to a dead person. Keeping knocking on it and the dead person will surely come out of it.

            A QUEST

            With this in mind, Oksana and I ventured into one of Moscow's famous graveyards; the Vvedenskoy or German cemetery. Our aim was to find the grave of a former professor of Moscow State University, Professor Irina Aleksandrova, who had died in 2006. According to Oksana, 'She did a lot to help students.

            'Not only was she always at hand to assist a student with studies, but with other problems. She kept on visiting one student in hospital who had fallen ill with schizophrenia,
helping to feed and comfort him. When she died, she was
so poor she could not afford funeral expenses so all her
colleagues had to donate money to finance this'.

            We searched and scanned but failed to find the gravestone.

            There were just so many bewildering graves that loomed up.

            However, during our search we came across some famous gravestones, such as the legendary 19th century Doctor Haas who is regarded as a saint who endlessly helped relieve prisoners, the poor and the sick. He is reputed to have talked a despairing Dostovesky out of committing suicide.

            On his grave is written his motto, 'Hurry up and  do good.'

            The graves of Peter the Great's assistants, Patrick Gordon and Francis Lefort, are thought to lie here but no historians have ever found them. They appear to have been destroyed, removed or simply vanished into obscurity. I never found the grave of the famous Scots soldier, Patrick Gordon but at least came across the graves of brave French airpilots
who had died fighting along with Russians during the Great
Patriotic war.

            We came across one graveyard that reminded us that the British have been teaching English in Russia for centuries. On one very small grave was written -

            Sacred to the Memory of

            Richard Bradshaw, captain

            of the Russian service and

            teacher of the English language

            who departed on this life on the

            24th of May, 1828 

            This modest stone what few vain marbles can may truly say here lies an honest man, erected to a loving husband by his disconsolate widow. They don't write such lines on graves like this anymore.

            In regard to 'disconsolate widows', there is a legend that one widow used to visit her husband's grave every day. She could not get over her husband's death. So she prayed strongly and wrote on the chapel wall, ' I can't live here without my husband'. Then, shortly afterwards, a man appeared who was just like her husband in appearance, manners and character and they both got married. Since then, a custom has arisen where people write their wishes on the chapel walls in the belief they will come true. Oksana even wrote a secret wish on the chapel. On this chapel was written many different requests such as - 'I want Oleg to stop drinking'  or ' God grant I and my parents good health and let them live for a long time'. 

           'God let me pass this exam' or  'Let me give birth to a son'.

           The most bemusing request we came across went - 
           'God help me meet a nice loving man that will be generous. Let me find well-paid work that is very interesting. Let my salary be a bit higher, help us build a home without neighbours and let me have a new BMW 573'. The moral seems to be if you are going to make a wish, make a big one!

           The graveyard is rumoured to be haunted by a ghost who plays a flute during the early hours of the morning within the vicinity of the chapel. Some people speculate that this is the ghost of Francis Lefort himself as people who have seen the ghost claimed he was dawning early 18th century clothes.

           On our second attaempt we never found the grave of the professor. We even began to wonder whether any such grave actually existed. Maybe the professor's colleagues had failed to arrange such a funeral. I doubt this. I think when we next visit the graveyard it will be a case of third time lucky!