What are standards?

The word “standards” in and of itself is not a dirty word. People have standards every day– for how they will negotiate work, personal relationships, and ethical decisions. However, it seems that when we use the words “standards” associated with education too many people assume that implies something rather broad based and benign as in the description I just offered. Additionally, standards suggest that we are staving chaos off at the gate … that without some sort of standards steering our educational system, schools and educators will operate like some Wild West show with no rules or order, resulting in national unmanageability. So when we hear the word “standards” based education, the phrase alone lulls many people into a false sense of stability and security that our children are being taken care of because these standards are the gate keeper at the door between success in learning and abject chaos.

This is indeed a false and dangerous sense of security. What we need is to ask some serious and complicated questions about standards-based education.

What are “standards”?

Standards are a pre determined list of expectations for skills, or standards for content that will be practiced, met, or achieved by students (and/or educators). They are the framework for curricular and instructional decisions, usually both.  In broad terms, standards are what we want every child to be able know and do.

But who decides what knowledge is of most worth?

Who defines them?

In decades past education standards have been set with all sorts of hidden agenda such as “civilizing immigrants into an American (read: white middle class) set of behaviors and beliefs, or preparation for factory work during the booming industrial revolution. For the last few decades they have been determined by the business community, Business Round Table and corporate executives.

Rarely, if ever, have we had a national effort in which students themselves determined the standards for an education that prepares them to create the world they wish to see, but instead are predicated on expectations of the wealthy and powerful elite to mold students into a world crafted in their own image.

As Bill Ayers suggests, “A curriculum of questioning is much more important than a curriculum of knowing the answer.” Adding further, “Students should feel that their experience in the classroom is one of enlightenment. For enlightenment to occur, however, there needs to be liberation. Students have to be free to explore and grow for themselves, and that requires alternatives.”

What purpose do they serve?

The Common Core standards we have now are not like what Ayers was describing (above) as a  student-centered education. Rather they are a way to harness schools to suit the needs of industry. The language du jour is “college and career readiness.” This is a very telling phrase, since corporations (Bill Gates and Co) and colleges (College Board led by David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core standards) are writing the standards to serve their needs, which is to prepare students for a college degree they can longer afford, or a job that won’t even be there for them given the high rates of joblessness.

This is different than standards that would be set by a different philosophy of education—what is education for? Where are the interests, abilities and desires of students and their communities in the standards? Who sets them? And who is forced to achieve them? And to what end?

If the standards are too high (and scores indicate that students are performing far more poorly on CCSS tests than on previous state tests-see Burris cited by Strauss)… they winnow out a sector of the student population as “below standard” and therefore not ready for career or college. This narrows the funnel of students passing into the workforce which works for an economy with high rates of unemployment-reduce the number who are defined as employable and limits number of students who can attend college

As Anthony Cody points out:

“It may well be that corporate employers need fewer, not more, college graduates. And fewer workers of any sort, as technological advances eliminate jobs. In this context of shrinking opportunity, is it a coincidence that corporate education ‘reform’ results in a shrinking number of students considered ‘ready’ for such opportunities?”

If we use standards as a rhetoric to say we are providing for students, we can be relieved of the responsibility of providing other needed resources or conduct a re examination of social structures and institutions that perpetuate inequality.

With standards it is assumed (wrongly) that students either achieve them or they don’t. And if they don’t, it must be their own fault or that of the teachers-

However, standards are not a concern of wealthy kids and schools—why is this? By claiming one set of standards, we create the illusion of equal opportunity without the community development needed to create affluence which has been documented more than any other factor to determine school success. The truth is that standards are for poor kids. Wealthy kids don’t need them. Accountability measures strangle schooling in poor communities-wealthy schools can take them or leave them because they have the infrastructure of family, income, education and community that enables those students to do well, standards or not.

Further, standardized curriculum and testing now (and historically) reflect the learning styles and knowledges of upper middle class White communities. While kids from lower socio economic neighborhoods and students of color have a wealth of knowledges, experiences, and values worthy of our attention, they are never included in a standards-driven world. Why is that?

A so-called failure of our students to achieve high standards has been called a “threat to national security.” Since success with standards correlate highly with one’s zip code more than innate intelligence, we can see this language as code for “poor people are a threat to national security,” and they must be managed in order to contain the threat.

How are they measured?

By standardized measurements like tests.  Corporations and testing companies create one cut score or set measurement for all children. This practice of measuring success on these terms assumes there is one right answer for any question, that learning is done in one way, or that tests by their “nature” are inherently reliable or valid since they make claim to being “scientifically” created. Both science and statistics have been manufactured to cater toward the bias of humans throughout modern history. We have in the past used “science” to justify any range of absurd and inhuman sexist and racist intuitional practices, and even a statistician will tell you that they can make the numbers say anything they want.  Blind unquestioning faith in anything “scientifically” standardized with numbers attached is a fool’s errand.

Who benefits?

  • Testing companies that can save money on one set of standards for streamlining tests, less costly tests. According to a paper written by the Fordham Institute (2010) called How Will Common Core Initiative Impact the Testing Industry, the demands of NCLB cut testing profit margins for testing companies. The creation of the PARCC and SBAC consortia eliminate the need for every state to “create its own tests and thus cut down on the production costs” that are aligned to the Common Core.
  • Curriculum related companies that sell pre-packaged tool kits for parents students and teachers to help them achieve the standards. As Piette states:

“Only the corporations that financed the development of this new technology and lobbied for its implementation stand to gain. These corporations are also counting on students’ widespread failing of the Common Core tests as an excuse to push districts to purchase even more training technology, fire teachers in low-ranked schools and turn schools over to private management. The CCSS is the latest in the grand corporate scheme to profit from privatized public education.

  • The textbook/publishing companies that deliver the standards via their test books and curricular materials.

Given the push for college and career standards, the problems with both that I outlined earlier, it might seem as if these standards are a way of winnowing the pool of successful candidates. Furthermore, if as evidence and research proves again and again, that socio economic status and cultural capital are the biggest determining factors for success in achieving the standards (as defined by standardized tests and on their own elitist terms) then it is the students from high income communities of privilege that will “rise” to the top, leaving low income students behind. The vicious cycle of blaming teachers and students themselves for the failure to achieve high standards set forward by a mentality of expectations crafted by those with privilege.

According to Woodard:

(W)hen advocates of this system of “profit education” talk about the growing poverty that exists in schools and the need to be able to provide for the well being of the total child, poverty is obfuscated by an insistent claim that it is an excuse, not a cause of poor performance. The facts say otherwise. Overall 20 percent of students in the U.S. live in poverty. Based on the 2009 PISA results, U.S. students in schools with a poverty level of less than 10 percent performed best in the world in math, reading and science. However, as the poverty rate increased, the results showed, student achievement decreased, and students in schools with poverty rates greater that 50 percent ranked in the bottom of all students internationally.

This cycle creates a sick public narrative that distracts us from the responsibilities of colleges and corporations to bear any of the blame for exacerbating inequality or access to opportunity, foisting such outcomes upon the shoulders of those forced to bear the burden of playing a corrupt game rigged against them.

To quote Anthony Cody in a recent article:

“The problem with NCLB was that it was based on a false premise, that somehow tests can be used to pressure schools into delivering equitable outcomes for students. This approach did not work, and as we are seeing with Common Core, will not work, no matter how many ways you tinker with the tests. The idea that our education system holds the key to our economic future is a seductive one for educators. It makes us seem so important, and can be used to argue for investments in our schools. But this idea carries a price, because if we accept that our economic future depends on our schools, real action to address fundamental economic problems can be deferred. We can pretend that somehow we are securing the future of the middle class by sending everyone to preschool – meanwhile the actual middle class is in a shambles, and college students are graduating in debt and insecure. The entire exercise is a monumental distraction, and anyone who engages in this sort of tinkering has bought into a shell game, a manipulation of public attention away from real sources of inequity”.




Most folks are versed in (or at least have heard of) terms like “military industrial complex,” “factory farms” or even “education industrial complex” (a phrase used by educator Troy Grant and others). I believe these terms are still useful for a qualitative description of some of the facets of what we are witnessing education reform today. One-size-fits-all testing and curricula harken back to the days of industry and efficiency models. Indeed, as I have cited myself in other papers, how often we treat schools and children as if they were concentrated feed lots on a factory farm. And the military industrial complex reveals the powerful influence of “lawyers, guns, and money” (to quote Warren Zevon) in national and international geo-political and economic policies. If current policies are not grounded in solid pedagogical or developmental research, facts, or even a record of success…then WHY are such education policies being pushed faster, harder, and on larger scales? This framework presented here perhaps answers that question.

Current and future education reforms allude to something different happening in 2014(building on decades of groundwork). We are living in a historical moment in which previous paradigms are shifting beneath our feet, though certain traits may be passed along. We are a POST industrial world. With the influx of technology, uses and abuses of “big data”, and of economic policies of last few decades (circa Reagan through the present) favoring private corporate interests, the “industrial complex” paradigm is taking on a new face. I’d like to refer to this new phenomena and the Corporate Global Privatizing Complex (CGPC).

I have framed out a chart of the key areas in which CGPC is largely apparent, and leading the way. The goal of conducting this brief broad sweeping analysis to is demonstrate how and why education policy is what it is. The landscape of public education is shifting precisely because it is being orchestrated by the same people using the same techniques and are moving toward the same goals.

In other words, education reform (aka privatizing public education) does not exist in isolation. Education is the cornerstone of the larger global architecture reframing the production of, ownership of, and distribution of basic social services (national security, food security, and right to public education… intellectual security?) Note: One might easily add healthcare, environmental concerns, water and other basic human needs or services to this as well. I just focused on these basic four to exemplify how it all fits together.

Corporate Global Privatizing Complex

Click HERE to view the PDF chart: Corporate Global Privatizing Complex

What they all say (“Innovation” equals profits)

 Prison “investors see this as an opportunity. This is a potentially untapped market that will have very strong demand.”

According to NextUp Research, the research arm of Global Silicon Valley Corp., the e-learning market in the United States is expected to grow to $6.8 billion by 2015, up from $2.9 billion in 2010.

For Monsanto, “feeding the world is hugely profitable.”

In 2007, the number of Blackwater’s federal contracts, according to Erik Prince: “More than 50″ with a total value in 2006 of all contracts at 1 billion.

Who (or what) do the key players in a Corporate Global Privatizing Complex all share in common?

1) The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) leading the charge for crafting legislation that decimates public funding for public services and places public services into private (for profit) corporate hands.

2) Bill Gates—a hand in EVERY pie on the chart.

3) They’re actually connected to one another—notice how they conduct business and donate directly with one another:

Blackwater sold their clandestine intelligence services to the multinational Monsanto.

The purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million was made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates funds fast food franchises that buy and sell from factory farms and GMO products.

Gates donated 2.2 MILL to GEO.

Monsanto funds charter schools: and Teach For America.

GATES spend millions funding McCharter chains and is the largest donor to (progenitor of) Common Core and online testing/curriculum.

Pearson contracts with the military.

Pearson has had some questionable (and profitable) contracts dealing with Homeland Security going back to 2003.

The Council on Foreign Relations promotes the need for national standards as a need for national security, and that student testing data should be shared with Department of Defense for “security” purposes.

Erik Prince is the founder of private military corporation Blackwater USA. Prince is a former Navy Seal and a “billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan  Republican  family.

His sister is Betsy Devos. The DEVOS family invests large sums of monies into privatizing education through charter schools and vouchers.

Monsanto creates more than genetically modified foods. The company also formerly manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDTPCBsAgent Orange, Monsanto’s Central Research Department began to conduct research for the Manhattan Project under contract from the US government. Monsanto assisted in the development of the first nuclear weapons.

4) The corporations identified on this chart are monopolies

Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed.

Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.”

Pearson is the world’s largest education company.

The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) is the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services.

5) Each of these giant monopolies use lobbying and pressure via ALEC legislation to get government contracts to provide privately managed “public” services or needs, using our tax payer dollars to earn them billions of dollars and promote human suffering.

6) THEIR POLICIES AND PRACTICES DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO THE PEOPLE OF OUR COMMUNITIES. Their actions to “innovate” not only fall short of their promises…they have the exact opposite effect.



A caveat first: I am not opposed to innovation and uses of technology in higher education. As a professor of education for 15 years (and a K-12 teachers for 10 years before that) I see technology as a great tool or resource that enables me to be a better educator (when used correctly). However, I am frightened by the impending nightmare scenario promoted by venture capitalists and edutech start up companies who have funded and promote common core, high stakes testing, big data, and “accountability” as vehicles to dismantle public education, and pass it off into the privatized hands of corporate profits and interests (at the expense of our rights, privacy, and democracy). “Reform” … which is winding it’s way from K-12 into the sphere of higher education is just another phase in the education “land grab” in which policies (that lead to abusive practices on learners and teachers), under the hegis of “innovation” disruption” or “access and equity” are merely selling points for buyers–none of which has been documented as being meaningful, sustainable, or even proven effective.

And they’re coming….not to merely offer services or products. But to recreate public education, and higher education in its image. PROFITABLE and PRIVATIZED.

Meet one such company: University Ventures.

University Ventures Fund (limited partnership) is a private equity fund federal exemption 506b, founded in 2011.

Homebase is New York City

On their “About” page:

Their “carefully selected investor base “ will reap huge profits on “market-leading returns while playing a positive and sustainable role in the transformation of higher education.”

The funds two biggest investors are the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG and the University of Texas Investment Management Company.

The projects will include “helping institutions expand the scale of their academic programs, re-engineer how they deliver instruction, and better measure student outcomes; the first two investments, also announced today, will be creating a curriculum through Brandman University aimed at improving the educational outcomes of Hispanic students, and a company that helps universities in Britain and elsewhere in Europe deliver their courses online.”

In other words, universities are an untapped market for business to corporations who can in turn use their monies to sway poliicies practices and ideologies within the university system. This is a GLOBAL system which includes, “the largest most sophisticated investors in the US and globally, including founders of successful education enterprises, major University endowments, leading education philanthropists, and Bertelsmann, the 177-year-old international media and services company owned and controlled by one of Europe’s largest and most important not-for-profit foundations.”

What is Bertelsmann? It’s a corporate investment center.

Divisions include RTL group (an entertainment company), Random House (publishing), Gruner and Jahr (a publishing house), Arvato (outsourcing services), and Be Printers (which produces produce magazines, catalogs, brochures, books, and calendars).

What could publishing and entertainmnent companies want from investing in higher ed? Million dollar business contract perhaps? Who publishes and prints more than a university? Who offers more in the way of technology needs and sources of data? Where else can you “mold” future workers for your global corporations?

Who WORKS at University Ventures?

Some of them worked previously at Edison Learning. Another was CTO of Apollo Group where he built and launched cloud-based and data-driven adaptive learning platforms. But the three leaders of this venture are indeed well versed in vulture/venture capitalism:

Daniel began his career as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. He entered the education industry as Director of Strategy and Planning at LearnNow, a high growth charter school company that was acquired by Edison Schools.

David Figuli has represented seller or buyer in over half of all successful non-profit to for-profit conversions of colleges and universities.


Figuli said, “To the extent we’re trying to remodel higher education, you have to remodel it at the core of the institution, which is still primarily on-ground.”

Ryan Craig was founding Director of Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI), one of the largest online universities Ryan began his career as a consultant with McKinsey & Co.

According to their website, “University Ventures has the capital to assist colleges and universities to develop innovative new programs that will allow them to do a better job of fulfilling their mission and also generate important new revenue streams.”

They are focused on GLOBAL changes in higher education. International link here.

“Bertelsmann’s role as the anchor investor in the recently launched $100m University Ventures Fund signals the arrival of the German media giant as a player in the global education market – a market dominated over the last 18 months by Pearson and private equity firms. The new fund aims to form partnerships with leading universities to jointly develop and deploy online higher education programmes and build scalable education platforms in Europe and the US. Unlike other players in the market, Bertelsmann’s focus is entirely on digital and the opportunities technology provides in education.”

UV partners with global businesses, bringing business and revenue to those corporations via their educational programs.


“The Condé Nast project was an intriguing first partnership for Qubed, Pianko says, because of the opportunity to bring incredibly strong consumer brands into education and connect them with strong university brands to build consumer experiences commensurate with the quality of those brands.”

See here to see their BOARD of DIRECTORS

Click here to see UV White paper which explicates their broader approach:

General takeaways from the white paper–

UV is interested in creating “competency based education” (over seat time)— Here is where national agenda like common core and edTPA reflect their agenda. To create streamlined revenue sources by creating online education, data…streamlined big data…is necessary. And it relegates educators and classrooms as expendable.

“The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on Tuesday announced that it would use a $460,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to study the Carnegie Unit, which forms the basis of a time-based measurement of student learning. The credit hour calls for one credit per hour of faculty instruction and two hours of homework, on a weekly basis, over a 15-week semester …Accreditors and the U.S. Department of Education are working through how to regulate institutions that want tomove beyond the credit hour. It’s unclear how much the Carnegie Foundation’s new tack might help them in those efforts, but it probably won’t hurt.”

“Produce more learning for less work” (p.12)

Common Core is a boon for companies like this.

Accordingly, “Race to the Top has required states interested in securing additional funding to reform policies around a defined set of defined progressive priorities and align curricula and assessments to the new Common Core State Standards in both English Language Arts and Math. The Common Core has now been adopted to some extent by 46 states and for the first time America has something approximating a national market in K-12. This will lead to an explosion of innovation from publishers and edtech companies who will invest in systems and products to serve 46 states at a time.”

The business, venture capital and marketing industries are salivating:

As one business journal crows: “Gamified mobile apps, all manner of e-books and classroom analytics tools are just a few of the business models attracting venture capital dollars in the $5.4 billion K-12 education technology industry. In California alone, state estimates peg the implementation costs of Common Core around $3 billion, opening the door for companies pitching cost-effective tech tools”.


Consider David Coleman at the helm of College Board and it’s new partnership with Kahn Academy as a vision of the shape of thinsg to come.

It’s worth noting too that the Head of Finance for Kahn Academy served as the CFO for New Schools Venture Fund.

Why are Unions the Enemy?

EdSurge claims, “K-12 schools, on the other hand, are notorious for strong teachers unions and administrative bureaucracy that can make sales more challenging for vendors. Common Core offers new market incentives for entrepreneurs who can navigate those thorny realities.”

In other words, University Ventures is just one of many vulture—um…venture –capital projects.

See this Chart for a list of the top 12 edutech companies vying for profits from higher education. UniversityVentures is on the list.

Some of University Venture’s current investments include UniversityNow, which provides access to online college courses at accredited institutions, and Synergis Education, which partners with universities in the area of marketing and recruitment.

Organizing and Action

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have created (see link at here chart3 and at end of blog) a chart that may help folks in thinking through how to organize effective resistance to ed reform and crafting meaningful and effective alternatives to current education policies. My motivation to create this came from my own frustrations with a few things:

1) Where to begin? Sometimes parents, teachers and other community members will stop before they even get started because the whole mess just feels so damn overwhelming!

2) To better understand how we are all connected. Its a Catch 22 really. Politicians and legislators are the ones with the power to write bills that end bad policy and initiate good ones. But politicians are motivated by voters. Parents, teachers and community members must put weight on politicians to get them to do anything! Most of them are either woefully uninformed or bought out by corporate interests. So they need educating and serious pressure from us, and;

3) Focusing not only on what we are against but what we are FOR. Effective strategy includes a vision of what we want! And taking steps to manifest it.

The chart itself is rather simple. Here are some suggestions for things to insert into the chart (or to consider):

Who are the People in Your Neighborhood? (sung to a jaunty tune):  Now, what “we” want depends on the “we.” Generally speaking its the real stakeholders: Children in public schools, parents, and members of the local communities most affected by the changes to their public school systems. For example, in your state or district are parents, teachers and communities of color being silenced, sold out, or colonized? (note: this is most likely “yes” where ever you throw a dart at the US map…) Who must have a voice and input for change to be meaningful and effective? Do you have a strong teachers union? Parent organizations? Involvement from social organizations or clubs?

What organizing “looks” like is a local issue. For some communities the greatest concern right now might be school closures. For others it might be intrusion of online edu-tech companies inserting themselves in the public system. We are, all of us, affected in some way by all these things…but each community must focus on the specific battles it wishes to fight. Be specific and take concrete actions, issue by issue. One month you might focus on testing refusal and a few months later work on legislation that demands state tax payer dollars in public ed NOT go to testing but to some other school-based need like hiring more teachers, improving infrastructure, or preserving the school library.

Community organizing does not only include parents and teachers, but other groups/issues within the community. Again, advocacy and organizing directly bubble up from the needs of that community. It will most likely be slightly different in every location. But beyond our school walls, children in many rural and urban communities are affected by the effects of poverty. Therefore, effective education change must include members of social, medical, and business communities that could help create wrap around services and other needs.

Also locate one or more individuals who have necessary areas of expertise, time, or connections. You need somone who can negotiate legislative language and time to attend sessions. You need folks informed about corporate interests and can “dig” for non-transparent associations (i.e any of the 50Can groups disguised as grass roots weeding their way into your school? How can you find out?).  You need folks who can negotiate the ins and out of policies and practices of school boards, unions, and other influential organizations. And these folks need to coordinate THEIR efforts for maximun effect.

Where are You At? Different communities are in different phases of education reform and their resistance to it. Some communities are far more versed in what’s happening than others. Phillie has been levelled by charter schools, but where I live in Baltimore they’re just getting warmed up. Determine what “stage” your district or state is at. Do you need to focus on educating others by holding information sessions (step 1 in the chart)? Having an informed community is necessary before any solid actions can take place. People need to understand why they are fighting against and what they are fighting for. If your community is clear about both, then organizing revolves around steps 2-3 in the chart.

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Finally, organizing and action must be grounded in facts. The mainstream media and reformers can have a field day alluding to resistance as little more than “pissed off White soccer moms” or “tin foil hat” wearing fringe groups. We can easily be discredited by leading with assumptions or misinformation…or hijacked (manipulated) by ideological or political motives of others without realizing it. Predatory ed reform is not recent, nor conjured by a single political ideology. It’s roots goes back decades, and spans across the political aisles.

When engaging in steps 1-3 (on the chart chart3) and when working with legislators, make sure you have groups or individuals who have a solid working knowledge of the research and the facts, and lead with information over emotion or supposition. Ending bad policy must be led by proof. For example, when fighting charter school colonization, use data such as the UCLA study that documented that 37% of charter schools underperform their public school counterparts, and that charter school retention rates are a farce.

There are scores of educational researchers in higher education dedicated to changing this corporate-run landscape of education. Find us! Please! We are here and ready to help if anyone needs assistance with “academic language” or research to support your initiatives. Solutions must be grounded in evidence as well. Want more art in your child’s curriculum and less testing? Bring the studies that show how PE and music improve reading skills, and increase graduation rates. Demonstrate how nutrition, hands-on activities and after-school programs reduce behavioral concerns.

Know Where the Power Lies: Know who has the power to influence what. It does not all come down to legislation of course.  Remember, while it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the power of Emperor Bill Gates and a giant octopus of federal “mandates”…most school funding comes from the state and local level. Most decisions to push back against federal mandates must come from local and state voices. Using research to publicly CALL OUT local politicians and adminsitrators who have sold out to corporate or political interests. Shine a light on corruption.

So we have more power than we realize. And the most powerful changes come from strong and coordinated actions by local communities (see Chicago, New York, and Seattle as a few examples for proof it’s possible). Some changes can happen by appealing to your school board. Some issues might begin more closely with a PTA or school administrator. Identify what changes you wish to see, and then determine who is the group or person who can most likely effect that change, and which individuals or groups can most likely help.

Don’t Get Bogged Down: It’s easy to get lost in the mire: The mire of “across the aisles” collaborations (when can they work and when they can’t), the mire of a sense of powerlessness (what can I do as one person?), the mire of rapid fire changes cloaked in an opacity so thick that we don’t know what coming until we’ve been run over by it, the mire of distrust, infighting, and distractions (human vices we all possess of fear and ego…will…never..go…away), better to just ignore them. Be forgiving in spirit, open in mind, and humble in heart. Remember who the enemy is…and is not. We need to focus, to organize (however that is determined by individual communities), and we need…to…act.

A final excellent suggestion offered by Michelle Gunderson, “We also need to define our wins – not by their standards.” In other words, as Tim Slekar says, “We OWN the narrative now.”

Now. Each day is a day we can ALL do SOMETHING.

Hope this chart is helpful to you all. Use if for strategy, communication, and action.

100_0600Just completed an amazing journey through the streets of Seattle with the Washington BATS and other amazing teachers, students, and activists. We marched, a few hundred strong, to the steps of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizers were kind enough to invite me to speak. 

Here is a link to what I said at the rally: 

But a full, more complete version of what I said and (having run out of time and wanted to) but was unabale to say is here:

I came out here to the Emerald City to tell you a fairy tale. A fractured fairy tale. About the magical delusion Bill Gates and other reformers are trying to sell us …to sell us out.

Once upon a time three powerful and mighty corporate kings journeyed to the Emerald City in search of the great and powerful Oz-the most mighty and wealthy of them all. The first corporate king, Jean Wilhoit, Director of the CCSSO, was the scarecrow…who had no brains. He was just doing what he was told as delivery boy for Bill Gates.

The second corporate king was Lou Gerstner, the cowardly lion who was co-founder of Achieve, CEO of IBM, member of secretive societies like Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg, and American Legislative Exchange Council. He was afraid that not enough profits were being made off of public education.

The third corporate king, tin man David Coleman (chief architect of the common core and now pr3edient of the College Board) had no heart. He wanted everyone in the kingdom to know that “no one gives a shit” what they think or feel.

Two of these three corporate moguls hail from the kingdom of Big Data, called McKinsey and Co., and they all came to the Emerald City to ask for billions of dollars from the might Oz, to cast a spell of education reform over the citizens.

Sir Michael Barber of Pearson also from the kingdom of McKinsey and CEO of Pearson stayed behind, wielding his power behind the scenes, using lobbyists to do his dirty work ensuring that Pearson’s finger prints and profits would be connected with every facet of education reform.

The great Oz and the corporate kings understood the power of big data to control the citizens of the kingdom. Using media, advertisements and other unproven promotional gimmicks, these mighty corporate kings cast a spell over the people, lulling them into the belief that they alone could “save” the kingdom’s children.

But as the great Oz, who fancied himself an emperor, paraded through the streets the parents teachers and students all realized the emperor had no clothes.

They cried out:

Why don’t these billionaires build more schools instead of spending 2.2 million into the private prison company the GEO Group?

Why don’t these billionaires use their money to equitably fun schools instead of trying to close them?

Why don’t they support paying real teachers a professional mage instead of replacing them with TFA scabs?

Why don’t they fund school libraries instead of testing companies?

Why don’t they fund nurses, artists, and social workers instead of common Core “trainers”?

Why don’t they?

The people of the kingdom took off their emerald glasses and they saw the truth.

This fairy kingdom was built on lies. But like all fairy tales, the ed reform story is built on an archetype…a predictable script. The same script these corporate kings to privatize other public goods, services and basic human needs.

Gates funds millions to support Monsanto and genetically modified food production. Never mind the health concerns with GMO’s. Never mind they are banned in all of Europe. Gates is treating our children like GMO seeds, to be modified, engineered, and owned by corporate interests.

Gates supports fracking, investing millions in BP oil. He is fracking public education, poisoning the waters of our democracy, mining our children as his personal natural resource.

Meet the totalitarian capitalism.

Gates claims that GMO’s are safe and fracking is clean. He also claims that charter schools and common core with help our children. Remember—this is a fairy tale, taking place in the land of illusions.

But Gates forgot about something. He forgot about us. His fatal Shakespearean flaw (arrogance) is assuming that parents and teachers will behave like lobbyists, government, regulatory agencies and corporations. But we, unlike them, cannot be bought. WE will not sell our schools to the highest bidder. We will not sell our children to the highest bidder.

We cannot be bought.

And our children and our schools are not for sale.

We can break the spell cast over our society.

Our modern history tells the story of a world dominated by the powerful, by elite interests, by oppressive systems. But it is also a history transformed by refusal and resistance, by people rising up.

Today, it falls to us to rise up and take action. Education is the critical centerpiece in corporate totalitarianism to solidify its global dominance.

The same man who wants to take our land, drain it and destroy it and then sell it back to us crap…

The same man who wants to take our rights to food production, process our foods, and sell it back to us as crap…

Now wants to take our schools, poison and process them…and sell them back to us as crap.

The corporate kings need us to create their kingdom of Big Data and profits. But we don’t need them. All over this country parents, students and teachers are REFUSING the tests, denying them the data, rejecting their manufactured claims about failing schools and failing teachers, and their false advertising about “world class standards.”

We can break this spell. Say these words with me:

We will not consent.

We cannot be bought.

Our world, our schools, and our children are not for sale.

We will shut you down.

King Gates, the powerful Oz…YOU LOSE>


PRESS RELEASE: “A Rally to Educate Gates” – Seattle.


Hi Bill,

This is my first letter to you, but ironically enough, we both know you’ll never read it. However, I hope my words here inspire my other readers to consider advocating for ideas similar to those I will propose here. Perhaps one of them will gain traction in the ranks of the billionaire’s boys club.

Full disclosure, Bill. I am not a billionaire. Not even close. I bet you make in one minute what I earn in a year. So naturally you might be skeptical of my qualifications for advice giving on this matter. Who am I to tell you how to spend your money?

But I can relate. Really. Once I received $500 back on my taxes and I debated: Do I put that in my kid’s college fund? Or…do I buy a pair of Frye boots? Of course, the former seems to reflect the moral high road. But, my kids only nine. College is a long way off. And, I don’t even know if he’ll choose to go to college. You know how that is. Conversely, the boots bring immediate satisfaction. The purchase benefits my family indirectly. You know adage when Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.  Sure kids, you can have a second dessert, I’m so happy! Hell, maybe I’ll even cut a slice off for my husband tonight, so long as I can keep the boots on.

Sure, how to spend 500$ isn’t a big deal to you. But I know you of all people can relate to the ways one might justify morally ambiguous expenditures, and how tempting it is to rationalize self-serving behaviors as somehow being to “the benefit of others.”

Many, myself included, feel this way about your overt and aggressive intrusion into education policies via your billions of dollars, in the name of providing “benefits to children.” Dude, admit it—it’s your version of Frye boots.

But…I do believe that philanthropic giving. It’s far better to give to others than keeping it all for yourself. Generosity is a good thing. And I can think of many better ways for you to spend your billions that really help children than crafting harmful education policies that are headed for a major train crash for children, teachers, and communities everywhere. Forget Common Core, charter schools, and online learning.

You know what children in economically challenged communities really need? Food security, health services, purposeful community activities, a place to go after school, libraries, and access to other social, emotional and economic resources.

So let’s take the first item as a prime example. What if you were to build a chain of quality grocery stores which would make available healthy and affordable food to families living in what are known as “food deserts”?

An area where the distance to a supermarket is more than ¼ mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low (measured using the Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey).

You claim to show interest in bridging racial gaps in opportunity by forcing all children to take the same tests and digesting the same curriculum … as if these will become the “great equalizers.” Forget that. Think: FOOD SECURITY! One study notes:

African-Americans are the most disadvantaged when it comes to balanced food choices, although other racial groups do suffer as well. African-Americans, on average, travel the farthest distance to any type of grocery store, and their low access communities cluster strikingly. Chicago’s food deserts, for the most part, are exclusively African-American.

In a free market system, a company cannot always sustain itself very well without a large amount of income to keep it going. Many grocery stores fail, or fear opening in lower income communities because they are not “profitable.” Of course, there are a myriad of other reasons gesturing to systemic racism, but for our purposes, let’s stick with the money theme since that’s what you’re best at. With billions of dollars, you don’t need to worry about sustaining profits. And with your billions, you could make sure that the food remains affordable. Think “Whole Foods” …but available to everyone.  Food deserts exist in both urban and rural areas. Here’s a map of food deserts across the United States to get you started.

Children benefit from access to nutritious foods—they perform better in school. It leads to a reduction in health concerns and illness that affect growth and learning. Students perform better in school when they receive adequate nutrition. Really. You don’t need McKinsey and Company to spin you volumes of research to prove this point. Hungry kids suffer. Healthy kids have a greater chance of success. Duh.

Good nutrition promotes not only physical growth and health, but also cognitive development, helping children learn from infancy through adolescence and beyond… A balanced diet helps children perform better academically. A hungry child may have problems paying attention and thinking. This is why breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast of whole grains, low-fat protein, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables improves children’s concentration, creative thinking, alertness, problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination. Meals provide brain fuel. A 1996 study by the Hebrew University found that children who ate breakfast at school performed better on standardized tests than children who ate earlier at home, or did not eat breakfast at all. (Live Strong)

Even better, in all of your grocery stores you could hire local people from the community, helping to reduce unemployment in those neighborhoods and growing their economy, and even set up apprenticeship programs for young adults. You could contract with local food growers and further help the local small business owners or farmers.

Please do not confuse my proposition here with your insane efforts to control the international food industry through technology. You’re messing everybody up with that shit with Monsanto.

I mean simply, a grocery store that provides healthy real food options to families, provided from local or sustainable growers, whenever possible.

Imagine the immediate and tangible benefits these grocery stores might yield for children and whole communities. The average business person might find the proposition financially risky. But you…YOU Bill, don’t need to worry about that. Imagine opening healthy food options all over the country to communities whose food choices for a 2 mile radius might often be limited to corner markets, fast food chains and liquor stores. And it would grow the local economy through employment and school children would be given the fundamental physiological tools for growth, development, and learning.

Why not Bill? Isn’t this better than funneling billions to other non-profits, corporations, charter schools, and lobbying efforts to wield a mighty “behind the scenes” hand, completely re-crafting the education of all of us all in your likeness?  Does that really serve OUR interests?

Or does it serve yours? Isn’t public education really little more your version of Frye boots? Is Common Core your educational version of Monsanto? Who really are you helping?

I double-dog-dare you— open some grocery stores instead of opening more charter schools. Help families feed their children healthy foods instead asking us to force feed them a dubious curriculum in school.

Call my bluff, Bill. Show me I am wrong. Open a chain of grocery stores. Please?