Archive for October, 2013

Mythbusters (2)

This piece is written to help clarify many misunderstandings about who designed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), who supports it, and who opposes it. These clarification are necessary for any sustainable “coalition of the sane” to work together to dismantle it. I am not attacking my Conservative friends here. I think many of us from all sides the political spectrum can find enough common ground, built on a reality of facts, and to work together so long as we have shared visions and goals.

But if you are one of those persons (or groups) who is promoting any of these myths I listed here I have a request: Stop it. You’re scaring people. And you are disrupting the opportunities for others to develop any collaborative informed, fact-driven efforts to fight for public schools and our children. Expounding on these myths does nothing but lend fodder to pro CCSS corporate reformers to discredit the opposition to CCSS. Ignorance and fear are not the elements upon which a sustainable movement can be built.

There are folks (aka myth makers) who might not like progressive values or ideals. That’s fine. I am not asking anyone to like them. But I humbly request we remain clear that progressives (like many conservatives) historically have been, and are, opposed to Common Core and other tentacles of education reform.

If you are someone perpetuating these myths to communities or parents you’d be better off telling them to duck and cover beneath a school desk because the atomic bomb is coming. It’s 2013. Welcome to the world of (inter)nationalized/corporate-dominated interests. It defies traditional left/right political bifurcations, and breeds itself on a philosophy of greed and power. And it’s happy to see you waste energy attacking the wrong “enemy” (unless of course, in keeping with the ideology of ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich, this is truly your goal).

Myth #1: CCSSS was written/created by Bill Ayers (or anyone else from the “radical” left):

This is not a curricular reform crafted by Bill Ayers or anyone on “the left.” I cannot find his name anywhere on any documents for authorship or financial support of CCSS.
What I do find is record of him saying that Race to the Top is a debacle and that federal top- down reform is wrong.

Rethinking Schools likewise has been listed as a “dangerous” text indicted (associated with) in the CCSS agenda when in fact they devoted an entire issue to criticizing CCSS.

Some sites  I have found even implicate brilliant, dedicated, highly respected, and passionate pro public education advocates such as Deborah Meier and Jonathan Kozol. Identifying the existence of lame ass attempts at the CCSS to pay “homage” to certain ideals like social justice and equity, which might reflect the values of these individuals is not precisely a smoking gun for indicting them in the actual creation of CCSS. In fact both Meier and Kozol have been very vocal opponents of CCSS! Maybe you don’t like their views -but stop implicating them in a reform they clearly oppose merely to serve your own ideological agenda.

If you really want to know who wrote the standards, rather than insinuate or implicate people simply because you don’t like them, just go to the website that identifies the list of who wrote CCSS. For a full list of who DID write the CCSS click here.

Why don’t these myth makers go after Jeb bush and Rupert Murdoch? Their names are littered across the pro Common Core websites- the money trail between them and CCSS are public record and their interests are clearly intertwined. CCSS was in the works by the Business Roundtable before Obama broke ground in the White House.

A summary of CCSS authors includes about 30 individuals who work (mostly) for one of five major entities: Achieve, the College Board, ACT, America’s Choice, or Student Achievement Partners.  While I can’t speak to each of their individual political associations, I can clearly see how the groups they represent will profit hand over fist. Say what you want about leftist ideologies, greed is not one of the motivating values.

Myth #2:  Achieve , Bill Gates or any other DC “think tanks” are “progressive” entities. Stop interchanging the terms “left” or “progressive” with a neoliberal agenda! Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Business Roundtable are neo-liberal (if not flat out Conservative) idealists. Even Paulo Freire, poster child for the progressive left rails against the neoliberal agenda.

Here’s a dictionary definition of “neo liberal”: a modern politico-economic theory favoring free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, etc.


Myth #3
: Suggestions for a national data base to own children’s data was developed by a “communist” agenda. Now on this one, conservatives have my sympathy. I can appreciate why this appears to be socialist or communist because of the word “nationalized.” But please do some more homework.  A 1950’s high school text book understanding of communism will not help you accurately understand the complexity of federal and corporate relationships or motives. Achieve is not a progressive group. It is a neoliberal group, as are all the other so-called “liberal” think tanks and corporations involved with CCSS. The rest are card- carrying members of American Legislative Exchange Council. Achieve itself is funded largely by members of ALEC which is a conservative group dedicated to promoting conservative values. In spite of their lip service to opposing CCSS, their finger prints are all over it. 

The only socialist organizations that I have found are opposed to this federal intrusion as much as any right wing ideologue.

It feels very “Brave New World-y” and I agree with the suggestion that these efforts (CCSS reform policies) have global implications-but they’re not communist in their roots. They are attempts at corporate-government capitalist global interventions. Here’s where the neoliberal ideologies rears its head once again.

While I am not defending the federal government as victims or mere patsies in this game, because they are equally guilty, we must acknowledge they are not working alone either.

One of the key tenets of a neoliberal agenda is:

PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed”, (or I would add, false “liberal”- leaning claims to help greatly under-served children) “privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

Who is profiting from such data mining? Is it the United Socialists of America? Oh wait…they don’t even exist. Who does want data mining? Conservative Tea Party darling Rupert Murdoch, among others, are contracting to mine the data and profit handsomely from it and garner control over our children’s private data.

According to Class Size Matters: Data “is to be stored on a data cloud run by Amazon.com, with an operating system by Wireless/Amplify, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. InBloom Inc. plans to share this highly sensitive information with software companies and other for-profit vendors.”

Maybe he didn’t get the memo that this was a communist overthrow?

Myth #4: CCSS makes learning more “subjective”/ “collaborative” with an aim toward social justice, equity, and a socialist indoctrination. Maybe the writers of CCSS were trying to throw a bone to the progressive movement using language they wanted to hear in order to sell them a bad bill of goods. But in spite of the sound bites some myth-makers are paying attention to in order to make this claim, it is fallible for a few reasons. First off, (and I am not defending CSSS here)… how does the use of the words “equity” or “equality” become tantamount to socialism? The word “equal” is used no fewer than 24 times in The Declaration of Independence written by our Founding Fathers.

The attacks on Dewey make no sense to me either. Such “progressive” education philosophies actually attempt to disrupt hegemony or oppression by calling for learning that is student –centered, so that individuals are FREE to THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Wouldn’t an open-ended process that embraces children for their INDIVIDUALITY be far more reflective of American ideals? (note—I don’t believe for a moment that CCSS actually does this-such an approach cannot exist alongside curriculum driven by high stakes testing). Some Tea Party-sponsored curricular recommendations call for “back to basics” or one- size- fits- all mode of fact delivery, and a SINGLE version of history- ironically, teaching single versions of history, which silence any dissent or critique are far more endorsed by communist nations like Russia and China. Whereas democratic societies thrive on dissent and multiple points of view or voices.

So if that’s what you’re worried about, you’d be better off stepping aside and allowing CCSS to carry on-it will do more to destroy student centered free thinking than you could ever dream of. The focus on CCSS is not on a touchy-feely social justice approach to learning, but instead aims to make students “career and college ready” to “compete in a capitalistsupported global economy.”  In the words of CCSS supporter Chester Finn (former CEO of IBM and a card carrying Republican) the national standards make students, “readier for college, readier to get good jobs, readier to compete in the global economy.”

CCSS enforces a “narrowing” or the curriculum, driven by high stakes standardized testing. This is easy to discern when examining the facts (rather than reading “into” standards as if one were reading tea leaves or a horoscope). The CCSS were written by corporations, for corporations to shape (and control) the future workers of America (aka children) to fit their corporate image.

And by the way. In regards to many of those things these myth creators fear are being infused into CCSS like social justice, culturally relevant pedagogy, and anti-racist perspectives? I am for all of those things. And I am opposed to CCSS. So it concerns me that many of the brilliant advocates who are against CCSS are being “demonized” by myth makers, manufacturing their supposed affiliation with it; possibly a strategy by the myth makers to alienate parents and communities from associating with them or their views, and to cement their own position for alternatives to the CCSS?

So those of us in the “coalition of the sane” need to focus our shared energies not only on ending CCSS and the other tentacles of ed reform such as high stakes testing and data-mining, but we must double down on our efforts to articulate and prepare for what we envision for public education when this current policy nightmare is over, lest we wake up only to face even more nightmarish policies.

 

colemansherman

It’s pretty widely known by now that American Federation of Teachers (AFT) received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leading many to question the motives of AFT leadership in their silent acquiescence to the gods of Common Core.

But apparently there may be more reasons as well. My friend and trusted colleague Bess Altwerger shared some information with me and asked if I would include it in my blog. I was happy to oblige. This information is not new. It’s been published before. But perhaps it has not been circulated widely enough. So I am re-examining it here.

Once upon a time, David Coleman, poster child for the Common Core applied for, but could not get, a teaching job in New York City despite his Yale credentials.

Upon returning to New York, he applied to a high school teaching job and was turned down. Instead, he worked for consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he advised public schools and became a fixture at New York City Department of Education meetings.”

Are you struck by the same thing that I was? The sick humor in the fact that the man who could not even get a teaching position has become the “leader” in shaping the educational landscape? I suppose those who cannot teach punish the rest of us who do.

Anyway. So after a cozy position serving in the area of education consulting for McKinsey and Co. (a global consulting firm whose mantra is “Big Data” for education reform), Coleman created his own position in his own company called the Grow Network (later sold to McGraw Hill, textbook publishing giant with a HUGE foot in the CCSS door).

During this time Coleman became BFF’s with his “self-proclaimed mentor” David Sherman.

“David Sherman, (at that time) held the post of Consultant in the office of the AFT President Local 94 in Oak Lawn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.”

Apparently the two became fast friends. The story goes something like this:

After one meeting, Coleman, then in his 20s, approached Sherman. ‘I don’t know you, but I want to introduce myself, because you seem to be the only person who knew what he was talking about,’ Sherman remembers Coleman saying. They stayed in touch. In 1999, when Zimba and Coleman developed their education startup, the Grow Network, Coleman turned to Sherman to tap into the grassroots involvement of teachers.

Naturally, as a result, according to Ohanian: “Coleman speaks fondly of the AFT … He says ‘The AFT teachers took the lead in shaping many aspects of the standards.’ Coleman’s name is all over the AFT website.

Coleman then moved on to create Student Achievement Partners, a not-for-profit that now helps states implement the Common Core.

Now he’s the president of the College Board.

According to Andy Smarick, a Republican education policy expert “Very few people in America today are having a bigger influence on what kids are learning than David Coleman.

I guess being unqualified to even get a job teaching in a real classroom can get you far in shaping the lives of those you’ve never even taught. But I guess if you’ve got the high ranking officials from AFT by your side, that’s good enough. Susan Ohanian illustrated this back in 2011:

Take a look at what David Sherman and the AFT are up to in supporting the Common Core in 2011 …Attention AFT members: Your money is paying for your own destruction.”

But it hasn’t hurt Sherman much, who has moved up the promotional ranks as well. He now serves on the Teachscape Board of Directors, and serves as a consultant in the Office of the President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Washington, DC, where in 2011 he was coordinating the AFT’s work in preparation for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

So as the Common Core pushes ahead at full steam, in spite of massive local and national resistance from parents, teachers, and communities across the political spectrum, what is AFT’s response? According to Sherman:

The conservative right is using it as an example of government control, a break with states’ rights — but it’s voluntary.”

Sherman, who now works as a special assistant to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers added, “People like Ravitch are saying it has all of the testing and blah blah blah. I don’t go along with that, either.”

“And blah blah blah?” … Really?  That’s the leadership response to a system of reform that has used high stakes testing and “blah blah blah” to destroy community schools, fire teachers, and abuse students????

At a 2012 panel on standardized testing and the Common Core hosted by The Brookings Institution, Coleman gave a shout out to his buddy:

But David Sherman, who’s in the audience who’s a longtime mentor of mine, has really with great principal led the dimension of the American Federation, the finest parts of the American Federation of Teachers, which were competed to deeper learning to common high quality standards for kids, for knowledge in kids learning, for thoughtful assessment driving, thoughtful action, and I really applaud him for that. I’m so glad he’s here.

I suppose it’s much easier to take a stance like that when you’re the self-proclaimed mentor of the man whose face is front and center in the creation and promotion of the Common Core. Don’t let a silly thing like selling your own union members up the river into the machine of education reform stand in the way of a good friendship.

But let’s remember.  It’s not Sherman’s union! The union belongs to its members, as all unions do (or should). I’m a believer in the power of unions. I’m not a big supporter of sell outs. It’s up to the members to fight for it, for their profession and for their students. Drinking the Kool-aid is optional.

 

 

duckandcover

Can’t ALEC Make Up Its Mind? Or….Has It?

Just three years ago I had never heard of The American Legislative Exchange Council, the uber right wing neoconservative think tank that forges pro corporate policies in secret with their legislative buddies. But for those of us studied in the ways and means of education reform, we have come to learn how deeply entrenched ALEC’s roots are in the rounds of state level and national policies that are laying waste to public education. Mercedes Schneider exposes this most eloquently.

ALEC’s “model” bills can be seen etched carefully into state level policies that call for:

-more (corporate led, hedge fund invested) charter schools,

-more vouchers draining the funds greatly needed by starving public schools into the pockets of “venture philanthropists”

-the call for new teacher evaluations (rolling out the red carpet for union busting TFA faux teachers, and Pearson’s domination of the educational/testing system)

-replacing brick and mortar schools with more online classrooms. Is it a coincidence that Mickey Revenaugh, CEO of Connections Academy sat as the co-chair of the ALEC education subcommittee or that ALEC member K12 Inc was represented at Arnefest 2013 (aka Education Nation)?

-obsessive amounts of data collection via the new high stakes tests, lobbying efforts led by Pearson, political push by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, and “research” done by big data gurus McKinsey and Co.

and Common Core “State” standards. (CCSS)

Yes. Common Core. Even though there is the voice of opposition to CCSS within ALEC, their involvement is plainly evident to anyone not living under a rock. The financial investment in CCSS of right wing politically conservative groups such as Jeb Bush, Eli Broad, Walton, Lumina, K-12 Inc, and Wireless Generation are but a few. After all, let’s not forget that it was George Bush who passed NCLB, the first federal effort to link school financing to standardized test performance.

How can the role that Rupert Murdoch (owner of tea party’s darling Fox News and owner of inBloom in concert with Bill Gates) be ignored?

As one website comments: “Besides New York and Louisiana, inBloom has contracts with seven other states. All are part of the Shared Learning Collaborative, a pilot program set up by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to help implement Common Core standards through the tracking of student data. The Council of Chiefs, also a non-profit, is composed of the heads of America’s state school systems who work together with corporations to collectively design education policy, in mold of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Now I do not believe in any way that ALEC represents the beliefs of your average politically Conservative “every man.” I’m sure, my own father, a die-hard Conservative who graduated from Columbia University and served as editor in chief for a major magazine, and who voted for Reagan, had never even heard of ALEC up until the day he passed away.

Nor do I believe that Bill Gates (touted by Conservatives as a “progressive”) reflects many (if any) of the progressive or liberal values of your average left-leaning voter. Claiming to “save the world” by forcing impoverished nations and even your own country into policies that are modeled after your own self-serving corporate image is NOT a progressive value!

Greed is the bi partisan motivator and ALEC’s agenda trumps democracy no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. As Piascik reminds us: “Liberals who think the Democrats are a significant alternative and right-wingers who believe the Democrats have been taken over by Marxist-Leninists would do well to consider that (1) more wealth was redistributed from the 99 percent to the super rich under Clinton than Reagan and (2) President Obama, with his cohort of Goldman Sachs advisers and GE executives, is carrying out virtually the same policies as his predecessor.

No. The likes of Bill Gates and ALEC corporations might use some of the language embraced by their respective political parties. But they belong in a class all their own. In the words of Diane Ravitch, they belong to the “billionaire’s boys club.”

So theirs is a billionaire ideology. It’s largely led by neoconservative values which demonizes the “progressive” values because nothing stands in the way of unfettered profits (at the expense of human and environmental health and well-being) more than mandated oversight or restrictions. Regulations of any kind for fair labor laws, a clean environment and human safety …they just slow things down. Nothing spoils a day of record industrial profits more than the messy reality of climate change. It’s far easier to legislate school curricula that will teach the next generation of children to deny it as well, and then carry on with business as usual. ALEC’s ideological zealots sell everyday average Conservatives the value of “freedom” and “individual rights,” when what they really mean is freedom for them to trample upon the individual rights of the rest of us. That gets lost in the fine print.

And billionaire so-called “progressives” (as Gates is labelled), are right on board with them. In the name of “equity” and “human rights” they launch global campaigns of profit, dominance and control. How else can one explain Gates’ claim to “help all children” through education reform, with solutions that include selling his OWN products, attaching children to wires, biometric bracelets, and other frightening Orwellian invasive data tracking systems? Is that his definition of fighting for civil or human rights? Maybe in the 6th circle of hell it is.

Piascik summarizes it thusly: The Greed Party creates illusions of blaming the “other,” which “is the super rich’s trick of fomenting divisions within the populace where they might otherwise be united.”

So you might, like me, be scratching your head when you read news reports claiming that opposition to the CCSS is coming from ALEC, even Tea Party, voices.

This is where it gets complicated.

Members of ALEC (representing extremist neo conservative views) are both promoting and opposing Common Core. How does this work?

On the one side you have the ALEC agenda for corporate profit and control: The pro- multinational corporate interest sponsoring the Common Core. Through their efforts many things can or will happen. First, they will get even richer off the backs of public schools, our tax dollars, and our children. Secondly, when bundled as it is in the package of Race to the Top along with the other policies I already mentioned, CCSS will go a long way toward ensuring schools and children “fail” so as to be replaced, managed or owned by private corporate interests. And they’ve made a deal with the Federal government in order to do so. Third, their investments mean they can sway curricular and instructional decisions in ways that favor their visions for future U.S. and global labor markets (career and college ready). I’m sure there are other reasons I’m not mentioning. God only knows what they’ll do with the 400 private data points from millions of children.

On the other side of the playing field you have the ALEC in the guise of the extreme views of the Tea party (created and funded largely by the Koch Brothers)– opposing Common Core for its own (but not too dissimilar) reasons, to which I will come back in a moment.

Now it’s important that I clarify here the differences between people and ideology. I believe in, and I have seen, successful alliances in opposition to the Common Core between groups or individuals from all over the political spectrum. These alliances have put aside now defunct political labels or other differences in favor of five shared goals:

1)      Protecting children’s privacy rights from the “data pirates” (phrase given by Leonie Haimson via Twitter).

2)      Opposing the developmentally inappropriate and harmful effects of the Common Core on our children’s learning.

3)      The desire to fight FOR the possibility of a sustainable and meaningful PUBLIC education for ALL children-by supporting the rights of communities, teachers, and children in forging that vision.

4)      Advocating for greater state and local control; opposing the gross over-reach of the Federal Dept of Education in state and local education policies.

5)      Protecting our democracy from the hands of corporate-controlled decision making.

So here in the land of the sane and the reasonable, we can agree that most conservative-minded parents/activists/educators fighting against CCSS are not trying to sneak in a privatizing (or ideological) agenda and that parents/activists/educators from the progressive side are not trying to brainwash our children with a communist values.

But if you move into the hinterlands beyond the sane and reasonable, you will see the dual face of ALEC rearing its head. I realized this only after I did some research into primary documents crafted by founding members of ALEC.

Meet Paul Weyrich and the Koch Brothers

In 1978, these millionaire magnates set forth to create a group, now known as ALEC, where free market philanthropists, industrialists, and ideologues could bend the ear and sway the minds of national or state level public policy makers in their favor. They have an agenda. And they have a strategy. Their desire to eliminate the Common Core is not reflective of the five goals I outlined previously. Their goal is eerily (or ironically) similar to the one forged by the PRO Common Core ALEC entities.

The Koch brothers founded ALEC and also had a huge hand in the creation of the tea party to one might see how their ideologies are aligned. As a Rolling Stone article explains it: “They don’t oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the holiness of free markets.”

And while many folks of all political stripes oppose the Common Core, we also oppose the bundle reform package it comes wrapped in. In contrast, Koch’s mission to oppose Common Core does not also oppose other education reform measures.

The billionaire Koch Brothers, virulently anti-union, have poured many millions into efforts to push charter schools to replace public schools, to impose a test-based teacher assessment, and bust teacher unions.”

It could be that Scott Walker’s own “about face” move to now oppose the Common Core comes sole at the behest of his buddies Koch, who have been huge supporters of his.

Let’s not forget that “Among the best-known billionaires promoting school choice and privatization are the billionaire Koch brothers, who gained national notoriety during the protests against Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.”

The lesser known but equally important “man behind the ALEC curtain” is Paul Michael Weyrich (1942-2008). In addition to co- founding ALEC he also co-founded the conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation, and the Free Congress Foundation. He coined the term “moral majority”, the name of the political action group Moral Majority that he co-founded in 1979 with Jerry Falwell.

I hope my readers can see where this is going….

See this- according to The Voter Legislative Transparency Project

(it’s long…. but please read it carefully!):

In his essay “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement Heubeck (Weyrich’s protégé) proposes a transition to the new elite domination of society … into a political force that can move the New Traditionalists into the position of ultimate power in our society.  Heubeck lays out a three-step process:

There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture.

Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.

We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest.

We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime. We will take advantage of every available opportunity to spread the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the existing state of affairs. For example, we could have every member of the movement put a bumper sticker on his car that says something to the effect of ‘Public Education is Rotten; Homeschool Your Kids.’ This will change nobody’s mind immediately; no one will choose to stop sending his children to public schools immediately after seeing such a bumper sticker; but it will raise awareness and consciousness that there is a problem. Most of all, it will contribute to a vague sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction with existing society. We need this if we hope to start picking people off and bringing them over to our side. We need to break down before we can build up. We must first clear away the flotsam of a decayed culture.

In terms of our long term prospects, because we will be seen as a purely defensive movement, not interested in imposing our views on anyone, only interested in being left alone, we will surely gain the sympathy of the public. The dominant culture will see its life-force being sapped, and it will grow terrified. It will do whatever it takes to destroy its assailant. This will lead to the perception that the dominant leftist culture is empty, hollow, desperate, and has lost its mandate to rule, because its only basis for authority is coercion, much like the communist East Bloc. Sympathy from the American people will increase as our opponents try to persecute us, which means our strength will increase at an accelerating rate due to more defections–and the enemy will collapse as a result.

I’m the enemy of the elite apparently. Oh well. And I’m such a people-pleaser.

I think that the education reform narrative (drawing from Naomi Klein’s “manufactured crisis”) of “our nation is lagging behind” and ‘we are a nation at risk” creates a sense of instability and panic. The reformers use language like “status quo” to attack teachers defending what they believe to be good and right for their children and their schools. They use guerilla tactics like shutting down hundreds of schools in one fell swoop and replacing them with poor performing but highly profitable McCharters. The insane and chaotic untested and forced implementation of Common Core standards are certainly keeping public school teachers and children off balance.

ALEC loves to follow its own playbooks doesn’t it? Why not learn from “the master?”

And the cherry atop their cherry bomb cake? It’s to use an anti-common core rhetoric NOT to protect children and public education as a democratic good. No. It’s to hijack anti common core efforts in order to demonize “progressives” and to (using their fear tactics as Weyrich suggests) claim that Common Core isn’t just wrong, or developmentally inappropriate, or selling our children to corporate interests. No. It’s because it leads to communism. Or fascism. Or both. Some websites I’ve visited seem to think the two ideologies are either synonymous or interchangeable. Someone didn’t take Political Theory 101 I guess.

So, it CCSS really “turning our public school system into its own, blood-sucking, Communist training camp?”

I don’t care what it seems like to the tea party. Because if this were in fact true it would indeed be an historical epic moment: The first communist takeover in history wholly funded and led by free-market loving, American-flag-waving, neo-liberal billionaire CAPITALISTS.

That’s is, unless the avoidance of this fact were a deliberate evasion of the truth, replaced with a false narrative in order to hijack the trajectory of the collaborative efforts of opposition to the Common Core for one’s own extremist ideological purposes.

So when you see ALEC’s agenda on both sides of the Common Core debate remember Weyrich’s words:

“The next conservatism should renew the call to disestablish the Federal department of Education and leave local schools to local communities. If we don’t stop it, soon we will find that it doesn’t matter how we educate our children, their minds will still be poisoned by this anti-Western, anti-Christian ideology”

What Do You Think?

I wonder- is there some schism in the inner ranks of ALEC between the global profiteers supporting CCSS and the ideological ranks opposing ALEC- now fighting with each other?

Or are they simply gaming the system? Is it a deliberate strategy to confuse and destroy?

I don’t know.

Either way ALEC wins of WE don’t remain aware, vocal, UNITED, and active.

Either they will win by pushing CCSS with its tentacles of other reform policies to the bitter end…

Or they will win… IF, after eliminating CCSS we allow another ALEC- sponsored education policy to take its place.

Either way … the education reform initiatives (including the CCSS as a vital facet) will have led to a breaking down of one of the cornerstones of our democratic society: the right to a free, meaningful, and sustainable public education system for all. A right, which by the way, we have yet to fulfill or fully realize for all our citizens… but I for one will never give up on its potential. And I will never sell it to the highest bidder.

That’s Not My Resistance

Posted: October 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

wizard of oz

A recent article from Politico states that funding for certain groups opposed to Common Core standards is coming from heavy hitting right wing neoliberal bastions:

“A spokeswoman for the Charles Koch Foundation said it hasn’t made any grants specifically aimed at the Common Core, but tax documents show the Koch brothers have supported many of the advocacy groups working against the standards.”

I have no idea what game these billionaire free market ALEC- associated corporate monsters are playing. But the Koch Brothers do NOT support nor reflect MY resistance to the Common Core!

There are parents and groups from conservative flanks that oppose Common Core. I agree with some of them and disagree with others. For example, I do not believe that CCSS is a plot launched by “progressives” to brainwash children into leftist thinking. As a progressive myself who has been studying “liberal” curriculum theory and policy for 15 years I can guarantee you that this was not our idea! Bill Gates does NOT count as a “liberal.” He’s a billionaire. There’s a difference. Pretending to “save the world” by manipulating global initiatives created in your own self serving image does not make one a “liberal.” He doesn’t belong to us.

My opposition to the Common Core is grounded in the facts as I know them to be. They are not a matter of my interpretation.

That corporate interests from all political flanks both Republican and Democrat created this beast is a fact. Follow the money. The trail leads (in part) to ALEC associated organizations. It was crafted and promoted by many right wing organizations like the Broad Foundation, Lumina Foundation and the Walton Foundation among many others.

That neoliberal agenda to dismantle public education, bust unions, and turn education into a free market enterprise is the palimpsest upon which CCSS is written. Even K12 Inc, a member of ALEC is big on Common Core because of the money it will bring in.

The Koch Brothers are rulers supreme over the ALEC agenda. Is opposing Common Core their inroad toward an agenda to dismantle public education?

My opposition is not THEIR opposition. I am opposed to Common Core because it is destroying public education. It hurts children. It sells them, their learning, their futures, and their 400 points of private data to the highest corporate bidder. The federal agenda backed by big private dollars erodes the democratic principles upon which public education ought to be built.

The language of “civil rights” and “equity” have been hijacked by Arne and Co. Theirs is a false narrative.

And now opposition to the Common Core is perhaps being hijacked to- by the Koch Brothers.  Is this media brigade to mis represent why many of us are opposed to CCSS and who precisely is in this battle an attempt by Arne and the reform gang to discredit opposition? Is it being used to scare parents and teachers away from resistance?

I don’t know.

But it’s time to make our voices heard- voices and actions grounded in a clear and research-based argument for why Common Core is the train wreck that is.  I don’t believe that the Koch Brother represent all Conservative resistance. Alliances across the aisles are being formed all over this country-bringing together parents and community members in ways that should be applauded. We can at times and in certain places find common ground. Usually it’s grounded in what matters most: our children.

But when you have corporate reformers like Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal suddenly opposing Common Core ya gotta wonder about their motives. Look at their records of being in bed with the corporate agenda. Maybe they’re backing off Common Core but no one can refute their association with efforts to destroy and privatize public education.

Because I can say for damn sure that simply because they oppose what I oppose doesn’t that we are even remotely operating under the same goals or visions for America’s children or the future of public education.

Whatever you call your political or ideological affiliation-we must make sure that the real message about how and why the Common Core is destroying public education for my child and for all children remains at the forefront of the public narrative, lest we find ourselves in a place even more frightening than one crafted by the Common Core. Education policy led by the Koch Brothers is a far deeper end of a nightmare I cannot fathom. But the alternative is not to support Common Core. The alternative is to fight for what we value and believe for public education. And to take back our message. And take it to the streets. Our fight is NOT funded by corporate billionaires. It’s grounded in what’s morally and ethically right for our communities and our children, and our right to create the public schools that ALL children deserve. Keep corporate interest of any kind out of our efforts!

I don’t fight for billionaires.

applemckinsey

Education reformers love to use a lot of words like “accountability,” “rigorous,” and ….”stakeholders.”

What is a stakeholder? In the corporate world a stakeholder makes decisions about the products, and how and what to sell to the consumers. A stakeholder could be an accountant, group, organization, member or system who affects or can be affected by an organization’s actions.

Who exactly are reformers referring to when they use the word stakeholder? Their empty and meaningless rhetoric would have us believe that they value children as stakeholders.

But who’s got the voice?

Who’s got the influence to shape education policy?

Apparently students’ needs and community input mean little, if the cast of characters at Education Nation are any indication. Some student town hall dog and pony show notwithstanding, what makes someone a “stakeholder” is their ability to influence decisions and to benefit as a result of these decisions. So who exactly does Education Nation and education “reformers” VALUE?

Perhaps education reformers should just get honest and use the word they really mean. Stockholders.

Stockholders are stakeholders. And it’s stockholders who are the face of Education Nation, and whose interests are driving education reform policy. Just look at who’s got the Education Nation secret decoder ring:

Lloyd Blankfein. He is the chairman of Goldman Sachs (so of course you can see here his logical connections with curriculum and pedagogy). Once more for the cheap seats in the back who might have known this already but “In late 2010, Goldman Sachs announced it would lend $25 million to develop 16 charter schools in New York and New Jersey. The news release said the loans would be “credit-enhanced by funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education” (Ravitch).

Who else does Education Nation consider to be an important “stakeholder”?

Robert Wrubel. He is Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President, Apollo Group whose flagship institution is University of Phoenix. The policy push for online learning won’t hurt him will it?

Who (or what) are Students?

They’re either consumers or products. Students as consumers are merely there to buy the products that profit-driven testing and curriculum companies are selling. In fact, they are forced to be consumers of a corporate “brand” of public education that is supposed to be freely available to all.

Or worse, students are products. They are products being molded and sold to the corporate marketplace. How often do we hear statements like “Schools need to produce students that…” in order to “meet the needs of ..”. Students are “produced” to the service of corporations.

So who else are the major stakeholders (stockholders) in education reform? Corporate millionaires. They’re the ones crafting the policies “in their image.”

The for profit online company K12 Inc is another excellent example of “stakeholders”  (stockholder) in the Common Core which comes with its own long line of online education policies and products.

Lamar Smith Representitve from Texas is a shareholder in K-12 Inc. Not coincidentally, Texas is one of the states that passed the ALEC designed The “Virtual Public Schools Act” bill.

ALEC has Stake/Stock in Common Core

In spite of its protestations to the contrary, ALEC has a vested interest in Common Core. They just need to pretend to their largely conservative constituents that they don’t, because of the tremendous backlash against the Common Core coming from conservative parents. But facts are facts. Common Core is not only part and parcel of Jeb Bush’s agenda and his brainchild Foundation for Excellent Education which is a member of ALEC. Then there’s the Walton Foundation and the Broad Foundation.

Most interesting is K12 Inc which is active in crafting the behind the scenes ALEC legislation being rolled out around the country (to their financial benefit of course) also is involved with Common Core.

In 2011 Ohanian wrote:

The K12 Inc list of advisors is telling. Read the small print at the The Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project and you get Barbara Byrd-Bennett, also on the Education Advisory Committee of K12 Inc. There’s our future: K12 Inc. delivering the Common Core Standards, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, into every home in America. Now the tab will be picked up by the U. S. taxpayer. . . and carried on the backs of our children. 

K12 Inc is directly interconnected with Goldman Sachs. Let’s not forget the front and center starring role that Goldman Sachs got at Education Nation. Who else serves in their ranks? Previously, K-12 Inc’s Mr. Packard formerly worked for McKinsey & Company, as well as for Goldman Sachs in mergers and acquisitions.

Packard raked in over $16 million in compensation from 2008 to 2012 as CEO of K12 Inc. Almost all of that money came from U.S. taxpayers.

Craig Barrett, who sits on the K12 Inc Board of Directors currently serves as Co-chairman of Achieve, Inc. the organization largely responsible for the Common Core. How many enormous yellow caution flags do we need here??????

Who Else?

John Holdren, Senior Vice President of Content and Curriculum at K-12 Inc, came to K12 Inc from the Core Knowledge Foundation, where he was vice president and director of research and publications. Mr. Holdren (along with E. D. Hirsch, Jr.) oversaw development of the Core Knowledge Sequence and co-edited the Core Knowledge Series of resource books

Let’s not forget that Pearson, the largest delivery system for Common Core materials and tests owns Connections Academy which is also a member of ALEC. They have a great deal of stock invested in ALEC legislation that promotes online learning.

Brief Recap

So one of the most powerful organizations in the world, ALEC, has an education subcommittee run by millionaires and for profit education corporations who are crafting behind the scenes legislation to sell our public schools to the highest bidders. ALEC is deeply enmeshed with Common Core, which has been imposed wholesale upon nearly three quarters of the states in the United States. And ALEC still pretends to be opposed to it? Yet they stand to profit handsomely from it.

And I contend that the Common Core is a Trojan horse being used to usher in various other policies and practices that will result in precisely what ALEC wants: privatized public education delivered through online systems (in which classrooms and unionized teachers are not needed) and in which corporations profit at the expense of children who are little more than the product they will sell or the consumers forced to buy their shitty products. What is most astounding to me is how ALEC pretends its philosophy is the elimination of federal oversight of corporate interests, and elimination of whole programs like the EPA and US Dept of Ed. They eschew the corporate welfare model, or at least they don’t like poor people who “collect welfare.” But yet these companies are making billions of dollars bilked out of tax payer coffers to line their own pockets. While our children, our schools, and our democracy withers on the vine.

But rest assured you can put stock in Education Nation to guarantee they have their stakeholders interests at heart!

Stuck in the Middle With You

Posted: October 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU

Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

(Stealers Wheel)

 stuck

There’s been a lot of confusion over what the Common Core is or is not. That’s understandable given its lack of transparency and back-room corporate involvement, misuse of “social justice” rhetoric and outright denials of its attachment to other corporate model reform policies which seek to privatize schools. Even some well-intended advocates for Common Core believe they are fighting for equity in otherwise underfunded and disenfranchised communities, hoping to provide students with quality education and a leveled playing field. In absence of more publicly available truths about Common Core, I empathize with them … though I disagree that Common Core will do anything to help these same communities, or help our children in general. So naturally teachers and parents feel boondoggled and unsure about how or why to support it.

But what’s even more confusing is the landscape of opposition to Common Core.

Ohanian’s recent blog  listing the ABC’s of Common Core Resistance really struck me. Per usual, she leaves me thinking! She notes that most opposition is from the politically conservative right wing. It would seem that the largest most vocal opposition to CCSS is coming from the right. She states, “It makes me wonder: Where are the progressives? I fear they talk only to each other and don’t make much effort to bring others into the anti-Common Core fold. I hope some progressives will study some of the sites below and maybe find some ways to spreading the message.

If that’s the case, either in fact or in appearance, it leaves me to wonder, why IS it that the uber-conservative effort to fight this, largely in favor of their own ideological viewpoints, is outweighing the voices of progressives many of whom have been fighting education reform ever since NCLB? Some of us have been fighting hard. I know this. But if we don’t start making more noise, more public impact, I worry about what will result from that. I don’t wish to diminish the efforts or voice of any group opposed to the Common Core-more power to you. But I am calling to progressives against Common Core here to increase our battle cry. As Elbow illustrates, “While the tea party mounts its well-funded, organized attack on Common Core educational standards, the attack from the left has been kicked to the sidelines.”

As a progressive who is opposed to Common Core I struggle with the overgeneralized notion that any and all collaborative resistance is good resistance. I must state emphatically here that while I believe that collaborative efforts between “the left” and “the right” (defined in a myriad of ways) are both possible and necessary, I do not agree with the idea that in order to do so we must put aside our differences. I am not talking about differences in our “labels.” Names like Democrat or Republican mean very little in identifying what one’s personal values are either for or against education “reform.” Of course, alliances can be formed across the political aisle! Our differences need not be an obstacle to our efforts. If Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush can make strange bedfellows, then why can’t we?

However, whether or not we can cast aside our “differences” depends on what those differences are.

For me, this depends upon the differences upon which we agree to disagree. In order to move forward with any real and sustainable alliances, I think we have to put our differences on the table and be transparent about what we identify as the problem and what we identify as alternatives or solutions. Rather than “cast aside” differences for the time being to defeat Common Core, only to face each other as “opponents” once CCSS is eliminated, I’d rather forge sustainable and transparent alliances now that can not only defeat the foe but collectively agree upon “what happens next” and work toward that as well.

If you are a “progressive” (ignoring that I’m using a descriptor as a noun here) like me, opposed to the Common Core I wonder, how can we, or should we, negotiate the following differences:

1)      Identifying the causes and problems: Some, of course not all, conservative oriented criticism of the Common Core blame a “progressive indoctrination” as the effort which spawned the Common Core. Michelle Malkin criticizes the Common Core for its “progressive designs to measure and track children’s ‘competencies’ in ‘recognizing bias in sources,’ ‘flexibility,’ ‘cultural awareness and competence,’ ‘appreciation for diversity,’ ‘empathy,’ ‘perspective taking, trust, [and] service orientation.’”

Regardless of one’s interpretation of it from a personal POV, anyone versed in the history of curriculum and policy knows that Common Core was spawned from the roots of the “Core Knowledge” ideology of decades past which aims to get away from “progressive” values of “education theorists’ like Paulo Freire, William Ayers, and Jonathan Kozol.”

According to Porter-Magee and Stern :

“The goal of the Common Core is to expose… all children to …a strategy grounded in what education scholar E. D. Hirsch has shown: a broad, content-rich curriculum can reduce the achievement gap between the middle class and the poor.” In fact, Hirsch is highly critical of a curricula championed by John Dewey and other Progressives.

So which is it? Is Common Core a piece of “liberal propaganda” as criticized by the right, or is it a “back to basics” conservative curriculum as criticized by the left? Or have we all been boondoggled?

And in my efforts to fight back, can I work collaboratively with folks who blame folks like me, progressives, for the problem- one which ironically I have been fighting against for decades?

2)      In keeping with item #1, there are numerous progressive voices that have been vocally opposed to federally mandated top down policies, forewarning us back in the 1990’s of what was going to happen if we didn’t fight to stop them. I’m pleased that opposition to the Common Core has finally been addressed more publicly in the mainstream media, but largely supported opposition is recognized as “Conservative” or from the Tea Party, while progressives like Michael Apple, Alfie Kohn, Maxine Greene, and Peter Taubman were fighting similar policies even before the Tea Party was in existence. In the absence of a louder or more visible presence in the resistance movement, many people in the general public automatically are beginning to assume that any opposition to Common Core is grounded sole in a conservative ideology.

Take for example the following statement:

“It is hard to conceive of a set of educational purposes that does not include a concern for human freedom and sense of agency in the face of a more and more controlled and administered world.”

Does this criticism of a national curriculum come from Glenn Beck circa 2013? No, it comes from “liberal” scholar Maxine Greene written in 1995 (Releasing the Imagination).

3)      Motive. Can I work with anyone who refers to CCSS as “ObamaCore?” Yes, it’s driven by Obama’s administration. But what about Republican CCSS pimps like Jeb Bush (a member of ALEC), free-market loving Walton Foundation and Broad Foundation, and Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox News)? Working off a shared set of facts, any alliances must be grounded in the concession that CCSS is promoted by both Dems and Reps. My fight against Common Core is not an attempt to discredit the entire Republican party nor to gain influence for my own party (which, by the way, I have none). My fight is against what Ohanian refers to as “the corporate party.”

4)      Do we have agreed upon alternatives? Progressives like myself are not only fighting Common Core (whether it be because of the data tracking, crappy and developmentally inappropriate standards, the corporate profiteering, or all of the above). We are fighting the bundle package of reform of which Common Core is just one facet. We are also fighting against the corporate takeover of public education and attempts to privatize it through ALEC- driven legislation to destroy unions, and use vouchers and charter schools as public school replacements. Even if, or when, CCSS is gone, will my allies still fight with me to promote a sustainable and equitable PUBLIC education for ALL children? Or are you one who believes that “government run” schools should be abolished?

If Texas is any example of what exists in a Common Core vacuum, my choices appear to be either — choice A: Common Core, or choice B: a curriculum of creationism, book-banning, and content that also chooses to deny the history of slavery and the existence of climate change, Thomas Jefferson and a Black President.

I’ll hold out for Choice C.