Archive for May, 2017

Demand … or Be Damned

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

I was invited by Kevin Zeese to contribute something to Popular Resistance a while back, to contribute a call for an action in response to current education reform policies, including but not limited to, any piece of fecal detritus spewed by Betsy Devos and company.

I struggled to formulate a response to that request mostly because my feelings were two-fold: 1) I couldn’t generate any ideas not already being developed by others (i.e. call your state legislator, sign XYZ petition, speak up at PTA meetings etc etc…) and 2) I wasn’t sure where I stood in relationship to ESSA.

Generally speaking, I am opposed to supporting ESSA because of the devil in the details (the ways in which it is opening the flood gates for private interests in the form of vouchers, charters and online providers). And yet, as Trump and the clown car call for the dismantling of the US Department of Education and eliminating federal mandates, I am instinctively opposed to that too- much in the way one might instinctively oppose having a nail driven into their eye (the way I feel about anything attached to Trump’s name or policies). Besides, lets face it: Looking back historically, our track record for actually putting our democratic money where our mouth is, is less than stellar. Between high stakes testing and school to prison pipelines, we have done little in our policies to genuinely support disenfranchised youth and communities. So what are we hanging on to? And, if we let go of what we have, what will be in store for us? And who will decide?

So…. to be, or not to be? That is the question. Call for actions to support ESSA? Or to not support ESSA? That is the question. The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Why? Because RIGHT NOW, either road leads to the same ends, paved by the same people: privatization, profit and corporate ownership of students.

The policy makers that came before Devos (such as Arne Duncan and co.) might not have been so (openly) dim witted as to call for guns in schools to protect against grizzly bears. But education policies under Obama, and Bush before him, and Clinton before him all the way back to Reagan….all have been leading to the same neoliberal agenda. ESSA, as written and supported by Lamar Alexander will lead toward the same outcome that we would arrive it if we oppose or eliminate ESSA (that is, when the alternatives to ESSA are driven by the same policy makers that have been driving education agenda for thirty years).

What haven’t we tried? Rather than putting energy toward choosing sides drawn for us by the same corporate reformers who have been driving the bus for decades, and either being PRO ESSA or opposed to EESA, we should put our energy toward something we haven’t tried yet. DEMANDING, and TAKING DIRECT ACTION TOWARD enacting a system of policies crafted by us: Educators, parents, students and communities, especially and most necessarily, by and with those teachers, parents and students in communities that have been historically marginalized (unfunded and rendered invisible). Why don’t we stop focusing on whether or not to support policies crafted by others (the corporate and political elite), and begin really building from the ground up the demand for an agenda made by the people who live that agenda every day? Our energies and focus of strategic actions need to be redirected.

Why not tell our state and local representatives, union leadership, and boards of education: “Either you write policies that include OUR agenda, or WE-WILL-NOT-VOTE-FOR-YOU.”

It’s not like we haven’t crafted suggestions for system of policies or demands that we COULD use a starting outline. It not like we DON’T have alternatives. We DO. Numerous groups over many years have been advocated for them:

SOS demands for public education in 2012

United Opt Out demands for public education current, and also originally in 2013

BATS demands for public education

And most importantly: The National Student Bill of Rights

I think we’ve got a good start just with these alone. I am sure there are more. They’re all generally demanding the same things, since basic human rights for students and communities are the basic undercurrent of each of them. Within these organizations and other such as the teachers unions who have similar demands (really, rhetoric since they lack actionable substance) there are thousands of people who, if we redirected our focus toward OUR demands and less on debating about their offers, we could make SUBSTANTIAL and SYSTEMIC changes.

I know the first response of my readers  might be “That is just impossible.” Maybe. But it’s becoming increasingly evident that the only alternative to the impossible now is the unimaginable. If we continue on this current course of asking “Mother May I” and buying the solutions sold to us by the same folks who created the problem, we will wind up with the unimaginable.

I would rather fight for the impossible then accept the unimaginable. What about you?

Image result for education data mining

Dear New York Times,

I know that there’s a greater chance of me winning the lottery than there is in you actually publishing what I have to say in an Op Ed. So let’s pretend for a moment this response is actually IN the New York Times and not my little blog, and that millions of readers. the people who actually need to hear this stuff, will become aware of the facts the author, Ms. Singer,  so carefully avoided in her piece “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”  It read like a blatant “paid for by friend of Google” advertisement, because unlike a serious piece of journalism, this multi-page journey into the fairy tale between schools and the tech industry, carefully left out research from the medical profession (pediatricians) or data on whether or not the technological dominance in classrooms is actually GOOD for students.

As Susan Ohanian put it in a recent tweet, the article should have been called “Public schools pay Google $30 per device to train kids to love Google.”

We know these new tech-school partnerships have been great for the tech industry. The NYT article crows about how Google, not educators, are now dominating the conversation over what should be taught in the class and how. Think about that. Tech moguls are dictating what and how children should learn, not educators, nor child development specialists. And their conclusions conveniently seem to benefit their own corporations. What an amazing coincidence that is.

Yes. It’s the 21st century. Yes, computers and tech dominate the future of labor and industry. Yes, both my children own tablets or i-phones. But using something is different than having the industry dominate our children’s waking hours out of (and now) inside of school which adds up to about 10 hours a day, five days a week, from kindergarten through ….adulthood? Reams of private information and data being siphoned out of children along the way to suite private corporate interests, half of which parents are completely unaware of. The one minor blip of critique the NYT article offers regarding student privacy is miraculously resolved in one line about how Google aligns its contracts with schools with FERPA. Phew. That’s resolved! Except that FERPA was carefully revised to open the floodgates for corporate mining of student data, and with ESSA, now promoting policies that allow third party privately managed companies to become LEA’s, well the protection of FERPA for a child’s rights and privacy as a water balloon would be in a gun fight.

 

So — to my readers. Let’s please do the job New York Times is unwilling to do. Call them on this bullshit and make sure that parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens have all the facts when deciding about who should “own the future” of our children’s education.

First of all, start reading informed researched pieces like every single post by Alison McDowell at in Wrench the Gears to get an honest appraisal of what the tech industry really has in store for our children.

Second, pass along these points about Google (or any tech) dominating education, to consider as well:

  • Increased risks of obesity-increased seat time
  • Reduction of opportunities to engage with multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, social, verbal, environmental…all reduced to visual screen time.
  • Loss of socialization and development of social cuing.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.” Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Damage to eyes, hands/wrists, and neck.

One report states “Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”

  • Loss of data privacy = online platforms delivered to third party organizations who track every response and behavior your child makes in their learning process. Every bit tracked and monitored and managed.
  • Increases ADHD-like symptoms.  Some experts believe that “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”
  • An adrenaline driven mentality to learning (like addiction). As one psychologist’s research findings prove, “As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome.These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention…excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties.”
  • The monies spent on new devises is often wasted. What could have gone to building materials, hiring staff, or other supports, millions are wasted (See LAUSD) on devices that wind up creating more problems than solutions. That’s our tax payer dollars going to fund billionaire corporations instead of a new playground or library books.

And ask yourself, why isn’t the New York Times willing to put the interests of children before those of corporations?