Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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?

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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?

 

Power Point link here. Click to download and save:

Charter Schools forEdualch

 

Compromise or Corporatize?

Posted: April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

A passage from Tipu’s Tiger, a writing collective*:

“The concept of allyship has been instrumental in imposing more moderate power brokers and elite protest managers on decentralized movements in an attempt to rein in disruptive protest. Any social movement in recent memory that has attempted to break the mold of permitted rallies and marches, and raiie the economic cost of doing business as usual, has had to face a social justice industry deigned to channel social unrest into electoral politics, elite representation, and fantasies of political reform without mass popular resistance.”

This blog is about writing less, and listening more. I am seeking responses and reactions (post them in comments) to the quote above as it relates to possible questions to consider:

What is the difference between solidarity and selling out when it comes to allyship in the resistance against corporate colonization of public education?

How far is too far in our push against the powerful elite?

How can a radical resistance movement influence the shape and substance of future public education… (after it hits the inevitable final tipping point of elimination at the hands of neoliberalism)?

*From C. Milsten (ed) Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism (2015).

(by Banksy)

 

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The privatizers are busy at work. Unless you live under a rock (a tempting thought lately…) you probably feel like I do every time you turn on the news; the sensation of riding the Tilt a Whirl while taking ‘shrooms. It’s exhausting at best, and terrifying at worst; trying to untangle what is happening around us. Take Devos and her anti-Grizzly platform as the prime example of current insanity.

The most recent effort toward destroying public ed comes in the form of the Choices in Education Act of 2017. I live in Maryland along with Andy Harris (R) who is co-sponsor of this bill. (lucky me).

Many activists fighting against education reform are already on top of pushing back and calling for action against this bill, as well they (and we) should be. Like many of my friends and colleagues I am also strongly opposed to a voucher system for school funding and this bill.

But beyond an effort to reject this bill, I wonder —  what is the goal of the long game? and dare i ask …how much of a difference would this bill make whether it passed or not? I know that sounds jaded. The bill is a total shit shop. But let’s zoom out.

Take a deep examination of the larger chess board.

The agenda set forth in this Choice bill can be found in other iterations within the fine print of ESSA, a bill crafted by Lamar Alexander. which many public education advocates supported (I did not). I did not support ESSA because, despite all of its nice sounding promises, the devil was (as always) in the details. ESSA, like Choices in Education Act opens the flood gates for vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization. So while I do oppose the Choices in Education bill…. We need to be fighting a much bigger game.

We cannot win this fight by shooting down every single bill they throw at us, because they have endless money, resources, and legal power to keep ‘em coming. How many letters and calls to representatives who are likely already sold out can we make? They could win simply by exhausting us… by having us chase every single bill they peel off the ALEC playbook. I suggest that we pause and zoom out and take a long look at what is to come and develop a long game strategy above and beyond our short game battles.

For example, the alt right agenda from Breitbart also opposes the Choices in Education bill.

You know you’re down the rabbit hole (as a progressive “leftist”) when are you are opposing the same bill as them! Breitbart folks are opposed to the governmental oversight (strings attached) of school choice that come with this bill. Conversely, progressive advocates for public education oppose this bill because it opens the flood gates for vouchers which are harmful to the support needed for public schools. So in swatting down this bill….do we win? Or, does the alt right? Can we both win at the same time when we want such dramatically different things?

This Choices bill both opens the portal for greater voucher schemes, yet keeps those religious and private institutions on a tighter leash of accountability. That’s the funny thing about words like accountability—it’s a double edged sword. If you are a left-leaning person, you might wish to see greater accountability for religious, charter, and other private institutions who want to replace science with creationism and engage in all types of exclusionary practices. We like accountability when it is in the name of ensuring equity of resources or quality. But accountability is a fickle creature-it turns on us and becomes NCLB and high stakes testing. So we find that the things in themselves are only as good or as bad, or something we support or not, to the extent to which they serve us and our interests.

Betsy Devos is a train crash. But the groundwork to privatize public education was laid well in advance of her hair- brained appointment. (30 years by my estimate). It was laid by a TWO party system.  As Glen Ford of The Black Agenda Report  says, “In their zeal to confront and delegitimize Donald Trump, the Democrats primp and posture as if in genuine opposition to President Cheeto’s governance-by-billionaires. But, charter school privatization, like U.S. wars, is a project of both wings of the ruling class duopoly.”

So we have been punched in the face by the likes of Devos and a corporate conservative agenda, but we have also been stabbed in the back by the pseudo-liberal Democrat efforts to roll out a “kids-for-profit” plan under the guise of “civil rights.” The tinder was laid. Betsy just needs to light the match.

Look at the long game. Whether we swat down every bullshit bill Devos or other representatives of ALEC put forward or not, the dismantling of public education might go on while we are otherwise distracted. The tentacles of a corporate agenda are so deeply baked into our public schools. Competency Based Education (CBE) does exactly the same thing that charters do- it puts public monies into private hands, and allows private interests to determine the educational outcomes for children. 

So the opposite of charter schools is no longer simply traditional “public” schools as they are now (infused with outsourced curriculum and assessments). ESSA both supports the open-faced goal of supporting more charters but it also promotes the close-faced goals of privatization under the guise of “public.” The corporate agenda has cornered the market in every conceivable direction.

They strategize by looking at the long game. So should we.

What do we want?

We can play whack-a-mole and knock out every bill they drop into the chute. But we need more. We need to clearly focus on what it is we want, and see how the corporate reformers play this game. Not only through blatant affronts to democracy via vouchers, but also through bait-and-switch, and through high jacked narratives (as was done once upon a time with testing and charters sold to us in the name of equity, though now we are largely wise to that game—we need to remember that tactic and learn from it).

ESSA and this Choice Act both are set up to deliver the same outcome.

They only look different from the outside, but read the details: philanthropic control via community schools (or) vouchers, pay-for-success, predictive analytics, online corporate outsourcing….they all lead to the same end. ESSA supporters promised that this policy would relieve us of the burden of annual standardized testing, but instead we got every day online assessments. Different delivery system-same outcome-corporate ownership of profits, curriculum and student data.

We need to focus efforts on the long game and see how deeply intricate the connections are intertwined. They exist beyond party partisan politics and plays on language (what’s the difference between “grit” and endorsement of socially/affective learning? Nothing…except a few vowels…and the child’s skin color). Forget the names – they are designed to sound good, like “personalized learning“:…. and look at the details. Are community schools truly community schools? Sometimes… but not always, and increasingly less so as privatizers have learned how to insert themselves like an odorless gas that cannot be detected in a house ready to explode.

What does “public” in public education mean? What constitutes its definition and purpose?

Historically, public education has failed to deliver on its promise for ALL children. Historically, many of the roots of public education are rooted in a neoliberal goal to manage the poor, the disenfranchised, the immigrants, the newly-freed enslaved and indigenous peoples. It’s not a noble history. But public schools retain a noble promise. And now we are faced with their dissolution. Public education SHOULD mean:  democratic, equitable, student-empowerment, freedom from corporate overlords, accessible, sustainable, community supported, anti-racist education for all children in support of the communities in which they live.

I believe this is possible -and the alternative unimaginable.

Although, apparently it’s not unimaginable to certain representatives crafting legislation to abolish the US. Dept of Education. How is this not on the radar of every proponent for public education as we speak?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/7/1631034/-GOP-Bill-to-Eliminate-the-Department-of-Education 

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THIS BLOG POST IS NOW A CHAPTER IN THE BOOK United We Stand Divided We Fall: Opposing Trump’s Agenda – Essays on Protest and Resistance. New York, NY: Garn Publishing

The psy ops tactics used to get Donald Trump elected to the U.S. Presidency (still having gag reflex) are the same ones being used in public schools, using children as their “data” source. Given the power they had on influencing the electorate, imagine what they could do with 12 years of public school data collected on your child.

What data? And how was it used?

A psychologist named Michael Kosinski (see full report) from Cambridge developed a method to analyze Facebook members, using the cute little personality quizzes or games. What started as a fun experiment resulted with the largest data set combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected. Dr. Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. His work is grounded on the Five Factors of Personality theory which include something called OCEAN: openness, conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.

So many people volunteered their personal information to play these games and take these quizzes that before long Kosinski had volumes of data from which he could now predict all sorts of things about the attitudes and behaviors of these individuals. He applied the Five Factors (Big Five Theory) model (well-known in psychometric circles) and developed a system by which he could predict very personal and detailed behaviors of individuals on a level deeper than had been accessed by prior models or systems.

Enter Cambridge Analytica (CA),  a company connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting. CA indirectly acquired Kosinksi’s model and method for his MyPersonality database without his consent.

Then, CA was hired by the Trump team to provide “dark advertising” that would sway undecided people toward a Trump vote. CA was able to access this data to search for specific profiles: “all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats.” See motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/big-data-cambridge-analytica-brexit-trump

Steve Bannon sits on the board for Cambridge Analytica.

“We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying.  According to Motherboard, “His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well.” In Nix’s own words, it worked like this: “At Cambridge,” he said, “we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

The report continues, “according to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica’s marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.” Then these same consumers receive “dark posts”-or, advertisements specifically devised for them, and that cannot be viewed by anyone else other than that person.

Where did the Big Five Theory come from?

Dr. Raymond Cattell is regaled in Western culture for his so called notable contributions to the field of intelligence assessment (IQ and personality work). Despite his direct and profound relationship to the eugenics movement and his recognition by the Nazi Party for the birth of The Beyondists, his work is benignly promoted in scholarly circles. But the fact that he is professionally legitimized does not make him any less the racist he was. And his contributions toward racist practices live on. He has two notable theories of personality development and measurement entitled The Big Five Theory and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).

The way that OCEANS Five Factors personality data from our students can be used:

The recent trend toward a “grit narrative,” hailed by Angela Duckworth and others, has been gobbled up by school districts around the country. The OCEANS model is used widely by schools and other institutions internationally.

“The grit measure has been compared to the Big Five personality model, which are a group of broad personality dimensions consisting of openness to experience (aka openness), conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.”

(citation: Cattell, R. B.; Marshall, MB; Georgiades, S (1957). “Personality and motivation: Structure and measurement”. Journal of Personality Disorders19 (1): 53–67. doi:10.1521/pedi.19.1.53.62180PMID 15899720.

There is a growing emphasis on the “affective” learning of students.  Some examples include: “ETS’ SuccessNavigator assessment and ACT’s Engage College Domains and Scales Overview … the broader domains in these models are tied to those areas of the big five personality theory.”

Also see Empirical identification of the major facets of Conscientiousness 

While “grit” has been exposed for the racist narrative it is, it’s also a direct by-product of the same OCEANS framework used to control, predict and manipulate voters. If this data can sway major national elections and change the global trajectory of history, imagine what such data, gathered on children, day after day, year after year, could yield for corporations and government interests.

Watch the video from Jesse Schell, gaming CEO, to see exactly where this can go.  As Schell says “your shopping data is a goldmine” and it’s only a matter of time before gaming companies and gaming behavior interface with our daily consumer and behavioral choices. You can get points for simply brushing your teeth long enough when product brands partner with gaming systems.”

We now have, thanks to perpetual assessments of children’s knowledge affective “grit” or personality, “the concept of the ‘preemptive personality,” the endlessly profiled and guided subject who is shunted into recalculated futures in a system that could be characterized as digital predestination.”

The role of education technology (aka “personalized learning”):

According to a report entitled Networks of Control: “Jennifer Whitson (2013) argues that today’s technology-based practices of gamification are ‘rooted in surveillance’ because they provide ‘real-time feedback about users’ actions by amassing large quantities of data’. According to her, gamification is ‘reliant on quantification’, on ‘monitoring users’ everyday lives to measure and quantify their activities’. Gamification practices based on data collection and quantification are ‘leveraging surveillance to evoke behavior change’ … While self-quantification promises to “make daily practices more fulfilling and fun” by adopting ‘incentivization and pleasure rather than risk and fear to shape desired behaviours’, it also became ‘a new driving logic in the technological expansion and public acceptance of surveillance’.

(See Wrenching The Gears for more readings on this issue)

 

getwoke

A re-posting from https://billayers.org/2017/01/22/get-woke-white-people/

GET WOKE, White People!

The world-wide outpouring of rage immediately following the inauguration of Donald Trump was dazzling and heartening. Women in the lead, connections and intersectionality in the air, humor, art, determination, solidarity—the people rising, the popular opposition on display. I loved so many signs waving in the streets of Washington: “Fight like a girl!”; “If my uterus shot bullets it would have more protection than it does now;” “If it’s not intersectional, it’s not my feminism;” “I love my nasty mom.”
We can and we must build a broad social movement in fierce and effective opposition to Trumpism, and for a world in balance.
It’s time to organize a powerful resistance.
And that means in part getting smart, paying attention, waking up in new ways.
White folks need to get over the illusion of innocence.
I remember years ago watching a sequence from the documentary, “Shoah.” The film maker was standing in a public square in formerly occupied France within sight of a station where Jews were loaded onto trains and transported to death camps. interviewing a villager. The film maker kept asking what the villager thought at the time. We didn’t know, he said. We didn’t know about the camps. But you knew they were rounded up. Yes, but we didn’t know why. Well, you could see them packed into box cars. Yes, but we didn’t know…
The question is, what do you need to know in order to know? Or, from another angle of regard, when is the claim of innocence simply a fraud and a lie?
Here in the US, if you look you’ll see that the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex are institutions of congealed violent white supremacy; if you open your eyes, you can see that African Americans living in racially isolated communities of concentrated poverty is the result of cold-blooded federal policy.
Gather your classmates or your fellow workers or your neighbors. Talk about this moment and where we are on the clock of the world. Discuss what you are willing to do collectively to resist the shredding of civil liberties, and to protect vulnerable populations.
Start a reading group, and go deep to understand the world we live in. Start here: Angela Davis; Keeanga Taylor; Jeff Chang; Ta-Nehisi Coats; Junot Diaz; Saffire; Allison Bechdel, Fun Home; Sandra Cisneros; Sherman Alexi; Claudia Rankine; Jesmyn Ward.
And be agile: When Trump lies and the press somehow at last summons the courage to call him on it (Trump Advances Two Falsehoods, says the NY Times), and the administration threatens to “hold them to account,” create a brigade of fact spreaders.
When Trump promotes an “America First” agenda, note the facsist echoes from the early Twentieth Century.
When a page on the new White House website announces that “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” and adds that “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community” is a top priority and that “President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.” It continues that “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”
This is a threat to the Black Lives Matter movement.
What do you need to know, to know?
(Educationalchemy additions) — Some additional ideas that warrant our attention in order to Get Woke:
  1. In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.

2. The Milgram Experiment – “(Milgram) concluded people obey either out of fear or out of a desire to appear cooperative–even when acting against their own better judgment and desires. Milgram’s classic yet controversial experiment illustrates people’s reluctance to confront those who abuse power.”