The Fierce Urgency of Now

Spoken by Martin Luther King and repeated often, do the words “the fierce urgency of now” no longer stir our souls? Did they ever?

Why the Urgency NOW?

The urgency is the need for all of us to filter out the divisive political language coming at us from all sides. In this moment, we need to look back at what was once only a theory. Now our reality is that economic theory fostered a political strategy to supplant our constitutional republic with “a private governing elite of corporate power.” *Those pushing corporate control understand how essential it is for them to …

“…kill public education because it tend[s] to foster community values…” *

And market-based education reforms became the weapon of choice. But the role of political economist James M. Buchanan is only now being closely scrutinized. Buchanan’s theories explain much about the divisiveness destroying our schools and our nation.

“…[Buchanan] observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly ASSUMED that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. …[T]hat was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to ‘tear down.’ His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as ‘public choice.’” *

Public Interest vs. Public Choice

Public interest is defined as “the welfare or well-being of the general public.” It is a national goal clearly stated in the Constitution’s preamble — “in Order to … promote the general Welfare…”.

To “tear down” our assumption that officials are acting in the public’s interest is one thing. To destroy our union is another. That goal does NOT appear to be one of the aims of Buchanan’s original 1986 Nobel Prize winning work on “Public Choice Theory.”

In its announcement of the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted, “Buchanan’s foremost achievement is that he has consistently and tenaciously emphasized the significance of fundamental rules and applied the concept of the political system as an exchange process for the achievement of mutual advantages.Tennessee Encyclopedia (James McGill Buchanan)

His “research program” ** centered on the belief that people make purchases (market choices) based on value. He saw the public making political choices they believed would benefit them. He viewed us as making choices based on our own “venal self-interest.” *

So he and his ilk developed what they called “non-market decision-making.” Finding that name “awkward” and not as appetizing to “free-market” thinkers, the groups’ organization and publications took on the name “Public Choice.” **

Choice or Coercion?

Some researchers believe that Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory began as an “optimistic conception” based on “unanimous consent of the people.” But he later adopted a more “pessimistic view” about “social organization” and people’s “intolerance” to entering into the discussions necessary to reach consensus on issues. Thus Buchanan’s emphasis morphed from “individual freedom” to the need to “enforce order.” ***

As Buchanan explained “Public Choice” to an audience (2003) …

Public choice, in its basic insights into the workings of politics, incorporates an understanding of human nature that differs little, if at all, from that of James Madison and his colleagues at the time of the American Founding.” **

Buchanan wrote that for public consumption. It’s a distortion of history, which is likely being perpetuated through institutions such as George Mason University in Virginia.* And in misrepresenting the American Founding Principles, Buchanan opened himself up to being viewed as a major manipulator in our historic fight against corporate control.

James Madison vs. James Buchanan 

As a key author of the Constitution, Madison left a record of discussions about our nations founding principles. Therefore, a better understanding of the American Founding political views can be gleaned from Madison’s correspondence with a colleague who Buchanan also admired. ***

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, ed., vol. xiv, pp. 18-21) …

“With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. … Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions.”

Madison went on to express his doubts about a government takeover by monopolies being skeptical …

“…that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may be gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. … Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Government than in most others? … with the power as with us is in the manyIt is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many …”

It appears the expressed sentiment of that last sentence was taken to imply that corporations are the ones in need of constitutional protection from the masses. But Buchanan obviously took Madison’s words out of their historic time and context. Regardless, Buchanan did communicate to the public an association of his “public choice theory” with our nation’s founding principles.

****This quote is from the blog of libertarian economist, Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell who believes Buchanan’s ideas are being misrepresented.

Same Old Fight: Big vs. Smaller Government?

Not Quite! Think about the following in relationship to the privatization of public education through “school choice” models. The allure of choice is deadly.

With our political choices being analyzed under market-based economic theory, it is assumed people make choices based on their own self-interests — first and foremost. We shouldn’t deny that as a truism. But when market forces through privatization of public services or goods come into play, competition for a limited supply will result in winners and losers. Always does.

We risk having children lose, or never develop, the safe and secure sense of belonging that defines “community values.” When all of us are seen as “self-interested players in the marketplace,” **** we are vulnerable to division. Competition for public services runs the high risk of destroying community values, but, that part of the equation didn’t seem to garner much consideration.

Instead, Buchanan saw the need to bring his vision to life by NOT focusing on who rules because who the public chooses doesn’t matter since elected officials don’t act in the public interest anyway. Therefore, this brilliant political economist focused on the rules themselves.

“… the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.” *

Buchanan found many willing partners.

“Subversion of Liberty”? Translation: Sabotage of Authority

What Madison saw as improbable under our constitutional republic — “a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” changing the balance of power — is exactly what is happening. Our federal government IS under the control of special interests. Many state governments are no different because too many of our representatives ARE no longer serving in the public interest.

The toxic divisiveness of party politics is permeating our communities. The principles of localism and populism, which formed the fabric of our founding documents, are being replaced by corporatism. Thus, when we can no longer reach consensus on the issues that matter, the authorities will step in and set the rules “to enforce order.” ***

This scenario should sound familiar to Baby Boomers. It was a shared American experience on many college campuses during the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. Martial law was declared in many places, which Buchanan supported (at Berkley***). And not to be forgotten were the killing of students by the National Guard. That’s about the time Buchanan’s vision of “unanimous consent of the people” *** seemed to change.

Now? Consider this.

“[historian Nancy] MacLean details how partnered with [Charles] Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to …  promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.”

“… MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’” *

Supreme Urgency?

Think about the urgency demonstrated during the confirmations of both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Ask yourself, why the fierce urgency?

Think about it. When changing the Constitution is still out of reach, CONTROL of the U.S. Department of Education and having corporate-minded allies on the Supreme Court are a handy pair of tools. Then it requires pushing appeals through the court system to the level of the Supreme Court. Once there, having enough justices interpreting our Constitution and rules in ways that favor corporations and the wealthy is almost as good as a “constitutional revolution.” *

This is no longer just theory and we knew this day was coming. Now …

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK

Vote, of course.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

References

* FROM THE LEFT ⇒ Lynne Parramore, “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America”

**ORIGINAL SOURCE ⇒ James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, George Mason University, “What is Public Choice Theory?”

***STUDY OF BUCHANAN’s EDUCATION SPECIFIC WRITINGS ⇒ Jean-Baptiste Fleury THEMA, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Alain Marciano MRE, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, Franc. “The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education”

**** FROM A LIBERTARIAN VIEW ⇒ Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell, former senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan”

 

35 Years Adrift on an Ocean of Reforms

A Nation at Risk began as a commissioned report to define problems in America’s schools. It became known more for the longstanding political debates that developed. But did this single report produce the ocean of reforms that now threaten to destroy our public schools? Was it the report that forced us to set our course on national standards and testing? Or did a few choice words, and powerful people, set us drifting on the ocean of reforms that are now eroding the educational foundation of America?

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

Like or loathe them, those words from A Nation at Risk live on in education reform infamy.

MormonWiki Secretary of Education Terrel Bell with President Reagan

As President Reagan explained, he and his Secretary of Education T. H. Bell “agreed that it was imperative to assemble a panel of America’s leading educators, an assembly of such eminence that the Nation would listen to its findings.” So when the nation did listen, it was Ronald Reagan, not the experts, we heard say, “…our educational system is in the grip of a crisis caused by low standards…” The words grabbed and held the nation’s schools hostage.

The New York Times reported that we were…

“being threatened by lax standards and misguided priorities in the schools” and that “the commission said low educational standards constitute a serious problem.”

If members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education did speak those words in 1983, they did not choose to write them in the official report!

What the report really said about high school and college standards was this:

“We should expect schools to have genuinely high standards rather than minimum ones, and parents to support and encourage their children to make the most of their talents and abilities.”…

“…we find that for too many people education means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learned in its first quarter. But this should not surprise us because we tend to express our educational standards and expectations largely in terms of ‘minimum requirements.’” …

“In some colleges maintaining enrollment is of greater day-to-day concern than maintaining rigorous academic standards.”

And their advice for setting standards for high schools and higher education:

“We recommend that schools, colleges, and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and that 4-year colleges and universities raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.”

In addition,

“Persons preparing to teach should be required to meet high educational standards, to demonstrate an aptitude for teaching, and to demonstrate competence in an academic discipline. Colleges and universities offering teacher preparation programs should be judged by how well their graduates meet these criteria.”

What A Nation at Risk Did NOT Say

You can read, reread, and word search the document and you will not find a recommendation that we set K through 12 academic standards at a level that all students will meet. Instead, we were urged to NOT see standards as the goal but instead set the expectation for students that they will do their personal best to push themselves to the limit of their talents and continue through life as life-long learners.

In A Nation at Risk, you will NOT find “standards” being held up as either the silver bullet nor the major problem despite what foes and fans alike —and the public—have been led to believe.

Look closely at the actual recommendations for standardized testing.

The commission wrote:

“Four-year colleges and universities should raise their admissions requirements and advise all potential applicants of the standards for admission in terms of specific courses required, performance in these areas, and levels of achievement on standardized achievement tests in each of the five Basics and, where applicable, foreign languages.

Standardized tests of achievement (not to be confused with aptitude tests) should be administered at major transition points from one level of schooling to another and particularly from high school to college or work. The purposes of these tests would be to: (a) certify the student’s credentials; (b) identify the need for remedial intervention; and (c) identify the opportunity for advanced or accelerated work. The tests should be administered as part of a nationwide (but not Federal) system of State and local standardized tests. This system should include other diagnostic procedures that assist teachers and students to evaluate student progress.”

This one recommendation — that standardized tests of achievement be administered only at major transition points — should have replaced the yearly testing mandated in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But yearly standardized testing remained in NCLB’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Thus, accountability based on testing remains a senseless detriment to educational progress.

The Truth

It was never A Nation at Risk that led the standards, testing, and accountability movement. As Valerie Strauss recalled, it was “Reagan’s second education secretary, William (Bill) Bennett, [who] continued to pursue a policy that focused on standardized testing.”

US Secy. of Education William J. Bennett (L) standing with Pres. Ronald W. Reagan during ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Influential people set this nation adrift on the faulty belief that somehow raising the bar with different standards and more testing would float all boats and stem the “tide of mediocrity.” It didn’t float all boats; it sank a whole lot of dreams.

The political focus on standards and testing drowned the discuss on the more important topic of expectations.

Getting Back On Course: We Need A Real Wake-Up Call

Think about it; thirty-five years of having political leaders telling the public, parents and educators that standards and testing improves schools is long enough. No, it’s too long! It obviously did nothing but create conflict, narrow the goals of education, and put money in the pockets of education corporations rather than in classrooms.

Let’s get back on course. Start by simply asking congressional candidates and representatives to pledge to remove the yearly testing mandate from federal K-12 education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act). It’s up to us to end this testing nonsense.

As A Nation at Risk affirmed,

It is by our willingness to take up the challenge, and our resolve to see it through, that America’s place in the world will be either secured or forfeited.”

#####

P.S. This blog originally appeared as an article in TruthOut (9/19/14) BEFORE No Child Left Behind was renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The name was changed; the need to fix it was not. The process to FIX ESSA should begin next year.

In Pursuit of Truth: How to Stop Dismantling the Public Schools

“Dismantling the public schools is all about control.” Lynn Parramore

In “The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools,” Ms. Parramore explains the strategy the One Percent is using to produce a dual economy (haves and have-nots) and how the process of dismantling the public schools aides this agenda. Based on research from Gordon Lafer and Peter Temin, the article is a must-read for all citizens — before it’s too late to reverse “the new system.”

“Lafer explains that in the new system, the children of the wealthy will be taught a broad, rich curriculum in small classes led by experienced teachers. The kind of thing everybody wants for kids. But the majority of America’s children will be consigned to a narrow curriculum delivered in large classes by inexperienced staff —or through digital platforms with no teachers at all.”

This new digital delivery system is being called “Personalized Learning.” It’s also sold as Competency-Based, Mastery-Based, Proficiency-Based, Outcome-Based, and “Standards-Based” education. To be clear, none of this is proven education reform. That alone is reason enough to stop dismantling the public schools under the guise of reforms or “modernization,” which is code for privatization.

Standards-based reform policies, like No Child Left Behind, have already narrowed the curriculum. Decades of focusing on outcomes without the necessary inputs has left us with large classes, driven out experienced teachers, and put alternative certifications in federal and state laws to solve a problem created by lawmakers. None of this is theory or conspiracy. It’s the reality produced by our politically motivated policies.

And this is where we are:

It remains to be seen if the rights of the many can triumph over the selfishness of the few, and whether economic servitude will be the fate of the children of the wealthiest and most powerful country the world has ever seen.” Parramore

Here is part of the story behind the dismantling of public schools:

“After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.”

Dismantling the public schools required a coordinated effort.

A “host of other tactics” included using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, instilling longitudinal data systems, coercing use of the Common Core Curriculum, giving priority to workforce data “interoperability,” and anchoring in place the false assumptions of No Child Left Behind in its replacement — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

We were told that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money would be used to restore operating funds for schools due to state budget cuts during The Great Recession.

Did states recover and reinvest in education? According to this 2014 report, 30 out of the 47 state budgets analyzed DID NOT.

“The lack in funding is hurting not just students, but also the economy.”

“State Education Funding Lags Behind Pre-Recession Levels” Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

While ordinary Americans were struggling, so-called “reform” groups worked to put their “SMART OPTIONS” education agenda in place using Recovery Act funds. They controlled the setting of priorities.

The leaders of this agenda labeled the process “disruptive innovation.” They used us.

Instead of restoring education funding and hiring back laid off teachers, the majority of states spent money on adopting new standards and putting data collection infrastructure in place. Common Core was never about improving student achievement; it was about the common data points the system can collect. Common educational data makes possible the workforce data interoperability system. This system is designed to link student data from the Education Department (plus testing & online education data) to workforce data from the Labor Departments for development of the human capital to fill the directives (orders) placed by businesses and corporations.

And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) not only continued the federal mandate for the yearly standardized testing first dictated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), it created a NEW Title IV grant with an attractive name, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (PLAW-114publ95 beginning p.168 of 392). Although this NEW federal education program has three stated purposes, technology definitely is a priority. (Here is a screen shot from Rise to the Challenge, a blog written in response to a 2015 comment about my views on ESSA.)

UPDATE: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides increased funds for education technology, and the Department of Education as a whole. “In a complete contradiction to the Trump administration’s proposal, not only did Congress keep Title IV, it doubled the amount allocated to $1.1 billion. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) originally authorized Title IV for $1.65 billion. ” —- So the tech industry got a little less than anticipated in our NEW federal grant program.

STOP the dismantling of public schools.

As one person wrote on Facebook:

“We let them divide us against each other. Because united they can’t control us. Divided they keep control and can continue to pillage the country.”

It’s been established that it’s all about control. So we need to take control.

ESSA has to go. It has been proven that school accountability from the federal level is a joke. It doesn’t work. It makes no sense because the 90 Plus Percent obviously have no control —yet—over congress and their corrupt lawmaking process. Federal law continues to be an excuse for State “controllers” of the dismantling. Therefore, ESSA remains a barrier to diminished local control of education.

Take actions to disrupt and dismantle the policies, processes, and practices the One Percent put in place to control the schools that are attended by the 90 Plus Percent….It’s not too late. It’s time the country followed our teachers’ lead.

In Pursuit of Truth: The Language of Political Conformity

Political conformity makes good people do things against their own better judgment. Consequently, political conformity is killing the very character of America.

“True conformity, according to many scholars, involves an actual ‘change of heart’…

[The] person believes the [group] norm in question is correct…. [It has been argued that] such internalization will only take place if informational influence has occurred” (p11). Source: Political Conformity: Evidence and Mechanisms

It is political conformity that has the country tearing down the foundation of our republic.

We once had a system where strengthening and improving schools was seen as reform. We now conform to a pretense of reform typified by an “accountability system” based on “competition.”

What’s Wrong With Competition?

There’s nothing wrong with competition when it comes to things like sports, card games, spelling bees, or debate teams. In the job market and in life in general, competition is an acceptable norm. That’s life!

But, is it reasonable to make competition the norm in ALL our schools?

Think about it. The competition for test scores is a competition to achieve. The ever-present thought of failure is creating stress in too many students, families, and teachers.

Think about the kids. Growing up is challenging. Additional — unnecessary — competition is putting our youth at risk.

2012: India has some of the world’s highest suicide rates. The Lancet Medical Journal says suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age group, peaking in regions considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.

[It’s] a new phenomenon experts said has happened recently as more middle-class youths strive to meet achievement expectations, and new technologies like cell phones and social networking sites help break down traditional family units once relied on for support.

2013: In the United States, “every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before…”

We are told, “Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use.” We are told, “the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.”

We are told? NO! We need to challenge that assumption.

Too many questions have gone unanswered! In 2001 in an open forum, it was recommended that we monitor the suicide rate as we implemented test-based accountability. But the suggestion was seen as far-fetched.

So the pros and cons of competition in schools were not debated. And, we proceeded with the plan to transform the culture of our K-12 schools.

Competition became the norm because we complied with “No Child Left Behind.” It sounded good.

Political Doublespeak and Orwell’s Advice

In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell ripped apart the political language of his time. Our time is no different from his.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aim,…

Perhaps our time is worse. Words are for sale. And political leader’s insincerity is running rampant.

Wake up, People. Resist the language of political conformity.

“…one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

And with “Truth Decay” being a defined and researched entity, it’s time we stop and examine our own political bias and the conformity that blinds us from seeing the truth!

Orwell cautioned us about using “ready-made” phrases that “anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

How many times have you heard the phrase a “more level playing field”? Have leaders sincerely worked hard towards “…the goal of improving education for all…”?

No! Instead, public “school choice” is packaged as “freedom,” while COMMON curriculum and testing is endemic. “Accountability” through standards and testing is a bad joke. And this is how we “change the status quo”?

No! The status quo is political conformity to a political “reform” agenda.

Orwell’s advice:

“…to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration…”

Thinking Clearly

In Orwell’s novel 1984, “’doublethink’ describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.” This allowed leaders to use both beliefs to their advantage. It doesn’t seem like that could work, but it does.

Public opinion polls did, and continue to show, that the majority of parents with children in the public schools like both their teachers and their schools. Yet the public says the public schools are bad. GOOD IS BAD?

Education Reimagined? Not by the teachers and parents in your community.

And we decided that the whole K-12 system needed to be “restructured” and “transformed”? NO! “We” did not decide.

The education reform oligarchy decided. They decided  “reform” was “imperative.” The system is “antiquated,” a “factory model”; we need to “modernize.” They told us we aren’t “globally competitive.” And the “government schools” are a “monopoly.”

The hook was baited with the right political language, not with the truth. And without the truth, we can’t think clearly.

An Overview Of the Truth

You don’t need to have read 1984 to understand Orwell’s messages to us. His writings exist to help people see the truth and help us think clearly about the danger in letting the CONTROL of knowledge be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people.

Historically, the norm used to be that parents and teachers worked toward education goals that were mutually acceptable. Then came corporate-elites CONTROL of education. We conformed to the new norm. Those leaders CONTROL the conversation and can flip it when they want.

We are told there is “a new play: empowering parents.” OLD IS NEW does seem Orwellian.

1984 [sounds the alarm] against the abusive nature of authoritarian governments, …[analyzes] the psychology of power and the ways that manipulations of language and history can be used as mechanisms of CONTROL.”

The Party slogans in the novel 1984.

Set in a world governed by totalitarianism, overseen by Big Brother and controlled by The Party, three official slogans are used in 1984 to manipulate people’s thinking so their minds accept propaganda as truth.

The truth is, there are problems in need of reforming, but “reform” isn’t what happened. Reform was never the aim. CONTROL is the aim.

WAR IS PEACE

In Orwell’s fictitious country, Oceania, perpetual war was the norm. War kept the masses united against an enemy. … The parallel to today should not be ignored.

Repeatedly, we went to war in this country over education. The Reading Wars over phonics versus sight words probably began in the mid-1800’s! And it drags on and on.

Between the Reading and Math Wars we have been in a perpetual state of war dividing educators and parents while uniting the public against the “government schools” and the big bad teacher’s union.

We liked our schools and teachers; but we accepted vilifying both.

And now, 30 years after the corporate-political elites’ assault on K-12 public schools began, we have legitimate reasons to dislike the schools. They have been transformed, at the bidding of our leaders, by standardization and privatization.

The war against the K-12 system has weakened it and higher education is next in line.

If you support “the system” — the centuries-old highly successful U.S. institution of public education — the new Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos, says you are against what is good for children. You are the enemy. Your priority is wrong. You are against “educational freedom.”

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

Freedom is the American religion.” It’s written into the Constitution. It’s stamped into our DNA. It is the word of choice in the language of political conformity. It is THE BIGGEST political hook in the arsenal.

…”It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from ‘the system.’” Spoke the Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos

“The System”? The system of free public schools has been transformed into the Common Core System. All teaching, testing, and learning using technology is based on common curricular CONTENT. Where we once had common national goals — we now have common instructional CONTENT controlled by… ?… an algorithm …?… designed by …?… Who does CONTROL online CONTENT?

Where 30 years ago we did not have a one-size-fits all “industrial-model” school, we do now!But WE ARE TOLD that government-sponsored freedom of choice is good. And DeVos says she has “never heard it claimed that giving parents more options is bad…for the child.”

Freedom—the word—is the hook. Freedom isn’t really being offered.

A system based on competition for the new “educational freedom” makes families’ slaves to competing in a race for common education.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

As one person described this Party slogan, “Believe and never question!”

Ignorance of the truth gives strength to political deception.

When the Curtain of Deception Parted

While discussing higher education, Betsy DeVos let slip what the rulers see as the purpose of their education system — a “delivery system to meet modern work place needs.”We have obviously accepted that political language. But the idea that public education is nothing more than a corporate and military human capital development system?  … No! Not everyone agrees…Consider what folks have to say…

“A school system to provide workers for the wealthy? Not to educate!”

“The country’s higher education system is indeed in dire need of a facelift, but not the one she [Betsy DeVos] wants to give it. It needs a nip and tuck, not the removal of the entire nose.”

If we accept a managed economy, it requires a managed and tightly controlled education/labor system.

While the “small government” mantra is used, the education/labor development system is being completed.

To CONTROL the economic system in the United States requires controlling people. And that political thought sure doesn’t fit the ideal of the American Dream.

Regeneration Requires Reviving the Norm

Initiative, resourcefulness, and generosity are traditional American characteristics.

Possessing those traits, great educational leaders of the past set the foundation for a public education system to serve all. Now, in our public schools system —in our self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity — competition and a market-based mentality has replaced generosity as the norm.

But because the character of Americans as people is founded on independence and revolt, resistance to conformity is probable. And the historic writings of George Orwell do shine light on that fight. We have to be willing to look, and think. He told us where to start. Look for the truth.

“Truisms are true, hold on to that!”

#Resist #Revolt #Regenerate

“Smart Options” & the Revolving Door of Common Core

Remember The Great Recession? Did you know that, while Main Street was struggling to stay financially alive, there was a group meeting to determine the “smart options” for our schools? These people were smart all right…in looking out for their own self-interests.

Relatively few people knew about this meeting. So it’s understandable that most people did not see Common Core as the weapon of mass destruction that it is. In pursuit of the truth, please read on.

The following is a revised and updated version of a 2014 DailyKOS post. The original details more of the people involved in the plot to take advantage of a hurting nation. …  This is where the Smart Options saga began. … D.C.

How smart people kicked public schools when they were down.

Washington D.C. is known for its revolving door of political influence. Behind-closed-doors deals are the norm. That made it the perfect place for this group to hatch a blueprint for spending our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education dollars.

But when this meeting took place in April of 2009, few people were talking about how a common core of standards could be used against public school children. After all, WE were in The Great Recession. And THEY were not feeling our pain.

The fact is that education “reformers,” philanthropic organizations, venture capitalists, and politicians followed the dogma expressed by then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”… They didn’t.

And their plan was written up as Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success. The Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad Foundations sponsored the publication (among other things). The Gates influence over education policy is well-known while Eli Broad probably requires a bit of introduction for many.

Eli Broad made his billions mainly through real estate dealings and SunAmerica, which was sold and re-branded as AIG (yes, the same AIG that was too big to fail).

The Broad Foundation focuses on governance of schools, management training of leaders, and hands out generous “prizes” to charter management organizations.

Opportunity knocked; the Smart Options group answered.

Open the door on this one meeting and you will see how the country was purposely duped into financially supporting the education and technology INDUSTRIES ahead of schools.

Entered —the Core support team — the Coalition for Student Achievement, Aka College and Career-Ready America.

These Smart Options participants set the spending priorities and claimed that if states focused on their collection of “big ideas” the country would see “real educational results” by 2012.

Priority #1 “A common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college-and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states…”

Priority #2 “More robust and user-friendly data and information systems.”

Priority #3  “A meaningful professional teacher evaluation system in every state and school district.”

Priority #4By 2012, states and districts should have shut down at least 500 of these [low-performing] schools and replaced them with new, higher-performing schools…including charter schools.” — That is a quote.

Priority #5 “Targeted interventions provided to the students who are at least two years behind academically in reading, writing, and mathematics.”

Priority #1 became Common Core Standards even though the claims of being “evidence-based” were never substantiated. Priorities 2,3, and 4 caused chaos.

It wasn’t just one district that used Recovery funds “inappropriately.” The scenario across the country was money spent on standards, testing, and technology. The statement above is from the largest district in Eli Broad’s backyard, LA. Source: Recovery Act & Chaos.

What about the last priority, helping students?

Usually the devil is in the details. But with this, the specifics were few and the Recovery dollars didn’t materialize into the promised “results.” But, despite Bill Gate’s claim that Common Core failed, it didn’t. The core federal plan did work.

Instead of fully stabilizing funding for schools, the “smart option” became a “race to the top.” The collection of data and establishment of state longitudinal data systems became the core priority. And the core system is close to completion. … How?…

Look at who was at this table set for 40.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation had three foundation employees there. Additionally, there were seven other people who were either graduates of the Broad leadership training, or had a role in governing the Broad training center.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had four representatives directly from their parent organization. But seated at this table, just about everyone else had connections with Gates. Plus, among those many Gates’ associates were three groups essential to launching the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI, as Common Core was originally called):

P-20W is Preschool through Workforce.

Data Quality Campaign: They proudly state, “In 2009, 8 states used state funds to support their P–20W data systems. In 2013, despite difficult economic times, 41 states committed state funds to ensure the long-term sustainability.

Council of the Great City Schools: With outreach to 67 of the largest urban districts, they had  received a Gates grant to assist in implementing Common Core.

Student Achievement Partners (Aka Achieve the Core): The lead writers of the Common Core Standards, David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, created this organization. David Coleman represented them at this meeting.

Common Core was central to the plot but a distraction from the bigger issue.

Now, the essential and basic question in need of answering is, after seeing how these people met and planned….

is this how we should govern the education of America’s children?

Let’s look closer at THEIR process for transforming OUR schools. Here are some of the other smart people AT THE TABLE.

KSA–Plus Communications, Inc. was present for their expertise in providing “education communications and strategic consulting to set education agendas in motion.”

McKinsey & Co. provides services including data analysis and transformation — boasting about having the ability to “drive adoption throughout the organization.”

Last but not least in the area of transformation was Alvarez & Marsal. They are known for “restructuring” and “turnaround” for companies including Enron and the failed Lehman Brothers. “Mavericks” on the ready “when conventional approaches are not enough to activate change,” they promise to “accelerate results through decisive action.”

But for these smart, self-interested dictators of reform to succeed, they needed to dictate education policy. — They needed to direct our public dollars by directing our laws.

So also in attendance was a representative from Education Counsel LLC with their “track record of forging the kind of partnerships needed to bring about meaningful and systemic change.”

In addition, there were two representatives from Education Sector (Aka American Institutes for Research – AIR), a D.C. non-profit education policy think tank. And as they state on their website;

“The reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind) is the nexus of all of our K-12 work, including testing, accountability, teacher quality, finance, data, and school choice.”

COMMON CORE STANDARDS provide COMMON DATA. They were never JUST standards. The Core was always about their SYSTEM.

And No Child Left Behind became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as planned EXCEPT the name was supposed to be the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act.

Words have been changed but the core principles remain deeply embedded in FEDERAL law. Yet, the selling point for ESSA was the false claim of a return to state and local control. Or by the term “state” did Congress mean the Special Interest State?

Who governs our schools?

Did this system of exchange of COMMON student data evolve “IN A CLIMATE OF TRUST”? For “MUTUAL BENEFITS”?

Are we ready to put our trust in philanthropic venture capitalists to train our teachers, our leaders, and educate our children? Is the public even aware that the private education industry is already doing all these things? And do people know the extent to which children’s data is being gathered and tracked? Do you know why?

The system our Recovery Act dollars helped build is called a “human capital development data system.”

Now, do we close the door on what we have allowed to transpire and let the Smart Options dictators proceed with their plan?

Do we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to OUR public education system and let it become a casualty of the Special Interest State? Do we let it become their human capital development system?

Do we really think this is our smartest option?

CBE: The Trojan Horse that Will Destroy Public Education

Are we looking at a classroom that is conducive to learning, or the delivery system for Competency-Based Education?

At one point in time, many of us saw Common Core as the Trojan Horse sent to destroy public education. But buried deep within its belly is CBE — Competency-Based Education. It is outcome-based education reform by another name —in another form. Just the same, it stinks of decay and ruin. No, the stench is worse.

Read on as my guest, a parent, explains the problems with standards-based assessments and the fallacy behind the label “competency-based education.” The following Facebook comment was spurred by an article about standards-based grading.

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In the real world, subjective assessment varies from person to person, group to group. Book and movie critics, for instance, vary widely as do reviews of plays and performances. Conversely, the correct answers to calculus and physics problems are the same regardless of the “assessor.”

For subjective subjects, a simple grading rubric for assignments used for the past 100 years or more allows the student to understand the keys to success for that assignment and to meet stated requirements. This is an important skill to master; in business one boss’s idea of success may not be consistent with another, and learning to flex your focus or style to please the assessor is a vital life skill.

The Standards-Based Grading article ignores this reality and instead hammers home the need for generic, uniform common core curriculum and regulated, dictated grading so as to strive for identical educational experiences.

Does this not take away the creative and unique ways individual educators can inspire and challenge and mold students according to their own God-given gifts for teaching?

Can we all not remember that special teacher in our schooling that changed us or “turned us on” to a topic that eventually brought us into a career path?

WHAT ARE WE BEING SOLD? Competency-based education?

CBE (Competency-Based Education/Standards-Based) reduces the teacher to a sidelined coach, while the message is delivered by the standardized computer message or electronic text.

Since the days of Greek philosophers the concept of students being instructed and led through thought-provoking discussion to debate and challenge each other has been a successful model. Now suddenly, whether 100 or 2,800 years old this method is no longer valid? Because of iPads and Chromebooks? They are just tools, like wrenches or shovels or chisels or paint brushes; used to make a masterpiece.

The educational masterpiece itself is created by tapping the potential of students for creation of beautiful self-expression and thoughtful debate. Educators who groove on passing knowledge to students are crucial to the process. The educator/lecturer should never be just a sidelined coach that allows the computer to do the instruction.

God help us if we buy into this philosophy.

Further, God help us if we think rote memorization of fundamental math facts and spelling words are not needed and deny they are essential building blocks in the formative grades for advanced skill set proficiency in the latter grades. Writing an essay on a piece of literature requires actually being able to write (penmanship) and to create sentences with appropriate structure and grammar, and to be able to spell words as they flow from the mind quickly.

And, none of the dangers pediatricians are warning of today with regard to limiting device time because of negative impacts on neural network development are mentioned in the Standards-Based Grading article.

Parents: please read and educate yourselves on CBE. It is designed to make students “worker bees” that generation by generation are dumbed down, dependent on the Federal government and unable or unwilling to challenge the “Powers that Be.”

Let’s not forget Jefferson, Franklin and the Founding Fathers were able to gain independence from the England and halt imperial expansion with firepower yes, but overwhelmingly with the Power of the Pen.

Truly free people must have free thinkers, not cookie cutter worker bees that just want enough jingle for a pack of smokes and a Red Bull. The elitists would be happy to write-off most of our kids in this way

Will you stand by and let them?

Or do you believe in the American dream as I do? That any child, from any home no matter how humble, no matter your skin color or your parental educational level or marital status …. ANY child can use the public education system to the fullest extent – extra credit if necessary – to be ANYTHING they want to be. And if they do, and if they make good choices, in three generations their entire family line can be pulled from poverty and be self-actualized. TRUTH: as long as we fight these ambitious, young, deceitful politicians that seek to suppress your child’s potential.

Are you going to let them do that to your child???? Your grandchildren? Our nation’s next generation?

Stay tuned folks, get informed, participate and show up to make your thoughts known. Let’s engage in thoughtful, respectful exchange of ideas, organize, and do something to CHANGE the overreach by the state and Federal government into our local education system. You can make a difference.

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Thank you to writer, Alyssa Collins (pen name). “Alyssa” is a full-time working mom and a conservative. She isn’t taking the wrongful action of our government/corporate directives in our schools lying down.

“I’ll be organizing routine meetings at local restaurants in the near future to fight CBE, Competency Based Education.”

Top Education Expert Has A Question for Betsy DeVos

Having begun his career in education in 1952, Marion Brady’s professional life spans not only the decades but also the rungs of the ladder of educational success. Having taught at every level as well as contributing to serious academic thought as a consultant and writer, Marion Brady IS an education expert. The following words are some of his most recent thoughts on the state of education reform in America. The addition of my own remarks will be noted in brackets [VMY]…Please consider his thoughts and the question he has for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos…

The Darwin Award is an annual tongue-in-cheek honor recognizing individuals who’ve contributed to human evolution by removing themselves from the gene pool—doing something stupid enough to kill themselves.

If there was a comparable award for countries, the United States would be in the running. I’ll explain.

Photo of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. [DeVos rose quickly to national political power over education reform through the authority given her by Congress in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). VMY]

Worldwide, the rate of environmental, technological, and demographic change is more rapid than it’s ever been, and is accelerating. If we want to maintain our way of life, we must understand the changes, manage those that can be managed, and adapt to those that are beyond our control.

Because problems can’t be solved using the same kind of thinking that created them, understanding, managing, and adapting to change require an ability to think in new ways.

Education expert Marion Brady. [Marion climbed the ladder of success as most of us do, one rung at a time, gaining the valuable insight only experience provides. VMY]

In the 1960s, thoughtful federal education legislation and funding for research encouraged educators to think freshly, and new instructional materials in the physical and social sciences and humanities began to appear that emphasized “learning by doing” rather than merely trying to remember secondhand, delivered information. The materials went by various labels—“inquiry,” “discovery,” “active learning,” and “constructivism.”

Traditional schooling had emphasized a single thought process—the ability to recall secondhand information delivered by textbook text and teacher talk. The new “inquiry” instructional materials required kids to use dozens of thought processes—to analyze, categorize, infer, hypothesize, relate, synthesize, imagine, predict, sequence, extrapolate, value, and so on.

Unfortunately, that departure from traditional expectations generated a “back-to-basics” backlash. Leaders of business and industry high-jacked the backlash and used their clout with federal and state politicians to engineer a souped-up version of traditional schooling. No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top, and high-stakes standardized tests, brought back traditional schooling’s emphasis on learner ability to merely recall (and sometimes) apply existing information.

The business and industry-initiated reforms didn’t just bring back an emphasis on memory work to the neglect of all other thought processes. Progress, today’s policymakers say, has to be “measurable.”
Kids, teachers, administrators, schools and school systems must be sorted and ranked based on standardized test scores.

The “measurable” fad has made meaningful education reform impossible. The measuring is done by machine-scored standardized tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can only count correct or incorrect answers. Questions that appear to require thought are really guess-what-the-writer-of-the-test-item-was-thinking. That’s a skill, but not a particularly useful one in the real world.

Today’s test-based “reforms” are preparing the young for what was, rather than the world as it is and is becoming. That isn’t just stupid, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.

*Those responsible* for the reactionary policies that continue to block the use of teaching materials requiring the continuous use of complex thought processes owe America a satisfactory answer to a question:

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness requires the routine use of myriad interdependent thought processes too complex and idiosyncratic to be evaluated by standardized tests.

Given this fact

—given the cost to taxpayers of those tests—

—given the time devoted to preparing for them—

—given the life-altering consequences of their scores for learners, teachers, and schools, and

—given their role in perpetuating intellect-limiting conceptions of learning—

why is it not morally unacceptable, ethically indefensible, and practically unwise to continue their use?

If a satisfactory response isn’t forthcoming, those who take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship will encourage and support the “opt-out-of-testing” movement.

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*To begin a much longer list*: Lou Gerstner; Edward Rust, Jr.; Bill Gates; Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Mike Bloomberg; Joel Klein; Kati Haycock; Bob Wise; Betsy DeVos; the officers of the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Education Trust; Democrats for Education Reform; the American Legislative Exchange Council; the Gates, Walton, Broad, Bradley, Dell and other foundations; members of Congress, and most state legislators.

[ Traditional versus “Inquiry”: Was it possible for those camps to coexist within a more balanced system? What if? But now, now we must stop the bleeding. ASK for your representatives to ANSWER the question. If you get no response, refuse to allow your child to be part of the test-based “measurable” fad. Refuse all forms of commercially developed standardized testing. Opt Out.)

America: Why Not Stop the Corporate Abuse of Children?

For decades corporate abuse of children in our classrooms has gone unchecked. Sound overly dramatic? Think again.

The global education corporations running the show know exactly what they are doing.

They read information like this, Stressed out: the psychological effects of tests on primary school children, and continue about their business.

“The overall prevalence of test anxiety in primary school children is on the increase and it is fairly common for children at the end of primary school.”

Yes! Magazine Test-based accountability systems include competency-based, “personalized” learning, and social/emotional learning (SEL) to name a few.

The article tells parents and teachers what they can do to reduce test anxiety. But is accepting this advice the right thing to do?

Is the emphasis on testing justified?

Think about the results. Both quality time with parents and instructional time with teachers is lost to corporate rule in our classrooms.

Tests are taking precedence over commonsense.

Is this abuse of children, or not? Still believe all the testing is necessary? Well, consider this. If the quality of instruction is what is important, have the tests improved instruction?

“Is High-Stakes Testing Working?”

As Jonathan Supovitz reminds us, the cornerstone of U.S. federal education policy (NCLB 2.0/ESSA) is test-based accountability systems….based on theories.

The truth?

“The data from high stakes tests are…. insufficient for individual-level accountability and provide meager information for instructional guidance.”

Misuse is abuse.

So have you heard, “the tests are not good enough”? Do you believe “better tests”— the next generation computer-adaptive, personalized, more frequent (embedded) tests — are the answer? That has not been determined. Yet the testing has been bought. And, there are plenty of valid reasons to just say, “stop.”

“Research has long indicated that test anxiety impairs student performance. More recent research indicates that taking a test in a CAT [computer-adaptive test] format can affect the ability estimates of students with test anxiety. Inaccurate measures of ability are disconcerting because of the threat they pose to the validity of test score interpretation.

Society has placed a high value on test scores; yet, their interpretation may not be valid.

What these “new, better” test do—with certainty— is profit corporations.

“…test sales have grown from approximately $260 million annually in 1997 to approximately $700 million today — nearly a threefold increase.” [or higher, now]

Profits up; student achievement flat. Test-based accountability isn’t being done “for the students,” as they say.

Has the public simply missed seeing the signs of corporate abuse in education reform?

CITIZENS: look closer, please. The abusive nature of testing is going way beyond whether or not a child can read and do math. In this data-driven world, every child’s future is at risk of being determined by an algorithm.

The venture capitalists of 21st Century Schools pushed technology into classrooms to collect every bit of data they can — on the whole child.

The worlds’ “leading learning company,” Pearson (U.S. division McGraw-Hill), continues to lead us. Our lawmakers continue to follow. It’s coercion. It’s corruption. It’s corporate abuse of our political system…..and of our children! And there is more to come.

Pearson Acquires ADHD Testing Company BioBehavioral Diagnostics

On August 27, 2013, global education company Pearson plc announced it had acquired BioBehavioral Diagnostics (BioBDx) and its flagship Quotient System, a computerized attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) assessment and management system approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 to aid in diagnosing ADHD. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

For Pearson, the acquisition provides an entry into health care markets, . . .

Do you think the data collected on school children now could be used against them when it comes to …say… insurance costs in the future?

We are taking immediate steps to strengthen support for current Quotient customers and expand our outreach to healthcare professionals,” … “We also look forward to introducing the Quotient ADHD Test to mental health and education professionals in both clinical and school settings.”

“ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral condition in children, and symptoms persist into adulthood in approximately 60 percent of cases.”

Knowing that ADHD “may have serious consequences” including “job failure,” can you see where data collected today could affect a child’s job prospects in the future?

Byron Hewett, Chairman and CEO of BioBDx, said,… “Our team has deep expertise in the diagnostic world, and we believe Pearson will benefit from that expertise in the years to come.”

No doubt, Pearson will benefit. The question is, should they benefit off American taxpayers in the name of public education reform? And is there any stopping them?

Protecting America from corporate abuse is about to get a lot harder

“From Enron to the financial crisis to climate change, the last two decades have seen abuses and failures of private industry on a world-historical scale.”

When Big Corp buys Congress, laws will perpetuate — not help solve — our problems. Everyone knows that, right?

But does the public understand the gravity in losing our public education system to the global corporate elite?

“Future Ready Schools” is supported by OUR U.S. Department of Education in the effort to have superintendents “commit to foster and lead a culture of digital learning.” Is this the public-private partnership we want to invest in?

Is this news that Americans have not heard? Is that why America is letting its public schools be taken over by groups like “Future Ready”……

….who are working to replace teachers with technology while calling it “a transition to personalized, digital learning”?

 

Folks, if you say “no” to these corporate abuses, forcing Congress to represent us is the only peaceful “check” on corporate power we have left….It won’t be easy. Congress needs to undo what they have done.

“Congress Passes Psychological Manipulation in an Education Bill”

Sound far-fetched? Not any more, it doesn’t. The education industry is showing their cards for all to see. And for the author of this article, Anita Hoge, this is deja vu….in nightmare form, I’m sure.

As a parent, she fought against outcome based education in the ‘90’s. She filed a complaint using the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment to stop the psychological and psychiatric testing and treatment in our classrooms . Well, IT’S BACK! And she is back in the fight. Here’s why:

“Speaker Paul Ryan pushed the passage of Every Student Achieves Act legislation through Congress along with Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee.” …

Anita’s call to action…

“Parents — the social, emotional, and behavioral aspects of your children are being monitored, evaluated, and CODED.”

Where does the information go? What will it be used for, and by whom?

We don’t have the answers, do we? But we all know that data CAN’T be fully protected. That puts children at risk…for life. Seriously.

So Anita, parents, and citizens across the United States are requesting….

“…an immediate injunction to stop the implementation of social, emotional, and behavioral standards and interventions that have been codified in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

“…Secretary DeVos to immediately take steps to prohibit teachers from carrying out the intrusive psychological and behavioral techniques named in the legislation to be used in on America’s children in American classrooms.”

“… President Trump call for an immediate injunction to stop the implementation of ESSA by Secretary DeVos and to request a repeal of ESSA.”

After 15 years of No Child Left Untested, I don’t know why America hasn’t stopped the corporate abuse of children in our classrooms.

“…corporate abuse of our political system has led to abusive testing practices in our classrooms.”

THAT is the God’s honest truth!

 

DeVos Distractions & The Pursuit of Truth

Betsy DeVos joins the Lamar Alexander D.C. charter/voucher/privatization team. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?

In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.

POLITICO 2016 A Look at Betsy DeVos Charitable Giving (Campbell Brown needed “charity”?) The Partnership for Educational Justice joined forces with 50CAN who previously merged with StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s original anti-teacher/pro-charter organization). The organization’s names are changing quickly as their power grows!

DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.

The real controversy?

Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.

So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.

Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…

Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX  in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.

But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…

…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…

…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.

So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?

The letter also resulted in creation of situations where  …

…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.

At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.

Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?

Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.

Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?

If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.

Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.

So what is the bigger picture? 

As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,

“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”

That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!

The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.

But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.

The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.

The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.

They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.

After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.

And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.

Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.

As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…

Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…

and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”

The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.

New Directions, Federal Education Policy in the 21st Century, 1999.

Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?

1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.

Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.

In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.

There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.

ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).

But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.

The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.

Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?

Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.

HERE’S THE KICKER!

If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.

If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.

What say you, Betsy DeVos?

“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.

But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.

[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”

Hear, hear; let’s do THAT!