Monday, September 1, 2014

Via Blue Nation Review / FB:


Via LIVING in DIALOGUE: Will the Teaching Class Take the Lead?

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From LIVING in DIALOGUE, Saturday, August 30, 2014. See http://www.livingindialogue.com/will-teaching-class-take-lead/
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Will the Teaching Class Take the Lead?

By Anthony Cody

[NOTE: Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California. ]

The teachers of America have been learning some very deep lessons about the nature of 21st century capitalism. And these lessons may turn teachers into a political force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Those who have studied Marxist theory know that he predicted that the exploited working class held the key to political and economic change. It is the workers that generate profits, and can leverage their role to seize control of the means of production.

But in 21st century America, workers have lost power. Few belong to unions, and strikes are rare. Large numbers of workers have been replaced through technological advances. Factories and mines that once employed thousands are now run by a fraction of those numbers.

Workers are still exploited, to be sure, and have a latent power that could be activated with the right leadership and organization. But I think we are witnessing the development of a new political force in America, the teaching class. And if this class fulfills its potential, it could offer a historic challenge to the economic marginalization of the middle and working class in America.

The teaching class consists of educators from pre-school through college. This group is facing the brute force of a class-based assault on their professional and economic status. The assault is being led by the wealthiest people in the world - Bill and Melinda Gates, via their vast foundation, the Walton family, and their foundation, and Eli Broad, and his foundation. And a host of second tier billionaires and entrepreneurs have joined in the drive. These individuals have poured billions of dollars into advancing a "reform" movement that is resulting in the rapid expansion of semi-private and private alternatives to public education, and the destruction of unions and due process rights for educators.

When I started writing my blog at Education Week in the summer of 2008, there were a handful of us raising concerns, mostly focused on the out-of-control high stakes tests associated with No Child Left Behind. We knew there was a whole lot wrong with the rationale behind these tests, and even more, we bore witness to the devastating effects the tests had on students, especially those they were supposed to be helping.

But over the past six years, much more has become clear. And now there are literally hundreds of educators writing about these issues, and thousands of activists organizing in their communities across the nation.

As the latest report from Yong Zhao and ASCD illustrates, there is absolutely zero connection between the productivity of our economy and test scores. There may be some minimum level of academic achievement below which our nation's economy might suffer, but our students are far, far above that threshold. So the entire economic rationale for our obsession with test scores and "higher standards" has been obliterated. [see http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/policypoints/Test-Scores-
Economic-Performance-Aug-14.pdf ]

Even liberal rationales for education reform are falling away. We have heard for the past decade that employers need students who can think critically and creatively, that everyone must be prepared for college. These arguments have been used to promote progressive models of education, along with the Common Core. The economic assumption here is that the middle class will grow as more students are prepared for middle class jobs. But the number of such jobs are shrinking, not growing. The supposed shortage of people prepared for STEM careers is a hoax, as we see with the layoff of 18,000 such workers by Microsoft.[see http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/07/27/bill-gates-tech-worker-wages-reforms-employment-column/13243305/ ] In fact, one economic projection suggests that in the next 20 years, 47% of the jobs of today will be gone as a result of technological advances and what Bill Gates terms "software substitution." (see the full report here  -- http://www.technologyreview.com/view/519241/report-suggests-nearly-half-of-us-jobs-are-vulnerable-to-computerization/

Prior to the past decade, public schools and universities had been a bit of a haven from the ravages of capitalism. People who chose careers as educators were able to engage in a collaborative, cooperative venture, building community within their schools, and with parents as well. But billionaires like Rupert Murdoch spied the untapped wealth going from taxpayer to public employees, with few opportunities for profiteers to extract their portion, and saw a market ripe for disruption.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama saw a contest between progressive educators like Linda Darling Hammond, and the advocates of disruption of the "government monopoly" on education. When the campaign cash came flowing in from the hedge funders and financiers, that contest was decided and there has been no turning back. The backers of charters, Teach For America and the Common Core have gotten everything they wanted from this administration. Public dollars have flowed to expand their projects, and the Federal government has pressured states to remove any limits on the expansion of charter schools.

The connection between political spending and public policy has been made brazenly clear. In 2011, Stand For Children CEO Jonah Edelman's braggadocios description of how his organization outflanked the teachers in Illinois made it very clear how the sausage was being made. [see http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2011/07/jonah_edelman_reveals_
how_corp.html ] The way profiteers like virtual charter chain K12 Inc have used ALEC and politicians like Jeb Bush, and his "non-profit," the Foundation for Educational Excellence, to get public funds spent on a clearly inferior educational system shows that the system is being rigged. [see http://www.pressherald.com/2012/09/01/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02/ ]

Teachers are paying attention. Study after study provides evidence that the central planks of corporate education reform not only fail to work, but are undermining the education of our students. This project that was supposed to be driven by data is collapsing, and would be long gone if our politicians were not being legally bribed to look the other way. Corporate education reform is a fraud, a hoax perpetrated on the public, with the active complicity of media outlets like NBC, which allows the Gates Foundation to dictate the very "facts" that guide their coverage of education issues. [see http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2011/09/circular_reasoning_at_the_gate.html ]

But teachers have been building their own means of communication and understanding. Diane Ravitch's blog rivals Education Week as a source for up to date information about what is happening around the nation, and the Gates Foundation is not vetting HER facts! [ see http://dianeravitch.net/ ] The development of our own media remains a major challenge, and is one of the reasons this blog became independent. I have seen estimates that fifty percent of Twitter traffic is related to education, and voices critical of the status quo reforms are highly visible.

Here is what teachers are seeing:

In the largest school districts in the nation, we see the billionaires behaving as bullies. Eva Moskowitz has just ensconced herself in multimillion dollar headquarters on Wall Street, after punishing the newly elected mayor for having the temerity to block a few of her charter takeovers. [see http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/27/eva-moves-her-offices-to-wall-street/ ] In Los Angeles, emails are revealing behind the scenes deals worth many millions that violate the most basic ethical standards. Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings has stated his goal of shifting public schools out of the control of democratically elected school boards. [see http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/27/los-angeles-is-this-email-the-smoking-gun-in-the-apple-pearson-contract/ ]

Corporate reformers have diabolically targeted teachers where we were most vulnerable, by accusing us of placing our own interests above those of our students. Every element of corporate reform has been leveraged on this point. No Child Left Behind accused teachers of holding students back through our "soft bigotry of low expectations." Due process has been undermined or destroyed because it supposedly provides shelter for the "bad teachers" responsible for low test scores.

But this point of vulnerability is also our greatest latent strength going forward. Because teachers are deeply motivated by concern for their students, they are attuned to the devastating effects reform is having on them. Teachers are seeing what happens in communities when schools are closed - usually in poor African American and Latino neighborhoods. Teachers are seeing how technologically based "innovations" funnel both scarce funds along with student data to profit-seeking corporations. We have had more than a decade of test-driven reform, and teachers know better than anyone what a sham approach this has been. Teachers have seen and responded to the Michael Brown shooting, and though there are still difficult conversations ahead about race, teachers have a head start, because of our work with young people who are, like Michael Brown, vulnerable to racial profiling and the school to prison pipeline.

Teachers have some important pieces of the puzzle, but we have not built the whole picture yet. There is a growing awareness of the discriminatory way laws are enforced, leading to huge numbers of African Americans and Latinos behind bars. But there is still a weak understanding of how this fits into a system that keeps communities of color economically and politically disempowered. School closures are a part of this disenfranchisement, as they rob communities of stable centers of learning. The disproportionate layoffs and terminations of African American teachers are a part of this pattern as well. We need a new civil rights coalition that brings these interests into sharp focus, and establishes alliances between teachers, students, parents and community members.

When teachers bring a deep understanding of how our work has been hijacked and disrupted to bear on broader social issues, we find similar patterns elsewhere. We can see how profiteers are trying to sideline the US Postal Service, even though the level of service for the public will suffer. [see http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/08/prisons_post_offices_
and_publi.html ] We see how the prison industry has turned into an enormous machine that sustains itself through vigorous lobbying, to the great disservice of many Americans. We see how laws governing debt are written to give tremendous advantage to financiers, while binding our students into a new form of indentured servitude. [ see http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/08/25/the-student-loan-bubble-is-creating-a-generation-o.aspx ]We see how leading Democratic Party politicians have taken campaign contributions in the millions from the sworn enemies of public education, and have become their servants.

There are a few places where this strength and awareness is being built upon. Activists in the Chicago Teachers Union campaigned to connect the future of their organization with the interests of students and parents in their community. They held community meetings to find out the issues parents and students cared about most. And they went on the offensive, redefining the very idea of reform so that it revolves around the interests of students, rather than profit-seeking corporations. [see http://www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/the-schools-chicagos-students-deserve ] When Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to squash them, they organized, and had the most successful strike of the past decade. [see http://www.ctunet.com/blog/chicago-teachers-union-joins-opposition-to-common-core ] This summer, the CTU applied their analytic powers to the Common Core, and even challenged the project on the floor of the AFT convention. They continue to organize and challenge the billionaire power structure, and if Karen Lewis decides to challenge Emanuel in the race for mayor, that will really shake things up. And the Chicago Teachers Union is not alone in engaging in this approach rooted in social justice. Activists in Milwaukee, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles are doing similar work. Organizations like the Network for Public Education [see http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/ ] and the Badass Teachers Association offer avenues for activists to connect and mobilize as well. [see https://www.facebook.com/login.php?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2FBadAssTeachers%2F ] The group United OptOut is connecting teachers, students and parents who are organizing boycotts of the tests that are being used to undermine and destroy our schools. [see http://www.livingindialogue.com/will-teaching-class-take-lead/unitedoptout.com ]

The term "teacher leadership" has been used to describe a narrow range of activities often related to "getting a seat at the table," or taking charge of professional development or Common Core implementation. But the real potential for teacher leadership arises when we take the lessons we have learned from a decade of being the targets of phony corporate reforms, and recognize our kinship with others who have been disenfranchised. The number of wealthy individuals who have sponsored this decade of fraudulent reform could fit in a small movie theater. Teachers number in the millions - our students and allies are in the hundreds of millions. The only thing that can beat the power of money is the power of people. But the people must be informed and organized. That sounds like work teachers ought to be able to handle.

What do you think? Is it time to bring new meaning to the term teacher leadership, and bring it out of the schools and into the streets?
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Image credit:  Sarah Jane Rhee
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Via Ioadicaeu's Blog: I no longer have patience

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“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” 
 
- Meryl Streep
 
 
 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

America - He's Your President for Goodness Sake!

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.
Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it,

Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.
America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. 

President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.

For comments, ideas or a signed copy of a book, go to www.williamthomas.ca

OCTOBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND

Via Spiritual Ecology: Indian man single-handedly plants a 1,360-acre forest (and changes the story)



Jadav Payeng turned a barren sandbar in northern India into a lush new forest ecosystem.

A little more than 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace in northern India's Assam region to grow a refuge for wildlife. Not long after, he decided to ded
icate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site so he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acres of jungle that Payeng planted — single-handedly.

The Times of India recently caught up with Payeng in his remote forest lodge to learn more about how he came to leave such an indelible mark on the landscape.

It all started way back in 1979, when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng, only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested," says Payeng, now 47.

While it's taken years for Payeng's remarkable dedication to planting to receive some well-deserved recognition internationally, it didn't take long for wildlife in the region to benefit from the manufactured forest. Demonstrating a keen understanding of ecological balance, Payeng even transplanted ants to his burgeoning ecosystem to bolster its natural harmony. Soon the shadeless sandbar was transformed into a self-functioning environment where a menagerie of creatures could dwell. The forest, called the Molai woods, now serves as a safe haven for numerous birds, deer, rhinos, tigers and elephants — species increasingly at risk from habitat loss.

Despite the conspicuousness of Payeng's project, forestry officials in the region first learned of this new forest in 2008 — and since then they've come to recognize his efforts as truly remarkable, but perhaps not enough.

"We're amazed at Payeng," says Gunin Saikia, assistant conservator of Forests. "He has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero."


With thanks to Bron Taylor, http://www.brontaylor.com/ professor of Religion and Environmental Ethics at U of FLA
Copyright 2011 by Daniel C. Orey All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.