Saturday, December 27, 2014

Via The Blue Street Journal / FB:

 

If you watched Rachel Maddow's documentary "Why We Did It" tonight, you'll understand why we're sharing this. Such a disgrace. 


Friday, December 26, 2014

Jim Carrey's Secret to Life



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Via Brandon Weber / FB:


Via LIVING in DIAGLOGUE: Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

From LIVING in DIAGLOGUE, Wednesday, December 17, 2014. See http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat/#comments
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Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

[Accountability / Bill Gates / Charter schools / Common Core / Grassroots Activism / Standardized tests / Teach For Americ]

By Anthony Cody

There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed - they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that's ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA's no excuses philosophy to guide them.

But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice - given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.

Charter schools: We were told that charter schools were where innovation was happening. Freed from the dual constraints of district management and union contracts, these schools were going to show the laggards in public schools how it should be done. Some even claimed to have "figured out" how to overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement. So the billionaire geniuses of corporate reform insisted that all barriers and regulations on charters be removed or minimized. This requirement was written into Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. Want federal money? Better open the door for charter schools. Want special grants from the Gates Foundation? Open the doors to charters in your district.

But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to "serve the strivers," and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform "No Child Left Behind," that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.

New and Improved Standards and Tests: Since 2010 we have heard that the answer to the terrible impact of No Child Left Behind was to create better tests, aligned with the new Common Core standards. Modern technology would allow the tests to be taken on computers, which would cleverly adjust themselves to students' ability levels. These would be tests worth teaching to. Now the tests have arrived, and there are three huge problems. First, the tests themselves are confusing and unworkable, leading a growing number of states to reject them. Second, the tests require a huge investment in technology, since they must be taken online on computers. Third, when students take these tests, proficiency rates are plummeting, leading many to question their legitimacy. How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights? And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating. When a fourth grader can deliver a devastating statement like this, the Common Core tests cannot long survive.

The Pseudoscience of VAM for Teacher Evaluations: One of the central pillars of the Gates Foundation's dream for making standards and tests consequential to each and every teacher in the nation was the use of Value Added Models in teacher evaluations. As Peter Greene pointed out this week, this is one hill that Arne Duncan has staked out as one he will defend to the end - but the end may come nonetheless. The use of VAM to evaluate teachers has been roundly discredited and even disavowed by the American Statistical Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. But Duncan now wants to use VAM to punish schools of education whose graduates are not sufficiently "effective" in raising test scores. This is one dead horse that Duncan needs to stop flogging.

Over at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog, there is some headscratching going on. Andy Smarick wrote last week of what he described as a return to homeostasis. In the world of the reformer, disruption and instability is to be created and celebrated. Homeostasis, that stable state that healthy organisms require to sustain health and vitality, is the enemy. He cites the exodus of reform-era state chiefs and their replacement by actual educators, and the dangers that annual testing - one of the bedrocks of test-driven accountability - may face when ESEA reauthorization comes up this year. Smarick concludes: "Homeostasis may be bringing this heady era of reform disequilibrium to an end."

It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic - though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms. Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.

We cannot pass laws that declare others "accountable" for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children - not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.
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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.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Via politicususa.com: Thanks, Obama! Economy Surges Forward As GDP Growth Fastest In More Than A Decade


The federal government reported Friday that real GDP growth rose by 5.0% for the third quarter of 2014, marking the fastest growth in any quarter since 2003. The number was higher than most analysts had predicted as growth was expected to be robust by closer to 4% due to initial estimates last month setting the growth at 3.9%. Increased consumer and business spending were the key factors leading to the higher number.

With a second straight quarter of rapid growth, the conventional logic thrown about from conservatives that President Obama’s policies are destroying the economy and the Affordable Care Act is the “nation’s number one job killer” looks downright silly. In fact, one of the major drivers in the fast growth is the fact that health-care spending has increased, showing that more people who now have insurance are able to utilize health services. This, in turn, also creates job growth in that industry.

This is just the latest in a string of good economic news for this current administration. Currently, the unemployment rate is at 5.9%, and job growth is at its strongest level since the Clinton Administration. Low gas prices are allowing consumers to spend more money elsewhere. While wages aren’t rising as fast as they should, they are finally moving up. Overall, Obama’s economy is humming along and is actually an improvement over the campaign promises from Mitt Romney in 2012.

On Friday, Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog discussed the issue Republicans will now face in attempting to criticize the economy and this administration.



Via FB:


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Via Wikipedia: The Next American Nation - Brazilianization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from Brazilianization)

The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution (ISBN 0-684-82503-1) is a 1995 book by journalist and historian Michael Lind, published by Free Press.
 
Lind's book focuses on criticism of two trends. The first, multiculturalism, he characterizes as an "unmitigated calamity" and a "a repellent and failed regime". Thus, Lind opposes affirmative action and racial quotas, and identifies the elimination of them as a "nonnegotiable demand". The second is a series of compromises struck by what Lind calls the white "plutocracy", "overclass", or "oligarchy". In the "first American Republic", he says, this "Anglo-American nation," the compromise was between North and South to keep blacks in bondage. "The Second American Republic", what Mr. Lind calls "Euro-America," saw the bargain struck between the oligarchy and the white working class to keep blacks marginalized.[1]

Lind further writes that multiculturalism is the basis for another such compromise, in which the "white ruling class" has, in fact, used racial quotas to appease blacks and other minority groups by promoting token numbers among them, but leaving the majority unhelped. This, Lind argues, has led not to Balkanization but "Brazilianization", a toponym which he defines as "a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty."

"Brazilianization", Lind writes, is characterized by the "increasing withdrawal of the White American overclass into its... world of private neighborhoods, private schools, private police, private health care, and even private roads, walled off from the spreading squalor beyond. Like a Latin American oligarchy, the rich and well-connected members of the overclass can flourish in a decadent America with Third World levels of inequality and crime."[2]

Notes

  1. Books of the Times: An American Manifesto for a Desirable Future, Richard Bernstein, New York Times
  2. "Moral Crisis in Society", New Dialogue, University of Virginia Center for Ethics, Capital Markets, and Political Economy

Via adriennemareebrown.net: We cannot conquer each other.

 

Yesterday two police officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn. And in my social media realm I saw some responses that felt celebratory. I wanted to push back.

I get it. The more we become aware of the constant violence happening to us, the more unbearable it is. We develop an intelligent desire for vengeance.

But don’t let anyone get inside your heart! Don’t let the sickness of racism find a way to make hate feel at home in you.

I don’t expect any of our organizing and transformation work to rid this system of punitive police violence through legislation. This system is rooted in slavery, white supremacy, scarcity and violence.

I believe that our work is to begin and/or deepen experiments rooted in cooperation, compassion, abundance and dignity. We are soil, and earthworms in the soil. Nothing disappears, it only transforms, that’s just science. So here we are, knowing capitalism won’t disappear, composting the bullshit, producing fertile ground for life.

We must produce conditions conducive to black life inside of and between people and a nation conditioned for white supremacy…and we are not free from that conditioning even as we do the work. White supremacy and race-based capitalism permeates everything. 

The primary symptom of this sickness of white supremacy is the capacity, and even desire, to write off a section of other humans as less than us, to believe that another group of humans, or several groups, do not deserve love, compassion, patience, transformative justice – or just, on some basic shit, to not be shot in the back. And to generalize a righteous defence into a murderous offense. Eventually, to not be able to see the innocence and possibilities in others.

I write this as the daughter of an American military man, sister to an American government employee, cousin to militia men, granddaughter of a christian evangelical, aunt to blue eyed children.
A few of you may come from families of 100% radical black freedom fighters. But the majority of radical people in this country are related to capitalists and racists.

We could write these people off because we oppose the systems they are a part of, have been persecuted by people just like them. 

But for me, the bind of blood has made me consider my responsibility, has kept me in the game long enough to glimpse the wholeness of each of these humans, to witness the way they love even inside of all that sickness. 

In many cases these family members would and have argued that their love drives them to participate in these violent systems. The particular sickness of race-based capitalism makes us believe the world can’t sustain us all, that we need to hoard and tier resources just for ‘our own’. 

I believe that my love of myself and others and my authentic engagement can disrupt those systems.
My love is the only weapon I carry. 

Part of my life’s work is to stay in direct contact with each person’s humanity, to show that I see it. I struggle in this, it’s internal liberation work. I don’t want to grow the violent, callous, reductionist aspects of humanity, and I believe that ‘what we give our attention to grows.’ 

Some days I can extend my love to all humans, or most of us. Some days I can only get as far as my family. 

It’s enough. 

Wartime comes into being when we cannot extend love and humanity to others, when we forget we are more alike than different. Yesterday there were communications going around using the word wartime, sourced from the police union in New York. Wars are fought to conquer, to win territory. 

We can’t win by becoming what we are fighting against. In any case, the role of the police isn’t to conquer the people. We aren’t trying to win territory from police, we want to transform the root of racism within them, to stop the lynching. 

We cannot conquer each other. The lie is that we can win safety through violence and war.
War is surface behavior, indicating something is rotten at the root. To truly change the conditions, we must do radical work. In and through ourselves. 

This is the heart of black lives matter. It is not, and never has been, ‘black lives matter at the exclusion of white lives’ or ‘cop lives’ or ‘all lives’. It has always been about asserting that within the broader truth that all lives matter, blacks – black men, black women, black trans people, black children – are being executed at a genocidal rate. Black lives matter is us saying no, our lives are not disposable. 

Miraculous precious mysterious black life is not disposable. 

Black lives matter includes the need to love and cherish our own and each other’s lives…it doesn’t discount black on black aggressions, it doesn’t discount the need to counter our own internalized racism. 

The brilliance of ‘black lives matter’ is that the truth is so simple and massive to hold: In spite of nearly everything that has happened on this continent since black people arrived, we assert our humanity, our right to exist.

I believe, and I’m not alone in this belief, that racism is an illness. Passed down through conditioning. A dangerous deluded state which, unchecked, yields slavery and genocide. It must be addressed directly. 

Our most reactionary responses only grow racism. Fed violence, racism grows. Fed violence, all violence grows. 

I don’t advocate for swallowing genocide – I believe in self defense. There are people I look up to throughout history who, in the face of escalating eradication strategies by the state, armed themselves and said ‘no more’. But arming a people in self defense is a different strategy from random executions. 

A black man attempting to kill his black girlfriend and then killing two people of color in police uniform is not anything to celebrate – it is the sickness manifest. It is the inevitable place sickness takes us – death. 

The thing we want to stop, in this moment of police violence, is black death by execution. We want to stop lynching, not match it. We want to stop the pattern of killing based on racialized distortion. 

The fact that cops can see a black person and, in a situation that requires no violence, can decide to shoot that black person in the head, or heart, or in the back, or 6-41 times, or choke that person to death, or slam that person’s head into the pavement at a fatal angle, that is what we’re fighting against. 

Dehumanization. 

It enrages us that police can see a black person as a wild animal to take down, and we are standing up and shutting it all down to fight against that. For our dignity we are standing up, for our humanity.

Taking on that behavior would be the ultimate sign of our loss. 

Some of us call the cops pigs, and I’ve heard my share of no bacon, no pork jokes. Most humor is rooted in trauma, we laugh so we can keep moving forward when irrational horrific things keep happening. 

But police are humans, like us. Related to us. Some even still think they are protecting us. The harder truth is that humans – not pigs, not beasts – but parents and children and lovers, would treat other humans the way cops have been treating us. Have been trained to treat us.

Still, like the people the cops have been killing, innocent or criminal or criminalized, they all have the capacity to transform. 

That means there are options. 

Cops are family to non-cops. If you have a police officer of any race in your family, don’t rage at large on social media – call them. If you have racist family, or family suffering from internalized racism…write them love notes. Talk about why ‘black lives matter’ and Ferguson moves you, talk about what you long for, grasp them at the root and let them know you are fighting for their humanity. 

Violence is often seeded in cowardice and distance – now is the time to be brave, directly. 

Our movement will keep growing, what’s happening now will keep escalating. In the same way that some of the most powerful activists against war are ex-soldiers, we need those who’ve seen the inside of structured police violence to know there is another way, that they have a place in the fight for liberation. To know that we believe they can reclaim their own humanity. 

This is a moment to embody what we long for. To see humanity even through the most dehumanizing conditioning. 

Can we offer the thing we demand, the capacity to look beneath the surface, in spite of the trauma and brainwashing? 

Can we relinquish the comfort of faceless enemies? 

Can we protect our basic ability to grieve the loss of human life? 

Can we hone our ability to find the humanity in each person and keep our attention there? 

Can we generate in the face of destruction?


Via Collective Evolution / FB:


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