April 14, 2014
"There are at least three approaches to evaluating the role of big philanthropy in ed reform. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and stronger arguments. The first approach focuses on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning. For example, a critique of using value-added modeling to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers would deal with the inherent unreliability of the calculations, the nonsensical use of faulty formulas to measure growth in learning, and the negative consequences of rating teachers with such a flawed tool. The second approach examines how big philanthropy’s ed-reform activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy. The questions to ask are these: Has the public’s voice in the governance of public education been strengthened or weakened? Are politicians more or less responsive? Is the press more or less free to inform them? This approach pinpoints certain types of foundation activity: paying the salaries of high-level personnel to do ed-reform work within government departments; making grants to education departments dependent on specific politicians remaining in office; promoting mayoral control and state control of school districts instead of control by elected school boards; financing scores of ed-reform nonprofits to implement and advocate for the foundations’ pet policies—activity that has undermined the autonomy and creativity of the nonprofit sector in education; funding (and thus influencing) the national professional associations of government officials, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and funding media coverage of education. The third approach examines large private foundations as peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy. This approach considers big philanthropy in general and uses ed reform as one example of how mega-foundations undermine democratic governance and civil society. The objections to wealthy private corporations dedicated to doing good (as they see it) have remained the same since the early twentieth century when the first mega-foundations were created: they intervene in public life but aren’t accountable to the public; they are privately governed but publicly subsidized by being tax exempt; and in a country where money translates into political power, they reinforce the problem of plutocracy—the exercise of power derived from wealth."

How to Criticize “Big Philanthropy” Effectively | Dissent Magazine

April 3, 2014
(via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

(via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

March 31, 2014
"The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!"

Arne Duncan just doesn’t get it: How the media and phony reformers hurt your kids - Salon.com

2:39pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z059by1BkP4t8
Filed under: education politics salon 
March 26, 2014
"The achievement gap is widening. Students are falling below basic in staggering numbers (50% of third grade black students below basic on ELA tests, 84% ELL students below basic on ELA tests, and the list goes on). The “promise of the common core” turns out to be nothing more than threatening students “You’re going to pass this high stakes test or we’re going to label you a failure, punish your teachers, and keep you from graduating.” That’s not the soft bigotry of low expectations, but the rather harsh bigotry of “Those damn lazy kids just aren’t motivated enough. Threaten them.” They don’t need help, support, resources, economic relief, or anything else— just threats. The cost of this bad threat is more than the students should have to bear and certainly of no benefit to us as a society. And the test results recall one more lesson from Basic Teacher 101. If you have given a test to your class and a huge percentage of the students have failed it, it’s a bad test."


March 8, 2014
Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

View On WordPress

March 3, 2014
"Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection. For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate. True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will. And, of course, each of the “pivotal” Supreme Court justices is four years older than he or she was the last time. Why does this tailing behind an increasingly right-of-center Democratic Party persist in the absence of any apparent payoff? There has nearly always been a qualifying excuse: Republicans control the White House; they control Congress; they’re strong enough to block progressive initiatives even if they don’t control either the executive or the legislative branch. Thus have the faithful been able to take comfort in the circular self-evidence of their conviction. Each undesirable act by a Republican administration is eo ipso evidence that if the Democratic candidate had won, things would have been much better. When Democrats have been in office, the imagined omnipresent threat from the Republican bugbear remains a fatal constraint on action and a pretext for suppressing criticism from the left. Exaggerating the differences between Democratic and Republican candidates, moreover, encourages the retrospective sanitizing of previous Democratic candidates and administrations. If only Al Gore had been inaugurated after the 2000 election, the story goes, we might well not have had the September 11 attacks and certainly would not have had the Iraq War — as if it were unimaginable that the Republican reaction to the attacks could have goaded him into precisely such an act. And considering his bellicose stand on Iraq during the 2000 campaign, he well might not have needed goading. The stale proclamations of urgency are piled on top of the standard jeremiads about the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade. The “filibuster-proof Senate majority” was the gimmick that spruced up the 2008 election cycle, conveniently suggesting strategic preparation for large policy initiatives while deferring discussion of what precisely those initiatives might be. It was an ideal diversion that gave wonks, would-be wonks, and people who just watch too much cable-television news something to chatter about and a rhetorical basis for feeling “informed.” It was, however, built on the bogus premise that Democrat = liberal."

ZCommunications » The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals

February 12, 2014
"Let’s talk, in particular, about dignity. It’s all very well to talk vaguely about the dignity of work; but the idea that all workers can regard themselves as equal in dignity despite huge disparities in income is just foolish. When you’re in a world where 40 money managers make as much as 300,000 high school teachers, it’s just silly to imagine that there will be any sense, on either side, of equal dignity in work. And one demonstration of this reality is the angry reaction people like me get when we cite facts like this; nobody, and I mean nobody, on the right that I’ve encountered seems willing simply to accept the fact and argue that it’s justified. Instead, they regard pointing out the reality of extreme inequality as somehow inherently outrageous — because they know how explosive that reality is. As it turns out, by the way, the people who seem least inclined to value work in itself, even if it doesn’t pay very well, are the winners: we live in the age of the angry billionaire, furious if anyone should suggest that his wealth doesn’t entitle him to acclamation as well as luxury. Now, one way to enhance the dignity of ordinary workers is through, yes, entitlements: make it part of their birthright, as American citizens, that they get certain basics such as a minimal income in retirement, support in times of unemployment, and essential health care. But the Republican position is that none of these things should be provided, and that if somehow they do get provided, they should come only at the price of massive government intrusion into the recipient’s personal lives — making sure that you don’t take advantage of health reform to work less, requiring that you undergo drug tests to receive unemployment benefits or food stamps, and so on. In short, while conservatives may preach the dignity of work, their actual agenda is to deny lower-income workers as much dignity — and personal freedom — as possible."

Inequality and Indignity - NYTimes.com

January 20, 2014
"The gun people and the NRA people have a propaganda mantra about people killing people not guns. That is a lie. Guns do kill people. Proof positive, ask any mother from the Tuscon murders or the Aurora, Colorado murders or the Sandy Hook murders. Replace that lie with something truthful like “Only cowards carry guns.” The gun people and the NRA people certainly will hate this epithet. They are cowards. The gun people and the NRA people are fearful of unseen evils. The gun people and the NRA people have always clearly known the price of everything, and the value of nothing."

The  Martinshushu  Blog: Listen Up “Only Cowards Carry Guns”

January 16, 2014
DecodeDC - Home - Episode 24: The Real Fight Over Unemployment Benefits

Podcast of the Day

This is an encouraging investigation into the Unemployment Benefits debate.

January 6, 2014
Poverty vs. Democracy in America - Daniel Weeks - The Atlantic

January 6, 2014
The US declared war on poverty 50 years ago. You would never know it | Nicolaus Mills | Comment is free | theguardian.com

December 23, 2013
Sex, Ducks, and The Founding Feud - Radiolab

Podcast of the Day

Our political system is dysfunctional by design.

December 17, 2013
"The gas tax is so unpopular precisely because it is so low and driving is so subsidized. The less we subsidize driving and instead require drivers to pay their own social cost, the more we will develop alternative modes of transportation. And the more people have viable alternatives to driving, such as mass transit, the more amenable they will be to raising gas taxes to support those alternatives."

Why we should raise the gas tax, and why we won’t | Grist

October 8, 2013
"Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit. Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be. While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do. This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action. In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them."

Rich People Just Care Less - NYTimes.com

July 3, 2013
"The economist Albert O. Hirschman, profiled by Malcolm Gladwell in a recent New Yorker article, pointed out that economic systems aren’t always so simple and predictable. In his best known book “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty,” Hirschman contrasted “exit” and “voice” as the two primary ways that people deal with challenging situations. “Exit” means voting with your feet, taking your business somewhere else. “Voice” means staying put and trying to make things better. “There is no denying where (Hirschman’s) heart lay,” Gladwell writes. It lay on the side of voice. In the example of a public school or school system that should improve, “exit” means you leave for a private or charter school and “voice” means you work to make the public schools better. You join the PTO, volunteer, go to school board meetings, write letters to the newspaper, lobby the legislature, etc. Hirschman, who died last December at 97, suggested schools won’t be motivated to improve if parents who might push for change are likely to exit instead. “The worst thing that ever happened to incompetent public-school districts,” Gladwell writes, “was the growth of private schools: they siphoned off the kind of parents who would otherwise have agitated more strongly for reform.” Hirschman disagreed fundamentally with his fellow economist Milton Friedman, the godfather of the school voucher movement. (The Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which the economist and his wife established, is the intellectual center of voucher advocacy.). “In the first place, Friedman considers withdrawal or exit as the ‘direct’ way of expressing one’s unfavorable views of an organization,” Hirschman wrote. “A person less well trained in economics might naively suggest that the direct way of expressing views is to express them! “Secondly, the decision to voice one’s views and efforts to make them prevail are contemptuously referred to by Friedman as a resort to ‘cumbrous political channels,’” Hirschman added. “But what else is the political, and indeed the democratic, process than the digging, the use, and hopefully the slow improvement of these very channels?” Here’s another way of saying it: The contempt that school choice advocates commonly express for public schools is, at its root, contempt for democracy itself. Share this:"

‘Voice,’ not ‘choice,’ will make schools better | School Matters

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