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Education

This is the right wing agenda, not only in Wisconsin, not only in Louisiana, not only in Kansas, but in EVERY state where the right either has power or is attempting to get power.

 

That includes Minnesota, where the right has opposed funding for education under a variety of guises. That includes Congressman John Kline, who has taken lots of money from big oil and other fossil fuel corporations, and done a grave disservice to voters and to students.  Look for similar moves by other Republicans.  This is the epitome of the corruption of government, and of government for the corporations, not for WE THE PEOPLE.
 

From US uncut.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has slashed funding to public colleges by $600 million since 2008–more than any other state. Over the same period, Jindal has handed corporations $11 billion in tax cuts–also more than any other state. Louisiana now faces a record budget deficit which Governor Jindal proposes to solve by cutting an additional $300 million from state colleges. After he awarded oil giant ExxonMobil with $263 million in subsidies.


 

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Minnesota’s charters aren’t getting it done

by Dan Burns on February 18, 2015 · 0 comments

abandonedschoolThis is about shredding the education deformers, with facts. It’s not about taking shots at charter school students and teachers. They’re not the problem; the context is.
 

Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth, according to a Star Tribune analysis of school performance data.
 
The analysis of 128 of the state’s 157 charter schools show that the gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72 percent were proficient.
 
Between 2011 and 2014, 20 charter schools failed every year to meet the state’s expectations for academic growth each year, signaling that some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable students had stagnated academically.
 
A top official with the Minnesota Department of Education says she is troubled by the data, which runs counter to “the public narrative” that charter schools are generally superior to public schools.
(StarTribune)

Like many in the anti-corporatization movement, I believe that charters, or something like them, do potentially have a place: dealing with the really challenging students via specialized approaches. But they need to be relatively few; legitimately, entirely non-profit; and very closely regulated. That is, corporate-free. And the corporations that have been profiting from attacks on public education need to be held fully accountable, financially and legally. Briefly, they need to be crushed. After they’ve paid up, to the last thin dime.
 
Re: exposing the deformers, this is a good place to add:
 

With an extensive and carefully detailed examination of the British publishing giant Pearson, published by Politico last week, Stephanie Simon has drawn a similar conclusion about the state of American education: “The story of Pearson’s rise,” Simon writes, “is very much a story about America’s obsession with education reform over the past few decades.” In short, our obsession with “accountability” at all costs has given birth to an industry that, while feeding on taxpayer dollars, corrupts the very thing it (erroneously) seeks to measure: learning. As with Wilde’s poor, here, too, it is self-evident: our remedies have become part of our disease…
 
Simon’s disturbing expose of corporate gain on the backs of taxpayer dollars is a most welcome addition to the efforts currently being made to beat back the corporatization of education, many of them led by educational researchers and teachers. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with the current state of education. But its appearance also raises a critical question: Why has it taken so long for the media to take note? Scholars and teachers have been warning of this for years.
(AlterNet)

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GIGO = Garbage In, Garbage Out, or my alternative version, Garbage Information, Garbage Opinion.

 

Do you remember any of the many examples of the radical right believing not in a true spiritual faith, but in foolish superstition, of the kind which denies real cause and effect, and replaces it with made up silly stuff? Here are a few, a little fun for those who are still superstitious about on Friday the 13th. Laugh at the superstition, and have a good laugh at the right wing nuts too.

 

This is one of my favorites, expressing the notion apparently that all that hard work, death and sacrifice, expense and effort to win the Civil War was unnecessary. Because the ridiculous religious right and the radical right generally believe God picks favorites; they believe HE doesn’t love all his children, at least not equally. And until Lincoln made his prayer, depending on your interpretation of God’s motives and reasoning, God was just flipping a coin as to which side of the Civil War to prefer, until Lincoln lobbied Him or bribed Him with better prayers than the other side.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find that offensive as a religious premise, I find it offensive because it is the dumbing down America by grossly misrepresenting our history. This is especially appropriate here on the day after Lincoln’s birthday; he must have been rolling in his grave at this monstrous representation of the events of his presidency. This is not history, this is right wingnuts making up rubbish, and stamping it with the false approval of God, to make it appear something else.

 

A little historical information for comparison, George Washington lost a lot of battles — most of them in fact, did not have a day of prayer, and still won the Revolutionary War. Because that’s often the way the pattern of wars goes, early losses, later wins. Another example, Napoleon won a lot of battles, lost at Waterloo, end of Napoleon, effectively. This is rubbish, this is crap history, this is crap theology, this is religion as superstition, this is a serious break with reality, and cause and effect.

 

This is FAILED reason, this is FAULTY thinking, this is WRONG WRONG WRONG, but it epitomizes the failures of the right on every topic to seriously address our important issues of the day.

 

Let me give you a few more examples of right wing insanity under the claimed authority of religion:

and this:

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GIGO – in computers, garbage in, garbage out.  Or in the case of conservatives, we could fairly refer to it as garbage information [results in] garbage opinions.The ridiculous right, especially the religious right are having fits and frenzies, widespread hysteria and general all-round rabid foaming at the mouth, including calling his comments ‘verbal rape’.

 
Although he was referring to the Holocaust, a famous quote applies here:

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
Elie Wiesel

I would argue this is exactly what the President did in his comments at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, references conservatives are trying equally to eliminate from our AP history coursework and our public discourse.

 

There is no such thing as verbal rape; this comment trivializes rape, and is an obscenity as a comparison. And this grossly misrepresents the actual comments of the President.

 

The reason for this particular epidemic is the perfectly accurate observations made about religion as a justification and pretext for evil, even horrific conduct.  Obama properly identifies this as an abuse of religion, an improper application of religion.

 

Thanks to the Uptake for the video of the remarks:

Of course, it’s one that right wing Christians hate him for stating, because these conservatives too often invoke religion for their worst actions. The specific comments that have righties writhing in outrage occur about 6:30 minutes in.

 

“We see faith driving us to do right. We also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge, or worse sometimes used as a weapon.”

He goes on to address the use of religion in acts of violence and terrorism. The President then goes on to elaborate that this is not unique to Islam, but also to Christians in the United States, mentioning slavery and Jim Crow.

 

A little over 99 years ago, there was a case of burning a man alive right here in the United States, by Christians, legitimized by religion and the Bible, that was more horrific than the horrific and tragic burning of the Jordanian pilot by ISIL.

 

 

from Wikipedia, on the lynching of Jess Washington (my emphasis added):

charred corpse of Jesse Washington

Washington was tried for murder in Waco, in a courtroom filled with furious locals. He entered a guilty plea and was quickly sentenced to death. After his sentence was pronounced, he was dragged out of the court by observers and lynched in front of Waco’s city hall. Over 10,000 spectators, including city officials and police, gathered to watch the attack. There was a celebratory atmosphere at the event, and many children attended during their lunch hour. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire for about two hours. After the fire was extinguished, his charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded, providing rare imagery of a lynching in progress. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a significant number of lynchings occurred in the Southeastern United States, primarily of African Americans in the states of Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. Between 1890 and 1920, about 3,000 African Americans were killed by lynch mobs, usually after whites were the victims of crimes purportedly committed by blacks. Supporters of lynching justified the practice as a way to assert dominance over African Americans, to whom they attributed a criminal nature.

…A chain was placed around his neck and he was dragged toward city hall by a growing mob; on the way downtown, he was stripped, stabbed, and repeatedly beaten with blunt objects. By the time he arrived at city hall, a group had prepared wood for a bonfire next to a tree in front of the building.[24] Washington, semiconscious and covered in blood, was doused with oil, hung from the tree by a chain, and then lowered to the ground.[27] Members of the crowd cut off his fingers, toes, and genitals.[24] The fire was lit and Washington was repeatedly raised and lowered into the flames until he burned to death. German scholar Manfred Berg posits that the executioners attempted to keep him alive to increase his suffering.[28] Washington attempted to climb the chain, but was unable to, owing to his lack of fingers.[29] The fire was extinguished after two hours, allowing bystanders to collect souvenirs from the site of the lynching, including Washington’s bones and links of the chain.[24] One attendee kept part of Washington’s genitalia;[30] a group of children snapped the teeth out of Washington’s head to sell as souvenirs. By the time that the fire was extinguished, parts of Washington’s arms and legs had been burned off and his torso and head were charred. His body was removed from the tree and dragged behind a horse throughout the town. Washington’s remains were transported to Robinson, where they were publicly displayed until a constable obtained the body late in the day and buried it.[24] The lynching drew a large crowd, including the mayor and the chief of police, although lynching was illegal in Texas.[31] Sheriff Fleming told his deputies not to stop the lynching, and no one was arrested after the event.[32]

The same year, Julie Armstrong of the University of South Florida argued that Washington was probably innocent of both charges.[95] Bernstein notes that Washington’s motives have never been established. She also states that his confession could have been coerced, and that the murder weapon—perhaps the strongest evidence against him—could have been planted by authorities.[96]

Bernstein states that Washington’s lynching was a unique event because it occurred in a city with a reputation for progressiveness, but was attended by thousands of people who were excited by the brutal torture. Similar acts of mob violence typically occurred in smaller towns with fewer spectators.[97] William Carrigan of Rowan University argues that the culture of central Texas had glorified retributive mob violence for decades before Washington’s lynching, maintaining that this culture of violence explains how such a brutal attack could be publicly celebrated.[98] Hale posits that Washington’s death signaled a transition in the practice of lynching, demonstrating its acceptance in modernized, 20th-century cities.[36

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thosewhocanbutton400First of all, I need to make it clear that nothing that I blog about education is ever meant as taking shots at charter school teachers, staff, and, especially, students. My targets are those who are trying to use charters as one of their weapons to help undermine public schools and fully corporatize American education.
 

House Republicans’ second bill was all about education policy, including provisions that would alter teacher retention policies to focus on merit instead of seniority, and new licensure standards that could open the door to out-of-state teachers. A major point of contention with the state’s teachers union, Education Minnesota, will be a proposal to allow the state’s new teacher evaluation system, launched last fall, to be used as a criteria when cutting back on staff.
(MinnPost)

I’ll translate. What the Republican bill is really “all about” is attacking public school teachers, especially their union rights. Which is wrongheaded and frankly despicable. (More here.)
 
MPR Poligraph, which is far from left-wing, said that House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s (R-Crown) claim about education spending “leans toward misleading.” That’s putting it about as gently as possible.
 

This is what’s being introduced in Wisconsin’s legislature. Once again, we can thank our lucky stars, but, given that Minnesota reelected Tim Pawlenty, and that was damned dumb, we don’t get to be too sanctimonious.
 

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Norm’s back!

by Dan Burns on January 6, 2015 · 0 comments

weasel1Norm Coleman, former U.S. Senator from Minnesota and now boss of the right-wing political spending outfit American Action Network (Minnesota Action Network is presumably a subsidiary, or something), is being more than just a nuisance. Minnesota got along quite nicely pretty much without Norm, for quite some time, and I think most agree that we would continue to do so. No such luck.
 

Norm Coleman. Education reform. Those terms don’t fit together, do they? But, as a former teacher, I’m offended to see Coleman’s Minnesota Action Network buying post-election TV ad air time to paint those protective, head-in-the-sand teachers unions as the bad guys who are keeping good, young teachers out of parents’ children’s classrooms through teacher tenure rules, which protect seniority through the LIFO (last in, first out) lay-off rules…
 
No one in his ad ever says that the senior teacher next door probably did just as exceptional work with his/her students, or that many of our jobs actually value the long-time, experienced staffer as having learned to do their work well and efficiently, and being able to provide guidance and mentorship to the new, young, inexperienced employee.
(Observations from Andover)

(If you haven’t, and you just gotta, you can view the ad here.)
 
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One of Kline’s pals loses one

by Dan Burns on January 2, 2015 · 1 comment

Cooper-Union-We-are-Students-Not-Customers-e1373664073701(Minnesota-based) Globe University is, among other things, a member of the “John Kline For-Profit College Donor List Hall of Shame.” That would be Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee. (Can’t call it “Labor,” anymore; that would be downright pinko!)

 

(On December 15), a Minnesota appellate court panel upheld a jury’s verdict ordering Globe University to pay $395,000 in compensatory damages to Heidi Weber, a former academic department head for the university. Weber sued the school after she was terminated in retaliation for raising concerns about about deceptive practices by the school including providing prospective students with inaccurate information about transferability of credits and inflating job placement numbers.
(Huffington Post)

From early November, just after the election:
 

The Republican resurgence on Capitol Hill makes for-profit education company stock a hot commodity, according to industry analysts who expect a GOP-controlled Congress to loosen oversight of both student lending firms and for-profit colleges.
 
Investment advisers from both Credit Suisse and BMO Capital Markets issued research notes this week connecting the Republican victories on Tuesday to an improved outlook for education companies. The analyses were based primarily on future legislative predictions. The Higher Education Act needs to be renewed, and BMO’s Jeffrey Silber argued that a Republican Senate will produce a bill that is much friendlier to the companies that run for-profit schools, according to Buzzfeed. Credit Suisse wrote in Barron’s that the “diminished regulatory risk characteristics of a Republican-controlled electorate” makes student lending company stocks likely to rise in value because “Republicans have historically fought detrimental legislation originating from Congressional Democrats.”
(Think Progress)

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Minnesota Republicans solve education

by Dan Burns on December 29, 2014 · 3 comments

abandonedschoolI’ve written before about the challenges that Minnesota Republicans face, politically. I am pleased to report that they are being triumphantly met, via the MNGOP Solution Center. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this glorious endeavor, from time to time; for today, a few notes about GOP solutions on education, to the admittedly limited extent that my puny left-wing intellect can process such breakthroughs.
 

The big blue box on the linked page is deliberately vague. But all you have to do is scroll down a bit and look at the sources for “Other Resources” to know where they’re coming from: more charters – that is, corporatization – and attacking public school teachers.
 
2014 has been aptly named “The Year of the Charter School Scandal,” nationwide. And a study done in the Twin Cities shows that charter schools there are not as good as public ones. In fact, Minnesota would do well to, at the very least, impose a moratorium on new charters until such time as the many, many problems with them are resolved. Which, given the depth and breadth of those problems, is no time soon.
 

GOP talking points like “accountability” are (transparent) code for crushing teachers unions, and generally destroying respect and support for the teaching profession. That’s bad. Even some people on the left try to be polite and claim that there’s no “proof” that de-unionization badly hurts students, because correlation doesn’t necessarily prove causation. In fact, by a process called “induction,” as well as the application of plain old common sense, one can absolutely state that ending teachers’ rights to unions causes worse schools (see point 3 in the linked article). Then again, worse schools don’t bother a lot of conservatives; they need undereducated kids to turn into misinformed, gullible adults, who are then much more likely to vote for (and in particularly unfortunate cases become) right-wing politicians. And conservatives in Minnesota, and everywhere, desperately need that, in the long term. It’s their only chance.
 
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testingThis is an excerpt from a very solid essay, mostly about Minneapolis schools.
 

Taking the wide view we see a virtual war being fought over public education nationwide, and right here in Minneapolis. The fight over education makes one wonder why is it that we cannot just hug our public schools in a loving embrace instead of embroiling them in a culture of permanent contentiousness and change. We repeat over and over again failed experiments on our most vulnerable children, all the while ignoring methods proven to enhance educational attainment.
 
Make no mistake about it: What we are doing to K-12 education is performing experiments that are proven to be failures, creating chaos, educational malpractice, and disillusion among our front-line public servants, our teachers. I challenge one advocate of the so-called education “reform” movement to show one peer-reviewed academic study where unregulated “school choice,” an overuse of high-stakes standardized testing, and segregation, for example, brought good results.
(Left.MN)

Education, like so much else, is best served by thoughtful, knowledgeable people working together toward common goals. That it should involve a surfeit of “competition” is a crude, ignorant viewpoint, and it’s deeply unfortunate that it’s shared among many who should know better.
 
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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B


HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.
 

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.

 

“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
 
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.
 
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