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Education

minneapolis_skyline__hero(Update: A candidate forum was held on October 26, and you can read about it here.)

 
(Update 2: Someone did have time and expertise to go through finance reports, and did a great job, here.)
 
Minneapolis has been, and remains, far and away the biggest pro-public schools vs. deformers stage in the state. This excellent article from Southwest Journal has candidate profiles and links to websites.
 

Four of the nine seats on the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education are up for general election on November 8, 2016. Incumbent Kim Ellison is running for the at-large seat, leaving her District 2 seat open for a newcomer. She faces challenger Doug Mann. The race for the open District 2 seat features candidates Kimberly Caprini and Kerry Jo Felder. In District 4, incumbent Josh Reimnitz is running against challenger Bob Walser. In her bid for re-election in District 6, incumbent Tracine Asberry faces challenger Ira Jourdain. In addition to choosing which candidates to add to the board, citizens of the district will vote on an operating referendum.
(Ballotpedia)

If you click that Ballotpedia link and scroll down some, you will also see information on the operating referendum question.
 
Ellison, Felder, Walser, and Jourdain are endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, and the DFL. According to the SW Journal article, they “see eye-to-eye on the issues and are running as a team.”
 
All that I can tell you for sure is that Reimnitz is a deformer. I don’t know who all may be getting deformer “dark” money in this election; I couldn’t find a convenient source for that, and I have neither the time nor the expertise to pore through individual campaign reports. Anyone who knows more is more than welcome to comment here or on our Facebook page. From their website it appears that Minnesota Comeback, the new face of the deformer movement in this state, hasn’t endorsed anybody. They just might realize that doing so could well be an electoral liability for any “favored” candidate(s).

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Trump loves the school deform movement

by Dan Burns on September 28, 2016 · 1 comment

abandonedThis first one is called “Is Donald Trump The Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?” Let’s make sure he is. Does Trump’s vigorous support mean that all charters are evil? Of course not. Is it yet another strike for the deformers? You bet it is.
 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump likely just handed the charter school industry the worst sort of favor.
 
In unveiling his education plan, the Republican candidate proposed a $20 billion federal block grant to allow states to give vouchers to low-income students to attend whatever school they want.
 
The proposal is the most full-throated support for school choice ever issued by a presidential candidate in a general election campaign. It’s also the ill-conceived, grandiose and politically polarizing gesture that many charter school proponents feared most.
 
In a recent op-ed in USA Today, two prominent proponents of charter schools – David Osborne of the neoliberal, D.C.-based Progressive Policy Institute and Richard Whitmire, author of a laudatory biography of Michelle Rhee – warn of “two possible nightmares” that could befall the charter school industry during the presidential race. One nightmare is that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton allows “charters to drift from the Democratic agenda” by providing only nuanced or lukewarm support for the schools. The other nightmare is that Trump’s support for these schools “turns charters into a right-wing cause … that deep down only wants to fund vouchers.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)

A couple more items relevant to the impending election:
 
…READ MORE

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Following the recent right wing propaganda driven BS about the American flag being prohibited at a South Carolina High School sporting event that I wrote about, which conveniently and dishonestly neglected to mention that those American flags were ONLY brought to games against a largely Hispanic opposing team, and used to taunt the other team, rather than for valid patriotic purposes, it is worth debunking this persistent right wing propaganda lie as well.

 
I recently saw this particular rubbish accusation included in an anti-Ilhan Omar comment in a piece over at City Pages, where Obama was blamed for banning the pledge so immigrants like Omar could avoid saying the ‘pladge’ of allegiance (why are so many right wingers also poor spellers?), assorted references to God, and the questioning of the legal citizenship status of Ms. Omar.

 

That of course ignores and denies all of the processes that immigrants go through including swearing allegiance to the USA, but it plays into xenophobic fears that the right likes to stoke with their agitation propaganda.  It also promotes the LIE that people are voting and running for office who are not citizens, in spite of the many ways this is prevented.  Voters, candidates and election judges ALL demonstrate proof of citizenship at some point or points in the election process.

 
So fresh from HERE at Factcheck.org

 

Obama Did Not Ban the Pledge

FULL QUESTION

Did Obama sign Executive Order 13738, revoking the federal government’s official recognition of the Pledge of Allegiance and banning it in public schools? Did he say the language of the pledge is “divisive” and “contrary to America’s deepest held values”?

FULL ANSWER

The rumor that President Barack Obama banned the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools originated from a satirical article posted last month by a fake news website under the headline “Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide.” The site is designed to look like ABC News, but uses the URL “abcnews.com.co,” the first tip-off that this isn’t a legitimate news site.
The made-up story begins: “Early this morning, President Obama made what could very well prove to be the most controversial move of his presidency with the signing of Executive Order 13738, which revokes the federal government’s official recognition of the Pledge of Allegiance.” It goes on to say the order makes it “illegal for any federally funded agency to display the pledge or for any federal employee to recite, or encourage others to recite, the pledge while on duty,” which also applies to “public schools.” Those who violate the order, the bogus story says, “can face fines of up to $10,000 and up to one year in federal prison.”
The satire becomes abundantly clear for those who read on. The story includes quotes from “Sock it Forward, a group that provides the homeless and those less fortunate with brand new socks” and “Fappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin.”
And then there’s this description of “abcnews.com.co” at the bottom:

abcnews.com.co: Thanks to ABC News President & CEO, Dr. Paul Horner for making ABC News the greatest website in the universe. We need writers! Contact us! Looking to advertise? Contact us! All trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, product names, images and logos appearing on the site are the property of their respective owners. Do you have a complaint? We love to hear them! You can call our complaint department directly at (785) 273-0325. Do you have a problem with self-rape? Are you looking to get off the Devil’s playground? Fappy The Anti-Masturbation Dolphin can help! Praise Fappy! We reserve the right to change, modify or delete comments on this website, so post accordingly!

The real president of ABC News is James Goldston. Paul Horner is an internet satirist who has created many fake news websites, articles and hoaxes. He takes responsibility for the pledge article on another one of his websites. The phone number listed for the “complaint department,” as well as at the bottom of the article as an “Obama administration hotline,” is the number of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is best known for its anti-gay views and protests.

An executive order with the number 13738 does exist, but it deals with labor laws and the federal government’s use of private contractors. It has nothing to do with the Pledge of Allegiance. Obama signed it on Aug. 23, and the text is available from the U.S. Government Publishing Office. The National Archives also publishes an official list of all executive orders issued by Obama.

There’s more on this at Factcheck.org, and you should read it for yourself,  but I think this sufficiently makes the point.  Few righties eager to believe the propaganda feed that is the primary purpose of the right wing media, ranging from talk radio to Fakes News, to the most egregious statements made by the GOP candidates for office will ever do their own fact checking, or pay attention to it when their noses are rubbed in it.  But at least we can limit the extent to which right wing agit prop takes hold this election cycle.  We can push back against the numbing and dumbing down and the stupefying of America, one post at a time, day after day.

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Remembering WHY we celebrate Labor Day

by Dog Gone on September 5, 2016

child labor from the bad old days the right wants to bring back

This holiday is the culmination of Labor efforts that have given us the five day work week, the 8 hour work day, sweatshop working conditions, overtime, an end (in most respects, but not all) to child labor, lunch breaks, and to greater worker safety.

 

It is worth noting that conservatives are still attempting to undo those advances, notably not only in union busting like right-to-work-for-less, but in ending safety regulation and eliminating guarantees of overtime pay.

 

Labor Day became an official public holiday in 1894; between the late 1870’s and that date, 30 states had started separately celebrating the advances and efforts of the Labor Movement. In New York City they held parades. We are not the only nation to celebrate Labor Day; Canada does so on the same date.

 

What so many people either have forgotten, or never learned, was how bloody, even deadly, the efforts were of Unions to form for fair wages and safer working conditions. Specifically, Grover Cleveland, a president who gets relatively little attention, signed the federal holiday into Law after a particularly bloody strike breaking period where both the U.S. military and the U.S. Marshal’s service killed people to break unionizing efforts in the historic Pullman strike in 1894. …READ MORE

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Educating the whole child

by Dan Burns on August 30, 2016 · 0 comments

abandonedYes, that’s something of a buzz-phrase, but it’s a worthy one. This is not utopian fantasy, though it is true that in many ways a lot of supporters of the most effective and best education currently still have little choice but to be preoccupied with holding our own vs. the despicable onslaughts of the deform movement.
 

Traits and skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, persistence, and self-control — which are often collectively called noncognitive skills, or social and emotional skills — are vitally important to children’s full development. They are linked to academic achievement, productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation, and are nurtured through life and school experiences. Developing these skills should thus be an explicit goal of public education.
(Economic Policy Institute)

Another development with a lot of potential is community schools. (Though, as always, fraught, if the wrong people get in charge and f*ck it all up.) They’ll require a lot of resources, though. So for that potential to really start to be realized, we’ll need big changes in who is holding public office and what their priorities are.
 

Using public schools as hubs, community schools bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities. Partners work to achieve these results: Children are ready to enter school; students attend school consistently; students are actively involved in learning and their community; families are increasingly involved with their children’s education; schools are engaged with families and communities; students succeed academically; students are healthy – physically, socially, and emotionally; students live and learn in a safe, supportive, and stable environment, and communities are desirable places to live.
(Coalition for Community Schools)

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Back to all-too-often underfunded public school

by Dan Burns on August 18, 2016 · 0 comments

abandoned2Though I was good at school I didn’t like it much, and always got bummed out at this time of year. Decades later I still experience a residual echo of that, now and then. Anyway:
 

Indeed, back to school supply lists are likely longer than ever before due to the simple reason that schools increasingly don’t have the funds to pay for items on the list. And because of persistently inadequate budgets that continue to dog our schools, you can be sure the longer your shopping list, the worse the funding situation is throughout your child’s school system.
 
Not only are school stockrooms increasingly bare of supplies, but teachers aren’t being adequately paid, class sizes are ballooning, programs are being cut and school buildings increasingly forego required maintenance.
(Campaign for America’s Future)

Two more relevant items:
 
…READ MORE

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Why Schools Fail

by Mike Tikkanen on August 1, 2016 · 0 comments

imagesCAC74BJKAnother year of disappointing educators, children and parents (Star Tribune 7.28.16)
 
Don’t blame the teachers (it’s us). The once a straightforward concept of public schools has morphed into a complex institution unable to respond to the double whammy of a massively changed student body and the unprecedented un-building of support for public education (especially science).
 
Our student body has changed:

 

First, immigration and the challenges of language and culture have always turned out well. American education has successfully educated millions of immigrants. Yes, it’s a struggle, but it is what teachers do and they have always succeeded. My grandparents did not speak the language when they arrived – all of their children successfully finished a public school education.

 

Second and most critical, generally unknown and poorly understood even by those in the trenches of teaching, social work and justice. The rest of us (including legislators) are clueless. …READ MORE

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kaineI did a multiple-take when I saw the title (“Tim Kaine Loves Public Schools. So Does His Wife Anne, Who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education”), and my skepticism has not wholly dissipated, but we are talking Diane Ravitch.
 

(Kaine) is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina…
 
Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.
(Diane Ravitch)

 
Politically, is the Democratic Party acknowledging the anti-privatization backlash? More importantly, are they acknowledging it as a righteous thing? (Corporate Democrats certainly aren’t, but in the long run we don’t intend to give them much choice.) They’re obviously at least well aware of it. But follow-through is always the rub.
 

Champions of traditional public schools won a big victory at the Democratic Party’s final platform drafting session when they pushed the party to adopt new language criticizing charters that are privately run, unaccountable and often part of for-profit franchises.
 
In less than 10 minutes, charter critics presented and won near-unanimous approval for an amendment that said the party would only support “democratically governed” charters, referring to those run by elected school boards not appointed trustees. The amendment also added wording that charters “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools,” which happens as taxpayer funds follow the students. And new language also criticized the schools for segregating districts, saying charters “must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.”
(AlterNet)

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school2Over the years my email address has found its way onto a lot of lists. I rarely unsubscribe because they’re one of my data streams, albeit not the most efficient one to say the least, for what’s going on. I’ve been getting a lot, lately, about what belongs in the Democratic Party platform. (I’m of the belief that when it comes to the actual presidential election, the platform means about as much as the VP pick. That is, not a whole lot. But it’s not meaningless, either.) #1 is a measure opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a noble effort, but unsuccessful). A strong anti-fracking statement is probably second (ditto). Single-payer health care pops up now and then. And a handful of others have appeared.
 
I have yet to get one to the effect that the Dem platform needs to feature a really strong, unequivocal statement supporting public schools, everywhere and always, in the face of relentless deformer assaults. Here’s what‘s in the July 1 draft, and it apparently wasn‘t touched during final pre-convention negotiations a few days ago. The term I‘d apply is “boilerplate.”
 

We will ensure there are great Pre-K-12 schools in every zip code. Democrats are committed to the federal government continuing to play a critical role in working towards an America where a world-class education is available to every child. Democrats believe that a strong public education system is an anchor of our democracy, a propeller of the economy, and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams. Public education must engage students to be critical thinkers and civic participants while addressing the wellbeing of the whole child.

Which isn’t surprising. Those of us working against corporate takeovers of public education have been winning in some ways, but not in others. Not enough to where too many electeds are about to stand on principle, regardless of where the money is coming from. We’ll just have to keep at it.
 
Update: It turns out that some worthy changes were made.
 

Unfortunately, the amendment process in Orlando did not consider adding a progressive vision for public education to the platform, but many of the specifics in the document shifted to the left, thanks mostly to supporters of the Sanders campaign joining with Clinton supporters to press for progressive change…
 
One way you can tell how much the document has been improved is by noticing the angry objections to the changes coming from centrist “reformers.”
(Campaign for America’s Future)

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You have to enjoy a sense of humor, and appreciate that fact is consistently stranger than fiction.

 

I recall the famous chair of the U of MN department of economics at the time, Walter Heller, opening one of his lectures with the line that all of the economists in the world laid end to end around the equator still could not reach a conclusion.  Well, as with the scientific consensus on global warming, it appears that an overwhelming preponderance of economists in the world likewise agree about the adverse results of Brexit.  And scientists agree (although they may differ on details) about the validity of the science of evolution.

 

The monument to ignorance, aka the Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky inappropriately funded by public $$$$ just opened…….wait for it……..to severe storms and flooding.  One has to wonder, following the pseudo-logic of many Christians, if God was expressing his disapproval?

 

The Ark is part of the anti-science / pro-creationism propaganda circulated by Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis  religious rubbish group.  The exhibit includes replicas of dinosaurs, two by two.

 

Bill Nye correctly expressed the following rational, reasoned, and well-researched point of view as to the perils of the Ark Creationism pseudo-science on children:

 

“The influence is strong. I spoke with a lot of kids (and took a great
many selfies). Almost all of them do not accept that humans are causing
climate change — and that is the Answers In Genesis ministry’s fault.
Through its dioramas and signage, the organization promotes ideas that
are absolutely wrong scientifically, while suppressing critical thinking
in our students — which is in no one’s best interest, conservative or
progressive.”

While it is possible the low turnout reported at the Ark monument to ignorance is the fault of bad weather, it is also possible that the Ark is one giant “turkey” as these projects go.  Bill Nye the science guy, a well-regarded proponent of science education and deemed one of our more successful science communicators noted:

 

“On a hopeful note, the parking lots were largely empty, and the ark building is unfinished. We can hope it will close soon.”

 

On July 10th we celebrated, if celebrate is the correct word for it, the 90th anniversary of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee over the legal ban on the teaching of evolution.  Scopes was initially convicted (he DID teach evolution) but the conviction was overturned.  It is appalling that 90 years after the Scopes trial, we are still fighting the same battles with the anti-science Bible thumpers.

 

Sadly, as we see with the silly Ark in Kentucky, as well as continuing efforts by the crazy evangelical right to insert creationism into public spheres and into the public square (on the public nickle), not only in Tennessee but elsewhere I am appalled at the poor state of science literacy in a large segment of our political spectrum.

 

One has only to look at what is proffered as arguments against anthropogenic global warming (or to look at how often it is necessary to explain what anthropogenic means as a preface to holding a conversation) to appreciate the willful ignorance.

 

I am an unabashed science geek, a nerd; I spent a part of my last weekend binge watching a DVD from my local library on various scientific debates in paleoanthropology.  I particularly enjoyed the parts about how some sections of DNA respond differently to mutation that those which represent characteristics ‘under selection’.  While enjoying binge watching science, I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from so many people I know and interact with on a daily basis.

 

The DVD and accompanying brief book is part of the Great Courses series; this one was The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates, presented by John Hawks of the University of WI, Madison.  While this particular presentation dates from 2011, and is therefore already out of date in a few respects, the combination of the sciences of Paleo-anthropology with molecular genetics.  The application of molecular genetics provided new understanding of when and how species diverged using fossil remains.

 

What struck me so strongly in the larger context of the anti-expert, anti-‘elite’, anti-science message which I viewed on right wing blogs in the context of dismissing the conclusions of economists about the outcomes of Brexit in the UK, and in attempting to discredit scientists working on global warming, was the notion that we can AND SHOULD ignore people who actually know things, who study things, and who do practical as well as theoretical work in their respective fields.

 

The DVD lecture by Dr. Hawks began with the scientific controversy over Ramapithecus, as to where it belonged and ‘when’ it belonged in the primate family tree.  Molecular genetics demonstrated that it was too old to be a direct human ancestor, but rather belonged elsewhere and further back in time than hominins (humans and those species closely related).  How the debate reflected the scientific process was as illuminating as the specifics of the debates.

 

In that context it is worth noting that the Pew Research Center study in 2014 and 2015 on Religion in Public Life found :

Roughly six-in-ten respondents in the 2014 Religious Landscape Study (62%) say humans have evolved over time, while about a third (34%) say humans have always existed in their present form, similar to other recent Pew Research surveys.
 
…Among those who believe that humans evolved, there is disagreement over whether this evolution has been due to natural processes or guided by a supreme being. A third of U.S. adults believe evolution has occurred due to natural processes, while a quarter say a supreme being guided evolution.
 
About two-thirds of Catholics (66%) and mainline Protestants (65%) believe humans evolved over time. By contrast, most Jehovah’s Witnesses (74%) and evangelical Protestants (57%) and about half of Mormons (52%) reject this view, saying human beings have always existed in their present form. Atheists (95%) and agnostics (96%) in the survey nearly universally say humans evolved over time, and most believe that evolution has occurred through natural processes. Majorities of Buddhists, Hindus and Jews also hold this view.
 
Overall, respondents with a college degree are more likely than those with less education to say humans evolved over time due to natural selection. However, the impact of education varies across religious groups. Members of mainline and historically black Protestant churches, Catholics and religious “nones” with a college degree all are more likely than their less well-educated counterparts to say humans evolved over time. But evangelical Protestants with a college degree are no more likely than those without a college degree to say humans have evolved.

Conservatives would argue that moving a species represented by the fossil record to a different organizational position in understanding evolution would completely discredit all studies and conclusions in the sciences of evolution.  It does not.  Understanding how scientific debate and new science research result in some changes — but also result in confirmation of other findings — is an important part of science literacy that is antithetical to what passes as reasoning about science information on the right.  Sadly that is apparently missing, or is deliberately denied and ignored on the right in what appears to be willful ignorance.

 

Rather the right consistently engages in magical thinking, in extreme confirmation bias, and in denial of anything that does not comfortably fit their world view, which is appalling intellectual dishonesty and folly for determining policy decisions for the nation and the world.  Instead we have 56% of Republicans in Congress (more on some days) denying man-made global warming, evolution, and basic macro-economics.  Only a handful of states do not have climate deniers in their delegations to the House or Senate.  Are these politicians expressed beliefs sincere?  Nah, I would argue they don’t care one way or the other what the truth is, they just find it profitable to pander to ignorance.  Because those same voters are for smaller government – even though there is no evidence that smaller government serves the country or the citizens well, nor is there objective evidence that our government has been too large.  And those same voters will act passionately but not rationally on regressive cultural attitudes regarding minorities — be it equal treatment of women, of the LGBT, or ethnic minorities.

 

With promotion of ignorance, with the promotion of propaganda which can be defined as meeting the two criteria of being factually false, AND promoting emotional response rather than critical thinking,  the right has developed a rank and file that is easily deceived and even more easily manipulated into voting for bad decisions, bad policy, and destructive attitudes that are actively harmful to significant sectors of our nation.  Too often as with Brexit, as with Global Warming, and as with promoting anti-science Creationism, there is also self-destructive voting.

 

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