So I'm starting to see the left critique of Obama articles circulate on Facebook. Most of them are bunk for one simple reason they do not connect the actual problem with an actual solution.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Capitalist production is not merely the production of commodities, it is,by its very essence, the production of surplus- value. . . . If we may takean example from outside the sphere of material production, a schoolmasteris a productive worker when, in addition to belabouring the headsof his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of theschool. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, insteadof a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation.—Karl Marx, Capital
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
According to the guide, those staffing schools should "wear a watch--your room may not have a functioning clock." Dress comfortably, too, because "many schools are NOT air-conditioned." Bring 30 sharpened pencils, 30 pens and a pencil sharpener. Also, "you will need to bring your own breakfast and lunch. Please note that you cannot rely on access to refrigerators or microwaves."
This won't come as news to a supposedly pampered Chicago teachers. In one radio interview, strikers described classroom temperatures that regularly hit triple digits during the hot months at the beginning and end of the school year. One teacher said she stocked her classroom with a dozen ice packs--which she purchased herself--to treat heat exhaustion among her students.
Yet Rahm and CPS officials insist that teachers are responsible for poor performance among Chicago's students. Not only does this shift attention away from the city's unwillingness to provide decent facilities or hire enough teachers to bring down class sizes, but it is also an attempt to blame teachers for the crisis gripping the U.S. public school system, from coast to coast.
Teachers can't be expected to overcome the problems of hunger facing their students. They can't address the fact that poor kids don't have computers at home or even a good place to do their homework in some cases. And, of course, teachers can't overcome the fact that so many parents, overworked and underpaid themselves in their own jobs, don't have the time and energy to help children with homework.
On the first day of the strike, Rahm and the rest of the CPS bureaucracy repeatedly took to the airwaves to flog the idea that a strike is "unnecessary" because only a couple issues remain as sticking points in negotiations. "Finish it for our children," Emanuel said, playing to the TV cameras. "Two issues: an evaluation system designed by teachers, for teachers, revised by teachers [and] a system in which the local principal picks the most qualified teacher to teach."
David Dayen connects the dots As Paul Ryan Lines Up Behind Rahm, the Scheme to Privatize Chicago Schools Becomes Clear
I think the most important by-product of this strike is that it will show how deeply embedded the Students First/Waiting for Superman frame has become, in the traditional media, in the cultural firmament among elites, and in the Democratic Party. I’ve heard people on social media wondering what this strike is about. Narrowly speaking, Chicago teachers aren’t supposed to be able to strike over anything but pay and benefits. And certainly, they’re trying to retain their health care. But it’s not that hard to see what this is about. Significant sections of the Chicago Public Schools system are starved for funds. They are putting 40-50 students in classrooms without air conditioning. The kids don’t have books or materials weeks into the term. And ultimately, the goal is to make those schools so poorly maintained, staffed and administered that they “fail,” allowing Rahm Emanuel and his hedge fund buddies to essentially privatize them:
What we’re seeing in Chicago is the fallout from Jonah Edelman’s hedge fund backed campaign to elect Illinois state legislators who supported an anti-collective bargaining, testing based education proposal giving Edelman the “clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down [the teachers unions'] throats,” political capability he used as leverage to jam an only slightly less awful proposal down their throats. It’s a political deal that explicitly targeted Chicago teachers, while trying to make it impossible that they would strike by requiring a 75 percent vote of all teachers, not just those voting, for a strike to be legal. But more than 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to strike.
It’s not just Jonah Edelman, though. Rahm Emanuel worked with a tea party group to promote Chicago charter schools and denigrate traditional public school teachers and their unions. Emanuel’s political allies have been caught paying protesters to show up at hearings on school closures. Every story you read about the greedy teachers (greedy? does that description fit the teachers you know?) has years of big money anti-teacher campaigning behind it, pushing us to believe that teachers, who bring work home every night and routinely spend their own money on school supplies and even food for their students, are overpaid, selfish, lazy. Now, all those narratives that the right wing has built up—anti-union narratives coming together with pro-privatization narratives—are being used against Chicago’s teachers.
Privatizing the services of public schools, or the entire schools themselves, has become big business. If it takes a standardized test to force that into being, if that becomes the data that “proves” the need for privatization, that’s what will get used.
It will be important for the teachers not to get distracted by the forces arrayed against them. This liar floated that they asked for a 35% raise, a complete fabrication made doubly disingenuous by the fact that the management figure of 16% is off by almost a factor of 2.
So far, the public, which gathered in excess of 50,000 by some accounts last night at a CTU rally, is supporting the teachers, and not buying the narrative swallowed whole by the elites. We’ll have to see if that continues.Obama's poll numbers will start to hurt at some point from all the "When you agree with Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney--its a sign you need to reevaluate" and he either stays silent or openly sides with the 1% agenda of corporatization. I just want to go back to what Dean Baker noted earlier. Something doesn't fly in Rahm's story--
Did Education Secretary Arne Duncan Really Leave Chicago Schools a Mess?
I think this is great example of how class becomes embedded into our debates and discussions in a way where must people don't even; and others don't want us to look cause class always makes for uncomfortable discussions. People don't really realize the big money pushing for reforms behind the scenes. As Brian Leiter noted this is an issue neckdeep in challenges/questions of class--who is getting resources and how they are being distributed:
There is only one problem confronting urban public schools, and it has nothing to do with the schools or the teachers, contrary to all the blather by idle-rich busybodies and the intellectually feeble politicans who do their bidding. The primary problem with urban public schools is that they largely serve a population that lives under conditions of economic hardship, sometimes grotesque economic hardship, with all the attendant problems of poor nutrition, physical safety, availability of adult supervision after school, and suitable environments and incentives for school work. That, of course, is why suburban public schools in affluent communities--with unionized teachers who are no different than those in the urban schools--always do better on measures of academic performance and outcomes. If you don't have to worry whether there will be food for dinner, or whether you will be mugged, or if anyone will be available to take care of you, or whether you'll have a quiet place to work, it turns out to be easier to do well in school. It's got nothing to do with the teachers, and everything to do with the environment. (Here and there, fabulous teaching makes a difference, but you can't make policy around atypical cases.)
Of course, it would be hard to generate enthusiasm among hedge-fund billionaire busy-bodies for doing something about the economic environment in which the victims live, so instead we have the absurd idea that if only the teachers were better, everything would be dandy, as well as the destructive idea that to make the teachers better, we need to measure their performance based on standardized test results. (That idea, by the way, started with George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas, and it successfully destroyed the public schools, as the curriculum devolved into "teaching to the test," rather than teaching.)
Rahm Emanuel's kids attend the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where 99% of the kids go on to college (and about 50% go on to what would be generally considered highly selective or "elite" colleges and universities). There are some very good teachers at "Lab," and some not so good ones. But no one ever dreams of suggesting that to be even better, those teachers should be paid according to standardized test results. Lab School is successful for simple reasons: it has resources and it has good students, half of whom come from academic families and the other half from with families with resources to support them (even if they aren't so good!). The resources support a good curriculum, a well-compensated teaching staff, arts, enrichment programs, after-school activities, and more. No one ever suggests we should "stop throwing money" at the school, that what "Lab" really needs is teachers whose students get higher test scores. But this bullshit and blather is standard fare when it comes to the public schools.
Diane Ravitch over at her excellent education blog gives a run down of what Rahm really wants:
The real difference between the CTU and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not money. By all accounts, the union and the mayor are close on compensation.
The real differences are about the corporate reform agenda. The mayor wants merit pay, more charters, evaluation of teachers by test scores, and all the other components of the national corporate reform agenda.
But little noticed by the national media is that none of these so-called reforms works or has any evidence to support it. Merit pay has failed wherever it was tried. Teacher evaluation by student test scores is opposed by the majority of researchers, and practical experience with it has led to confusion and uncertainty about whether student scores can identify the best and worst teachers. The charters in Chicago and elsewhere do not get better test scores than the regular public schools. Even in Detroit, only 6 of 25 charter high schools got better scores than the much-lamented Detroit public schools.Valerie Strauss gives a good run down on the unproven nature of Emanuel's agenda:
Reformers like Emanuel want to use as a key measure of principal and teacher evaluation the standardized test scores of students, but assessment experts across the country say these tests aren’t designed for this purpose and that it is an invalid evaluation tool.
A number of states have passed laws requiring that test scores be used in evaluation in varying degrees, but Emanuel is at the upper edge with his plan to have the testing ultimately make up half of an educator's evaluation.
In fact, Emanuel received an open letter earlier this year from scores of professors and researchers from 16 universities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area saying this about test-based evaluation system for educators:
...The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children. We believe it is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful...
You can read the entire letter here
A major report by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academies, which include the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, reported last year that:
The standardized test scores that have been trumpeted to show improvement in the schools provide limited information about the causes of improvements or variability in student performance.This would be true, presumably, for any school system that use standardized tests as a measure of achievement.
This hasn’t stopped the fabulously wealthy Gates Foundation from spending hundreds of millions of dollars to pilot evaluation systems that include test scores. Gates is a brilliant man but on school reform he is no expert. Unfortunately, he has an outsized say in the direction of reform because he can fund whatever he wants to. (The same holds true for other billionaires with school reform agendas that don’t stand up to the evidence.)
Some of the country’s best school systems use multiple measures to evaluate teachers that don’t include test scores, and they work just fine. Here’s one great post on how to do evaluation the right way.
Merit pay, or performance pay, is just what it sounds like — giving more money to educators for doing a great job. But the idea that offering more money will provide an incentive for teachers and principals to do a better job doesn’t actually work in the real world.
In fact, it’s been tried over and over since the 1920s, according to education historian Diane Ravitch, and failed every single time. The most comprehensive trial of teacher merit pay, conducted by economists at Vanderbilt University’s National Center for Performance Incentives, discovered that merit pay made no difference.Why? Teachers would like to make more money but most still work as hard as they can whether they get a bonus for it or not.
Besides, teachers also know that competing for bonus money destroys cooperation that is critical to a good teaching environment in a school, and most important, how “merit” is determined is not simple if you want to be fair.
There have recently been some studies on “loss aversion” — a psychological finding that losing something makes us feel worse than gaining the same thing makes us feel better — works to help incentivize teachers to do their best works. The studies are nonsense, as you can see here.
You may have read about some recent studies that show merit pay does work. Be careful to check methodology when you look at study results and whether the people who did them had a vested interest in the outcome.
With two master’s degrees, she’s had an over-20 year career in Chicago’s schools. Her last job was teaching chemistry in one of Chicago’s “select” eight high schools. But the way Chicago schools were going caused her deep alarm. She and others began CORE—the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, and Lewis became its co-chair.
“The Caucus of Rank and File Educators was formed in response to the failure of the old union,” she says. “We thought the old union had not mounted adequate resistance” to the so-called reforms of former Mayor Daley and former school superintendent Arne Duncan (now Obama’s education secretary). These included privatizing schools, promoting charter schools, and codifying standardized tests for all children—thus eliminating critical thinking, analysis, and creativity, decimating unions, and undermining schools in poor Latino and African-American communities with the aim of closing them down.
So Lewis ran for the head of the teachers’ union and in June 2010, she won.
“If you thought Chicago Public Schools were bad back then,” she says, “let me tell you, today they are dreadful. Worse than ever.”
Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel is following up on the Daley and Duncan strategy. Emanuel’s first order of business was to put a longer day on the agenda—an hour and a half longer—without the necessary teachers to provide educational work, without a valid education plan or compensation for teachers’ salaries.
Other critical issues are being fought by the union--issues that do not get much of a hearing in Chicago’s press. These include unworkable class sizes; inadequate staffing for a fully functional school; an absence of social workers to serve deeply needy kids; the destruction of art, music, foreign language, and physical education programs; the purging of experienced teachers; no books on some library shelves; inadequate playgrounds; no air conditioners in many classrooms, making learning impossible.
“It’s about equal access for all,” she says. “The political leaders do not understand the nature of public education. How long have the schools been under-resourced?”
She also understands that corporate America is behind the push to privatize the schools and impose standardized testing.
“We’re fighting big business,” she says. “They want to control the population. They need a permanent underclass to do the available jobs for less pay. They want a compliant, unquestioning work force. They want a volunteer army. They want to terrorize people: ‘Be quiet and don’t complain.’ No critical thinkers here. It’s all about obedience.”For more check out:
Dean Baker: Did Education Secretary Arne Duncan Really Leave Chicago Schools a Mess?
Brian Leiter: Chicago Teachers' StrikeAs well as my earlier wrap up of links.
That might be a good question for reporters to pose to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel given his strong stand against Chicago's public school teachers. (It is appropriate to refer to this as a battle between Emanuel and the teachers. Almost 90 percent of the members of the bargaining unit voted to authorize a strike. This is clearly not a case of a union imposing its will on its members.) Emanuel has insisted that the schools need a major overhaul because they are badly failing Chicago's students.
Emanual's position is striking because Chicago's schools had been run for seven and half years, from June of 2001 until January of 2009, by Arne Duncan. Duncan then went on to become education secretary for President Obama, based on his performance as head of the Chicago public school system. Apparently Emanuel does not believe that Duncan was very successful in improving Chicago's schools since he claims that they are still in very bad shape.
There is no dispute that students in Chicago public schools are not faring well. Only a bit over 60 percent graduate high school in five years or less. However, this doesn't mean that the reforms that Emanuel wants to impose will improve outcomes, just as Duncan's reforms apparently did not have much impact, if Emanuel is to be believed.
As Diana Ravitch, a one-time leading school "reformer" and assistant education secretary in the Bush administration, argues that charter schools on average perform no better than the public schools they replace. The main determinants of childrens' performance continues to be the socioeconomic conditions of their parents. Those unwilling to take the steps necessary to address the latter (e.g. promote full employment) are the ones who do not care about our children.
Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.
Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.
Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.
When Emanuel ran for mayor of Chicago, one of his announced political goals was to “reform” Chicago public schools. The system is the third largest in the country and has a high percentage of children from low-income families (80 percent of Chicago’s public school attendees qualify for free lunches). To understand what “reform” means to Emanuel, we should take the advice of Deep Throat regarding Watergate: “Follow the money.” It is a good guide to what Chicago is and is not doing for its school children.
“Tax Increment Financing” monies nicely illuminate the real priorities of Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education. Earlier this year, Roosevelt University professor Stephanie Farmer’s analysis demonstrated that TIF spending for education over the past two decades has been biased against open-enrollment schools (what we use to call “public schools”). These schools constitute 69 percent of all Chicago schools, but they have received less than 48 percent of TIF money for building maintenance, repair, and upgrading. In revealing contrast, nine selective-enrollment high schools (charter and magnet) that make up 1 percent of the total number of schools got 24 percent of the money spent on school construction projects. Overall, CTU estimates that TIFs remove $250 million a year from Chicago Public Schools. This is almost half of the budget shortfall forecast by the Board of Education.
The charter school mantra reigns supreme in the thinking of both Emanuel and his appointed board. In analyzing the board’s proposed budget, the CTU pointed out that itincreases charter school spending by 17 percent, but does not address the rampant inequality in education programs across the district. In 2002, charter school spending was about $30 million; now, CPS proposes a whopping half-a-billion dollars to a failed reform program that has been shown to provide its students with no better education outcomes.
The last decade has seen a huge growth in (non-unionized) charter schools despite the lack of evidence of their alleged effectiveness. Chicago’s 600-plus schools include 110 charters and another twenty-seven schools run by private firms. Meanwhile, what is the situation for the bulk of Chicago school children? A quarter of the open-enrollment elementary schools have no libraries, 40 percent have neither either art nor music instruction, while many others must choose one or the other but can’t get both.
Mayor Emanuel sends his children to the private Chicago Lab School—where all of these “extras” are available.
at its heart, the strike is over the union's deep opposition to what it calls a "corporate reform agenda" that pursues a competitive or punitive relationship with teachers, rather than a collaborative one. Examples include blaming teachers and unions for educational shortcomings, promoting private but publicly financed charter schools, focusing on high-stakes tests and tying pay to merit.
CTU has instead pushed for smaller classes, enriched curriculum, better supplies and facilities, fairer and fuller funding (including the return of some public revenue long diverted into "TIFs" to subsidize developers), more counselors and support staff, respect for teacher professionalism, and a bigger say for teachers in their schools.
That clash puts the union at odds with CPS, the mayor and President Obama--whose education secretary, Arne Duncan, boosted the corporate-reform agenda as former Mayor Richard M. Daley's school superintendent. It also represents a more forceful rejection of such reforms than espoused by the national union, which nonetheless supports the CTU strike.
Unfortunately, CTU's leaders have not pierced effectively through the cloud of misinformation coming from the mayor and allies (including groups with a financial stake in charter schools) to make clear what they're for and against. Also, a new state law limits the union's ability to negotiate many of the most important policy issues.
But Emanuel's unpopularity among unions has lifted union support, including backing from UNITE-HERE members working in the school lunchrooms, who offered to join teacher picket lines even though the food workers' earlier negotiation of a contract precludes their joining the walkout.
Unless you are a teacher, you have no idea the pain, frustration and intrinsic anger we feel when some paid radio ad claims that “teachers are walking out on students”. Some days after teaching, I honestly wish I could walk out on my students and never come back. But no matter how frustrating our day may have been, it's the kids that always bring us back. Teachers spend our lunch periods, before and after school helping, coaching, and listening to our students.After days of teaching we spend nights in grad school, trying to make ourselves better teachers. We raise children and think about how we want our own child to be like __(insert name here)__ whom we taught a few years back.There is nothing about our careers, our schools, and our students that we take lightly.So please understand, teachers are trying to teach you that our careers and professions are under attack. Please understand we are trying to teach you about how your child’s education is under attack.
You may find this dramatic, but education is at a crossroads in our country and our neighborhood, our city is right at the intersection of these crossroads. There is an attempt to make schooling privatized, charter-ized, and more inequitable than it already is. There is an attempt to get rid of experienced teachers who have built relationships with families, who truly know how to teach and replace them with less expensive inexperienced teachers who likely will only be at the school for two years.
There is an attempt to teach through testing, which makes your child so bored from over standardized testing that students aren’t excited for school anymore. There is an attempt to further cut librarians, counselors, nurses, PE, World Language, Art and now classroom teachers, in order to “save” money. A budget is a political document, not a financial one, it’s about priorities. Some priorities obviously need to be re-evaluated.
Monday, September 3, 2012
To understand the effects of an economic crisis, you have to go back to its roots. A new study by Alan Taylor draws attention back to the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. Through a series of tests run on a sample of 14 advanced economies between 1870 and 2008, Mr Taylor establishes a link between the growth of private sector credit and the likelihood of financial crisis. The link between crisis and credit is stronger than between crises and growth in the broad money supply, the current account deficit, or an increase in public debt.
Over the 138-year timeframe Mr Taylor finds crisis preceded by the development of excess credit, as in Ireland and Spain today, are more common than crisis underpinned by excessive government borrowing, like in Greece. Fiscal strains in themselves do not tend to result in financial crisis.
When the boom period of credit expansion is coupled with growth in public sector borrowing, however, the subsequent negative impact on the economy will be worse. Why? When a crash occurs, governments will not have the fiscal capacity to buffer the crisis due to their already stretched borrowing levels. Instead, they become forced to retrench and adopt austerity measures—which tend to drag on growth further, prolonging recession.
So, this whole Clint Eastwood talking at a chair thing has gone big. The single biggest retweet from the Republican National Convention was from Barrack Obama responding to Clint Eastwood
Ok, how many jokes can you make about an empty chair?— Doug Henwood (@DougHenwood) September 2, 2012
— corey robin (@CoreyRobin) September 2, 2012
@doughenwood Apparently, very very many. It's almost as tedious as the event itself. Can't you make it stop?
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Every 2008 presidential candidate proposed a stimulus plan--Mitt Romney's was the biggest proposal from either party!!
First, I hadn't caught it before, but he points out that Mitt Romney's stimulus proposal in 2008 was the largest of any Presidential candidate running in 2008! My assumption is that it was top heavy with tax cuts so there probably wasn't as much bang for the buck as one would want out of a stimulus; but still its so amazing to watch "Post-Truth campaign 2012" as Mitt Romney runs away from pretty much everything he's ever believed in.