USA 2015

For obvious reasons I avoid being political but having read the article that follows I made an exception. Such is the amount of invective pouring forth from Republican hopefuls for President, that I have no option but to quote the following. It is an article published in UK The Guardian newspaper by Steven Thrasher (21st August 2015) although knowing how selective The Guardian newspaper is in what appears in their paper (although I have posted only factual evidence my postings have never appeared), I am surprised they published it.

As stated repeatedly, all the evidence indicates that once politicisaton of the education system has occurred the decline of that society is inevitable and irreversible but the vast majority of politicians ignore such data. The content speaks for itself but one tragic consequence of policy initiated by Bush and Congress in 2001/02 is that USA’s decline will accelerate. Elsewhere I describe the forces that are determining such thinking but in essence they are the story of history and why societies decline etc.

Republicans’ deep hatred for teachers can’t be denied and they’re not trying by Steven W Thrasher (21/08/2015)

It’s August, the heat is miserable, kids are going back to school and that means one thing for America’s conservatives: it’s the perfect time to take a cheap shot at the nation’s teachers.

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio – who is generally considered less extreme than Texas Senator Ted Cruz, less dynastic than former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and less crazy than professional troll Donald Trump – recently said: “If I were, not president, if I were king in America, I would abolish all teachers’ lounges where they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us’.”

Kasich addressed a New Hampshire “education summit” sponsored by the 74 Million, an education “news site” which Huffington Post points out is run by failed CNN host Campbell Brown “despite having little to no training in education, and never having taught students herself.” Many other Republican presidential hopefuls, including Governors Bush, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey, addressed the gathering.

Republicans love to hate teachers and imply that all the ills of US society are the result of their laziness. If only schools could be turned over to market forces and not held back by greedy teacher unions, conservative logic goes, everything would be fine – even though charter schools perform no better than traditional schools. Trying to bust unions in general (and those of teachers in particular) turns conservatives on as much as trying to deny climate change, defend the NRA, defund Planned Parenthood or battle for a check from the Koch brothers.

But trying to deny teachers a place to rest for a few minutes between classes, as Kasich is fantasizing about, is ludicrous. What’s wrong with having a place to eat a snack between classes or talk to other teachers about lesson plans and their common students without 30 children within ear shot?

According to Politico’s analysis of Kasich’s 45 minute conversation with Brown, the Republican hopeful wants to remove teachers’ lounges to keep educators from complaining to one another and, presumably, to keep them from colluding in greed to protect their benefits and working conditions. Imagine the possibilities. Without a place to meet, teachers – who already work alone in most classrooms – could be even more isolated. Sure, they’d be unable to exchange teaching techniques or ideas for improvement, but they’d also be working with more alienation.

Politico notes that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (which has already endorsed Hillary Clinton), asked Kasich on Twitter: “after u get rid of places teachers eat lunch, what’s next -getting rid of teachers’ chairs so they stand all day?”

But this has already happened long ago at least at one non-unionized charter school I know. Years ago, I reported about the Imagine Me Leadership Charter School in Brooklyn – a publicly funded, privately managed school housed in a church complex in Brooklyn – where teachers were not allowed to have desks in their rooms.

As the principal told me in 2011: “We believe teachers need to be on their feet, working with the kids.” Every minute of every day. So forget the lounges: sitting has become stigmatized for teachers, even at a desk. The idea that a teacher might need to sit – say, to grade a paper, write down attendance or give their feet a moment’s rest during a long day – was recast as a potential cause for poor student performance.

Republicans have always hated teachers’ unions for obvious reasons. They reliably support the Democratic party, even though Democrats routinely go to war against teachers as well, particularly alumni from the Obama administration. Teachers’ unions are made up of groups Republicans always love to bash: government workers with lady parts. Often, when school closure fights happen between unions and austerity politicians, it is black teachers who are the most likely to lose their jobs.

So teacher unions and Republicans are natural enemies. Indeed, all year Republican presidential hopefuls have gleefully slashed education budgets, with Walker eroding tenure and some $250m from public colleges in Wisconsin and Jindal cutting $300m from Louisiana’s state college system.

Cutting teachers’ lounges would have the “benefit” of saving a little money – another classroom could go in that wasteful space, Kasich might argue. But more importantly, it could deplete camaraderie and morale for instructors at the same time. That’s what Republicans would call a win-win.

Still, the rhetoric about their hatred of teachers is getting more violent, heated and punitive. Christie, who has been yelling at teachers for a while, recently said teachers unions deserved a “political punch in the face” for being the “single most destructive force” in education.

The real “most destructive force” in American education right now is not teachers. It is the fact that many of the top contenders for the country’s highest office, running in one of the nation’s two major political parties, are against science, against immigrants, against women – and against supporting the workforce which teaches our children.

22/08/2015 The following is but one post stating what is obvious to many. “As Chomsky and others have pointed out, a standard technique for attaining power over opposing forces is to demonize them in the eyes of the public. As such, there has been a Republican focus on a few isolated cases of teacher laziness/incompetence–from which an absurd overgeneralization was manifest, in an attempt to underscore the need for increased government/administrative oversight and penalization.

Of course, such oversight programs (e.g., “No Child Left Behind” –-i.e. ”Cram Classes Full of Unprepared Students and Teach to the Test ” or End of Funding for Remedial Classes in Community Colleges) almost unilaterally cause more problems than they solve, and the public–in this case students–ends up losers, when teachers have fewer effective resources, excessive course loads, excessive class sizes, improperly placed/underprepared students, and increasing demoralization at the hands of rigid, bean-counting administrators, many of whom have little real experience in the classroom.

The winners in this demonization process are managerial/administrative employees of the government and the educational institutions, whose ranks and salaries grow and grow, as more and more attempted control and interference in the classroom is implemented. The co-winners in this fiasco, as the article indicates, are the educational corporations– selling their dubious software, thrust upon students, which reduces students’ real critical thinking abilities, and thus reduces the possibility of their ultimate uprising against governmental and corporate overlords. Lumina, Gates, and others are self-deluded co-conspirators here, as they attempt, often at the college level, greater and greater prescription in teaching methodology, bolstered by increasing use of poor software and pressures for teachers to pass unqualified students or be terminated. (Lumina was originally a student-loan guarantee agency; hence a connection between increased enrollments, increased graduations, and increased student loans…)

Certainly, there are problems in the American educational system, but the government refuses to do what is REALLY needed–namely allot sufficient funding so that

1) poor/poorly performing school districts would receive additional, adequately compensated teachers who can provide more focused attention to individual students;

2) class sizes are reduced; and

3) special needs students/under-prepared students receive the necessary one-on-one attention and remediation.

These significant improvements in K-12 education would also be the true keys to eventually reducing the percentage of disadvantaged “minorities,” whose lack of education has often relegated them to social disenfranchisement—and the band-aid of government affirmative action and hidden quotas does little to alleviate their positions, while further stigmatizing them.

Instead of allocating the proper funds for a true educational reform–which could cut into military/surveillance budgets and reduce corporate earnings—the charade of teacher demonization continues.

Notably, not only teachers, but other classes of public service employees have been targets in the past, as the government seeks to increase its coffers. In Florida, a couple years back, there was only a narrow defeat of a budgetary proposal which would have ended disability insurance for police and firemen…

The true perspective on all of this is not that there is such a divide between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats seek greater and greater government control to increase government power and simultaneously fund social engineering programs which instantiate ethnic divides, set-asides, in order to woo more democratic voters; Republicans seek greater and greater government control such that funding can be shifted to private/parochial corporations (with which the Republican candidates are often financially/religiously allied)–all under the guise of a curious non-sequitur, reduced government “size.” The demonization of teachers/unions, and transitive, tacit support for privatized education is simply a subset of the Republican corporate quest.

It may indeed be necessary to have a third political party. As others have suggested, it is no longer clear that the “devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know…”