Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Resolutions for Education Reformers (2012)

We want 2012 to be the year where the United States finally builds a world-class school system. Great civilizations are built on great education. Here is a list of things we will do to ensure that happens.

- Standardized exams for each subject and each grade. No civilization has reached greatness without mastering the skill of bubbling in circles with a pencil. (No. 2 only!)

- Eliminate every subject that can’t be tested. This means art, music, physical education, woodshop and every other non-essential subject. After all, no advanced civilization has ever valued abstract thought, physical health or skilled labor.

- Close all public schools and make them charters. The free market just works better. And what market is freer than one that gives gobs of taxpayer money to large corporations to build schools that nobody in the community asked for on shoestring budgets so the CEOs of those private entities can pocket the difference? The private sector just makes sense, even in a government-funded institution.

- Technology! We envision a future where all jobs will be computer-based, so we need to prepare public school students for them now! They will need to spend their 13 years of school staring at computer screens in order to train them to have the proper Pavlovian reactions to the different alerts and notifications of these computers.

- Technology, Again! Once graduates speak proper computer, they can occupy one of the many high-tech jobs that we promise to provide in the future. Of course, the higher paying jobs will be taken by our own children who will still be educated in actual classrooms by actual teachers. But tech-savvy graduates will be ready to use computers to record what size soft drink or French fries were ordered. We need public schools to train students for tomorrow’s low-wage jobs.

- No more teachers! I am sick and tired of teachers with their tenure, pensions, salaries, benefits and vacations. By the end of 2012, every public school child will be taught by holograms. We can’t have workers around who think it is ok to join unions. It sets a bad example to all the future low-wage employees we hope to produce. Holograms are better role models. They have no salary, tenure or benefits and they work as long as we want them to without complaint. If only our future public school graduates would be more like holograms, the world would be a better place (for us).

- No more excuses! We can’t let people whine about poverty anymore. “Boohoo! My family lives in a homeless shelter.” Big deal. When I was a kid we only had TWO floors in our home, not including the basement, porch and swimming pool. I know what it is like to struggle, to be down to your last maid, to have to drive a Bens because the Rolls Royce was just a little too pricey. I had to fight through it to become the self-made billionaire you see today. All poor students have to do is not make excuses and all of their hunger, apathy, asthma and gang violence will go away.  Just think positive and be happy!

Hopefully, by the end of 2012, all of our students will be well underway to becoming the type of people that can stay within the bubble and properly communicate with computers. Instead of abstract thought, they will learn following orders and scripted responses. This will make them pliable workers, willing to toil long hours for no money without questioning it. In other words, we want them to be like computers. We want them to graduate from public schools already programmed so all we need to do when we hire them is install them in a low-wage job.

Robert Reich, How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap B3HP44G2KXQS

As I register with Technorati, I thought I’d share this excellent Robert Reich lecture with everyone. When you get the time, get some chips and dip and enjoy. Reich is a great teacher.

The Lesson of the Black Panthers

Original six members of the Black Panther Party (November, 1966) Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard; Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherman Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman). Bottom: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton (Treasurer) -Wikipedia

The New Black Panther Party has gotten a lot of attention from Fox News. In both 2008 and 2010, Fox ran video clips of black men in berets and sunglasses milling about outside polling stations in a supposed attempt to scare away white voters. It is part of Fox’s not-so-subtle campaign to associate the Obama era with out-of-control, overly-assertive black people. Considering that more than 1/4 of black Americans remain in poverty, and that the most popular black man of 2011 aside from the president was the Koch-shill Herman Cain, it seems that the good white people at Fox have little to worry about. As always, reality is less of a concern to the mainstream media than imagery. While the image of the Panthers might inspire fear in some, this New Black Panther Party is nothing like the old. The old Black Panthers gave some whites a lot to fear not because they were militant, but because they represented an alternative to organizing the inner cities.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense started in Oakland in 1966, at a time when “Black Power” was influencing the Civil Rights Movement. West coast cities like Oakland had been growing since World War II. At that time, the government flooded the area with money to build the factories that would supply the soldiers in the Pacific theater. The new manufacturing jobs attracted migration, including blacks migrating from the south. At the same time, many west coast police departments like Los Angeles recruited southern whites and consulted with southern police chiefs who had more experience dealing with the “black” issue. The result was a tense relationship between black communities and local police departments. The mostly white police forces were seen as occupying armies in black communities, ensuring that blacks did not stray from their neighborhoods or assemble in public. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed in this environment, prompted by the shooting by San Francisco police of an unarmed black man. The Panthers would enjoy a few years of success joining education, militancy and self-help in a reform program for the inner cities.

The Black Panthers established free breakfast programs for poor children, educated their communities in radical politics and patrolled their neighborhoods with loaded shotguns. They were fond of military imagery and third world revolutionary philosophy. Like Mao’s Long March during the Chinese Revolution, the Panthers hoped to help the poorest people build self-sufficient communities with a heightened revolutionary class-consciousness. After all, if the Panthers could bring coherence, peace and enlightenment to the inner city, the police would no longer be necessary. Inner cities would be small islands of self-sufficiency that could then unofficially opt out of the wider society, especially the police “protection” provided by that society. As the years went on, the Black Panther Party became more inclusive, uniting the struggle for black progress with the struggle of poor people worldwide.

Panther membership reached 10,000 at its height, with a circulation of a quarter of a million for their newsletter, The Black Panther. Young white radicals hung pictures of Huey Newton in their dorm rooms, while many urban black youth looked to the Panthers as role models. They provided a more radical, confrontational black idol that stood in stark contrast to Martin Luther King. Because the Panthers saw themselves as defenders of their communities against the police, the two groups often got into shootouts. The Panthers took full advantage of the loose gun laws in California at the time, which made it legal to carry loaded shotguns as long as they were not concealed or pointed at anyone. By 1969, many Panther leaders had died in shootouts with the police or been jailed. There was no doubt that the testosterone involved in violence and rebellion was a major reason why so many young men were attracted to them. Their violence and popularity led J. Edgar Hoover, still the head of the FBI at the time, to refer to the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”

It was not long until Hoover’s FBI went to work on the Panthers. They devoted seemingly limitless resources to infiltrate the organization. Through spying, provocation and out-and-out assassination (including the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago, who was killed after being put to sleep by a barbiturate slipped into his drink by a double agent.), the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was destroyed. Some of the remaining leaders went into hiding, while others tried to parlay their fame into show business dollars. The group officially disbanded in the 1980s, which means the New Black Panther Party much maligned by Fox News has no association to the original. The rise and fall of the Black Panther Party is a cautionary tale in the fight against oppression.

One of the reasons why the FBI feared Fred Hampton so much was due to his role in trying to co-opt the street gangs of Chicago’s South Side. His organizing work in Chicago promised to double the size of the Party with more armed and vocal black men. Indeed, Fred Hampton represented what would have been the next stage of Black Panther progress: to divert the efforts of the street gangs towards revolutionary ends. It is no coincidence that the rise of the Crips in Los Angeles took place as the Panthers were fizzling away. There was a power vacuum on the streets of many inner city areas that was quickly filled by powerful street gangs. The FBI knew that the Panthers were role models to millions of urban black youth. An entire generation promised to internalize the Marxist teachings of a growing Panther organization. By ridding the ghettoes of the Panthers, the FBI ensured that the street gangs would be the only local role models left for black youth. The post-Panther 1970s saw a spike in urban violence, much of it due to young black men murdering each other. Hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and, later, crack flooded inner city streets and made the street gangs very wealthy and entrenched. The death of the Black Panther Party meant the birth of inner city urban blight as we know it today.

What scared Hoover the most about the Panthers was the same thing that scared slave owners 100 years prior. Nat Turner’s attempted rebellion in Virginia in 1831 had shown slave owners the danger of educated, radicalized and charismatic black leaders. They read books that put big ideas in their heads, ideas that were bigger than the plantation system under which they lived. It was a lesson that threatened to kindle too many fires in too many bellies. Although Nat Turner’s rebellion was crushed, southern states ensured future Nat Turners would not exist by legislating that slaves could not be educated or assemble. A black man with a gun was scary. A black man with a book was even scarier. Black men with both books and guns were the most terrifying thing to white supremacists. The war against the Panthers was an extension of this fear. It was not just because they shot police. It was because they shot police as part of a larger struggle against oppression. It makes one really wonder, if law enforcement was so effective in destroying the Panthers, why have they been so ineffective in destroying the gangs that replaced them? The history of rap music reflects the same trend. Rap started out as a distinct cultural expression of the urban poor. Early groups like Public Enemy were part of a heightening pro-black consciousness and renewed struggle against oppression. Rap music was maligned by the mainstream as just mere noise. Two decades later, corporate labels got their hands on rap music, sanitized it of all its revolution and left behind a husk of materialistic chanting about money and women. As long as urban youth were too busy sagging their pants and worrying about being “gangsta”, rap music became an acceptable form of mainstream entertainment.

Rather than promoting education and unity in the inner city, the powers-that-be have actively sought to prevent these things. The Black Panthers were a fearsome force because they promised to become strong black role models to a generation of youth who had nothing else. If the worry was really cop-killing or gun-toting, the FBI would have went after the street gangs the same way they attacked the Panthers. It was the fact that Panther gun-toting and cop-killing was part of a struggle that the Panthers saw as wider than their city, or even their country. It was because, just like Nat Turner, the Panthers offered oppressed people something larger than their oppression. They threatened to imbue the next generation with large ideas and grand expectations, the type of expectations that make people impatient with poverty and injustice. Better to leave the ghettoes in the hands of the gangs, or rap music in the hands of the corporations, because these things hold out nothing more than the prospect of being “hood rich” for a limited period of time. They do not broaden the horizons of poor people beyond the urban ghettoes in which they live. Instead, they teach people to think small, local and selfishly.

I suppose one can understand clearly now my distaste for education deformers. It is not that I think their plans will not work. It is because I see them as assailants on the urban poor. Their design to break experienced teachers is an attempt to break some of the only strong educated role models urban youth have left. Bloomberg’s effort to shut down big schools and co-locate charter schools is an attempt to break the only sense of unity left in inner-city areas. Their adoration for technology ensures that education will be mechanical and rote to those that get it, while the poor who do not have the same access to technology will also have less of an education. It is an old war that is now dressing itself up as something new and progressive. There is nothing noble about education deform. From top to bottom it is a regressive and counterrevolutionary phenomenon. The Black Panthers might be gone but their story teaches us everything we need to know about how people in power respond to urban poverty.

Sources:

1968 by Mark Kurlansky

Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 by James T. Patterson

Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion by Herbert Aptheker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party

A Brief Study of Economics with Ron Paul

We learned last time that August von Mises was the Father of the United States. He led the country to victory over Britain in the War for Independence and later wrote the Constitution. While birthing our nation he was also helping birth the Austrian school of economics, the only economic school known to man. It just makes sense that a highly theoretical school of economic thought conceived in central Europe in the 20th century should be the best economic model for the United States to follow. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “nothing should interfere with the workings of Austrian economics, absolutely nothing.” Austria is pretty similar to America. After all, Vienna did have its own Congress.

The first thing economics teaches us is that the government is a giant rat bastard that always looks to take money from productive people in order to give it to lazy people. This is a natural fact of human society. Egyptian pharaohs taxed landowners so they could give jobs to the Jews to build pyramids. This was a waste of Egypt’s resources. There was no demand for pyramids at the time. Instead of getting welfare, the Jewish migrant workers should have found real jobs in the private sector. This is why Egypt only lasted 5000 years as a civilization.

We see that it is a natural law for governments to be greedy. They use things like central banks to create fake money. Before central banking, people had the freedom to use whatever money they wanted however they wanted to use it, as long as it was gold. All the civilizations that used cowrie shells or wampum were just plain wrong and did not understand nature as well as we do. We believe central banks should not control the money supply or interest rates and instead let the free market decide what kind of currency people use and how much they charge for borrowing it, as long as it is gold. You see, government money is fake because it is fiat, meaning it only has value because the government says it does. We want to replace fiat currency with gold, since gold has value because we say it does. Gold’s value is intrinsic. That means God created gold because its value can be measured in worthless fake government fiat currency. When we become the government, we will just cut out the middleman and tell people they have no choice but to use gold, making it the new fiat currency. Of course, the gold supply is limited and that means the government won’t be able to just make more out of thin air for stupid reasons like poverty or unemployment. You should have bought gold before you went and got fired.

The fake currencies of central banks are inflationary. The constant flood of worthless money into the marketplace pushes prices up. We care about poor people and we do not like this inflation tax that they have to pay. On top of this, government makes these poor people pay income taxes. The 16th amendment that introduced the graduated income tax in America was the worst thing to happen to the working man. We want to replace the graduated income tax, where wealthy people have to at least in theory pay a greater percentage of their income, with a flat sales tax. Flat sales taxes are great, since it is equal for all. It does not matter if the poor end up paying a much larger percentage of their money than the wealthy, all that matters is that we end the graduated taxes and inflation that hurt the poor. It has nothing to do with the fact that these are policies traditionally championed by the wealthy. We are for the working man.

The underpinning of all of these policies is the idea that the government has no place telling the private sector what to do. When we say government, we of course mean the federal government. We all know the Austrian economists had no problem with the overweening power of state government, Austria being a hotbed of states’ rights sentiment and all. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was evil because it told businesses that it had to desegregate their facilities. On the other hand, the Jim Crow laws of southern states which mandated business segregate the races was an exercise in economic freedom. We want to undo the Civil Rights Act so that the state governments could have the exclusive privilege of telling businesses what to do.  Plus, it makes sense to have economic regulation as the exclusive province of state government, since many of the businesses that would be regulated would be bigger and wealthier than those state governments.

One of the most economically oppressive things the government (federal, of course) does is protect the environment. Just because a few hipsters in coffee houses want to stop global warming, there are all types of federal laws telling businesses what to pollute and how to pollute it. If they make a mistake, they get hit with a fine or a lawsuit. It is impossible for business to survive in this system. We believe if a business has given you cancer, you should sue them. If a multinational corporation pollutes a poor neighborhood, those poor people should just sue the corporation. In other words, it is citizens who should try to penalize corporate pollution, not the government. It is unfair for the government to use its coercive power against defenseless corporations. We believe in a fair fight. Pitting poor people against Monsato is a fair competition between equals in the marketplace.

It is clear that Dr. Paul knows the policies that will lead us towards utopia. Austrian economics is the study of natural, observable behaviors of the human race. Those behaviors have proven that the government (federal) is the only one that has coercive power and is always out to use that power to rob people of their hard-earned money. Other economists like the Keynesians who think differently do not have the keys to human nature like we do. We are scientists. Our theories are backed by testable evidence. This makes us right and any economist not from Austria is wrong. Why do you think Dr. Paul lectures everyone about Austrian economics without bothering to think that there are other schools of economic thought out there that could be pontificated upon with greater logic and clarity? We all know why. It is because Dr. Paul is the only one who knows America and the Constitution. After all, James Madison, the father of the Contitution, approved the creation of a central bank when he was president. Why not elect Dr. Paul, since he knows better than the Founding Fathers?

The New Obama Song…

Remember this song that went viral when the country was in the throes of Obamania?

 

Well, three years into the first Obama Administration, he has a new song reflecting a totally different national mood:

A stark contrast indeed.

 

What’s Your Excuse?

Excuse for what?

I grew up poor in New York City. My mother was on and off welfare throughout my 13 years in NYC public school. She instilled in me a sense of social justice that later germinated into the full-blown leftism you see today. One of the reasons I became a teacher was because I wanted to relate history to kids who were similar to me growing up. I was under no illusions about turning all of my students into future historians. No matter what would become of my students in the future, I wanted them to get an appreciation for the art of history and what it might teach us about social justice.

I had these expectations because I knew poverty. The countless hours I spent growing up with peers and friends on the basketball courts, in the classrooms and at their homes gave me a picture of what poverty is. For every poor city kid like me who had a parent actively interested in their education, there were countless others with absent or indifferent parents. I had friends that did not eat at home, where the television was always on and all the male role models were drinking, fighting or selling drugs. They lived in a universe of small horizons and expectations. Teachers played a limited role in our lives. Even the best high school teacher only saw us 45 minutes a day. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the hours daily spent within our neighborhoods and the years already spent mired in poverty. I had to keep these memories alive when I started teaching, lest I get carried away on fluffy white clouds of idealism. Instead of thinking I can correct for years of injustice by turning all of my students into future historians, I thought it more realistic to think of myself as a strong male role model who might expand my students’ horizons.

But I had the good fortune of starting my career at the moment the education deformers brought their agenda to New York City. Many teachers at my first school were young like me, so I did not think it strange. The big difference was that they tended to be from upstate New York, Connecticut or New Jersey. Sweatshirts with Columbia or New York University were everywhere. Usually, they were the types that sat their kids in groups, allowed the kids to make up some of the class rules and used a lot of construction paper and paste. Only later did I find out that many of them were from the Teach for America program, where the only training they had was a 5 week seminar over the summer. They cared about their students but they were damned if they knew how to reach them. They were teaching kids in a totally different way from what most of them received growing up. Kids in their classes were frequently kicked out for insubordination (which usually means they cursed the teacher out) and would end up spending the period with me when I was a dean. Students acted out in these classes when there was a failure to communicate: either the student misinterpreted something the teacher said due to the tone in which it was said, or vice-versa. For example, a student who yells “balls” during class might be maliciously attempting to disrupt the class or offend the teacher. But if I ever had a kid who yelled “balls” in my class, I took it as a sign of boredom, corrected the behavior and moved on.

After a few years of working alongside many TFA “grads”, I started to get a clear picture as to why so many of them had behavior problems. Aside from the loose classroom environment they seemed to encourage, they also addressed the kids like babies. The “balls” kid, if not kicked out of class, might get a talking to from their TFA teacher in a tone of voice one might reserve for toddlers or kindergarteners: “Now John, you know you can’t say that word in class.” A speech like that might be met with a roll of the eyes and a hollow nod of agreement that they will not say that word again. Rarely was it the type of interaction that would engender respect and understanding of student for teacher. As a teenage boy, I certainly could not respect an adult that spoke to me and treated me like a baby. I would never do it as a teacher.

The other thing I did not know at the time was that the Teach for America program was the vanguard of the education deform movement. The thinking behind TFA, very turgidly, was that bright, fancy-college-educated suburbanites would bring their experiences into the classroom and the inner city students would benefit from it. By 2011, many TFA teachers have given themselves platforms from which to advocate for certain aspects of the deform agenda. December 19th’s Daily News ran an op-ed piece written by a TFA teacher where she recited the Michelle Rhee-ish philosophy of “No Excuses” for students. The South Bronx School blog very ably pointed out how condescending and arrogant someone who has never struggled with poverty has to be in order to tell poor students that they have no right to make “excuses”. But this is the entire deform movement in a nutshell. People who have never struggled with poverty, never taught a class of students, never bothered to spend any real time in the communities from which public school students come are telling us that we have no more excuses.

To trivialize poverty as an “excuse”, rather than a tragic human condition, is callous. When the mayor, the Secretary of Education or the President say such things, it is laughable. These are the people responsible for sustaining the conditions of poverty by not using their power to do anything about it. They have abdicated any responsibility they have to poor children. They will not build housing in the inner-cities or encourage job growth in inner cities but they will say they care about the kids living in the inner cities. And how do they show their care? By saying to those kids, “pass this test, no excuses. If you fail, your school gets closed.” It is a mad recipe that has led nowhere except to enrich some already wealthy people who own charter school chains. One would think that the biggest child advocates, the teachers, would stop this nonsense. But our tenure has been made meaningless, so we feel afraid to speak up. The untenured ones from TFA, by and large, have been reared on the no excuse philosophy. Just like our political leaders, TFA teachers come from relative privilege. They certainly had no excuses growing up. So why do they recommend for inner-city kids the same solution?

Because the unspoken assumption, from TFA, from Rhee and from the entire deformer movement, is that people are poor because of some personal disorder. The poor are lazy, drug-addicted and base. They are poor because they make excuses for themselves. The deformers think they will break a “culture of poverty” by reciting the “no excuse” cant. It explains why so many TFA teachers I saw treated their teenaged students like babies. In their minds, these poor kids were lesser beings. Their goal was not to teach as much as it was to civilize. “No Excuses”. Do something that I consider disruptive to learning and get kicked out of class. “No Excuses”. Fail the test and we close your school. “No Excuses”. Apparently, all poor people have to do is stop making excuses for themselves, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do what needs to be done. The people in the gated communities know this, why don’t the poor? In his book, America’s Struggle Against Poverty in the Twentieth Century, historian James T. Patterson describes one constant throughout all of the ideas we have had to help the poor: they all assume it is the poor’s fault. Out of work? You need to attend training so you can learn how to write resumes and go on interviews, as if the poor are illiterates without the social grace to shake hands or respond to questions truthfully. Need unemployment? Take this drug test, since we know the poor are unemployed because they show up to work high and they will buy drugs with taxpayer money. Maybe one of the reasons the education deform movement is such a failure is because it treats the people it is supposed to help as if they are wrong, wrong in their lifestyle, wrong in their choices.

The deformers need to chant the “No Excuses” mantra right at themselves. There is no excuse for over 20% of children in the United States to live in poverty. That is not a failure of millions of children and their teachers, that is the failure of everyone, especially those with the wealth and influence to prevent it. Of course the deformers want to gloss over the realities of childhood poverty. Talking about it would shine a light on the failures of those very same deformers. When children come to school hungry and hopeless, that is a failure of our leaders: our Presidents, Mayors and Tycoons. They have abdicated responsibility for poverty, for the existence of poverty as a result of economic and political choices. What is your excuse for that? What is your excuse for the corporate-tax-break-giving, job-outsourcing, union-busting, corporate welfare policies you have supported that caused such horrific poverty in the first place? And all those TFA teachers who leave the profession after two years, treating teaching poor kids as nothing more than Peace Corps charity work, what is your excuse? You expect students to succeed in school without food and hope, why can’t you survive in a profession where you get no support or respect? I know it’s tough, so what? No Excuses. We can play the No Excuse game all day. The longer we do, the longer we trivialize the rampant poverty in our country. There is no excuse anymore for doing so. True school reform will start when we reform poverty.

Help Overturn the Citizens United Decision….

by signing this petition in support of the Saving American Democracy Amendment.  Sign Here

Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decision in a case called Citizens United vs. FEC.

The Saving American Democracy Amendment states that:

  • Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
  • Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
  • Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures.
  • Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.

The Khan Academy and the Snake Oil of Education Deform

(ATTENTION SALMAN KHAN SYCOPHANTS: PLEASE READ MY LATEST POST ON THE KHAN ACADEMY “60 MINUTES WORSHIPS SALMAN KHAN AND SO DO YOU“. IT IS EVEN MORE WORTHY OF YOUR VITRIOL.”

——- Original Post———

The Huffington Post ran their Best in TED Talks for 2011. Coming in at number two is Salman Khan, whose online Khan Academy they tout as educational manna from heaven. His videos have made him the favorite “educator” of Bill Gates. Khan is a bright young man, an ivy-league graduate and perhaps the single best representation of what is wrong with the education deform movement.

Khan has a great backstory. He started out by tutoring a relative online. His lessons were very clear, helped along by a computer drawing program that helped the student visualize math concepts. Khan realized that, if he could do this with math, he could do this with any subject. The idea for the Khan Academy was born. Since then, he has used his own resources and time to make thousands of videos on a wide range of subjects.

First, who has the time and the resources to make thousands of educational videos? That’s right, an ivy-league grad who comes from money who does not have to worry about things like holding down a job. But, he is an educational innovator, right? What educator has ever used visuals and pacing when teaching new concepts? How about, MOST EDUCATORS? The first thing that came to mind when looking at Khan’s videos was, “hey, that is what I do.” All of my lessons start out basic and work up the ladder of complexity. I am helped along by visuals that I have either photocopied for my students or drawn on the board. (Yes, there is plenty to draw when teaching history.)

But, in the eyes of the general public, public school teachers who do this every day are lazy union bums who are afraid of the Khan Academy’s awesome, cutting-edge pedagogy. The way I see it, there are only two differences between Khan and most teachers I know: 1) we are not wealthy and so Americans do not automatically worship everything we say and 2) we teach in the flesh and not on a screen. We do not have the time to make thousands of videos because we are too busy dealing with real life children with real life learning and behavior issues.

“Oh, but the student can go at their own pace with Khan Academy videos.” Yeah, that is a great argument. Apparently, the pause button on youtube will be the savior of the education system. A kid can stop a lesson whenever their cell phone rings or whenever they want to do some facebooking. There will be no teacher or parent there requiring their kids have even a modicum of an attention span. I wonder if this is the type of education Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg or Arne Duncan would want their own kids to have. I forgot, the “Academies” they send their children to have real teachers with small class sizes. The rest of us get “virtual” academies like Khan’s. It is perfect training for all of the virtual jobs, homes and relationships our kids will have when they are grown.

The last refuge of the Khan cheerleader is “this is not the solution to our education problem, it is just one more tool educators can use.” I would believe that if Khan was not co-opted by the Gates Foundation. I would believe that if Khan had locked himself up in a dingy basement somewhere making these videos, then networked with educators across the country and said “here, you can use this for your students, it is a learning aide”. He would be a true philanthropist and educator in that case. Instead, he has allowed himself to become a deformer shill and believes in his own propaganda that his videos represent a paradigm shift in education.

No, Salman Khan represents what is wrong with the deform movement. He assumes that he is the first to use what amounts to a very basic teaching technique. The assumption is that teachers in public schools have not discovered this inspired, cutting edge pedagogical method of drawing pictures and building towards complexity. He has the one method that unlocks learning in any subject with any child and he is going to show all of us idiots how it is done. Because he is wealthy and educated we buy into the propaganda about him, while he has bought into it himself.

My response to Sal Khan and his adorers is this: nice videos. You have a knack for teaching. The only difference between me and you is that you are on a screen and I am in flesh. Kids can press pause on you and come back to you later. I, on the other hand, have to help my students resist their desire to press pause on me when they tire of my lesson. That is because my class has no pause button. If they press pause in my class, that means they have tuned me out and become alienated from me, the subject, the school and the learning process in general. No, I cannot afford to have my students press pause, Mr. Khan. I have to teach my kids to not press pause. I have to teach this because they live in a world where pausing and restarting is the way to handle problems. Not incidentally, pausing and restarting are two functions you can find on a Microsoft Xbox or PC. I suppose this is why you are Bill Gates’ favorite educator. You see, he wants a generation of people who internalize pausing and restarting. Just because Bill Gates and half the nation celebrates your genius does not mean you have found the keys to teaching. You’re a smart man, Mr. Khan, but I have been doing what you do for over a decade now, only better and in the flesh. While you have been celebrated, I have been vilified. Even this criticism will be interpreted by your supporters as another lazy teacher scared of losing his tenure and his job. Believe that prejudice if you want. I am more concerned with the fact that my students will grow up without attention spans or imaginations or the ability for critical thinking because we are obsessed with the ideas of well-spoken wealthy people who believe kids can be educated on computers and be taught that filling in bubbles on a test is “learning”.  I am concerned with creating a future of automatons instead of citizens. Worst of all, I am worried that they will grow up to be the type of automatons that drool over the hare-brained, ill-conceived words of wealthy people that think they occupy a higher moral plane because they have won in business. I want the next generation to be citizens with the ability to question power and wealth. This is what you fear, which explains why you hate teachers like me.

American History, According to Ron Paul, Sort Of

America was founded in 1776 by August von Mises. He was upset because the British were violating free market principles with their stamp and tea taxes. After he led America to victory in the Revolution, he sat down to write the Constitution. In it, he was very clear that he did not want the new government to do anything but sit back and enforce contracts between private parties. Take a look at Article I, Section 8, Paragraph One: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…” This is clear proof that the founders wanted the government to stay out of everything and allow private corporations to handle the country.

The next 73 years or so were a golden age in American free market capitalist history. Americans were moving out west onto land that Native Americans foolishly considered their hunting grounds. Too bad for them that the free market was dictating that the land now had to be owned and farmed by white Americans. If they spent more time reading the internet instead of practicing their ancestral ways, they would have realized that the free market is natural and their big government style of family-centered, nomadic clans was doomed. Americans were allowed to spread their small government, free enterprise heritage by farming land they received from the government after being won in wars declared by the government or purchased by tax money given to other nations by the government. Heroes like Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and introduced interchangeable parts without any government help except for all that land and protection previously mentioned. Oh yeah, he also received federal government dollars for the rifles he had made out of interchangeable parts. Other than that, he was completely self-reliant like all of us should be today.

It is true that some Americans owned slaves. After all, there was a market for slaves and what place did the government have in telling people the kind of property they can own? We have already seen that the country was following free market principles at the time and the government was just hanging back and enforcing contracts. Instead, we allowed the states the deal with the slavery issue and we all know how well that turned out. Slavery built the cotton wealth of the American south. Plantations would produce cotton and ship them off to the north or Britain. It was a perfect example of free market America. These plantation owners made it all on their own without the help of anyone besides their legions of human property over whom they assumed they were racially and morally superior. They shipped their products to market totally on their own aside from all the government-built canals, turnpikes and roads made possible by the two central banks that were established in this period. Aside from their slaves and government-built infrastructure, these southern gentlemen were true Horatio Alger stories.

In this period we had five Founding Fathers as presidents. Between them we established two central banks, built the beginnings of our infrastructure, fought imperialist wars and introduced new forms of taxation. You can see from here that us libertarians are the true heirs to the Founding Fathers’ tradition. But then 1860 came and Lincoln was elected. He had no experience aside from organizing some rail-splitters in Illinois and donating money to ACORN. Lincoln threatened to end slavery, even though there was a healthy market for slaves in the economy. He was interested in nothing more than breaking the entrepreneurial and self-reliant spirit of the noble plantation owners. His big-government socialist ways caused the southerners to secede from the union. Nothing represents Lincoln’s socialist agenda better than the peroration from his first inaugural address, which sounds more like the Port Huron Statement than anything a real American would say: “We should not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it should not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” It is clear from this speech that Lincoln’s plan was to sell out the country to Zionist bankers. We may have lost the war but that does not mean America lost the entrepreneurial spirit that Lincoln tried to crush. We were ready to embark on another great age of rugged individualism.

It was up to the American people to rebuild what Lincoln tried to destroy. Railroads started to criss-cross the continent because that is what the free market demanded. By free market, we of course mean the Pacific Railroad Act where Congress mandated the creation of a transcontinental railroad. Railroad entrepreneurs like Jay Gould received free government land out west on which to build rail lines. Because of the commerce these rails would provide to otherwise isolated areas, the land they were built on became populated which raised its value 400 percent in some cases. It is clear from this that Jay Gould and the railroad corporations were totally free entities with no government help at all. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, unlike Americans today who always expect a government handout. Industries related to the railroads like steel, oil and even cattle started booming. This was the age of the robber barons. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were rugged individualists who employed hundreds of thousands of people at rock bottom salaries. There was no social security or pensions to pay into, so they got the fabulous wealth they deserved. They would become some of the first millionaires in the United States. The legions of overworked, underpaid workers were just too stupid to run a business themselves. There was no way they would ever succeed in a free market system. Their low wages had little to do with the open immigration policy of the federal government that was lobbied for by the robber barons. Nor did their low wages have anything to do with using federal law, court injunctions and the state’s military power to break strikes. That was just the government stepping in to ensure the free market did not fulfill the wishes of working people.

Historians call this period a Gilded Age but we here at the Ron Paul institute call it a Golden Age. Aside from corporate welfare, favorable regulation and the use of the state’s military power, the government had absolutely no role in the economy. Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt made attempts to stick his nose in the business of the private sector but we made sure they were undone later by Taft. Then Woodrow Wilson became president and Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, the darkest day in history since the election of Lincoln. This was when we handed over the country to Zionist bankers who used fake American money to fund a campaign for a Jewish homeland. World War I came around and, once again, the government stuck to its free market principles by joining the fight because corporations knew it would be good for their profits.  People like J.P. Morgan made a killing during the war and with all that money they were able to influence the next three Republican presidents, all of whom were heroes for their recognition that America was a free market country that should handcuff government’s ability to interfere with the economy. The wealth gap between rich and poor grew; a sure sign that nature was taking its course and separating the wheat from the chaff. Bankers were allowed to speculate on the stock market. It was a wonderful time for everyone.

But then the stock market crashed. People might think the crash was due to the lack of government oversight in the economy. In reality, it was the Federal Reserve’s fault. They kept interest rates low, which forced these poor bankers to speculate in the stock market. I mean, if the federal government is going to hand you free money, what choice will you have but to gamble with it? Rather than listen to reason, the country elected Franklin Roosevelt who pretty much was the worst human being to ever walk the planet. Instead of waiting another four years for the Hoover tax cuts to work, FDR just used the power of the government to hack away at our entrepreneurial spirit. He did things like prevent banks from gambling with deposits, instituted a minimum wage and created social security. FDR was the biggest tyrant since Lincoln. He was a radical socialist who took us away from our tradition of government non-interference with the economy, a tradition that we have proven in this paper. Ever since that point, we have been a rotten socialist country, worse than Stalin’s Soviet Union.

FDR raised taxes to over 90 percent on the wealthiest Americans. In that time, we won World War II, built the highway system and had the biggest, most sustained economic growth in our history between 1945 and 1973. Things like collective bargaining, the GI Bill and, later, Medicare and Medicaid helped sustain a middle class with some sort of wealth parity. We also expanded rights of accused people, ended segregation and expanded opportunities for women. It was truly the most awful time in our history. The government was everywhere telling businesses how much to pay its workers, what kind of products to produce and who they can segregate at their lunch counters. A small part of the American dream was expanding thanks to socialist government, not through the free market as Mises called for in the Constitution. Instead of shooting picketing workers like the free market dictates, the government was giving them some protection. There were some rays of hope during this time, like when Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964. But the country was too stupid to support a visionary like him who wanted to get rid of the Civil Right Act, and so we got 4 more years of Lyndon Johnson.

Since then we have been trying to find our way back to our free market heritage. Both parties have been infected with the post-FDR disease of big government. Ron Paul is the only candidate who knows the Constitution or America. If you support him, you support freedom and liberty. We have a very logical vision: for the government to not have any power and allow all of the corporations who have gotten fat off of government welfare over the past centuries to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Our Founding Fathers loved corporations even though they did not yet exist. I know one thing: August von Mises was brilliant. Ron Paul is a doctor, did you know that? We mention that every time we discuss Ron Paul’s economic ideas. It sounds better to say “Dr. Paul”, because we all know that an obstetrician who disbelieves in evolution has to be an expert in the science of economics. Ron Paul is an independent thinker, even though he is a Texas Republican in office for nearly two decades. He is not business as usual. We may have never read a real history book or the Constitution but we know that Ron Paul is right about American history, government and economics. “Doctor Paul for President”

Why the Assailed Teacher?

All public school teachers are assailed teachers. Our rights, our pensions, our salaries, our entire way of life are under assault by a cadre of very wealthy people who call themselves education “reformers”. The pecuniary reasons for these attacks are well-documented: ending teacher pensions would leave room in state budgets for further tax breaks for the wealthy and the charter school craze they advocate further enriches their bank accounts. It is obvious to people who know even a tiny bit of recent American history that “ed reform” is merely an extension of the rich’s war on the poor that began in earnest over 30 years ago. Part of their strategy in this war has been to increase overall poverty while simultaneously making it invisible. Since the 1980s, the politicians, the media and other assorted lickspittles of the wealthy have consistently shunned any mention of the word “poverty”. They have attacked the few advocates of the poor as people who engage in “class warfare” or as socialists. Part of the reason for the war on teachers is due to our proximity to the issue of childhood poverty and our role as advocates for poor children. Silencing us is part of a decades-old strategy to move poverty out of the public consciousness.

Scrubbing poverty from the public consciousness starts with the history textbooks. The prime example of this is the canonization of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a saint. It is correct and just that King has become a symbol of justice. It is wrong that we sanctify only a part of him. To students in most history classes he was the driving force behind desegregation in the south, starting with the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) and culminating in the Voting Rights Act (1965). We have a neatly packaged 10-year bundle in which King marched, spoke, wrote and fought for racial equality. All of this is true and we rightly celebrate him for it. Yet, King falls off in the textbooks after this point. Most of them pick up the MLK story three years later in Memphis, where he was assassinated while working on something called the “Poor People’s Campaign”. This is about as much attention they give to post-1965 King and it is a thoroughly sterile and uninspiring account of perhaps the most pregnant moment of King’s life. Throughout these years, King was connecting the struggle for racial equality with wider struggles of economic equality in the United States and around the world. He believed that providing everyone with equal access to education, housing, employment and the other pre-requisites for a truly “free” life was the way to honestly achieve the racial equality for which he was fighting. This is the King that the textbooks leave out. For many of our students, the textbook version of MLK is the only version they will ever hear of. Our students in NYC public school, who are overwhelmingly poor, will never idolize King for his fight against poverty. This is of course by design since, if they did, they might realize their own conditions are worth fighting for.

The textbook Martin Luther King is the Rosetta stone for the way we have treated poverty over the past 35 years. It is a non-issue. The assumption is that there is ample opportunity to succeed in the United States; the only barriers worth struggling against are those of race and gender. It is a narrative with broad-based appeal. Everyone, liberal and conservative, can give lip service to racial and gender equality. This is the rhetorical end-point of every mainstream political ideology, “we should do so-and-so in order to give all Americans the best possible life.” It is the fabric of our political discourse. Not a stitch of it contains economic justice. Enter the education reformers. Their vision of school reform weaves seamlessly into this fabric. They say they want to close the “achievement gap”, which usually means the low test scores of brown kids versus the high test scores of white kids. The reason for this gap, obviously, is all the bad teachers and the unions that protect them. For the past 10 years or more (depending on where you are), teachers have been on the receiving end of an extremely effective smear campaign. Democrats and Republicans can get behind teacher bashing because the public debate between them is based on a consensus that they both have a desire to make the country better for everyone, regardless of race and gender. Education reform is the perfect storm for teachers. They can be assailed by liberals who claim they want to help urban minorities and conservatives who want to further privatize the school system.

Yet, every teacher knows that it is childhood poverty that hurts learning, including exam scores. Every time a reformer uses exam scores to show that public schools are failing, teachers are there to draw attention to the poverty that determines those scores. Both parties want to destroy teachers because they are paid off by the wealthy reformers to do so. The wealthy reformers know that teachers routinely commit the cardinal sin of modern public debate: they mention poverty. The elite have taken great pains to exorcise poverty out of the public mind. Teachers are the only professionals left with any voice to advocate for the poor. Rather than just a war on workers or public servants, the war on teachers is also part of the holocaust on poverty. Holocaust in this sense takes on its Hitleresque connotations: an attempt to eradicate the memory of a people. One of the reasons why the wealth gap has grown so large over the past 30 years is due to our forgetting of the poor in America. Teachers have been calling the attention of the nation to poverty for some time. They have always been a threat to take the invisibility cloak off of poverty. The elitist reformers spew such vitriol against teachers for this reason. Discrediting teachers discredits the issue of poverty. Destroying their rights destroys the power they would have to advocate for their students.

The school reformers who occupy elite positions in government and business have succeeded in inverting the narrative. Instead of being blamed as the source of the “achievement gap” due to the screw-the-poor economic policies they have pushed on us, they convince the nation that they are the good guys who want to help these poor children. Instead of thanking teachers for keeping the issue of poverty alive in an era when the rest of our vegged out nation pretends it does not exist, we assault teachers as the cause of some nebulous “achievement gap”. Just like the Black Panthers were dubbed the “most dangerous group in America” by J. Edgar Hoover and subsequently destroyed because of their anti-poverty agenda, teachers have been demonized as a prelude to their own destruction. The blatant protest against wealth inequality that is Occupy Wall Street has been met with blatant brutality by the elite’s police forces. In the same way, teachers have reminded the country that childhood poverty persists in America and now we are paying for that with being abused in the public debate. The assailed teacher is a phenomenon of the holocaust on poverty.