Monthly Archives: August 2012

Farewell, Old Friend

Joshua Javits (left) takes time out from firing teachers to present an award.

Recently I heard a rumor that Joshua Javits is no longer working as an arbitrator at the New York City Department of Education. All I can say to that is: great!

His tenure at the Administrative Trials Unit in the DOE has been marked by extreme prejudice against teachers. A DOE insider I respect has said that he “fires everyone”, regardless of the facts of the case or the charges brought.  Betsy Combier, who has sat in on more 3020a hearings than perhaps anyone, dubbed Javits as being one of those arbitrators who were “hired to fire”.

Very recently, I had the displeasure of reading one of Javits’ last decisions. This was a case of a teacher who I know and respect whose charges were absolutely bogus. I was not prepared for what I read. It was vitriolic, vicious and seemingly personal. He went through great lengths to describe the absolutely horrid nature of the teacher. In fact, the words in his decision were the exact words the DOE lawyer used during the hearing. All he did was paraphrase the DOE lawyer’s argument, while ignoring every counter-argument proffered by the defense.

What was most disturbing was that he gave absolutely zero grounds as to why he bought the DOE argument. He put forth no original reasoning and, most likely, no effort in constructing this decision. It was an incoherent tapestry of contradictions, deductive reasoning (the DOE says that the teacher is bad, therefore everything he did was bad.) and outright lies. It was a carbon copy of the DOE’s position.

His punishment, which I am not at liberty to discuss, was equally arbitrary. He spent pages on spewing venom about the teacher. Then, at the very last sentence, he reveals his punishment. Again, there were absolutely no grounds provided for this punishment. There was no “this teacher is so horrible and this horrible punishment I set forth is just for this reason.” He did not cite any precedents, previous cases or chancellor’s regulations. He merely rewrote the DOE’s argument and said “here is the punishment”, and that was it. It was completely arbitrary.

It is arbitrators like Javits that have caused real courts of law to overturn more DOE arbitrator rulings than ever. The fact that the courts are getting involved at all says all that needs to be said about the integrity of the 3020a procedure.

Joshua Javits has no integrity.

Does it matter to him that so many of his decisions get overturned by real judges with an eye for real evidence? Absolutely not. He just fires, fires, fires and lets the chips fall where they may. If his rulings get overturned, he does not care. He gets paid his $1,800 a day regardless. You would think the DOE would fire him due to all of the legal fees he has caused the DOE from all of his cantankerous rulings.

So where is Javits now?

Today, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order creating a Presidential Emergency Board to help resolve an ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and their unions.

That is right freight rail carriers of America, guess who is coming to dinner? The Montgomery Burns of arbitrators will have a hand in determining the future of your career. Just hope that he does not hate you as much as he hates educators. If he does, just hope that the other arbitrators on the board will outweigh whatever invective he throws your way.

Just remember:  Joshua Javits has no integrity.

I noticed something interesting about the Javits bio the White House put up:

Joshua M. Javitsis a neutral mediator and arbitrator and serves on numerous permanent arbitration panels.  He served on a Presidential Emergency Board in 2007. From 1993 to 2001, Mr. Javits was a Partner at Ford & Harrison LLP where he also served as executive director of the Labor Relations Association of Passenger Railroads. He was also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center where he taught courses in labor arbitration, transportation labor law, and alternative dispute resolution. He was Chairman and Member of the National Mediation Board from 1988 to 1993.  He began his career as a trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board. Mr. Javits has represented both labor unions and management, at different times, and is on the rosters of the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the National Mediation Board.  He has been rated “AV” – the highest rating – by Martindale Hubbell’s Best Lawyers in America since 2001.  Mr. Javits is a graduate of Yale College and Georgetown University Law Center.

It does not mention his time at the DOE. I mean, this was the job he left in order to be on this board. I suppose he is not too proud of his tenure there.

It is easy to have all of these accolades when you are the son of one of the most well-known New York Senators in history. One wonders why he never soared to the heights his father did. Could it be a lack of integrity that follows him like a foul odor throughout everything he does?

Joshua Javits has “represented labor” and served with the NLRB. He is a perfect fit for the era, since the American worker has steadily been losing ground over the past 35 years. We can see why if all NLRB attorneys have the same values and methodology of Joshua Javits.

At least he is gone from the DOE. Now they will have to find the next overpaid shill to fire teachers indiscriminately regardless of the facts. Javits sure got the job done for them, however.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

A Very Close Look At Tenure

South Bronx School posted the first twelve of what promises to be many hundreds of pages of transcripts from Christine Rubino’s 3020a hearing. This is the supposedly fair hearing process through which teachers in New York City accused of wrongdoing have to go to determine whether or not they get terminated.

This is tenure in action. Anyone who still clings to the fallacy that tenure means a job for life should read these transcripts. By the way, the “tenured” Christine Rubino was terminated in this hearing.

It has been some months since I have read a book. Yet, in that time, I have read a few 3020a transcripts from different teachers and I am always enthralled by what goes on in those secretive little rooms on Chambers Street. This is the type of reading material that can be made into a great and sad movie, like a Greek tragedy or, more appropriately, a farce.

From a distance, the 3020a process resembles a legal proceeding. There is a judge, known as an arbitrator. There are lawyers: a defense attorney (appointed by the union by default) for the teacher and a lawyer for the Department of Education (the one who tries to terminate the teacher).  There is a stenographer keeping records. There are supposedly neat protocols and procedures determined by state labor law.

These protocols, again, resemble a court of law. There is a pre-hearing where the lawyers exchange evidence, the most important of which is a list of witnesses. This process is called “discovery” in a regular court of law (correct me if my legalese is off here). Then, witnesses are examined and cross-examined by the lawyers. Attorneys can object and have those objections sustained or overruled by the arbitrator.

Upon closer look, however, the fancy sheen of these hearings hides a rotten core. We can see this rotten core in the transcripts of the Rubino case.

As is mentioned in the transcripts, Christine rid herself of her union-appointed lawyer during the pre-hearing. This is understandable. Teachers who have gone through this process raise concerns that the union lawyer is not really on their side. For example, union lawyers always advise teachers to close off the hearing to the public. This allows them to work clandestine deals with the arbitrator and DOE without input from the teacher. These deals routinely end up with the teacher getting either the pink slip or forced resignation. It seems that the union lawyers have an interest in shepherding as many veteran teachers out of the system as possible. In many cases, the lawyers advise the teacher to resign even before the hearing begins. The same thing can be said for union leaders at both the school and district level who, as I have seen on many occasions, advise teachers facing 3020a charges to merely lie down and die by allowing the DOE to take their careers from them. Therefore, even before the pre-hearing begins, the union, the supposed defender of the teachers, beats it into the teachers’ heads that there is no hope.

How hard, then, do you expect the union to fight in a teacher’s favor? Campbell Brown says the United Federation of Teachers goes to bat for sexual predators. In reality, they do not go to bat for anyone.

So, after being subject to the union’s defeatist attitude for months, Christine fired her union attorney. She saw him in (in)action during the pre-hearing and knew she was toast if he continued to represent her. She signed off on his release, at which point he gave her all of the pertinent documents given to him by the DOE during discovery. This was late in the day of February 16, 2011. The hearing was scheduled to start the morning of February 17, 2011. Christine had mere hours to scrounge up the money to find a new, non-union lawyer. She also had to get home to feed, bathe and tuck in her two young children who she raises by herself.

Needless to say, when the next day rolled around, she was short a lawyer. She knew that she was going to retain Bryan Glass as her attorney, but did not have the time to get him the $5,000 he charges for his services. She had the money, which she had to scrap together throughout the course of the previous evening, but not the time to get it to him. All she needed was an extra day, an extra few hours even, to get him the money and have him come to Chambers Street.

Therefore, the entire first day of Christine’s hearing (the day covered by the transcript at the South Bronx School website) revolves around the DOE lawyer maneuvering to start the proceedings without Christine’s lawyer. He had a lot of help in this from the arbitrator and our old friend, Randi Lowitt.  Christine was faced with the prospect of being her own lawyer that day. She at least wanted an hour to go over the humungous stack of files given to her the day before so that she could know who the DOE was going to call as witnesses that day. As she said:

… I had just gotten the packet. So I would like to read it. I really haven’t been given much time. Once I left Mr. Glass, I went home to my two children and was enthralled in homework and bath and bedtime. So I could not read that. I would like to have some time to read this and go through the documents. I need a good hour or two. And Mr. Glass will get his money by the end of today or tomorrow, so that he can take on the case. So, right now, I have no counsel.

And our good friend Randi Lowitt responds later:

The case, as I told Mr. Glass on the phone last night, and I know he wasn’t representing you, and as Mr. Kelly (the union lawyer) told you yesterday during the course of the prehearing conference, the case is properly scheduled. The timing is properly met. Nothing has been improperly done, relative to the scheduling of this case. And that is why today’s hearing has not yet and will not be adjourned. It is a properly timed, properly commenced action. And it will proceed today. You will be able to participate in it, to the extent that you wish. The Department has the obligation to bring the case forward. So, unless I’m speaking out of turn, Mr. Gamils (the DOE lawyer), he’ll make an opening statement. I assume he has a witness or two here for us to hear. He’ll question them. You’ll have the opportunity to cross-examine them. And that’s the way the case proceeds. And the next hearing date is February 28th. So there is plenty of time, between now and then, if you chose to retain counsel…

Therefore, because the case is “properly scheduled”, it does not matter if Christine has a lawyer or not. Christine can cross-examine the DOE’s first witness, which happened to be Christine’s principal, on her own. For all of the proper rules and procedures established by 3020a, apparently a properly represented teacher is not one of them. Even accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay get some sort of representation. But, hey, we are teachers. We are worse than terrorists in the eyes of everyone else.

Of course, the DOE lawyer chimes in later with this revealing nugget:

I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Department to make any type of comment on Ms. Rubino’s statements. All we’re going to say is that we believe that she was well aware that this hearing was commencing by February 3rd. She had requested the hearing. She has spoken to counsel previously. She was adequately represented yesterday. The Hearing Officer made a representation that the hearing was commencing today. She still chose to fire her counsel and she has come today without counsel. Department is ready to proceed and, at that point, we will rest making any comments regarding her statements…

So, Christine was told way ahead of time that the hearing was going to start that day. Despite that important fact, she still chose to fire her lawyer. What a horrible decision on her part! I mean, she knew the hearing to decide her career and whether or not she will be able to feed her two children was starting February 17, 2011, and she had the gall to not want her incompetent, defeatist and uncooperative union attorney to be in charge of her defense. She is just so difficult. To hell with her representation. If she does not want to play ball the way it is supposed to be played, she can defend herself. We, the almighty DOE, are ready to proceed. After all, we had an army of high-priced New York City Police Department detective drop-outs investigate her for a year, go through her garbage, question her friends and write up reports through Richard Condon’s office, and we did it with no time limit and no pressure whatsoever. We took our sweet old time and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars railroading Christine Rubino for the past year. It is only fair that she have no opportunity to get real representation or even get an hour break so she can read the thousands of pages of “evidence” we handed off to her deadbeat lawyer yesterday. Most of that evidence we have absolutely no intention of using anyway, since it is a tactic we use to prevent the other side from properly preparing a defense.

Yes, this is exactly what Mr. Gamils, the DOE lawyer, is saying.

To her credit, Christine held her ground. She held the floor as long as she could to reiterate her point that she needed proper representation that would take her one measly old day to get. She kept explaining how it was not fair that she was being forced to proceed without representation, or at least a break to give her the opportunity to prepare. At one point, she even said that she felt as if she was being punished for firing her union lawyer. That is precisely what they were trying to do. It is typical DOE: retaliation for not playing their brand of filthy ball. Retaliation with the complicity of the union.

And then we get to my favorite Randi Lowitt quote of the entire hearing:

Oh, okay. I have been reviewing in my mind the conversation we had over the past hour or so. And while acknowledging that there is no obligation at all, anywhere, for me to do so, I am going to grant Ms. Rubino’s request for an adjournment for today. Please be clear, on the record, that if State Education does not cover my fee–obviously, I am not going to let the DOE cover it because the DOE is not asking for the adjournment–and it will be your responsibility to cover my fee, Ms. Rubino. Do you understand that? If the State Education Department does not cover my fee–but I’m going to submit it to them because we have been working this and that’s the way it goes. Um, but I do not want to disadvantage you, especially when it comes to questioning witnesses, with not having counsel present. Acknowledging the fact that although you were told, yesterday, that the hearing would go forward today, you were not able to retain counsel as expeditiously as you might have wished….

So, Randi Lowitt, a woman who gets paid upwards of $1,800 a day, does not want to adjourn because she fears she will not get paid her daily “fee”. She demands that the woman she knows she is going to terminate, the woman who is blowing her life’s savings on salvaging her career, pay her daily fee if “State Education” does not cover it. This just so Christine Rubino can get halfway decent representation. Christine’s children have to starve so Randi Lowitt can keep driving her Mercedes (I assume) and living in her McMansion (I assume). Apparently, people can make a great living from destroying teachers and making inane sports references (read the transcript) all day long.

Of course, this could have also been Lowitt’s way of trying to dissuade Christine from asking for an adjournment, in which case it makes Lowitt a liar and a bully. Liar, bully, extortionist or teacher-killer, you decide.

Yet, Christine stuck to her guns and received the adjournment she was seeking. As you can read in the transcript, she refused to be bullied by the DOE, Randi Lowitt and Theresa Europe.

Unfortunately, this was just the start of many daily uphill battles Christine Rubino had to fight. We know what happened at the end of this hearing. We also know that the New York State Supreme Court overturned Lowitt’ s Draconian termination. Unfortunately, Lowitt got the case again and suspended Christine for two years without pay. That is two years of being unable to pay her mortgage or feed her children. All the while, Randi Lowitt lives high on the hog terminating, extorting and taking revenge on teachers.

This is another close-up of the 3020a process. This is what “tenure” looks like for New York City public school teachers. Oh, what cushy gigs us teachers have.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses……

For charter school students with a sense of individuality, public schools are the only refuge from authoritarianism.

This past school year, I met a few students at my school who had been kicked out of charters. They ranged from sophomores to seniors and included boys and girls. All of them have two things in common: a) they turned out to be very nice kids and, b) they were black.

One of them was a girl in my U.S. History class. This was her second year at the school. She is one of those students who has a reputation among the teachers as sort of a handful. I never knew her or had a run-in with her. Then, one day in the middle of the semester, she appeared on my roster.

It was clear from the first day in my class that some of her new classmates were her friends. This was compounded by the fact that there already were a few characters in the room who enjoyed testing me. They really did not do anything bad aside from regular class-clownery, nothing worse than what me or my friends did when I was in school. However, as teachers we know that the addition of one student to an already tenuous mix could change the entire dynamic.

I do not remember her first day in class. What I do remember is that she would talk a great deal to her friends, whether they sat next to her or across the room. Most of the talking would be towards the beginning of the class period, when everyone was settling down. After the class settled down, her talking would be the occasional pantomime across the room. Sometimes, when the entire class was silent, she would burst out laughing very loudly, perhaps because one of her other friends had pantomimed something hilarious.

Between bouts of pantomime and general inattentiveness, I would see her face change and she would raise her hand to answer a question I had just asked. Many times, her answers were just plain off. Other times, they were dead on. When her answers were on, they were intelligent. The same thing with her written work. When she submitted it, it was pretty good. The only problem was that she had constant trouble submitting things on time, usually handing in the last five homework assignments at once. I would grade only the one that was on time and hand the rest back untouched. She would protest, I would tell her about the no late homework policy, and she would do the same thing next week.

This was the routine for many months. It was strange because, even if she did copy all of those late homework assignments off of a classmate, it still took a lot of time and effort. My homework assignments are not very tough, but they tend to be long. Handing in a week’s worth at once is tantamount to 10 pages of hand-written copy. It puzzled me that she would do all of this work when she knew I was only going to grade the on-time assignments.

I never got upset over her conversations or her laughter. I certainly was not pleased with it, but I never disciplined her in front of the class for doing it. Instead, I praised her whenever she said something good and left it at that. Her behavior never reached a level of disruption or distraction, at least in my eyes.

One day, she said something about Obama being a “good president”, at which point I asked her why she felt that way. She said a bunch of things that just were not true, like he helps the poor and the ghettos. I asked her how and she did not have an answer. Then I started sharing my views about Obama. This is the point in the semester, and it always happens like this, when students assume I am some sort of Republican or angry white guy displeased with the black president. I explained Obama’s pro-corporate, pro-rich policies. Then, to throw everyone for a loop, ended off by saying he is just like the Republicans.

For the student, she seemed to not know what to make of me. On the one hand, I did not like Obama. On the other hand, it was clear that I felt that the poor and the ghettos needed a great amount of help and were being shortchanged. I sounded like a Democrat, or at least a general notion of what some 11th graders think Democrats stand for, without supporting the Democratic president. The student seemed ready to pounce on me for being just another angry white guy one minute, then all the wind went out of her sails the next when I expressed views sympathetic to hers.

It might be just the way I remember it, but this might have been the point when I turned the corner with this student. She came to class most days ready to learn, greatly reduced her talking and laughing, and seemed hell-bent on gaining my approval. She turned in more of her work on time, participated more and said many things that showed insight and intelligence. She would stay after class to ask me questions and always ask how she was doing. We formed a strange alliance in the class and got along great. She certainly was not the perfect student, but she greatly improved from the start of the year and ended up earning a decent grade.

Reading Carol Burris’ latest expose on the way charter schools view classroom management, it is no wonder why this student was not longed for the charter world. She was very outspoken, spontaneous and, yes, impulsive. She was pretty much all over the place. Charter school teachers are being trained to “pounce” on any hint of disruption or misbehavior. Any student who shows individual personality is to be squashed with swift discipline. This student, if she was not kicked out of that charter school, would have ended up deformed if she stayed. Her very personality would have been an affront to the teachers and the environment. She would have ended up exploding on them or internalizing their disciplinary methods to believe that she was a bad person, learning to subdue her instincts and fight against them her entire life, whether they were right or wrong.

But she is not a bad person. In fact, she has a very good heart and is extremely likeable. As a matter of fact, most students are. It is sad that, as adults, we have this view that students who walk silently in line and sit up straight 7 hours a day are “good” and those that are a little loud or unruly are “bad”. Apparently, we have forgotten how we were as kids and how sitting up straight for 7 hours a day or walking in line all the time was not only impossible, but pure torture. I went to one of the best high schools in the country and me and my friends were loud, spontaneous, impulsive, talkative and, yes, even misbehaved at times. We were kids and teenagers and it was natural for us to be this way. Many of my classmates have gone on to be very successful, upstanding people with great jobs and families. We were all loud, self-absorbed teenagers at some point, and that is fine.

The charters featured in Burris’ article, and probably the charter from which my student was expelled, have a very myopic view of discipline. Far be it from me to point out the latent elitism and racism in such a view. Reading some of the comments under Burris’ article, it is clear that some people believe that “those” children, the poor minority ones, need a “different” type of school, one that drills and kills rather than encourages and enlivens. Would they send their own children to such a school? Hardly, since their own children are angels and would never talk or laugh loudly in or out of class. Neither did we as children, right? We all folded our hands, bowed our heads and did exactly as we were told by our betters. Give me a break.

There is a way to reach children without squashing their spirit. It is the same way you reach adults: by seeing and acting upon what is best in them. It is by treating them like human beings. For all of the faults of our public school system, including the lack of power to discipline, at least the teachers there are required to try to bring the best out of their students by acting humane towards them. Any teacher that fails in this endeavor is not longed to teach anyway, unless it is one of these charters that looks to drill and kill.

So, please, all of you charter school bigwigs, keep kicking out the children who demonstrate any personality or individuality. I will be glad to take them on. I would take one of them over twenty of you unimaginative, profit-hungry charlatans any day of the week.

Won’t Back Down From The Hunchbacks

The parent trigger law originated in Los Angeles. The heaviest hitters in the quest to dismantle public education funded it from its inception: Broad, Gates and Walton. The law allows parents of children in public schools to turn the institution over to private (charter) management with a 51% vote. There is no provision in any parent trigger law allowing parents of charter students to vote to turn the institution over to public operation.

After its success in southern California, the American Legislative Exchange Council picked up on it and sought to bring parent trigger laws to other states. They have been successful in getting some incarnation of the law passed in seven of them.

With the sponsorship of the likes of Broad, Gates, Walton, ALEC  and DFER, it is obvious that parent trigger laws are merely a new vehicle by which megabillionaires can ransack the public school systems of the United States for private profit.  One would have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to see it this way.

This ransacking of public institutions is the cornerstone of Neoliberalism, a political and economic ideology that has defined the United States for the past 35 years. Its godfather is the late economist Milton Friedman. Its international adherents include third world despots like Augusto Pinochet. Its ideological foundations are underpinned by such third-rate minds as Ayn Rand and her concubine, Alan Greenspan.

It is a naked worship of the rich and powerful. It is the belief that the rich and powerful should control every aspect of our lives.

Unfortunately, the United States has a pesky written Constitution and a Bill of Rights that still guarantee some semblance of popular sovereignty. Unlike Pinochet, the Neoliberals in America cannot merely ram their policies down our throats with tanks.

This is why the parent trigger law is such a grand idea for the Neoliberals. It comports nicely with the trappings of popular democracy by having parents vote. It gives parents a once-in-a-lifetime vote that they can never reverse and turns their children’s schools into institutions over which they will have no say ever again.

It is a maniacal, Machiavellian device. Anyone with a basic familiarity with education policy and recent American history can see it for exactly that.

The good thing is, we live in the United States, where neither history nor education policy exist in the minds of most people.

Enter the upcoming movie Won’t Back Down. The two men behind the movie, Rupert Murdoch of 20th Century Fox and Philip Anschutz of Walden Media, are two of the most retrograde forces in the United States today. Murdoch, of course, has given us such culturally elevating fare as Fox News and the New York Post, not to mention criminal wiretapping. Philip Anschutz is an oil man who funds every anti-gay group in the country, wants evolution to be taught in schools and funds Scott Walker of Wisconsin. He was the man behind the film Waiting for Superman.

Waiting for Superman was billed as the brainchild of Davis Guggenheim. Guggenheim had earned his liberal stripes by producing the movie An Inconvenient Truth. As we know, it featured one of the liberal heroes of our age, Al Gore, lecturing about one of the biggest liberal causes of our age, global warming. When Guggenheim released Waiting for Superman, it was merely assumed by most that its pro-charter, anti-union message was the liberal take on education.

Maybe it was the liberal take on education. But what it really was at its core was the Neoliberal take. Guggenheim might not be a Neoliberal, but Philip Anschutz certainly is. Guggenheim merely delivered a partially staged, over emotional, under intellectual “documentary” case for the Neoliberal idea that anything public is bad and anything run by billionaires is good. It is a funny thing, since it is those billionaire oilmen like Anschutz most responsible for the degradation of our biosphere against which An Inconvenient Truth so passionately inveighed.

Anschutz knows that showing his face publicly to advocate for Neoliberal policies would doom his cause. The public would see him for the utterly deformed character he is. His very presence is a public relations nightmare for Neoliberalism.

This is why Won’t Back Down is his latest way of pushing the Neoliberal agenda. In the place of his emotionally hunchback presence is a cast of beautiful young actors. They have played out a Hollywood script on the big screen that will no doubt evoke visceral support for parent trigger laws. The parents in the movie surely will want the best education for their children. The teacher unions will surely be more interested in protecting their incompetents than teaching. The unions are so entrenched and insidious that nothing but the indomitable will of a few plucky parents can get them to bow. Surely there will be some billionaire hero in the movie somewhere, some enlightened scion of the upper classes willing to provide the type of great school that the children of these plucky parents deserve. In the end, the parents get their great school and the closing credits will probably run to the inspiring tune of Tom Petty’s rendition of Won’t Back Down.

Applause throughout the theater. Applause and tears. Once again, those teachers and their unions are holding us back. They are just so evil and powerful. The billionaires are our saviors. Right under everyone’s radar goes the obvious immense power and influence of billionaires in our country. Never once will that click to anyone. The billionaires will save the day.

The Neoliberal message of billionaire worship will shine through. Ayn Randian lickspittles are going to made out of, what, a million, two million, five million movie-goers. Instead of rolling the people with armored tanks like they did under Pinochet, the Neolibs in the U.S. are rolling us with armored propaganda. It is the American way.

And tonight in Los Angeles is the start of this process with the so-called Teachers Rock event. It is billed as an event in support of teachers. It is being held in perhaps the biggest hotbed of liberal tolerance outside of Frisco: Hollywood. It will feature some of the most powerful liberal do-gooders in the nation: Hollywood actors. It is going to benefit some really do-goody sounding charities like Donorschoose and Teach For America. The beautiful people will be out in force tonight in support of, what, teachers? It is the promotional event of Won’t Back Down, the “movie”.

And behind the beautiful velveteen curtain, behind the million-dollar Hollywood smiles is the deformed, retrograde, hunchback figure of Philip Anschutz. Anschutz the gay hater, ape denier and environment killer. He is using Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman like he used the cast in Won’t Back Down, like he used Davis Guggenheim. He is using the liberals to cloak the Neoliberalism that is his not-so-secret dream.

And of course it is Rupert Murdoch too. Murdoch the wire-tapper, monopolist and propagandist. And it is the Waltons, the union-busters, small business killers and labor exploiters.

America thinks they are getting the beautiful people of Hollywood. Rather, they are getting that other stratosphere well out of reach of Hollywood, the hunchback, shadowy, Neoliberals of the megabillionaire class. America tonight is not getting the 1%. They are getting the .1%, and they will applaud their own undoing until the very end.

Student Poem About Teach For America (Must Listen!)

Credits to Stephanie at  Teacher Under Construction for mentioning this first. It is a few months old but worth a few listens:

As an aspiring teacher and slam poet, this find was absolutely something phenomenal. I’m speechless. You just have to hear it for yourself.

Listen to the full poem here:

Hallelujah the Saviors are Here

New Policy for the Khan Academy

Every time I am on a long hiatus from this blog, I come back to find a ton of comments under my past posts about the Khan Academy. (See: The Khan Academy and the Snake Oil of Education Deform, Finally, More Criticism About the Khan Academy, Putting It All On The Table About The Khan Academy, Khan Academy: If You Don’t Like It, You Don’t Get It and, my personal favorite, 60 Minutes Worships Salman Khan and So Do You.)

The vast majority of comments all have the same tone and tenor. For a while I have believed that something was rotten in Denmark. Take a look at some of the typical comments below and maybe you will see what I see. (Feel free to skim or completely ignore the comments quoted below. In fact, I encourage you to do so because they are mostly redundant wastes of time. Yes, redundant wastes of time.):

I would just like you to address what I’m going to say here to help you understand my belief on online learning in general I have read little of what you’ve had to say sense most of it’s nonsense and has no arguments backing it up. I would like to give a real world example of the benefits of Khan Academy. I have a good friend who struggled in Algebra II and after going in depth and learning online from Salman Khan’s Khan Academy, he ended up passing the class with an A-. So many teachers in the status quo are just trying to pass kids and not further their knowledge, they want the load of kids off their hands. I would say that about 70% of my own teachers are like this within my own school.

I, myself, have had the benefit of learning more about biology. I got a more in depth understanding of it, and learned the complete concept of meiosis in under an hour where in a class room I got lectured for 4 straight days of hour and a half periods and I still couldn’t grasp that during my Freshman Year of high school. Why should one have to send their kid off to a university (and pay 100,000 dollars when it’s all said and done) when knowledge can be spread so beneficially over the internet?

or

I am a public school teacher. Not in math, but in music, though I often end up in the topic of math and also teach it on the side and there are many similar situations.
I spend class time engaging my students in authentic experiences, but sometimes I know that not all of my students have the basics that are required for the activity and I struggle with the decision of whether to spend time drilling (wasting the time of students who already get it) or just move on (causing some students to fake it or fail). If I want all of my students to be able to identify piano keys by note name, or identify pitches on a staff, or tap out various rhythms of increasing difficulty, I have to put making actual music on hold while chucking in with each student. Some of these things I could do with worksheets, but I would not have the results of that assessment quickly enough to plan the rest of out class time based on it. I also hate the idea that I might “grade” those papers and hand them back to students, than decide whether to teach the lesson to everyone again and test again, or just move on. i wish I had some method of helping each student achieve mastery of these basic skills so we could all use them together in class. If I were a math teacher I would be very excited about Khan’s practice tools for this reason- a unit does not end with each student being judged. it ends when you actually have learned it (and then you continue to review it later.)

I am very wary of people who would say who is and is not an educator. Being a school teacher does not mean that you can or should control information- quite to opposite. Students should know that you are just one source, the textbook is just one source, their parents, television, youtube, just other sources, and they need their critical thinking skills to put it all together themselves and make their own decisions about it. You do not teach critical thinking by telling students that you are right.

If you say Khan is not an “educator” then no doubt you do not consider your students, their parents, or any other members of your community capable of being educators, or you think they at least don’t deserve the title just because they haven’t taken the certification test.

or

I am in total support of Khan Academy…

I know you will not like my viewpoint but here it goes,,,,

1. The school classroom model was originally designed by the Prussian military intended to create an obedient society by providing a platform for authority and for its children to recognize and submit to this authority. The rationale for this control model (classroom) was to mobilize its young citizens in times of war. The classroom model was eventually adopted by the west including North America. Today we have the industrial military complex to address national security yet this classroom or should I say military model still persists.

The mindset to control students is evidence by the grading system, devised and adopted in the 17th century and still used in 2012. And this is the crux of my argument. It is my opinion school marks are draconian, pschologically damaging, and counter productive for both the A student as well as for the C student. I will not even speak of the poor F student. Furthermore, school marks are often misused by the authority figures (teachers) and given for behavioral modification. Children who follow instruction, are non disruptive, and are obedient are often awarded with a good mark and children who are less inclined to follow or independently minded with less favorable marks. May I mention Enstein here?

It is in my opinion the grading system has created a society full of followers, who upon graduation from college, are all on the search for employment. There is only a recent awakening due to the sluggish economy that perhaps entrepreneurialship needs to be moved to the forefront in the classroom. How though is the teacher going to control independent thinkers, potential leaders using a militaristic method such as a grade marking system to produce our leaders for tomorrow? The output of graduates today struggling to find a job in a shrinking job market is just not working. You may argue that it is not educator’s job to provide employment, and while that was true decades past, today our society is counting on higher education to provide innovation for future employment.

It is my opinion Khan Academy has the potential to replace the marking grade system with its innovative approach usung statistical data to both validate student progress as well as identify challenges requiring additional time for mastery without placing a grade “label” on the student ‘s head. A label that can last a life time sometimes in a very, very negative way. So unjust. Furthermore, both Harvard and MIT, will be releasing in the fall of 2012, EdX, a free online access to their courses offered to the world. If you view the announcement, May 2, 2012 online, you will hear the rationale for this approach, namely they wish to use the statistical data gained by the servers offering the online course material to a worldwide audience whereby they may data collect from these students to better learn and understand the learning processes, something, Khan Academy has been doing since 2004!

2. My biggest excitement with Khan Academy is its revolutionary scalability. Instead of the teacher having to repeat his/her lectures over and over again, a one-time video can now be created in a more intimate, less talked-down approach and shared with the World. Imagine the scalability to view and witness to lectures being delivered by the very best teachers the world has to offer.

In closing, the true reason you have created this website is that you are scared for your job and I empathize. May I say in closing, your profession is not alone in this disruption due to technology. Perhaps the definition of employment needs to be addressed but that is a different topic for another time.

Thanks for allowing me my viewpoint on your website.

Khan Academy is here to stay !!

You get the idea. First, there are the testimonials. The “Khan Academy worked for me” type comments that remind me of an infomertial at 3 in the morning. Then there are “you’re just worried about your job” comments that are so laughable as to not warrant a response. And then there are the “public schools are failing” and the “wave of the future is having your eyes glued to a computer screen” comments from those that want to seem as if they are cutting edge and hip. They are all taken from the same playbook it seems. If I did not know any better, I would venture a guess that Khan or Gates offered people a free sandwich for spamming blogs, a la StudentsFirst. Alas, there is no evidence for this, so I assume that they have been truly brainwashed through the normal means of propaganda.

Now, when I come across a blog article from a blog I have never seen before, I do a little background check. I read the “About” section, I read some other articles and I come back to the article that drew me there in the first place so I can get a better idea of where the author is coming from. This is not because I run a blog myself, since I did this before I had a blog, but because I do not want to contribute points that have been addressed before. Because I am a new commenter on a website, I usually want to contribute something, you know, new. It is the courteous and thoughtful thing to do.

The Khan Academy sycophants, for the most part, not only refuse to read around this site to see what it is about, but they do not even address the points I make in the articles to which they respond. They literally talk at you, over you, through you. They do not engage you in discussion.

Instead, they repeat the same arguments and traverse the same ground over and over again. There is a word for that on the internet. It is called spam.

Therefore, from now on, before you step up to defend the Khan Academy, take stock of what I said above. Khan spammers will go in the spam filter where they belong. It is not worth my time, nor the time of the readers, to have to hear the same arguments again and again.

On the bright side, many recent and thoughtful comments were left under the Khan Academy articles listed above by one Michael Paul Goldenberg. Sorry it took so long for me to approve the comments. Here is an example (as opposed to the comments above, they are worth the read):

You can’t appease the fanatic defenders of Sal Khan and KA. It’s impossible. They refuse to accept any questioning of his work, his work ethic, his knowledge, his goals, his character, or his knowledge of mathematics (let alone other subjects). No one has proper standing to critique Sal Khan. NO ONE. If you teach, you’re jealous, weak, afraid, threatened, lazy, stupid, conservative (hah!!!), REACTIONARY (hahahahahaha!!!), racist (yes, I’ve seen that one, defender of the status quo, ad nauseam. If you’re a potential “competitor,” then obviously you’re trying to crush your “opponent.” If you’re a professor, well, see “teacher”; and worse, because professors are all commies, and some are fat (see the commentary on the MTT2K first video), well, we needn’t take their criticism seriously. And if you’re none of those (I’m an independent educational consultant who coaches high school math teachers on a per diem basis in Detroit. I have no long-term contracts, no union, and no one yet has suggested that using KA would make my work obsolete, nor do I have the slightest fear of him or his work. Were what he was doing of real quality, i would be recommending him unhesitatingly. I do recommend the free videos of others. Why not Sal’s? I think my many criticisms of him and his work make that crystal clear.

Here’s my strongest reason for critiquing Khan’s work: I care deeply about kids, about math, about democracy, and I think KA undermines kids’ thinking, disrespects mathematics, and ultimately will be seen to be anti-democratic and pro-elitist and plutocracy. Let’s see where this all is next month, next year, next decade. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay silent because a bunch of Khan-trolls need to make up a bunch of lies and insults to justify their bad taste and willingness to call McDonald’s hamburgers a healthy, nutritious, delicious meal.

Check out his other comments on the Khan Academy articles as well.

Happy reading Khan lackeys. Look forward to trashing your mindless drivel in the future.

Campbell Brown is a Woman and other Revelations

Campbell the Riveter stands up for women and corporate shills everywhere.

It has been a rough summer on this end. Perhaps, one day in the future, I will provide details of the Hell Summer of 2012.

The New York Times ran a piece about the furor caused by Campbell Brown’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal. I read the editorial while at the Save Our Schools Conference and was unable to write about it then.

I found this part of the Times article particularly illuminating:

Then Ms. Brown became the story, at least on Twitter, when Ms. Weingarten reposted a message that pointedly raised Ms. Brown’s marriage to Dan Senor, who is Mitt Romney’s senior foreign-affairs adviser and, more to the point, is on the board of StudentsFirstNY, an education policy group close with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

This escalated the fight. Ms. Brown said she took the post as sexist, though she stressed that she still desired Ms. Weingarten’s help. “Disappointing that @rweingarten thinks I hold my views b/c im married to repub. Always thought she was great role model for women until now,” she wrote.

Now, anyone following this issue knows that Weingarten did not say she holds her views because she is married to a Republican. She is married to a man who sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, the astroturf organization that wants, among other things, to strip teachers of the thin membrane of protections we have left in NYC. Her entire WSJ editorial could have been written by Michelle Rhee. It raises questions over whether Brown is using her celebrity to further the cause of an organization with which her husband is associated. If Brown was the sister, the daughter or the mother of a person who sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, the question would be the same.

Therefore, it has little to do with Brown being a woman.

Of course, Brown twisted Weingarten’s comment into a sexist attack. This is in step with the tactic of education deformers, who use the language of civil rights as a cover for the retrograde policies they advocate. Anyone that disagrees with them is sexist or is against equal education for all children.

The NY Times goes on to say:

Ms. Brown, who worked for a year as a teacher in what was then Czechoslovakia, said she was drawn to the issue of teacher misconduct from the perspective of a parent of two young children who was disgusted by the rat-a-tat-tat of sexual misconduct cases seizing headlines; she also said that she was moved by a recent piece penned by the city schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, and that she saw it “as a clear expression of his frustration at a broken system.”

So Brown started caring about this issue when she read a few articles filtered through the corporate media of which she has been a part for so long. Did she bother to learn about these issues via a non-corporate media outlet or in some way cross-reference these articles with more independent sources? If Campbell Brown is as smart as she think she is, then she should know that the media for whom she works is a propaganda machine that pumps out half-truths at the behest of editors more concerned with the bottom line than truth.

It is either Campbell Brown is not that bright, or is lying. In light of her attacks on Randi over Twitter, I would say the latter.

As we head back to school in a few weeks, issues of job protections for teachers in NYC will make more and more headlines, with the media all spouting the same “sexual predators infest our schools and the union protects them” nonsense.

The union could not even protect Christine Rubino. Teachers live in fear under Bloomberg that one angry student or one maniacal administrator can take everything from them. Campbell Brown, instead of shilling for StudentsFirstNY, should have some journalistic integrity and look into the issues independently of the corporate-controlled media for which she also shills.

She will not, of course, because Campbell Brown is part of the monster that is corporate-controlled media.