Archive for October, 2011

Changing the Subject

Oct 30 2011 Published by under anarchism,borderland,education,politics,social class

The war on education that was declared with the passage of No Child Left Behind has been a class war all along. Teachers assumed that the stupidity of trying to reach 100% proficiency by 2014 would eventually become obvious, and the law would change. But alas, even as the deadline draws near, we don’t see that happening. Instead, we see waivers being offered in exchange for toxic policy changes that include more rigorous testing and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. We are watching the life being sucked out of public schools by what amounts to a giant vampire squid, a reference taken from David Blacker who sees what’s happening to schools as a part of a larger neoliberal project aimed at privatizing everything:

What we are left with now is an all-out assault on anything in the system that might still have a little exchange value. Monster movie-like, we are now witnessing the full unleashing, to borrow Matt Taibbi’s famous image, of the neoliberal banking vampire squid, using its “blood funnel” to sniff out money in previously less accessible precincts such as schools, pensions, infrastructure, public health and safety — anywhere, really. All that is solid is liquefied and sucked up into the blood funnel, to be consumed by the megabanks, who perform no function whatever except a kind of super rent collection, a permanent life-destroying tax on all forms of human activity.

Blacker points out that the effort is framed as something that is positive, progressive, and natural. Given these benign qualities, who could object?

This process of redistribution upward — one-sided class warfare from above — operates of course in a vast scale and is hardly limited to education. It includes the sale of public lands and resources; persistent privatization schemes involving pensions and, ultimately, social security; health care; and even formerly sacrosanct public preserves such as prisons, the post office, and the military. This is the neoliberal period of capital in all its fetid glory: the ruthless marketization of everything existing — including itself, in the sense that the marketization is itself marketed as, among other things, “natural,” “fair,” “win-win,” “progress,” and other empty signifiers.

Frank Rich wrote a great column last week about the Class War that has been engaged by the #occupy movement. He criticizes the clueless establishment for not seeing it coming, and which seems either unwilling or unable to admit what it’s now looking at. He compares what’s happening now with an event that took place in 1932, when a throng of WWI veterans converged on Washington D.C. and set up camp seeking the passage of a bill for a bonus that had been promised them for their service in the war. They became known as the Bonus Army. As with the violence in Oakland, things did not go well with the Bonus Army, as MacArthur’s troops razed the encampment and killed innocent people.

You can read or listen to find out more about it. It is believed to have contributed to FDR’s victory in the presidential election that year.

Rachel Maddow notes that the #occupy movement has gone mainstream now. And Dahlia Lithwick eulogizes the demise of our uncomprehending corporate media that remains apparently ignorant to what is obvious to everyone else:

Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible "œprotesters" with their oddly well-worded "œsigns," the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You"™re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you"™re actually changing what"™s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us.

By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance. The rest of America has little trouble understanding that these are ragtag, complicated, and leaderless times. This may not make for great television, but any movement that acknowledges that fact deserves enormous credit.

I see that giant squid is on the menu. Where’s the ink?

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And corrupting our children every day

Oct 29 2011 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,science

Republican consultant and strategist, Noelle Nikpour: “Scientists are scamming the American people right and left for their own ‘finansual’ gain.”

It’s all too obvious:


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This is what FUBAR looks like

Oct 24 2011 Published by under anarchism,politics

Our school finally made it to AYP level 5, the bottom step on the down escalator to reconstitution hell, but the superintendent, parents, and even the newspaper all say we’re doing a good job. So now, to stay clear of consequences for working with lots of poor kids, we’ve got to develop a plan to improve, which means wasting time in useless meetings discussing standards and “best practices” instead of planning actual lessons.

Our contract negotiations failed last spring, and we’ve been working without a contract since the start of school this year. Teachers are attending school board meetings now, and testifying during their non-agenda items time. This was my contribution last Tuesday evening:

I’m a sixth-grade teacher at Denali Elementary, and this is my 27th year working in the District. I’m here to talk about respect.

When Supt. Lewis was hired, Mrs. Hajdukovitch (then Board President) told the newspaper that a salary increase for his position was designed to help the District compete for the best leaders.

Last month, the administration successfully lobbied for the passage of two bond propositions (for $20.3 million) for renovations and upgrades to some of the District’s school buildings.

Supt. Lewis tells us that we’re doing a good job. He points out that our ACT, SAT, and AP scores are higher than the state and national averages. Yet, the District’s bargaining team made no salary offer during our contract negotiations prior to our contract’s June 30 expiration. Consequently, since the start of school this year, teachers have been working without a contract. We believe our proposal for a 2.5% increase to the base pay rate is reasonable and in line with other recent public sector contract settlements.

My question – What message is being sent when the District lobbies for building upgrades and salary increases for leadership personnel, but fails to similarly advocate for its teachers? Please think about that.

I didn’t stick around to hear the Board comments at the end of the night. No telling what’s going to happen. Hope for an amicable settlement is fading. What I didn’t say (yet) is that when the superintendent tells people about those above average test scores, who gets to take the credit for that? Because here’s the thing – teachers have been taking all of the blame and none of the credit for the broad range of student outcomes for too long now. And we are tired of it.

The Occupy movement has even hit Alaska, as many people may have already seen. It’s the best thing going on now. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the most fun things to read about on the internet. Down with Tyranny posted this short video this evening.

Occupy (We the 99).

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