Friday, September 21, 2012

The Dish

1. Intuit’s Vibe...Chicago Teacher...By Rebel Diaz
2. Venue for an Artist...Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, Rule of Law, and the End of Slavery...By Robert Shetterly
3. Hood Notes...Carver Students Make Key Points...By Editorial Staff
4. Politics Y2K12...1% Find Creative Ways to Profit from Our Schools (Excerpts)...By Julianne Hing
5. News You Use...Explodes 5 Myths About American Education (Excerpts)...By Les Leopold
6. Mailbox

Intuit’s Vibe
Chicago Teacher
By Rebel Diaz

Homey I was taught by a Chicago teacher!
Chicago teacher, Chicago teacher!
I learned to read and write from a Chicago teacher,
So I’m inspired by the fight from our Chicago teachers!

The teachers are tired. The students dumbfounded.
The budgets get cut so classes are overcrowded.
Streets full of violence, the blue code of silence.
So, I’m going to keep rhyming ‘til salaries start rising!
The unions uprising taking to the streets!
The workers are united so the Mayor's got beef!
Rahm's a fake pretender with a corporate agenda
Neo Liberal Offender, of course you offend us!
This ain’t about money! That’s far from the truth.
They want better working conditions to teach the youth.
Politicians, I don’t trust ‘em, its all in the name.
The president, the mayor all want political gain.
They’d rather put the kids in jail, shackle ‘em with chains,
Than provide an education that challenges the brain.
Top down education, Chicago- the birthplace
And now it’s spreading nationwide all over the place
They don’t teach us how to think.
They teach us how to test!
They teach us how to work to put money in they checks!
The CEOs need to get up out of the classroom
Before these streets get hotter than the sand in Cancun!
So join the picket line like Mr. Pickett in his prime!
Put on your red shirt like the bulls in ‘95.
Hit the streets with a sign that says I’m fighting for mine
It’s a fork in the road and you gotta choose a side
And yes I’m proud to say, I was a public school student
It was public school teacher that first taught me music

Went to little Lincoln School in a little school bus
Desegregation. Paid 20 cents for lunch
Reduced price ticket for the lower income children
Art and music classes in between math and English
Now it’s different; they just teaching to the test
Forced by the feds or they losing that check
Too many children left behind
By this corporate assembly line
How they privatize? Education is a human right!
And their kids are going to be fine
They send them to private schools
While ours get sent to prison
Or given a job serving fast food...Cash rules!
So it gets treated like a business
Bought and sold by businessmen turned politicians
So if Rahm was the chief of staff and Arne Duncan got his start in Chicago
Selling off the education system
Then Obama gotta respond
The teachers or the corporations?
Which side is he on?
The streets is getting hot
They blame the heat on Chief Keef
But it’s a million others like him being created every week
If we don’t teach we don’t learn
And the streets is gonna burn
Before it gets worse, I put on my red shirt
(Source: Listen to the Song at or at

Venue for an Artist
Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, Rule of Law, and the End of Slavery
By Robert Shetterly

The Americans Who Tell the Truth project has become all about education. Primarily, though, the education has been my own. Over the past ten years, I have learned a great deal about American history, why our history is the way it is, and some of the people who have guided its positive evolution. Many of the people I’ve painted were totally unknown to me before I began the portrait series. And many of these were urged on me by people who wrote with compelling stories of people they thought should be included in the series. I’d like to share the most recent recommendation with you. Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman.
A few days ago I received this email: Hello Mr. Shetterly,
I clean the restrooms on 3rd shift at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I was moved to McGuffey Hall a few weeks ago and have been fascinated by your paintings because they look like they could come right off of the canvas and talk to me. Every night when I am walking that hallway I think of one thing...Someone is missing...It's Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman. She would be a worthy subject for your series, in my opinion with the highlighted quote of course! My husband says they should erect a monument of her right next to Thomas Jefferson (America's revered slave owner.) I think it would be wonderful to see her portrait on that wall some day! What do you think? Here's more of her quote:
"Well, Mr. Sedgwick, I was listening to the reading of the new law. I heard it said that all men are created equal and that every man has a right to freedom. Now I ain’t no dumb critter! Won’t the law give me my freedom? Isn’t that what the law says, Mr. Sedgwick?" --- Dolores Volk
I immediately wrote back to Dolores and asked for more information about "Mumbet," but before I even got her answer, I began my own research. Elizabeth – "Bett" – was born in upstate New York in 1742—45 years before Sojourner Truth—and, like Sojourner, into slavery on a Dutch farm.
Her master, Pieter Hogeboom, "gave" Bett to his daughter Hannah when she married John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts. There Bett remained a slave until 1780, when, as the Revolutionary War ended, the Declaration of Independence was being read aloud to the public in communities throughout the colonies.
Bett was present at the reading in Sheffield, and, very moved by the language about unalienable rights and equality, she went right away to a young lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, and said what is quoted above in Dolores’ email. Mr. Sedgwick, impressed with Elizabeth and opposed to slavery himself, decided to take her case which became Brom and Bett vs Ashley. When the case was heard in August 1741 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the jury ruled in Bett’s favor. On August 22, 1781, she was granted not only her freedom but also compensation for lost wages (thirty shillings) for all the years she worked as a slave with no pay. Shortly afterwards, her case was cited in the State Supreme Court when it stuck down the legality of slavery in Massachusetts.
Bett then went to work – with pay – in her lawyer’s house and helped to raise his children. One child, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, loved and admired Bett and, after Bett´s death in 1829, wrote her biography, which was published as Slavery in Massachusetts in Bentley’s Miscellany.
I recommend reading Catherine Sedgwick’s account of Bett’s life. It’s full of surprising, vivid anecdotes and wonderful quotations. For instance, Ms. Sedgwick writes, "I have heard her [Bett] say with an emphatic shake of the head peculiar to her, ‘Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it – just to stand one minute on God’s airth a free woman – I would.’"
Ms. Segdwick also tells the story of Bett standing between herself and her nasty mistress, Hannah Ashley, who was attempting to strike Bett’s sister Lizzy with a red hot shovel pulled from a cooking fire. Lizzy had scraped some dough for herself from the oak bowl that was used to knead the family bread. Hannah accused Lizzy of stealing. Bett took the blow on her arm. Cut to the bone and burned, she did not cover it for the weeks that it took to heal, and was left with a terrible scar. Bett said, "Madam never again laid her hand on Lizzy. I had a bad arm all winter, but Madam had the worst of it. I never covered the wound, and when people said to me, before Madam, ‘Betty, what ails your arm?’ I only answered - ask missis!"
There are several points that I would like to emphasize. The first is that I was told about Ms. Freeman (the name she took upon the success of her case) not by a student at Miami University and not by a professor, but by a woman, Dolores Volk, who cleans bathrooms -- the kind of work that Bett did. Dolores´ letter gets at the core of what this project is about. It’s not meant solely for our educational institutions: Its intention is to invite everyone to be involved, to own it, for it will take all of us citizens to wrest control of our government from corporate and military power so that our destiny can serve the common good.
Secondly, having just passed the 231st anniversary of the court case that ended Bett’s slavery in Massachusetts, why is this story not more commonly known? We need the stories of Barbara Johns, Claudette Colvin, Samantha Smith, Emma Tenayuca, LeAlan Jones, Bett Freeman, and others courageous, inspiring people who insisted that this country live up to its ideals. They embolden and empower us to do today´s work of justice and equality to make the world a better place.
Finally, consider how this change happened. An illiterate slave filed a case in court by appealing to the newly written ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Ironically, seventy-six years later, in 1857, the Supreme Court´s Dred Scott Decision stripped black citizens of their legal rights, including the right to challenge their status as property. The Supreme Court affirmed that property rights trump unalienable rights. Bett’s suit would have been illegal following that decision.
In the South, Bett could not have won her case, much less survived trying to file it. But the case could be brought to court and argued in the legal and political atmosphere of revolutionary Massachusetts where words were considered to have meaning, and meaning to have consequence. As Bett realized, "all men are endowed" and "unalienable rights" applied as equally to her as to her white lawyer, or they meant nothing.
Elizabeth Freeman’s story illustrates the great bounty of living in a system whose legal concern is justice: a marginalized person -- black, female, indigent, enslaved, illiterate -- appeals to the law to grant her remedy from her complaint of injustice. If the democratic rule of law does not allow this, it isn’t democracy. It is that sense of justice which can offer security to all of us. It is that sense of justice, far too rare in our country today, which makes the rule of law a blessing rather than a tragedy of cynical hypocrisy.
About Me: Robert Shetterly is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. (

Hood Notes
Carver Students Make Key Points
By Editorial Staff

With so much emphasis being placed on every minute of every student's school day being productive, it's sad to think some students would spend two to three weeks at the beginning of the school year without a schedule of classes.
That's just one of the grievances expressed by Carver High School students who demonstrated outside the South Memphis school for several hours Monday morning. The students refused to enter the school until administrators agreed to address scheduling problems, lack of air conditioning in some parts of the school and cuts in arts programs, including choir and band.
Romero Malone, 17, who helped organize the protest, said nearly every student was affected by scheduling problems, including ninth-graders who had nothing on their schedules but lunch. School officials didn't dispute Malone's concerns.
Many schools experience some degree of scheduling or organizational problems at the beginning of the school year. Usually they are worked out quickly. If an entire class of students had to go two to three weeks without class schedules, however, that should be setting off alarm bells at Memphis City Schools headquarters.
That is the antithesis of what local, state and national education leaders have professed about the importance of a longer school year and that each day of learning should be productive so that students don't fall behind.
Also, what kind of message does such a hiccup send to students, who are constantly told that academic success depends on consistency and organization?
What happened at Carver on Monday also highlights a revealing fact about the MCS budget situation. The school, which opened in 1957 and underwent a major renovation 40 years later, has a legacy of one of the best band and music programs in the city. It is a shame that legacy is about to stop growing because the school lost the grant that funded its band and choir.
There is some good news out of Monday's protest, though. The students were peaceful and neither the MCS administration nor Carver administrators overreacted to the protest. Later Monday afternoon, assistant superintendent Willie Rhodes and Malone, who is chairman to the senior class advisory board, had a long talk, with Rhodes promising to return to the school Thursday to meet with students, Malone said.
The bottom line, however, is that there is too much at stake in improving student test scores and making sure seniors have the courses they need to graduate for scheduling blunders to be tolerated. (

Politics Y2K12
1% Find Creative Ways to Profit from Our Schools (Excerpts)
By Julianne Hing
Banish the image of a classic American classroom from your mind—chalkboard, desks and all. The future of education has arrived, and next-era classrooms look like, well, call centers: students seated at individual corrals, some with headphones on, being taught and drilled on quadratic equations while a teacher monitors their progress from behind her own computer. With such individualized learning, students can absorb and master subjects "tailored to their pace and needs."
That was the picture painted by billionaire businessman Rupert Murdoch when he spoke last week at a two-day conference in San Francisco hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education reform outfit. Murdoch was there, he admitted upfront, as "a businessman" ready to move into the education market. Murdoch’s News Corp. has been quietly developing virtual-learning and technology-driven products for K through 12 schools, and with his address Murdoch made his first large public splash into an arena he’s valued at $500 billion. For entrepreneurs big and small, American public school reform has become a prime business opportunity.
And with help from lawmakers nurtured under Gov. Bush’s legislative guidance, it’ll soon be easier to pick up some of that cash.
Conveniently, Murdoch and other businesspeople entering the education sector were on hand to sell their wares.
The day before, the local teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco, picketed outside the conference, the sidewalks simmering in the hot autumn sun, with signs that read: "Public education is a right, not a profit center!" and "What kind of country bails out banks and closes schools?"
But in the cool, air conditioned meeting rooms of the hotel—where teachers were noticeably absent—startups and the world’s largest corporations were pitched as the salvation of America’s schools. And in the hands of the nation’s most aggressive state lawmakers and reformers, it became an entirely seductive line of reasoning.
The head of Rocketship Education, whose schools Murdoch praised in his speech, said the organization of Rocketship classrooms is the foundation of its success in northern California schools.
These efficient startups operate without the expensive overhead and cumbersome bureaucracy that stifles change and innovation in traditional public schools, lawmakers argued. Teachers at most charters are neither unionized nor guaranteed tenure. Their leaders portrayed these privately run schools as lean, sharp education machines.
I began to wonder: Is there anything inherently wrong with corporations running schools? So we privatize the education system. If corporations are able to do it successfully, is anything wrong with it?
Perhaps the best weapon the market-based reform movement holds is that no one has yet articulated a broadly compelling response to these questions, one that speaks to the urgent desire of individual parents to get their individual kids educated and the equally urgent need of cash-strapped states to pay for it.
At the conference, the villains were named explicitly as public educators—or, when haranguing panelists wanted to be more nuanced, as the unions that represent educators. Teachers were consistently portrayed as simultaneously lazy in the classroom and extremely powerful outside of it, resistant to change and ill-equipped to handle the challenges of educating students in the 21st century. The assembled legislators, school chiefs and entrepreneurs often referred to teachers unions as "the other side," and themselves as the underdogs.
But while teachers are not winning the messaging war, they and other critics of market-based education reform have got data on their side. New studies show that digital learning companies have inflated their claims of success. Charter schools on average do no better than their often comparatively underfunded traditional public school counterparts. Over and over, studies have found that pay-for-performance schemes do not, in fact, make teachers more effective in the classrooms. Critics of punitive teacher accountability measures and market-based reform argue that social factors—poverty, access to healthcare, family joblessness—have a significant influence on a student’s academic achievement, and that reforms that refuse to acknowledge that reality are doomed to fail.
But these days, the debate is not about any of these things. At its heart, it’s really about fundamental ideological differences over how traditionally public institutions ought to be run and who ought to be responsible for nurturing the nation’s students: publicly run schools accountable to voters and their communities, or private companies accountable primarily to their stockholders.
The previous afternoon, just steps away from the hotel ballroom, a protester held aloft a poster asking a question she likely never got an answer to: "The 1% ruined our economy. Why should we trust them with our schools?" (

News You Use
Explodes 5 Myths About American Education (Excerpts)
By Les Leopold
A new international report demolishes several deeply held myths about our educational system. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, which compares the educational systems of over 30 developed nations, provides data that, when it comes to education, proves we’re so far from being number one, that the entire idea of American exceptionalism should be called into question. Rather than thumping our chests, we should be going to school on how other developed nations, especially those in Europe, invest in education. However, we have little chance of learning until we break through the mythology that blinds us to our decline.
Myth #1: Our educational system provides more upward mobility than any other in the world. It’s practically a sacred oath to proclaim that we lead the world in upward mobility. America, we are told ad nauseum, is the best place on Earth for a poor person to improve his or her station in life. You might struggle for one generation or so, but your kids can make it up the ladder faster here than any place else. And the reason, of course, is because we provide the best educational opportunities for all young people, rich and poor.
Not true, says the OECD report. "The odds that a young person in the U.S. will be in higher education if his or her parents do not have an upper secondary education are just 29 percent -- one of the lowest levels among OECD countries." Just how low is our ranking? Of the 28 countries listed, we’re third from the bottom.
Myth #2: Our teachers (protected by their greedy unions) work less and get paid more. It’s open season on public employees, especially teachers and their unions. They get paid too much. Their benefits are too high. They get tenure while the rest of us fear layoffs. And they’re a bunch of lazy louts that get the entire summer off! If there’s educational decline, then teachers must be the cause. Right?
Wrong! says the OECD report, especially when it comes to hours worked: "Teachers in the U.S. spend between 1050 and 1100 hours a year teaching – much more than in almost every country." Of the 38 countries surveyed only two countries had teachers who worked more hours – Argentina and Chile. And when it comes to the hours worked per years by our primary school teachers, we’re number one!
But surely, aren’t these unionized teachers making too much money? Not according to the OECD report: "Despite high overall levels of spending on education, teacher salaries in the U.S. compare poorly. While in most OECD countries teacher salaries tend be lower, on average, than the salaries earned by other workers with higher education, in the U.S. the difference is large, especially for teachers with minimum qualifications."
Myth #3: Big government (via our tax dollars) funds higher education. In state after state politicians are taking an ax to higher education budgets. As we plow more money into our prison system, we no longer can afford our lavish public colleges and universities, or so we are told. (See "Crazy Country: 6 Reasons America Spends More on Prisons Than On Higher Education"). But overall, don’t we still lead the world in big government support for higher education?
Well, we almost lead the world in overall spending on higher education, both in absolute dollars and as a percent of GDP. Unfortunately, we place more of the burden on students and their families than just about any other developed nation: "In the U.S., 38 percent of higher education expenditures come from public sources, and 62 percent are from private sources. Across all OECD countries, 70 percent of expenditures on higher education come from public sources, and 30 percent are from private sources." Little wonder we have a trillion dollar student loan industry that serves as an ever-present lobby to make sure the debt burden remains students and their families.
Myth #4: We provide excellent early childhood education. Worried about creeping socialism? Look no further than Head Start and other pre-school programs we throw money at. Isn’t this where the Nanny State begins?
Blinded by anti-government ideology, we fail to notice that the rest of the world invests much more in their young people, especially the very young: "On average across OECD countries, 84 percent of pupils in early childhood education attend programs in public schools or government-dependent private institutions, while in the U.S., 55 percent of early childhood pupils attend programs in public schools, and 45 percent attend independent private programs. In the U.S. the typical starting age for early childhood education is 4 years old, while in 21 other OECD countries, it is 3 years old or younger."
Myth #5: We have the highest percentage of college grads in the world.
Again, we suffer by the comparison: "The U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education (42 percent)." Those are our young people. That’s our future. And the richest country on Earth can’t even win the competition for the highest percentage of college graduates?
So aren’t we number one in something? Yes, we are and it’s revealing. We’re number one in 55- to 64-year-olds who finished high school. We boomers actually went to school – 90 percent of us finished high school while the OECD average is 65 percent.
That statistic takes us right to the heart of this story – how during the post-WWII era the United States invested in its people. The GI Bill of Rights provided free higher education to more than 3 million returning GIs. Enormous investments in education helped us catch up with Sputnik and win the race to the moon. The super-rich faced high tax rates so that we could pay for education, a national highway system, and the defense budget. Unions were supported by the federal government and moved wages up across the board. And the burgeoning civil rights movement began to bring the promise of America to African Americans. The middle class was rising. We went to school. And we created the fairest income distribution in our history.
Then, we tossed it away as we forgot the lessons of the Great Depression and our collective response during WWII. We deregulated the rich and they tore our country apart.
You see, none of these myths apply to the wealthy. Their kids get plenty of early childhood education. Their kids don’t attend run-down schools. Their kids don’t run up debts in order to go to college. In fact, our elites are positioned perfectly to thrive in a global economy. They can attack public schools, teachers unions, big government and not suffer the consequences. Frankly they don’t give a damn about our international rankings. The rich are quite happy for the rest of us to swallow the myth of American exceptionalism, even when reality shows how exceptionally bad we are at providing decent education for all of our people. (Source URL:

Mailbox: E-Mails, Faxes and Telephone Calls
Email"He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death." --Thomas Paine
Email Dylan: Stigma of slavery ruined America...Bob Dylan says the stigma of slavery ruined America and he doubts the country can get rid of the shame because it was "founded on the backs of slaves." The veteran musician tells Rolling Stone that in America "people (are) at each other's throats just because they are of a different color," adding that "it will hold any nation back." He also says blacks know that some whites "didn't want to give up slavery." The 71-year-old Dylan said, "If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today." When asked if President Barack Obama was helping to shift a change, Dylan says: "I don't have any opinion on that. You have to change your heart if you want to change." The magazine's new issue hits newsstands Friday.
Email US Inequality Widens, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley Launch Poverty Tour 2.0...New government data shows economic inequality continued to widen in the United States last year. The Census Bureau reports the wealthiest Americans increased their share of total wealth by 4.9 percent, while the median income reached its lowest level since 1995. Some 46.2 million Americans were classified as living in poverty. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are attempting to start a national dialogue with their new Poverty Tour 2.0 visiting four battleground states: Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida. West is a professor at the Union Theological Seminary and prolific author. Smiley is an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster who hosts the PBS TV show, "Tavis Smiley." Together they are co-authors of the book, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto."
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